Enter Noodle Territory

MTThe stylish interior makes Menza look more expensive than it is.
Menza is the first in what is to be a new chain of noodle houses -- in fact, the restaurant is subtitled "territory of noodles." Given that it was created by the restaurateurs behind the Gi-No-Taki and Yakitoria chains, it's not surprising to discover that Menza is simple and democratic like a noodle house should be -- although the only other Moscow eatery that it can really be compared to is the Udonyasan chain, which debuted near Novoslobodskaya in September. But while at Udonyasan guests place orders at the counter and then wait for their meal to be brought out to their table, Menza has a more novel system: Customers take a seat and order by filling out a form, ticking boxes next to the dishes they want. The wait staff collect these questionnaires from diners' tables and promptly bring the food out.

The menu at Menza is considerably larger than at Udonyasan, although the portions are smaller for roughly the same price. There are five salads, including a strange-sounding Caesar with fried noodles (80 rubles) and duck salad with omelet and Japanese buckwheat noodles (80 rubles).

Hot starters include three varieties of steamed dumplings (prawn, crab and pork -- all 170 rubles) and two sorts of gyoza (prawn and pork -- both 170 rubles). There is even a fairly decent rendition of vegetable samosa with a curry sauce (130 rubles).

Of course, it is the noodles that you should come for -- udon with beef and vegetables under oyster sauce, soba with tiger prawns in brown sauce, and noodles with bran and vegetables under soy sauce all go for 140 rubles. There is also egg noodle ramen with duck or pork (both 150 rubles).

The drinks prices are extremely low, even for a noodle house. Draft beer starts at 60 rubles for a half-liter of the house beer, Staropramen goes for 90 rubles and Kirin is the most expensive at 150 rubles. Wine starts at 60 rubles a glass and there is even sake for 100 rubles per 100 milliliters.

32 Bolshaya Dmitrovka Ul., 650-4240, 11 a.m.-11 p.m., M. Pushkinskaya.