The Russian Tea Room on West 57th Street is never mentioned or depicted in Mad Men, but it’s just the kind of place a Madison Avenue ad executive would have frequented in the 1960s. And it found its way into The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook because it’s famous for one of Roger Sterling’s favorite dishes, Chicken Kiev. When Roger fixes the recently divorced Don up with young Bethany Van Nuys, he has his secretary book a table for Don and Bethany at the now defunct Jimmy’s LaGrange, another popular hangout for the Madison Avenue crowd. “They have Chicken Kiev,” says Roger to Don. “The butter squirts everywhere.”
The muddled history of Chicken Kiev is covered in The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook, but if you want to try The Russian Tea Room’s version, on the menu since the 1940s, go to our Facebook page and enter our “Dine Like a Mad Man” Sweepstakes, because one of the first prizes is a generous gift certificate courtesy of The Russian Tea Room.
Founded in 1927 by members of the Russian Imperial Ballet, The Russian Tea Room has hosted its share of the rich and famous. Maybe you’ll be seated in one of the intimate booths once occupied by Woody Allen, Madonna, Rudolf Nureyev, or another of the famous guests who fancy fine Russian cuisine. Located next to Carnegie Hall, many a performing artist has repaired to the Tea Room after a bravura performance.
If you took your lunch with Don and Roger in, say, 1963 at The Russian Tea Room, in addition to the Chicken Kiev you might have tried the Boeuf a la Stroganoff, Pelmeni (stuffed dumplings made with unleavened dough) or Red Borscht with pickled beets. By the way, the authors of The Russian Tea Room Cookbook concur with Roger: the way to identify a perfectly prepared Chicken Kiev is “a spurt of butter at the first touch of knife and fork.”