The Latest Botanika

MTThe second Botanika has much in common with the original cafe.
It was several years coming, but Botanika No. 2 has arrived. The original Botanika, located on Bolshaya Gruzinskaya Ulitsa, is not the kind of place you would expect to become a chain. It has an individual, almost quirky feel -- the kind of place that seems like someone's personal project. Botanika No. 2 certainly doesn't evoke any such feelings; for starters, it's buried on the fourth floor of an elite shopping center on Kutuzovsky Prospekt.

The design follows the original concept, with the same pale pastel green and beige color scheme and floral motifs. The main section has a glass wall that faces on to the mall. Outside the cafe, across from its glass face, is an open section with a handful of small tables.

The menu sticks pretty closely to the original as well. The food is light and modern -- almost (to use a now dirty word) "fusion" in its style. The portions are tiny, but the prices are reasonable. Salads include a beet concoction with pine nuts and homemade cheese (150 rubles), tuna nicoise (290 rubles) and marinated beef, chicken and braised eggplant (250 rubles). More typical salads include olivye (chicken -- 210 rubles, crab -- 270 rubles) and Caesar (chicken --250 rubles, tiger prawn -- 290 rubles). Soups include wonton soup with seaweed (140 rubles), sorrel with egg (hot or cold, 140 rubles) and Lapland ukha with salmon (180 rubles).

Mains include steak in pepper sauce (570 rubles), grilled chicken breast with basil sauce (210 rubles) and prawn or chicken patty cakes with wasabi sauce (both 190 rubles), smoked eel on a bed of potato-beet puree (260 rubles) and green beef curry with steamed rice (340 rubles). The portions here are small enough to require side dishes, which include grilled zucchini (180 rubles), fried crispy eggplant (180 rubles) and braised vegetables (180 rubles). Beer is limited to bottles -- Hoegaarden, Kirin or Korona -- all 160 rubles for 330 milliliters.

Botanika: 48 Kutuzovsky Prospekt,

4th floor of the Vremena Goda shopping center, 721-8973, 11 a.m.-midnight, M. Park Pobedy.