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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Truth Street's Big Secret: Delicious Baba Gannoush

On the street of truth, there is a well-kept secret.


In fact, the Alsham is so discreetly tucked away on the second floor of Pravda's House of Culture -- right across the street from the editorial office of The Moscow Times -- that it took my colleagues and I several months before we stumbled upon this Syrian restaurant.


But fate and the advice of one adventurous copy editor sent us over, two by two, to sample their plates of hummus, baba gannoush, and tabouli.


If you don't have a friend with a food processor and a tub of tahini, it is very hard to find good hummus in this town. But there is no need to fret over ingredients -- or lack thereof -- for reliable hummus anymore.


And if there is good hummus on the menu, I am willing to forgive other minor transgressions -- such as slow service. Indeed, lunch at the Alsham is a leisurely affair. But if they do not get the food on the table with anything that resembles speed, they are extremely friendly and accommodating in the process.


Indeed, our waitress -- after helping us navigate the unfamiliar territories of matabale and kishke -- intervened at just the right moment when my dining companion and I were muddling over what to choose for our entree.


"Why don't I just bring you an assortment?" she offered, settling on a mixture of lamb shashlyk and shesh tauuk, marinated, skewered and grilled chicken. Our mixture came with roasted onions and pita bread spread thinly with tomato sauce and an impressionistic splash of pomegranate juice. A nice touch, but the meat was so juicy and tender that it hardly needed to be hidden inside a pita. Priced, quite conveniently, by weight, both the lamb and the chicken cost 100,000 rubles a kilo, but you can order the amount you like.


While flesh lovers sink their fangs into plates of grilled meat, vegetarians can linger in appetizer heaven. We dipped pita after pita into the kishke (20,000 rubles), a tangy tvorog and yoghurt mixture spiked with garlic and mint, and tabouli (35,000 rubles), which was light and chock full of chopped parsley. The matabale (25,000 rubles), pureed eggplant with lemon and chopped herbs and vegetables, was a more interesting alternative to the more standard tahini-based baba gannoush, but don't miss the hummus (20,000).


A word of warning to those who count grams of fat -- the cold appetizers are drizzled with olive oil. If you want your hummus neat, ask them in advance to cut out the oil. Don't make the mistake I did by asking for the oil on the side. Our obliging waitress brought a small pitcher of olive oil to supplement the healthy dose poured on top of our baba gannoush.There were a few other intriguing items that I vowed to try on a more adventurous day -- such as the kubbe and khabra, both of which involve raw meat. The burak with cheese (5,000 rubles) -- the Syrian answer to khachapuri -- was not available, nor was the lentil soup (25,000 rubles), but I can wait until the weather turns colder to try them.


Those of us who are lucky enough to work across the street from the Alsham have come to think of it as a quiet lunch spot, but rumor has it this cavernous hall heats up at night when it caters to its Arab customers. Belly dancers hit the stage at 9:30 p.m. (a 20,000 ruble charge is tacked on for the floor show). According to our friendly Alsham manager, Akhmed, the show lasts until 11 p.m. but if you really like it, you can pay to keep the dancers going.





Alsham, on the second floor of 21 Ulitsa Pravdy, is open Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Rubles only. Telephone: 257-4955.


Nearest metro: Savyolovskaya.