Manhattan in Moscow
Charles W. Borden
The morphing of Moscow’s Stalin era Peking Hotel into a mini New York must be one of the great examples of free market capitalism, which should warm the cold hearts of Rush Limbaugh fans worldwide and end any talk of a return to the past. Only the Peking Hotel name remains, and a few Chinese items on the Manhattan Grill menu. The Peking’s old, classic Chinese restaurant has been replaced with a large array of one-arm bandits. Now there is the New York Stock Exchange (a slot room), the Liberty Cafe, and Manhattan Grill, all in a faux Art Deco design, with neon in and out. From your table at the Manhattan Grill, it appears as if you are looking out the 30th floor window of an Manhattan uptown skyrise at night.
I first visited Manhattan Grill for brunch several weeks ago, and was impressed enough to go back for my wife’s birthday, which turned out to be a very good choice. It’s reasonably lux and quiet, the service attentive (though glacially slow), and not a budget buster. Manhattan Grill is a bargain by Moscow standards with first class food at TGI Friday prices. It reminded me of Las Vegas, where the casinos provide guests with inexpensive food and free drinks to draw in the customers. An 11 oz Ribeye Steak is just 590 rubles. And the breakfasts – a New York Breakfast of two eggs any way, bacon, sausage, grilled tomatoes, home fries and toast is just 85 rubles, and Eggs Benedict just 145 rubles.
The wine list is intelligent and the wines are well priced – a bottle of Simonsig (South African) Chenin Blanc 2005 is 440 rubles, not much more than the shelf price at a supermarket. There is a nice range of good wines starting at 380 rubles per bottle to 3050 rubles.
A Passport magazine restaurant review doesn’t just consist of a couple of people ordering dinner – we order the menu, at least anything that looks interesting to get a full picture of the offerings. This was Sunday brunch, but we skipped past the breakfast menu. We started with appetizers: New York Crab and Fish Cake (480r), a substantial patty served on an excellent sweet corn chutney with red onion and paprika; Panko Breaded Calmari (160r) served with homemade salsa, lemon aioli and calamata olive taperade (a little oily); Tuna Carpaccio (210r) with a daikon spring roll and citrus wasabi dressing; and Graved Lax (200r) house marinated salmon with horseradish cream.
We also ordered a couple of sandwiches to portion out with the appetizers: Pita-Kebab, a grilled lamb patty with black olives, red onion, and Tzakiki sauce (good sauce); and a Philly Cheese Steak with fried onion and sweet peppers – though it was minus the genuine, only-to-be-found-in-Philly cheese whip.
The salad order consisted of a nothing-special, though a large portion Tomato-Mozzarela Salad (250r), and an Asparagus-Artichoke Heart Salad (260r), which was a nice salad but only the singular can be used for the artichoke heart and asparagus spear.
We ordered two Chinese dishes: Crisp Shredded Duck (440r) with pancakes and Hoisin sauce, and Whole Crisp Fried Sea Bass (370r) with garlic Szechuan sauce. Despite the fact that the fish was called Sudak when it came out, this was a whole fish, perfectly cooked, very nicely presented, and in the just-right spicy, sweet Szechuan sauce.
The main courses consisted of a Filet Mignon (900r), the Rib-Eye, and BBQ Baby Back Ribs (300r). The barbeque brought raves from our Russian guests. My son wolfed down a generous Grilled Salmon (5.5 ounces at 210r).
Parking is not a problem; there are VIP spaces directly in front of the hotel.