Don’t Let the Name Fool You. Coffeemania Is Not Just Great Coffee. Here Are the Other Delicious Offerings Chef Titus Wang Is Cooking Up

By Annie Wu, Epoch Times
February 9, 2017 12:44 pm Last Updated: February 9, 2017 12:44 pm

When you hear the name Coffeemania, you might not expect it to be a restaurant. And if you had to guess what was on the menu, you might not think that a range of Asian-inflected dishes would appear next to Russian fare like borscht. But if you’re willing to suspend your notions for a moment, you will be happily rewarded.

Coffeemania is a chain from Russia, with 27 locations in Moscow, that initially started as a coffee shop in 2001. In a few years, its success convinced the founders to expand into all-day dining. This January, the chain opened its first overseas location in New York City.

Right as you walk into the spacious dining room, you’ll know Coffeemania is not just a coffee shop. Designed by a Paris-based firm, the space, featuring modern light fixtures, wooden accents, and high ceilings, gives off a stylish yet casual feel. The space is split between dining tables in the front and a bar in the back, where staff whip up drinks with measured, calculated movements. The noise level inside is surprisingly muted, so you don’t have to strain to hear your dining companions.

Coffeemania's stylish look is designed by Paris-based firm GBRH. (Armando Rafael)
Coffeemania’s stylish look is designed by Paris-based firm GBRH. (Armando Rafael)

Occasionally, you’ll hear murmurs of Russian—evidence of how familiar the city’s Russian community already is with the chain.

For its New York location, Coffeemania tapped Taiwanese-American chef Titus Wang (formerly of Annisa, Morimoto, and Delicatessen), whose global influences certainly fit with the city’s personality. Wang instills vigor into each dish by combining multicultural flavors that enhance each other.

Chef Titus Wang often makes use of Asian ingredients in classic dishes. (Armando Rafael)
Chef Titus Wang often makes use of Asian ingredients in classic dishes. (Armando Rafael)

Most of the time, he uses Asian ingredients to spice up classics, like roasted marrow, for example. Wang tops the soft marrow with a miso-apricot jam and clam chimichurri, so that, when you slather all those components onto slices of grilled sourdough, you get a happy trifecta of buttery, sweet, and zesty ($18).

In a dish of charred, crunchy Brussels sprouts, Wang adds savory-sweet Chinese sausage, sesame seeds, cilantro, and a tangy chili lime vinaigrette, making these greens highly addictive ($13).

Brussels sprouts with Chinese sausage, sesame seeds, cilantro, and chili lime vinaigrette. (Channaly Philipp/Epoch Times)
Brussels sprouts with Chinese sausage, sesame seeds, cilantro, and chili lime vinaigrette. (Channaly Philipp/Epoch Times)

A plate of Josper-grilled chicken wings is equally irresistible. After cooking in a special charcoal-fired barbecue oven, the wings are glazed with a soy honey butter sauce and sprinkled with bits of crispy dehydrated onions. They are finger-licking good ($14).

Josper-grilled chicken wings. (Channaly Philipp/Epoch Times)
Josper-grilled chicken wings. (Channaly Philipp/Epoch Times)

Wang says his approach is fairly simple. “We work with the freshest products available each season, focusing on how to enhance the main ingredients without being overly complex with sauces and vegetables,” he said, in an email.

Fruit is often used to add a pop of vibrant flavor to dishes. The Berkshire pork chop, for example, is paired with an Asian pear chutney, sesame-cilantro pesto, and bok choy kimchi, which lends just a touch of heat ($35). A dish of seared duck breast, sporting a super crispy skin, is buoyed by a lightly acidic red currant sauce, and a savory garlic-pine nut emulsion ($32).

Seared duck breast with red currant sauce, garlic-pine nut emulsion, and pearl onions. (Armando Rafael)
Seared duck breast with red currant sauce, garlic-pine nut emulsion, and pearl onions. (Armando Rafael)

Russian Fare

Classic Russian dishes are also sprinkled throughout the menu. Bread service consists of a Russian dark rye bread, with dark malt powder and coriander. Its taste is reminiscent of molasses and gingerbread.

Two classic Russian soups, borscht and solyanka, are exceptional: Both have a distinct zingy tartness, and are light and refreshing ($12 each). The latter, a tomato-based soup with kielbasa, green olives, and bits of lime, gets an extra kick from “adzhika,” a traditional Georgian condiment made from garlic, tomato, and chili peppers.

