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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Cuisine From All Nations That Satisfies Few Tastes

The decor is English pub, the beer Belgian, and the music American country. Add to that dressed up but apathetic Soviet service and you've got 16 Tons -- a restaurant with an identity crisis.

To be fair, the service at this newcomer to Moscow's dining scene is not abominable. Some of the waiters actually smile and appear table side fairly regularly, even if they did have an annoying habit of clearing my beer glass before I had sipped that last coveted swallow of the amber nectar. But don't push them for recommendations or any enthusiasm about the food -- they do not seem to know or care anything about the menu.

There is, however, a reason for their lack of enthusiasm, as we soon understood after we sampled the fare.

We started out with a pathetic rendition of mushroom soup ($8), which was bland, watery, and was served in a bowl no bigger than most coffee cups. There was not much to tempt me among the appetizers, but I sampled the Calamari Portuguese style, which was marinated in white wine and served with strips of bell peppers. At $12, the portion was remarkably small, but the calamari rings were not chewy, even if they did lack flavor.

The recurring theme among the second course is a medley of ham, cheese and mushrooms. This mixture pops up even where it is least expected -- such as stuffed inside the pike on the fish and chips platter ($18). I was tempted to try this unusual combination, but opted at the last minute for the appropriately named Steak Big Ben ($22) -- a fillet that was as tall as it was wide. My 250 grams of beef was tender and cooked to my liking.

How do I know it was exactly 250 grams? Because the menu lists a mysterious configuration of numbers after each entree, which, my waiter informed me, represents the weight of the main course, its accompanying sauce, and the garnish around the plate. So, for example, if next to the Steak Big Ben you see the numbers 250/75/150, you will be served 250 grams of meat, 75 grams of mushroom sauce, and 150 grams of the assorted rings of bell pepper, red beans, olives, corn, and whatever else they happen to use to decorate the plate. I imagine they have a lot of scales in the kitchen.

Deciding to be adventurous, my dining companion opted for the Pork Rulka in garlic and mustard sauce, which was a bold move indeed. Rulka, as I later learned, is the slaughterhouse term for a pig's hind leg, and this was a mountain of a meal. Once you cut through a thick layer of skin and fat and wrestle with the bone, the meat, tenderized by a beer marinade, is actually pretty tasty. This seemed to be a popular item on the menu, but perhaps because at $15, it was also the least expensive.

The one tip our waiter did offer was to encourage us to order a side dish, as the 16 Tons did not seem compelled to serve a potato with a $22 piece of meat. We opted for the Manchester Cabbage -- an $8 plate of frozen brussels sprouts, soggy broccoli and watery cauliflower. The most amusing part of the limp collection was the "sweet and sour" sauce that accompanied it, which was more like a strawberry jam. The jam and broccoli combo is not a taste sensation I would care to repeat.

The saving grace of this pub is the Belgian beer, although the selection is much more limited than the menu will lead you to believe. The house draught made the trip worthwhile -- in particular the dark beer, which is a bargain at only $3.50 for a half liter. Situated as it is so close to the Krasnopresnya Banya, this may be the ideal spot to replenish those bodily fluids lost in the steam room -- but don't go with an appetite.

16 Tons, at 6 Presnensky Val, is open daily from 11 a.m. to midnight. Tel: 253-5300. Rubles only. Nearest metro: Ulitsa 1905 Goda.