Charles W. Borden
Nabi is the latest entry in the “Where the Elite Meet to Eat” sweepstakes taking place between a few Moscow promoters, with Novikov far in the lead. Nabi, billed as Asian Fusion, is from Kirill Gusev, the developer of Oblomov, FISH and Pavilion restaurants. Nabi’s sparse two-page menu has headings that include Salads, Soups, Rolls, Dim Sum, Curry, Wok, Thai Pan, and Hot Dishes. We were told that the chefs were Chinese and Russian (Pavel Petukhov and Wang Chuan Bao).
Nabi is set back off Maly Afanasyevski Pereulok, just off Novy Arbat and Gogelevsky Bulvar. At the entry, a bowl of apples, two bronze elephants, and vases of white lilies greet the guests along with the attentive staff. With leather chairs and simple settings, Nabi has a quiet dignity. Gusev has created a design that allows each table its quiet spot, with no intrusion from your neighbors. That is, if you ignore Nabi’s ever present selection of eye candy; always a few tables of two or three babes dressed to the nines. In any case, Nabi provides a generally pleasant setting for a romantic dinner or a serious business meeting.
John arrived a little late after he was stopped by the GAI when he tried to sneak across the first few hundred meters of Maly Afanasyevskiy directly from Gogolevsky Bulvar against the one-way sign. He finally snatched his documents back and headed to the restaurant saying; “Get me on the way out, I’ll feel better after a glass or two of wine.” We were at a table of four and John decided to order the same array of “appetizers” that he ordered a few days, before and Nabi was able to produce the waitress who remembered the order. There is no Appetizer heading on the menu; it just happens that many of the menu items including salads seem like appetizer servings.
The Shrimp in Sweet and Sour Sauce (650r) was a favorite, with the shrimp just right and not overly coated with the bright red sweet and tangy sauce. The Leaf Salad with Fillet of Lamb Pickled with Aromatic Herbs (600r) consisted of arugola with small, soft, flavorful thin disks of lamb. The Salad with Warm Scallop (750r) was served with three large scallops and a side arugula salad with large gratings of Parmigiano. The Tartar of Tuna and Avocado with Ginger Lime Sauce (500r) was one of the best offerings; cubes of very fresh tuna with a light lime ginger sauce with sesame seeds.
Another salad was Lotus, Chestnuts, Mushrooms “Syangu” with Asparagus in Oyster Sauce (450r), crispy and lightly coated with the sauce. Nabi has a small dim sum collection. We tried the NABI assortment (600r). I’m not big on dim sum and this serving did nothing to change my mind. Next came the Fried Rice with “Cracklings” (700r) and Egg Noodles with Shrimp (650r). Neither were memorable and the Egg Noodles on the salty side. Cracklings are small pieces of thoroughly fried salo (fat).
The Peking Duck (800r) was picture perfect, a nicely served roasted to a deep brown, duck breast, sliced with pencil thin cucumber and leek and served with the traditional small, flat rice pancakes. We finished with a very tasty and tender Black Cod in Soya-Honey Sauce, laid on seaweed (1400r) and Kamchatka Crab Tentacles in Soya Pepper Sauce (1100r), four substantial, thick lengths of what must have been a very huge crab. This was crab, but not all that tender and somewhat stringy and tough, served with a bowl of plain basmati rice. After that, despite the old adage that “there is always room for dessert,” we were finished.
Nabi has a decent wine selection with wines by the glass ranging from a nice Sileni (New Zealand) Sauvignon Blanc at 350 rubles. There are wines by the bottle starting at 1750 rubles and a decent selection in the low 2000 rubles. We cleaned out Nabi’s stock of the Tuscany Bolgheri DOC Il Bruciato from Tenuta Guado al Tasso 2002 (2170r). By the time we left, the GAI were no longer at their post.