French Food to Die For

MTMaison Vatel is well-suited to a family lunch on Sunday afternoon.
Taking its name from Francois Vatel, a 17th-century French chef who committed suicide over a botched banquet for Louis XIV, Maison Vatel is a bistro-style French restaurant located under an eponymous deli.

If the French bistro-deli concept seems familiar, that's probably because such a combination already exists in Moscow -- the Jean Jacques chain. It's not just in this bistro-deli pairing that Maison Vatel resembles Jean Jacques, however. The interior design is strikingly similar, with large mirrors around deep red walls and chalkboards listing various specials. But despite these first impressions of similarity, a quick survey of the dining public will find that Maison Vatel attracts a more affluent-looking crowd, including whole families.

The menu's prices confirm that this restaurant operates in a different league from the democratic Jean Jacques. Fresh oysters come in two varieties -- fin de claire, 200 rubles per oyster, and white pearl, 250 rubles each. Six Burgundy-style snails cost 300 rubles. The cheese plate costs 750 rubles.

The best choice for those on a tight budget is most likely Maison Vatel's tasty French onion soup (300 rubles), which is accompanied by complimentary fresh-baked bread.

Salads include mixed vegetables with chicken liver (500 rubles), a Mediterranean calamari salad (550 rubles) and ruccola, prawns and Parmesan (550 rubles). Starters include such dishes as tuna carpaccio (450 rubles), salmon with fresh ginger (550 rubles) and foie gras with apple (1,150 rubles).

Mains include dorado in soy (800 rubles) and escalope Milan-style with mashed potatoes (500 rubles).

Given Moscow's infatuation with Italian cuisine, it's hardly surprising to find a selection of pastas, starting at 350 rubles for penne with tomato and basil. Risotto starts at 500 rubles with ruccola and prawns.

Appropriately, there is a good range of wine, with prices starting at the comparatively reasonable 190 rubles for a glass of red or white.

14/1 Komsomolsky Prospekt, korpus 1, 245-7372, noon-midnight, M. Park Kultury.