Spice up Moscow – bamboo shoots, eats and leaves
8 Presnenskaya Nab., bldg. 1, 970 4341, m. Vystavochnaya
A construction zone may not be the most romantic destination for a dinner date, but there's now a good reason to consider going for a meal in the Moskva-City development. And for those who already work in this incomplete business district of the future, life just got a lot better with the opening of a hip new spot for lunch and after-work drinks.
On the ground floor of one of Moskva-City's already-functioning towers, the new Bamboo Bar offers tasty pan-Asian cuisine, a stylish interior and friendly service in a relaxed atmosphere.
The immaculately designed and expensively fitted-out interior boasts a 12-metre-long bar running down one side of the lounge area, with windows opposite providing glimpses of the river and a promising summer veranda.
There's a choice of cheerful yellow sofas, less-comfortable wicker stools, and various kinds of tables including a sheet of glass balanced on an elaborately gnarled piece of driftwood.
A staircase spirals up to the second floor, winding around a glass-walled wine "cellar" with a tall ladder leading up to the highest shelves. Behind it there's a third dining area, and an open kitchen emanating the most mouth-watering aromas.
Gastronomic expectations aren't always heightened by restaurant dining rooms that look like picture-perfect images from glossy design magazines, but Bamboo Bar's food turned out to be on par with its interior.
The tom yum was as good as it gets in Moscow's Thai restaurants, and surprisingly spicy. While local eateries usually adapt it to local tastes by leaving out the chili and adding loads of coconut milk, Bamboo Bar made neither of these mistakes, although it would still be a stretch to call the soup "authentic". The small but quite filling portion included three flavoursome prawns, some broccoli and a few kaffir lime leaves, with a long stick of lemongrass poking out like a straw and a little bowl of cilandro and green onion on the side. More challenging flavours like galangal and fish sauce were undetectable, but still it amounted to a pretty bold take on tom yum for a pan-Asian restaurant in Russia.
It was quite a different story with the gun-bao chicken - with this dish Bamboo Bar's chef opted for a totally Europeanised or Russianised adaptation. This gun-bao consisted of a generous quantity of lean chicken pieces, cashews and chunks of sweet bell pepper on a bed of sliced leek, smothered in a sweet sauce that was subtly flavoured with hoi sin. There was not a hint of Sichuan peppercorns, or chilis either fresh or dried; there was also a hell of a lot less grease than is usual for this dish.
The real highlight of our meal was the Sichuan-style dorada, which was simply scrumptious and unexpectedly good value. The fresh and juicy fillet of half a fish was dusted with finely ground Sichuan peppercorns and lying atop roast aubergines surrounded by a thick, spicy, deep plum-coloured sauce. The side dish of gohan-nishiki rice was another hit, stir-fried in a wok with bean sprouts, snow peas, bamboo shoots and spinach.
There are plenty of other tasty choices on the menu, including salads, sushi, sashimi, dim sum, noodles and such mains as rib-eye steak with curry sauce (850 roubles) and chicken wings with aniseed and chili (370 roubles). There's an extensive menu of cocktails, sake and whisky, among other drinks, making this a suitable bar/restaurant for all sorts of occasions.
The location might sound off-putting but the restaurant is not far from the metro - and while you're there you can get a close-up look at the gleaming blue high-rises that are transforming Moscow's skyline.
Bamboo Bar is also worth keeping in mind in the summer, when its veranda overlooking the river is likely to become one of the city's most inviting al fresco dining spots.