Cooksey finds authentic Russian cuisine in Pairs

Victoria Cooksey

Walking one recent evening in Paris, my husband and I were on our way to dine at a café when a red awning and the name Kniaz Igor caused us to pause and study the posted carte and menu.

Up until that evening, my philosophy had been to always eat only French cuisine while in France, but the chance to taste a hot, rather than cold, borscht soup along with a sign promising live gypsy music sung in Russian was too much to resist, and we entered what became our favorite restaurant in Paris.

Thus, another lesson to keep one’s options open to new experiences.

The restaurants in Paris and those who work in them always have a great attention to detail, but Kniaz Igor goes above and beyond in the detail department with crystal glasses, true silver silverware and Laguiole antique knives.

Even the bill arrives in a heavy, ornate golden box that opens like a book to reveal the cost of the meal.

A carafe of the most delightful Russian vodka we had ever tasted cost 45 euros and is worth every penny.

The carafe is frozen in ice and placed into a crystal bowl in which to catch any drippings.

While I could continue on and on about the food (Pelmeny, beef stroganoff, borscht, etc.), which was some of the best Russian food I had ever tasted, it was the people running the restaurant who made the experience so enjoyable.

The waiter (I believe his name was Robert) was Russian, spoke French beautifully and knew enough English to explain the menu, and attempted to discuss the Chicago Bulls with us when he found out we were from Illinois.

“I’m not sure about Dennis Rodman,” he said. “Maybe this year will be another year like Michael Jordan?”

When I ordered coffee, he asked if I would like sugar. I asked for just one sugar, thinking it would be a packet.

He brought me a huge crystal bowl of sugar and then, laughing, asked, “Are you sure you don’t want two?” 

Around 9 p.m., a gentleman guitar player and a lady to sing the gypsy songs entered the restaurant, and were so intoxicating that we stayed an additional 2 hours to listen.  

Though I have been to many places and have seen the sights, that evening at Kniaz Igor, a place 5,000 miles from home, beyond the tourist attractions, away from the crowds and souvenir shopping, is the point when I knew I had finally traveled, and yet the lovely people there also made it feel like home.

Kniaz Igor is located on 43, Avenue de la Bourdonnais in the 7th arrondissement in Paris, France. Phone number: 01 45 51 91 71, Web site:

Victoria Cooksey grew up in Washington. She and her husband, Josh, graduated from Washington Community High School. She is the author of three books including “Cooking with Cooksey,” which is available ine-book and regular form and and or call 1-800-AUTHORS (288-4677) E-mail cooking questions to: beyourfreedom