The New Porto Maltese
For seafood lovers in Moscow, Porto Maltese has posted good news and bad news on its website (www.porto-maltese.org). First the bad – the original located on Shmitovsky Proezd is closing for remodeling. The good news is that a brand new Porto Maltese has opened on Leninsky Prospekt, in a location that stands in contrast with the original. The original is a cozy, warm enclave in a quiet corner of Moscow. The new is a fresh, clean, modern fish house with large windows overlooking busy Leninsky Prospekt. A new Goodman’s Steak House is next door.
This Porto Maltese is located just past the third ring across from the big Moscow department store Univermag. If you are traveling from the center on Leninsky, Porto Maltese is on the wrong side of the street. Fortunately, U-turns are permitted just past the restaurant. By the way, there are really two Porto Maltese chains in Moscow, the result of a break between the owners of the original. Both claim the name and share similar styles and menus.
Like the first, the new Porto Maltese has large ice table covered with more than a dozen different fresh fish as well as shellfish delicacies. A fresh catch arrives on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. The menu is simple at Porto Maltese, with just a few appetizers and salads; your choices are the fish and style of preparation. We were six and while we admired the fish, our host ordered for the table.
We started with Bouzzara, a Montenegro bouillabaisse, with shrimp, mussels, vongole, and other mollusks. This was accompanied by the exquisite Georgian lavash that was a hallmark of the first Porto, sourced from a nearby bakery. Despite the fish, we started with a 2003 Clos Henri Pinot Noir from New Zealand, which stood up well with the heavy, spicy Bouzzara. Next came a mixed grill of shrimp, calamari, octopus leg, scallops and cuttlefish, perfectly prepared.
Our host had selected a large sea bass, which was presented encased in a hardened salt/egg white shell used during baking to retain moisture. The server carefully cracked and peeled back the cover, then the skin, revealing the sea bass’ soft, snowy white meat. A monkfish was also prepared, which was served on the side. Monkfish has dense, somewhat sweet meat, somewhat reminiscent of lobster. This monster of the deep is much better eaten than seen. The sea bass and monkfish created a pleasant contrast on the plate. According to our host, sea bass appeals to Russian taste, which prefers a much softer fish, while the firm monkfish appeals to the North Americans, who prefer steak-like fish such as swordfish. For the fish, we switched to a classic white wine, a Puligny Montrachet Vincent Girardin 2002.
The fish on the Porto Maltese menu are ordered by the 100 grams; you select your fish, it is weighed, and the charge appears on your bill. The sea bass and monkfish are both about 170 rubles per 100 grams. This means that a full 2-kilo sea bass like we ordered will cost about $125.
Porto Maltese’s wine position was a disappointment. While prices on the wine list itself begin at a somewhat high level, there is no wine by the glass selection (which should be a basic requirement for a fish house). The restaurant offers only a simply awful cheap French plunk at a miniscule 310 rubles for a liter, but you get what you pay for.
The new Porto Maltese is crisp and clean, with pleasant seaside colors and decor. Its style is an excellent match and cuisine a complement to the neighboring Goodman’s. The seafood was well prepared and fresh without pretense.