Our first, tentative outing to the newly reborn Russian Tea Room (those gilded Phoenix bas-reliefs on the walls now take on a whole new meaning) revealed the following:
Less than a quarter-capacity crowd at 9 p.m. on Saturday night.
Straight-off-the-boat willowy model types manning the front of the house.
A surprising preponderance of actual Russians, probably on their way to or from buying up every piece of art there is at Sotheby's.
And, last but not least, this nugget of intel: Only the restaurant's relatively plain, low-ceilinged ground floor is actually open for business. The infinitely more spectacular halls on upper floors are still in need of some touching-up; as the hostess put it, "One or two eggs are still unlit on the Faberge tree But the crystal bear is already loaded with fish. We'll just give them a couple more weeks to acclimate." Free of context, this sounds like a phrase from an absinthe nightmare. In the Tea Room's case, however, it's business as usual.