15627 Ventura Blvd., Encino. 7 p.m. to 2 a.m. weekends only. (818) 730-6246. If you are seeking a true wild Russian night in L.A., look no further than Il Paradiso. This otherwise nondescript restaurant attracts a well-heeled, good-looking crowd on weekends (late at night usually). Don't be intimidated by the veal-tongue salad, the Glock-toting security guards or the BMWs out front — just dress to impress and dance the night away.
7901 Santa Monica Blvd., 2nd floor, L.A. 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. weekends only. (323) 654-1188. An authentic modern Russian dining experience awaits above a Starbucks. The restaurant has only one seating per night, so calling ahead is recommended (bar seating is possible later). In between courses, well-dressed (and increasingly tipsy) diners hit the dance floor. Dress code is enforced (no jeans) and there is a $20 cover charge.
7702 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood. 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. daily. (323) 654-1234. Although not Russian-owned, this bustling hot spot pays homage to its West Hollywood location with Soviet-inspired design. Cocktail waitresses here are decked out in Pravda red, and 1930s posters hang next to mirrors etched with Cyrillic to flesh out the Soviet chic concept.
13325 Moorpark St., Sherman Oaks. 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday (till 2 a.m. on weekends). (818) 981-0089. Appearing more like a strip club than a restaurant, Russian Nights' bizarre design scheme will amuse some. The odd pairing of neon (both outside and inside) and murals depicting rural Russian 18th century life gives diners a bit of kitsch with their chicken Kiev.
Little New York
7316 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A. 7 p.m. to 2 a.m. weekends only. (323) 874-0727. Located near a busy Trader Joe's, Little New York caters to a younger Russian crowd on weekends. But this hidden gem is mostly known as a cozy getaway that serves up classics like sturgeon and pelmeni, set against a somewhat garish wall mural of the New York skyline.
17209 Ventura Blvd., Encino. Noon to 9:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday (till 2 a.m. on weekends). (818) 783-6300. Red Square offers up Russian fare such as hearty mignon stroganoff and sweet wild black cherry blintzes. A one-man band sings Russian Top 40 songs with the help of a laptop and reverb-laden microphone on weekends, when things can get wild.
1714 Ivar St., L.A. Noon to 10 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday (till 2 a.m. on weekends). (323) 464-2216. New owners took over this Hollywood restaurant, which sits adjacent to the famed Knickerbocker hotel, in 2005. On Saturday, Las Vegas-style showgirls take over the stage. Popular food choices at Russia include Chicken Tabaka and Karsky (lamb chops). Massive historical wall murals of Peter the Great stare down diners.
6020 Reseda Blvd., Tarzana. Noon to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday (till 2 a.m. on weekends). (818) 776-8474. A youngish crowd frequents Barin on weekends, feasting on Chicken Tapakan while eyeing the opposite sex in one of Barin's multiple dining areas. Exposed brick walls line the restaurant's dance floor, but it is so dark inside you won't notice.
— Charlie Amter