Piroshky Piroshky
103 First Ave S (Pioneer Square; also a branch in the

Pike Place Market), 621-7733. Open daily 8 am-6 pm.

I will spare you the details of the long hours I spent on the Internet, trying to determine the exact difference between piroshki and pierogi--never mind pelmeni, knishes, and other variations on the dumpling, the turnover, the pocket pastry.

What is more important is that what I had thought would be a deal with the devil--a moment of pleasure, followed by an afternoon of bloat and a leaden stomach--did not materialize, even though I made the mistake of stopping by Piroshky Piroshky on a warm spring day. These are the lunches I should have been eating all miserable winter, when I thought nothing could warm me to the bone and spent whole afternoons filling and refilling the teacup in my trembling hands. I should have been at Piroshky Piroshky, having lamb-and-onion piroshki and a bowl of borscht (soup and piroshki are sometimes offered as a lunch special, $5.95)--supremely and efficiently warming food.

I've been moaning about the lack of Russian food in Seattle since the dear departed Kaleenka, and I somehow had failed to notice Piroshky Piroshky. Here the food is served in a kitsch-free environment (no nesting dolls, no ikons, no samovars), and the borscht is a miracle: brothy with shreds of beet and carrot, earthy, cabbagy, and slightly sweet--instead of the creamy magenta goo that often passes for borscht. The lamb-and-onion piroshki--peppery ground meat enclosed in fragile, buttery, phyllo-style dough--went too fast.

I loaded up on piroshki and pastries to go (they run about $2.50 to $4 each) and ate them over the next few days: dense, pillowy pastry enclosing rhubarb and cranberry-apple and pear-walnut filling--none of them very sweet, but all of them heavenly--plus a poppyseed raisin roll that was a little dry, but good with coffee. On the savory side, I had more lamb-and-onion piroshki (irresistible), plus a ham, cheese, and spinach version (very meaty), a potato, onion, and mushroom (hearty, with a trace of dill), and what's known as "opiakish": sauerkraut, carrot, and cabbage--which, truth be told, I found a little weird, although I love sauerkraut and have been known to eat it straight from the jar.

I'll go back to try the pelmeni (dumplings), and the salmon pâté in puff pastry, and the split pea soup with big chunks of ham. Never mind the weather, never mind.