TNT Diner

First bite: Vostok Dumpling House in Tacoma

An order of pork pelmeni with spicy dill sauce at Vostok Dumpling House in Tacoma.
An order of pork pelmeni with spicy dill sauce at Vostok Dumpling House in Tacoma. skidd@thenewstribune.com

There are a two things diners should expect of Vostok Dumpling House, the Russian/Ukrainian restaurant that opened Nov. 28 in downtown Tacoma.

First, it’s a modern style of Russian dining, with straightforward dumplings, but sauces and ingredients with a more contemporary feel (read: candied bacon).

Second, expect a moderate to long wait for food. In addition to opening-week problems with kitchen staffing, the restaurant has been inundated because, well, there’s nothing like it here and the crowds have been predictably assembling.

I popped in for a first-bite visit during opening week and found a restaurant hard at work. It’s this paper’s policy to withhold criticism of food and service until after a restaurant’s first month of business, which is why I’m focusing here on menu descriptions and atmosphere.

The long, narrow space is sparsely decorated with a few hat-tips to Russia in its artwork. The color palette is a mix of steel gray, black and red. It’s a simply appointed restaurant, yet overwhelmingly more attractive than the threadbare Shanghai House that previously filled that location.

The restaurant is the second outpost, with the original location in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood.

Enter directly into the seat-yourself dining room, which is outfitted with communal seating with six to eight stools at each of the half-dozen tables. (I saw plenty of strangers doubling up.) A standing eating bar is located street-side. Order at the back counter, where a menu is splashed across a chalkboard.

The cafe specializes in a mix-it-up menu with a choice of chicken or pork pelmeni or potato-cheddar vareniki. Dumplings can be paired with a list of sauces that includes a dill, sour cream, thyme or butter sauce, among others. Dumplings start at $5.25 for a half order and top out at around $10 for a full order. A half order of the pork pelmeni came with about 15 dumplings, plenty filling for a lunch.

Add-ins include sour cream, bacon and caramelized onions, which run 50 cents to around $2. For diners who don’t want to bother with customization, find a preselected list of dumpling “styles” designed by the restaurant. The Bay of Pigs, for example, comes with butter, thyme and green onions.

The restaurant is the second outpost, with the original location in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood. Its owners are brother-sister duo Andrey Tokar and Anna Motso.

Beyond dumplings, find borscht (the beet soup), and cabbage and carrot salads ($3.50-$5). Piroshki also is listed, including both savory and sweet flavors ($3.50-$5).

Vostok Dumpling House

Where: 1126 Commerce St., Tacoma.

Information: 253-301-1085 or vostokdh.com.

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