Kitchen Q&A: Customer appreciation key to Moscow on the Hill’s 25-year run

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Mother/son team Marina Liberman and Eugene Liberman of Moscow on the Hill in St. Paul. (Courtesy of Moscow on the Hill)

Happy 25th anniversary to Moscow on the Hill in St. Paul. We chat with Marina Liberman, who runs the Cathedral Hill institution with her husband Naum, about the early years, the key to their success and how the restaurant has turned into a family affair spanning the next generation.

How did you come to open Moscow on the Hill? We bought the space in 1994 when it was a French restaurant called Quail on the Hill and for about 2½ years we ran it as a French restaurant. We felt more comfortable being who we are. We’re originally from Moscow and we knew Russian classics and Russian dishes better. So we decided it was time to change to Moscow on the Hill. That change happened in 1997.

Peasant Pelmeni at Moscow On the Hill in St. Paul, Dec. 10, 2018. (Nancy Ngo / Pioneer Press)
How has the restaurant changed or grown over the years? It’s very different from how it was in 1994. The restaurant is three times bigger, the patio is bigger. We built a new kitchen and a bar. At the time we had five people working for us and now it’s up to 45. Our older son Eugene is general manager right now. At the time we started he was about nine years old.

At the same time things have changed, what remains the same? We’re still a family restaurant. We know our customers. They know us. We know their kids, their grandkids. I know people who met each other here on a blind date, got married, had kids. There are so many stories of big moments that happened here. One of us is always up front greeting customers. If it’s not me, it’s Eugene.

 

What’s the key to longevity in the restaurant world? Treat people how you would like someone to treat you. You have to show customers your appreciation. Of all the restaurants, they picked you. They brought their heart and money to your place. You have to work hard and appreciate your customers. That’s the key to our success.

When dining at your restaurant, what’s the one essential dish every customer should order at least once? I like everything that’s on the menu, but my favorite is pelmeni. It’s Russian dumplings. We have two versions, one with ground beef and pork and another one with potatoes. It’s the most famous and most popular — everyone in Russia loves them.

Moscow on the Hill in St. Paul. (Courtesy of Moscow on the Hill)
If you could only eat or drink five things for the rest of your life, what would they be? A pelmeni with a sour cherry filling. Russian tea with a strudel. I’d also probably want shiitake mushrooms with young potatoes and fresh dill. And beef cabbage pierogi.

What’s next? We’re there every day at the restaurant and we’re not ready to retire. I’m 59 and my husband is 69, so I guess we have to think about it at some point. We just want to continue doing what we’re doing with our son Eugene here to help us run it as a family business.

MOSCOW ON THE HILL
Where: 371 Selby Ave., St. Paul;
For more information: 651-291-1236; moscowonthehill.com

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Cheese  Brie Sandwich

Cheese Brie Sandwich

The key is to buy specific cuts for specific dishes and be firm with your butcher. Opt for tender cuts from the inner haunch muscle if you fancy steak and use neck fillet or shanks if slow cooking. And deer mince makes for a very good gamekeeper’s sandwiches.

Wild salmon is a real treat and rivers in the British Isles are seeing more and more of them. If you can’t find wild salmon there are some good farmed fish on the market, but bear in mind they probably won’t be able to match the flavour.

Culinary Delight

These restaurant, bar and coffee roastery located on a busy corner site in Farringdon’s Exmouth Market. With glazed frontage on two sides of the building, overlooking the mark.

Wild salmon is a real treat and rivers in the British Isles are seeing more and more of them. If you can’t find wild salmon there are some good farmed fish on the market, but bear in mind they probably won’t be able to match the flavour.

You better cut the pizza in four pieces because I’m not hungry enough to eat six — Franz Kafka

These restaurant, bar and coffee roastery located on a busy corner site in Farringdon’s Exmouth Market. With glazed frontage on two sides of the building, overlooking the mark.

Melt the butter in a pan and gently cook the shallots on a low heat for a few minutes. Meanwhile, roughly chop the peas either by hand or briefly in a food processor then add to the shallots with the cream and tarragon. Season and simmer to a thick-ish consistency.

All images are under copyright © Leslie Grow and V.K.Rees

Roasted Tomato Soup

Roasted Tomato Soup

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Artists are crafters of human thought and emotion. Think about that .. its massive. It is for us to inspire and motivate. To merely duplicate is to devastate. True innovation is born on the wings of reality, but will always fly one mile higher. Don’t ever think for a moment we are merely couriers of imitation to some sort of “reality”.

