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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Try TRAM for Food That Is Far From Pedestrian

More than one restaurant may have enjoyed a brief flicker of fame by the grace of its gimmick, but it takes more than a few clever names and crayons on the table to remain in the limelight.

But TRAM, nestled below the LenKom theater in a sparsely lit screening room, goes beyond the gimmick. With decent food, modest prices, and a thug-free environment, TRAM, or Theatrical Restaurant of the Actors of Moscow, has all the trappings of success with all the cuteness of a gimmick.

The theme at TRAM is definitely dramatic, from the items on its menu to the movie camera that flashes old film clips on the dining room wall. The films may be faded and at times barely visible, but they help create an atmosphere that my dining companion described as "intimate, but not too intimate." Besides, if dinner conversation takes a dull turn you can always pretend to be watching the movie.

Dramatic dishes such as The Gogol (chicken kiev, $10) and Wearied by the Sun (sea scallops in a white wine sauce, $17) grace the menu alongside Body in a Blazer (fried calamari, $8), Pizhon, or The Fop (baked camembert, $9), and Munchausen's Trophy, sliced duck breast with fresh fruit ($24). Dinner will be a linguistic challenge for non-Russian speakers, as there are no English menus available. If you brush up on your Cyrillic alphabet you will be able to sound out some helpful clues, such as T-bone steak.

I started with the kontramarka ($5), tenderly baked slices of eggplant topped with sliced tomato and onion and drizzled with olive oil and herbs. I have no idea what this dish has to do with its name, which in Russian theater-speak means free pass. Perhaps would-be theater goers used to prepare this dish to bribe their way past the ushers. Had I been an usher, I would have given them a front-row seat.

My dining companion, who tends to avoid anything resembling a fruit or vegetable, opted for the kabuki starter, crunchy pieces of boneless chicken with a soy flavoring that was vaguely Japanese.

Portions at the TRAM are generous -- those LenKom actors have to keep their strength up -- so you may be satisfied with a soup and starter. My dining companion and I persevered on to the second section of the menu, however, which was democratically oriented to please both the modest and the more adventurous -- or wealthier -- diner.

Domestic favorites such as kotlety po domashnemu (home-style cutlets) and fried potatoes with mushrooms (both $7) grace one side of the page, while the opposite side is dedicated to Special Dishes of the House. We straddled both sides of the menu. I opted for the Pyesa (The Play), an apple-filled porkchop with applesauce ($10), while he ordered the Zakharov Fish (named after a famous director), a salmon steak with a champagne and shrimp sauce ($16).

Once I pushed aside the rather tart applesauce smothering my porkchop, I found a juicy and impressive cut of meat. The fish, on the other hand, may not have been terribly fresh, but the cream sauce did an admirable job of covering that up.

A round-the-clock hangout for a young and upwardly mobile crowd, TRAM serves breakfast from 6 to 11 a.m., and an $8 business lunch, with salad, soup and an entree, from noon to 4 p.m.

Also, look out for daily specials. If you are lucky enough to catch blini day, you are in for an unparalleled treat. Even for the experienced palette, these buttery pancakes can stand up to the stiffest competition. Indeed, they could bring a whole new meaning to an evening out at the theater.

TRAM is open 24 hours a day and is located at 6 Ulitsa Chekhova downstairs from the LenKom Theater. Telephone, 299-0770. Rubles and credit cards. Nearest metro: Pushkinskaya.