Cozy Comforts at Mari's

MTMari Vanna offers home-style ambiance and cooking — for a price.
Mari Vanna has arrived in Moscow. The Ginza Project team, the restaurateurs behind a diverse range of restaurants including Prado Cafe, Sorry Babushka and the Yaposha sushi-bar chain, have brought their Mari Vanna cafe concept down from St. Petersburg.

The new cafe opened less than a month ago in the swank Patriarch's Ponds neighborhood, rubbing shoulders with some seriously snooty neighbors. Which is why at first the concept may seem a little out of place -- Mari Vanna is something like a cross between the family-run U Stanislavskogo and the bohemian Kvartira 44 chain. The homey cafe is full of cute and quaint touches. Guests ring on a bell cord with a key attached to be let in. Inside, it has the feel of a rather cluttered apartment. There are shelves full of old books, porcelain and other flea-market collectibles. Faded sepia photographs hang about the place and a large Soviet television is mounted in one wall. The restaurant's business card comes printed on the side of old Soviet matchboxes and the waitresses all wear old-fashioned polka-dotted frocks.

The menu is hand written (complete with notes jotted in the margins) and comes on brown paper attached to a breadboard with a spoon. A quick scan of the menu reveals that, however down to earth the place may seem, the prices are thoroughly up-market. Salat olivye costs 380 rubles, as does the vinegret salad. Toast with salted salmon (hand salted according to the note written above it) goes for 400 rubles. Borshch is listed at 300 rubles and solyanka is a little more at 350 rubles. Other dishes include squash cakes with salmon (550 rubles), fried potatoes with mushrooms (450 rubles) and braised duck leg with buckwheat (650 rubles).

There's no draft beer, but the bottle selection is extremely well chosen. Among those on offer are Bishop's Finger ale (160 rubles a half-liter), Whitstable Bay organic ale (160 rubles) and Kostritzer dark larger (150 rubles a half-liter). For those looking for a nibble while imbibing, there are large bowls of fresh sushki cracker rings on the tables -- free of charge.

Mari Vanna: 10a Spiridonyevsky Per.,
650-6500, 9 a.m.-11 p.m., M. Tverskaya.