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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Steakhouse That Offers Mood With Your Meat

When I called ahead to find out if the Scandinavia Steakhouse had a bar, the woman on the other end of the line merely chuckled.

But nearly an hour later, as I was settling into the bar to await the arrival of my less-than-punctual dining companion, I understood why my question seemed so humorous to her.

Do they have a bar? A more appropriate response might have been, "Do we ever!"

Indeed, the room was so delightfully cozy that I would happily have awaited the arrival of even the tardiest of dining companions just to soak up the atmosphere.

Soft light reflected off the peach-colored walls, giving the impression that a fire was ablaze in the near vicinity. There was something about the dark wooden beams, the dried flowers hanging from the ceiling and the artfully placed farm instruments that made me feel as if I was in the middle of a Bergman film -- only with the promise of a happy ending. Had the cocktails not started at $9, I would have sat there all night.

I don't mean to imply that this Swedish-Russian joint venture is far beyond the means of the budget diner. It is not the most expensive restaurant in town, nor is it the most elegant. But it is expensive and elegant enough to exclude it from your list of casual dining spots. This is a place where you might want to linger. At least I did, but the staff was nice enough to wait until a half hour after closing time to indicate ever so politely that it might be time to leave.

So if mood and meat are what you're after, the Scandinavia is a fine choice for a special occasion. The emphasis here, not surprisingly, is beef. Sirloin, filet and entrecote are grilled up in a variety of sizes. The "ladies' size" weighs in at 150 grams, whereas the more manly "extra large" is double the weight, but not double the price. I chose a ladylike filet ($24) which arrived an exact medium rare and was served with a baked potato and small salad.

The house special -- which at $39 also happens to be the most expensive item on the menu -- is Surf & Turf, a T-bone steak with lobster, the ultimate choice for the indecisive. A few fish entrees are also available, such as the grilled halibut with a beet, bacon and caper sauce ($27).

A selection from the appetizers -- where the northern influence really shines -- might satisfy a craving for fish. The Swedish cured salmon with mustard sauce ($16) and herb and sour cream marinated shrimp ($13) are a good choice -- far better than the rubbery reindeer.

Choosing dessert, as it turned out, was a collaborative affair, and one that began before I even left the aforementioned coziness of the bar for the dining room.

"Order the chocolate cake," an impish pig-tailed hostess told me in parting. "It may not be on the menu, but it is the best of all."

Much later, as our bloody steak knives were being cleared, the chocolate cake came up again.

The choice came down to an intriguing cardamum parfait torte with cointreau marinated oranges ($15) or the mysterious cake, which our waitress, like the hostess, heartily promoted.

"Take the cake," she advised. "It comes with ice cream. It is much more interesting."

Who was I to pass up insider information? I chose the cake. And I was so distracted by this fudgey slice of perfection that I neglected to thank the staff for the hot tip.

With charming little extras such as a $30 bottle of wine, the bill at the Scandinavia can certainly add up. But budgets be damned. Sometimes the fastest way to soothing the spirit is by emptying your wallet of cash.

Scandinavia Steakhouse, located at 7 Maly Palashevsky Pereulok,

is open daily from noon to midnight. Visa and American Express accepted. Nearest metro, Pushkinskaya. Telephone: 200-4986.