Moonshine and the Mafia

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The city's newest bar and restaurant has a claim to fame none of its rivals can allege -- it's modeled after a speakeasy, the kind of underground, illegal drinking establishment that was popular during America's prohibition era.

You won't need a password to get into The Real McCoy, but, otherwise, the restaurant is straight out of a gangster flick set in 1920s New York, complete with wonderful props like the boots of snitches set in cement (the better for drowning them with) and a giant faucet built into a brick wall -- in different times, it would have been a source of illicit spirits for patrons in the know.

When I visited on Saturday, the atmosphere at The Real McCoy was a lively cross between that of a club and a restaurant. There was no shortage of customers, but we had no problem finding a table. A jazz band was energetically performing and, although the music was great, it meant cross-table conversations had to be conducted at shouting volume.

Since I was a few minutes late, on arriving I found that my friends had already ordered the Sambos appetizer (150 rubles) and Tri Amigos appetizer (480 rubles) assortments. Both were perfect complements to the beer we ordered next.

Appropriately, we had no complaints about the drinks at The Real McCoy. In addition to the half-liter Sokols (60 rubles) we chose, there was a large selection of cocktails on the beverages menu and several reasonably-priced beers on offer.

After drinks, one of my dining companions ordered a Caesar Salad (210 rubles). Although he said its ingredients were all wrong for a Caesar, I took a nibble and -- although I've never read the Caesar Salad Regulation Manual -- I was impressed with the salad's taste.

In keeping with The Real McCoy's theme -- the restaurant's promotional literature calls it a "bootlegger's bar" -- the members of the staff were all attired in costumes reminiscent of America's Roaring Twenties. I had no complaints about the service -- a helping hand was never far from reach.

After a quick perusal of the mains on offer, I chose the Steak Dijon (670 rubles), with grilled vegetables (30 rubles) as a side. The meat was prepared with just the dose of rarity I requested and was served quickly.

My friends ordered the Burrito de Paulo (270 rubles), the Fisherman's Stew (Ragu Rybaka, 540 rubles) and the Miss Piggy Fettuccini (240 rubles). In the interests of professionalism, I sampled these dishes and was in no way disappointed.

After we finished our meal, we stayed on for a few more drinks and, although we resisted the temptation to get up and boogie, there was no shortage of patrons who chose to do so.

All in all, The Real McCoy was a lot of fun. I'm sure I'll visit again -- maybe even if I have to go underground to do so.

1 Kudrinskaya Ploshchad. Metro Barrikadnaya. Tel. 255-4144. 24 hours. Credit cards: V, MC, DC.