Text Charles W. Borden
Photos Alexey Gorov
London was first in the 17th century, then later Manhattan and Hong Kong, and now Moscow has its own SoHo at the southern end of Savvinskaya Embankment along the Moscow River. Open just a few months, SoHo Rooms has picked up the nightspot mantle for Moscow’s glitterati from the burned out Dyagilev Project. SoHo’s executive chef is Tim Freeman, a veteran of Spago and the U.S. White House kitchen, who first came to Moscow to create the outstanding menu at the shortlived Doug’s Steak House. Tim never got to roll out his Asian specialty at Doug’s, but he is now in his fifth element at SoHo with 13 sous-chefs and 1,400 square meters of dining room, bars, and nightclub. The menu at SoHo is perfect for 21st century Moscow. I would call it Asian fusion if that term were not passe.
To create SoHo Rooms, the developers stripped its large building overlooking the embankment, retaining only the facade. Past the entrance, the DiscoRoom lies to the right, a dark open space with a two-story high ceiling. The cheap seats in the foreroom require just a thousand euros to tie up for an evening, but the VIP table, sitting on a cast-iron platform suspended above the dance floor, runs 12,000 euros. Although these amounts are really deposits, and I understand a refund is due if the food and drink bill comes in less than that, they represent estimates of the table’s food and drink bill for a night.
Our path led us to the left of the entrance, through the open main bar area, one wall occupied by a two-story, mirrorcovered wall lit by the burning logs of a large inset fireplace. We ascended a long, wide staircase to the dining room and our table overlooking the bar. High windows with a view across the Moscow River spanned the full length of the room.
We stared in awe at a complete selection of appetizers: fresh pan-seared scallops with roasted corn pudding and tomato tarragon sauce (550RUR); tuna nachos, a fresh piece of tuna nested in a large, crisp corn chip laid on goat cheese with roasted peppers and smoky tomato sauce (750RUR); kamo kara, Asian-cured duck breast with figs brulee, cardamom, kumquats and vanilla (400RUR); and Waygu beef carpaccio with black truffle and shaved parmesan (750RUR). And this was before we even ordered dinner.
I requested the kabocha pumpkin soup with peanut and fresh mint (320RUR). Naturally SoHo has a large selection of sushi, so those in my corner shared some of Tim’s suggested creations including the rich crazy monkey roll (salmon and cream cheese tempura fried with a Thai mango sauce) for 400RUR and the black widow (crab and Japanese cucumber with wasabi tobiko and black sesame) for 440RUR.
Some ordered the oak-grilled prawns (1100RUR), three of the largest, juiciest prawns I have ever seen, fully a half-foot long and served with cassava fries and grilled asparagus. I had ordered the hot rock (1050RUR), which was just that: a very hot oval-shaped, dark river stone set at my place with a side of sauces and thin slices of Waygu beef and sea scallops. I was to cook my own, using chopsticks to manipulate the slices on the rock to sizzle about 30 seconds on a side. The beef was no problem, but I couldn’t pick up the thin, slippery scallops, and the repeated trials broke them up. At one point I got distracted by the prawns and left the beef and scallops too long on the rock. By the time I turned back, they had adhered to the surface, another problem for the chopsticks.
SoHo has a nice, creative dessert menu, though I was too full to partake. But just when we thought to escape, we spotted Tim and a sous-chef carefully carrying in a large, stainless steel bin with steam pouring out the top. We soon found out this was not steam but liquid nitrogen, and Tim was going to make ice cream at the table. While they brought out the cream and custard mix, Tim showed us how we could dip our fingers in the nitrogen. They dumped the mix in and after some very vigorous stirring served us each a delicious lump of cold and creamy.
The Soho cocktail and wine menu, served from seven bars, was as expected: extensive and expensive. A terrace is being prepared above the dining room. It will feature a rooftop pool.