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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Finding Prunes in a Den of Pirates

Aided by the impressive selection of imported beers on tap, the nautical decor of the Arabella restaurant began to make sense only toward the end of a recent meal in this unspectacular but solid and well-priced eatery.


Like so many of the mid-range restaurants that have sprung up around Moscow in spaces once occupied by a stolovaya or pelmennaya, Arabella relies on its somewhat exotic but entirely unthreatening pirate shtick for appeal, and the food seems a bit of an afterthought.


Located in the split-level cellar space of an apartment building on Leninsky Prospekt, Arabella's few windows are covered with tightly closed blinds, and the plain walls are filled with various seafaring paraphernalia ranging from a ship's steering wheel to fake portholes. The nautical theme is not reflected in the menu or any other aspect of Arabella -- aside from its name, which refers to a pirate's ship -- but it does give a bit of character to an otherwise ho-hum dining experience.


Still, Arabella is a good place to come for a glass or two of draft beer and a simple meal and emerge without having to worry about things like credit card limits. Take, for example, the Spanish Omelette (25,000 rubles or $4.55) that is listed under hot appetizers but could easily serve as a light meal. Although a bit salty, it was wonderfully fluffy with a light, healthy mix of fresh mushrooms and sweet red peppers.


The Kharcho (25,000 rubles) is also a good deal and lives up to its reputation as a Georgian soup with tanginess. Supported by a solid but unobtrusive tomato base, the soup was a lively chorus of garlic, chives, scallions, cilantro and hunks of beef.


The Borshch (25,000 rubles) was serviceable and prompted a rare outburst from my taciturn dining companion, an environmentalist from Vermont.


"Oh my God, there's a prune," he exclaimed and continued eating.


After his encounter with the prune, the environmentalist moved on to the Chef's Salad Andalusia (30,000 rubles), which he said served its palate-cleansing function admirably with a fine mixture of fresh-chopped vegetables topped with a pleasantly crisp, delicate dressing.


Other appetizers of interest include Shrimp Cocktail (65,000 rubles), Chicken Julienne (25,000 rubles) and Chicken under Walnut Sauce (25,000 rubles), which is in fact the usually delicious Georgian dish called Tsatsivi.


Aside from the atmosphere, one of Arabella's selling points is the selection of imported beers on tap including Grolsch, Amber, Kilkenny and Tuborg. We each chose a 400-centiliter glass of Guinness (30,000 rubles), which arrived a picture of stout beauty, pitch-black liquid topped by an off-white head of foam. Although a little too cold, it hit the spot and cleared the way for the main course.


When you first arrive at Arabella, the waitress brings not only a menu but also a green plastic binder with 24 labeled color photos of the entrees. On the strength of the artistically arranged food in the picture described as Filet of Turkey with Coconut (40,000 rubles), we ordered a plate of what turned out to be a salty dish of sliced turkey on a bed of corn surrounded by wedges of peach, pineapple and raw pepper. Also overly salty was our other choice, the Pork Saute (60,000 rubles), 10 cubes of tender pork on a skewer that were competently done and imaginatively presented.


On the whole, the entrees offer a broad selection in terms of price (from the Liver and Onions at 30,000 rubles to the Shrimp Grill at 200,000 rubles). The dessert menu had nothing to pique the interest, so we chose the Arabella Cake (15,000 rubles) -- because it sounded the most promising -- but ended up with a cake roll that looked suspiciously like the kind on sale at kiosks everywhere.


It was a disappointing end to an otherwise pleasant experience in a place worth visiting not so much for its food but for the warm, bistro-like atmosphere made all the more appealing by draft beer.





Arabella is located at 11 Leninsky Prospekt. Rubles, Visa and Mastercard are accepted. Hours noon to 4 a.m. daily. Tel. 237-4182. Nearest metro: Oktyabrskaya.


Another Arabella restaurant with the same menu, prices, hours and methods of payment is located at 26/1 Novoslobodskaya Ulitsa. Tel. 251-7417. Nearest metro: Mendeleyevskaya.