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HOMETOWN PRIDE: Russian Restaurant Celebrates Olympics

Many of us are marveling at the athletic accomplishments taking place at the Winter Olympics. If you don’t want to watch alone, one restaurant is showing the Olympics every night, along with a serving of hometown pride on the side.

Cooking comes naturally for Dmitri Iakovlev. Showing a dish, he says, “That one is just traditional dumplings.”

It’s especially natural when he makes meals from his homeland. He says, “People ask, like, coming in this restaurant, do you do everything Russian? We do mixed.”

He and wife Irina Khartchenko serve American and Russian dishes at Irina’s Restaurant and Bar in Urbandale. And, they know about Russian cuisine. Khartchenko says, “It’s a lot of fresh herbs and cooked on open fire.”

And, they know about Russian drinks. Iakovlev says, “We have 100 different bottles of vodka in here.”

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Both grew up in Sochi, where the Olympics are currently taking place. Khartchenko describes the resort city. She says, “It’s great weather, great people, so much to do. I call it almost the Russian Las Vegas.”

They enjoy seeing their hometown on T.V. Khartchenko says, “Year by year, I’ve been seeing this huge change. It’s almost, I would say, if I go there right now, I probably wouldn’t recognize the whole place. It’s like everything changed so much.”

Iakovlev says, “What they’ve done with the city is very nice.”

The two moved to Iowa more than a decade ago. They opened Irina’s in West Des Moines eight years ago, and they moved to the Urbandale location five years ago. Irina says, “This is our home away from home.”

As the Olympics bring attention to the Russian restaurant, the owners have a hard time deciding which team to support. Irina says, “When I see my fellow Americans. I’m like, yea guys, do it! When I see the Russians, I’m like OK!.”

You can get a taste of truly authentic Russian food every other month at Irina’s Restaurant and Bar. The restaurant’s next Russian Night is March 6th. They serve a four course meal and have a live Russian band. Reservations are required, and it’s $40 a person.

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