'Chopped' Chef Brings Summer Dumpling Menu to Astoria Restaurant

By Jeanmarie Evelly on July 11, 2014 2:23pm 

 Astoria restaurant Bear is offering a special dumplings menu this summer.
Astoria restaurant Bear is offering a special dumplings menu this summer.
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ASTORIA — It's the summer of the dumpling for this Queens eatery.

Bear restaurant on 31st Avenue and 12th Street., helmed by chef Natasha Pogrebinsky of "Chopped" fame, is taking a casual approach this summer with a special seasonal menu based on a traditional Eastern European dumpling house.

"For most people, you don't think of dumplings as a summer food — you think of something heavy," said Pogrebinsky, a Kiev native.

She said she was inspired by the dumpling houses of her youth, where the treats were lighter, made with a thinner dough and often served in cool yogurt-based sauces.

"In Ukraine you would see a lot of dumpling houses in the summertime, and we just kind of wanted to bring that experience over to Astoria," she said.

"For the summer we thought, there's a park down the street that has movies at night, people kayaking, people just walking by, and we just kind of wanted to give people this relaxed feel."

Normally the menu has a dumpling dish, but the current menu ups the ante with seven dumpling and pierogi dishes. Entrees start at $14 for lunch and $17 for dinner.

Options include pork dumplings served in a vinegar sauce with scallions, or in a smetana, or sour cream-style sauce, with a dill gravy. The restaurant also includes pierogies made with homemade bratwurst.

"They're all very simple, kind of old world, but delicious," Pogrebinsky said. "I would say really perfect for the summer — they're filling but they're not going to make you feel stuffed, they're great to share."

The menu also includes a number of regular dishes, including a borscht appetizer and chicken Kiev kebabs.

Bear is open Tuesdays through Sundays, with lunch from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. on weekdays, brunch from 12 to 4 p.m. on weekends and dinner starting at 6 p.m.

Reservations are recommended for large groups, and Pogrebinsky suggests calling ahead before a visit as the eatery sometimes hosts private events.

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