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The seed needs to be soaked in an inspiration shower (patent pending). I hunt the interwebs for cool UI patterns and archive them in a massive Photoshop file. For example, when working on YouTube TV I grabbed hundreds of examples of future UI from futurists like Jayse Hansen and Neil Huxley.

Tiny women carry amazingly large bags, twice their eighty-pound weight. Some of the women carry babies in slings around front. A good adult picker can harvest over two hundred pounds of cherries and earn $8 a day, more than twice the Guatemalan minimum daily wage.

Compel your audience. Capture the moment. Light with purpose. If a picture is worth a thousand words, what’s a talking picture worth?

While I’m not the best photographer you’ll bump into, my images are worth something. It’s hard to put a monetary value on some shots, but those photos sell, and those photos arouse emotions.

And beyond that, those are one-in-a-lifetime experiences that I documented through my photo trips. And beyond that, those are one-in-a-lifetime experiences that I documented through my photo trips.

 All images are under copyright © V.K.Rees

Cheese Stuffed Tomatoes

Cheese Stuffed Tomatoes

The key is to buy specific cuts for specific dishes and be firm with your butcher. Opt for tender cuts from the inner haunch muscle if you fancy steak and use neck fillet or shanks if slow cooking. And deer mince makes for a very good gamekeeper’s sandwiches.

Wild salmon is a real treat and rivers in the British Isles are seeing more and more of them. If you can’t find wild salmon there are some good farmed fish on the market, but bear in mind they probably won’t be able to match the flavour.

Culinary Delight

These restaurant, bar and coffee roastery located on a busy corner site in Farringdon’s Exmouth Market. With glazed frontage on two sides of the building, overlooking the mark.

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Wild salmon is a real treat and rivers in the British Isles are seeing more and more of them. If you can’t find wild salmon there are some good farmed fish on the market, but bear in mind they probably won’t be able to match the flavour.

You better cut the pizza in four pieces because I’m not hungry enough to eat six — Franz Kafka

These restaurant, bar and coffee roastery located on a busy corner site in Farringdon’s Exmouth Market. With glazed frontage on two sides of the building, overlooking the mark.

Melt the butter in a pan and gently cook the shallots on a low heat for a few minutes. Meanwhile, roughly chop the peas either by hand or briefly in a food processor then add to the shallots with the cream and tarragon. Season and simmer to a thick-ish consistency.

All images are under copyright © Leslie Grow and V.K.Rees

Hot Cereals Breakfast

Hot Cereals Breakfast

When this happens, normally I grab a coffee to help get the ideas flowing, but for the last few days in Montreal, no one’s been allowed to drink the water due to a bacteria leakage, which also means, no coffee.

Tiny women carry amazingly large bags, twice their eighty-pound weight. Some of the women carry babies in slings around front. A good adult picker can harvest over two hundred pounds of cherries and earn $8 a day, more than twice the Guatemalan minimum daily wage.

What is creativity really?

From a scientific perspective, creativity is your ability to think of something original from connections made between pre-existing ideas in your brain. These connections are controlled by neurotransmitters like adenosine, which alerts your brain when you’re running out of energy and reacts.

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This got me wondering about coffee and beer and which one would actually help me be more creative and get work done. Hopefully, this will help you decide when it’s best to have that triple shot espresso or ice cold brew.

Adenosine is kind of like your brain’s battery status monitor.

From a scientific perspective, creativity is your ability to think of something original from connections made between pre-existing ideas in your brain. These connections are controlled by neurotransmitters like adenosine, which alerts your brain when you’re running out of energy and reacts.

Your brain on coffee

Every coffee drinker is familiar with the feelings after drinking a fresh cup of java. I know after I’ve had a latte or espresso, I feel more focused. If I’m having a conversation with someone, words seem to flow without pauses, ums, or ahs.

If you decide to drink coffee or beer while you’re working, stick to no more than 2 drinks per sitting and try not to do this more than once or twice per week to prevent dependency. Coffee and beer shouldn’t be thought of as magic bullets for creativity.

Be Grateful.

It’s really simple. What is one thing today you are really grateful for? What is another? If you can list 3 things a day, you’ll see you have much more going for you than you thought. Soon your list will get so long you’ll be beaming with energy.

  1. Coffee and beer shouldn’t be thought of as magic bullets for creativity.
  2. They are ways to create chemical changes that occur naturally in your body.
  3. Quality sleep, a healthy diet, and allowing yourself to take breaks.

We are all human as well and humans are not perfect creatures. When you learn to accept yourself, true happiness quickly arises.

All images are under copyright © Leslie Grow

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