Coffeemania's take on borscht is light and tangy. (Armando Rafael)
Coffeemania’s take on borscht is light and tangy. (Armando Rafael)

Chinese and Russian cuisines become almost inseparable in the pelmeni, a type of traditional Russian beef and pork dumpling ($18). Aside from their sausage-like meat filling, they closely resembled Chinese boiled dumplings, and are complemented with crème fraîche and Wang’s Chinese-style “salsa,” made from garlic, chili pepper, sesame oil, and soy sauce.

Pelmeni, traditional Russian dumplings, dressed with Chinese-style salsa and crème fraîche. (Channaly Philipp/Epoch Times)
Pelmeni, traditional Russian dumplings, dressed with Chinese-style salsa and crème fraîche. (Channaly Philipp/Epoch Times)

Drinks Crafted With Care

Given its history as a coffee shop, perhaps it’s no surprise that Coffeemania has an extensive beverage menu consisting of both coffee and non-coffee drinks.

The coffee here isn’t just the typical latte or cappuccino; the barista team has won dozens of Russian and international awards. The Raf, for example, is a velvety mix of espresso and housemade vanilla sugar, made into a frothy and dessert-like coffee drink ($7), while the Latte Singapore is infused with lemongrass for a vibrant pick-me-up ($5 for regular, $7 for large).

The Raf coffee with espresso and vanilla sugar. (Armando Rafael)
The Raf coffee with espresso and vanilla sugar. (Armando Rafael)

Another unusual invention is The Bumble, which combines orange juice, cold-brew coffee, and caramel syrup into a surprisingly delicious drink, a little like caramel candy ($6). With the Forest Berry Kenya, the staff draws out the berry notes in the coffee by serving it with a strawberry and raspberry compote that you’re meant to taste alongside the coffee ($7).

The Forest Berry Kenya. (Channaly Philipp/Epoch Times)
The Forest Berry Kenya. (Channaly Philipp/Epoch Times)

Other non-alcoholic standouts include a refreshing tarragon soda ($6 for regular, $8 for large) and a bright infusion made from steeped sea buckthorn berries, passion fruit, and ginger ($12 for a pot).

The sea buckthorn infusion. (Armando Rafael)
The sea buckthorn infusion. (Armando Rafael)

Cocktails are new to Coffeemania; Russians, unlike Americans, don’t typically order cocktails with their meals, and it explains why the bar is in the back of the restaurant. But the cocktail menu is far from an afterthought. Unlike many cocktail menus with a long list of lofty descriptions, Coffeemania’s menu is minimalist, belying the care given to each drink.

For a drink as simple as a gin and tonic, for example, the recipe calls for The Botanist gin, made with 22 foraged botanicals in the Hebrides islands. On a recent visit, the bartender slowly poured the gin over a long ice cube that just barely fit into the glass—”waking up” the gin—then topped it off with Fever-Tree tonic water, creating a highly fragrant result ($15). Meanwhile, a classic aperol spritz gets a glamorous touch, with an orchid flower garnish and slices of blood orange ($15), while the French 75 ($13) is a refreshing, well-crafted, low-ABV option.

The Gin and Tonic. (Channaly Philipp/Epoch Times)
The Gin and Tonic. (Channaly Philipp/Epoch Times)

The extensive wine list offers glasses and bottles at a variety of price points.

Sweet Endings

Desserts are a selection of pastries from different traditions, all made in-house. Especially memorable is the Pannochka, a Russian cake shaped like a ball, with hazelnut cake, butter cocoa cream, and a layer of crunchy biscuit ($10). The Smetannyk is also lovely, with many layers of sour cream ($10). For a fruity treat, the Love Me, Love Me Not is bursting with strawberry flavor in the mousse ($9).

Coffeemania
1065 Sixth Ave. (between West 40th & West 41st streets)
Across from Bryant Park
212-221-2510
CoffeemaniaNYC.com

Hours:

Monday–Thursday 11 a.m.–10 p.m.
Friday 11 a.m.–11 p.m.
Saturday 5 p.m.–11 p.m.
Sunday 5 p.m.–10 p.m.

Breakfast service to come.