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Columbia Restaurant Trout a la Rusa

Re: Columbia Restaurant trout a la Rusa
From: Cynthia 
Date: 11/1/2023, 4:58 PM
To: Phaedrus 

On 11/1/2023 1:46 PM, Cynthia wrote:

Columbia Restaurant’s Trout a la Rusa (Tampa, Sarasota FL)
Hi Cynthia,

Okay, let me tell you what I have found.

There are a dozen or so photos on the internet of Columbia Restaurant's menus. I looked at nearly all of them, and none of them have any trout dishes on them at all. The menus do, however, have a dish called "Snapper a la Rusa" or "Grouper a la Rusa." "A la Rusa" means "in the Russian style" and it can be made with different kinds of fish. The fish is dipped in batter and then flour or breadcrumbs and is then grilled or pan fried. It is served with butter, lemon slices, chopped hard-boiled egg and parsley. It is served with yellow rice. Fish served this way is a specialty in the Tampa area and especially at Columbia Restaurants.

The Columbia menu says this:
Snapper a la Rusa - Boneless fillet of snapper, breaded and grilled. Garnished with lemon butter, chopped hard-boiled egg and parsley. Served with yellow rice. A classic Columbia dish that has been on the menu for decades.

Finally, on a University of South Florida archives website, I found a Columbia Restaurant menu from 1950:
The Columbia Restaurant, "Menu, Columbia Restaurant, Drinks and Dinner, 1950" (1950). Columbia Restaurant Menu Collection. 8.  -  Digital Commons USF
To wit:
FILET OF SPECKLED TROUT, "A LA RUSA' • 4.00 (Boneless and skinless filet of trout dipped in batter, wheat flour and grilled to perfection, served with butter, slices of lemon, chopped egg and parsley)

Then I found an excerpt from a book called Seafood Lover's Florida: Restaurants, Markets, Recipes & Traditions By Bruce Hunt. You can purchase a copy of this book from Amazon. See:

Amazon: Seafood Lover's Florida

Here is the excerpt:
In the recipe section at the back of this book, you will find Columbia Restaurant's recipe for Grouper (or Merluza or Snapper or Trout) a la Rusa (Trout Russian). When I was growing up in Tampa, Trout a la Rusa (Trout Russian) was always one of my favorites, but somewhere along the way grouper's popularity overtook trout (considered oily by some, but not me), and the Columbia now makes the dish with merluza, a white, flaky fish similar to cod. No matter. Same recipe, different fish. A merluza (or trout, or grouper, or snapper) fillet, lightly seasoned with garlic powder, is pan-fried in butter in a skillet and then covered with thin lemon slices, chopped hard-boiled egg and parsley.

Note that this description is slightly different from the menu description, which says battered and grilled.

So, what this tells me is that the dish was originally made with trout, but over the years they switched to grouper, then merluza, then to snapper. Changes in customers' fish preference or fish availability or cost may have spurred these changes.

I then searched for any "Trout a la Rusa" recipe at all (not specifying Columbia Restaurant) and these sites are what I found:

Russian Style Trout

Trucha a la Rusa

The recipe doesn't seem to vary much. If you want to make the dish, you can use one of those recipes or you can use the recipe below, which is Columbia Restaurant's recipe for the "Snapper a la Rusa" that they currently serve, taken from a photo of one of their matchbooks. You can, of course, use trout instead of snapper, if you prefer. You could also get the book mentioned above and use the recipe that the author says is included in it.

I am also attaching a copy of the photo of the matchbook with the recipe.


Columbia Spanish Restaurant
(collect all of our recipes)

Snapper a la Rusa
(serves 2)

Two 6 oz. each of snapper fillets
Salt and Pepper
Garlic Powder
1 Cup of Flour
1 egg beaten slightly
1 stick of butter or margarine
1 lemon cut in thin round slices
1 Chopped hard-boiled egg
6 Parsley sprigs (stems removed) chopped

Season fish fillets with garlic powder, salt and pepper. Coat fillets
with flour then dip in beaten egg and bread them. Melt 1/2 stick of
butter in a heavy skillet using medium heat. When butter is bubbly,
pan broil fish fillets until they are golden brown. Remove fillets to a
heated platter. Melt remaining butter and pour over fish fillets.
Place 3 round slices of lemon over each fillet and garnish with
chopped egg and chopped parsley.

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