Epcot Center at Disney World in Florida is one of my many obsessions, mainly because of the international pavilions, in which real citizens of other countries present fake representations of those countries to hoards of tourists. The idea of an around-the-world trip taken in the span of a day, no matter how artificial, is still thrilling in its own way, and there's something so bizarre about the whole place it leaves me giddy.
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Should Epcot ever want to open a Russian pavilion, they could do worse than to hire the Ginza Project to oversee its construction. Ginza is the company that brings us Mari Vanna on Melrose Place, which is the subject of this week's restaurant review.
Mari Vanna is, very much in the spirit of Epcot, a plumped up fantasy of Russian dining. Unlike much of the food at Epcot however, Mari Vanna is serving food that is basically honest, an upscale version of Russian home cooking, neither careless nor straying too far from tradition. But what makes the place astounding is the way in which the owners have crammed as much frilly Russian culture into the place, in the form of knickknacks, vodka, accordionists, pretty Russian waitresses and more. It's quite astounding.