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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Sushi, Syrniki or Stewed Tomatoes: A Worldly Wake-Up at the Metropol

Breakfast, they say, is the most important meal. And if you happen to be dining in a luxury hotel, its importance takes on a whole new dimension.

There is no shortage of swank in Moscow these days, so anyone looking for a five-star breakfast does not have far to go. Having heard rumors that sushi graced the morning buffet at the Metropol, however, my dining companion and I decided to spike our morning meal with a little raw fish.

Judging from the sea of business suits already seated in the Metropol's elegant dining room, our idea to meet for breakfast was clearly not an original one.

I myself could never figure out why people got up earlier than absolutely necessary. But after sampling the syrniki at the Metropol buffet, I will be far less reluctant to get out of bed next time.

Wasting no time, we made our first trip to the sushi bar and piled our platew with shrimp, tuna and salmon. All the necessary accouterment were there -- chopsticks, dipping bowls, seaweed paper, ginger. There were even a few slices of tongue thrown into the selection -- no Russian table is complete without it.

The sushi, to no one's great surprise, was less than extraordinary. The tuna rolls were adequate, and the shrimp -- even if it was cooked -- was sweet and fresh, but the rice -- which was on the crunchy side -- was a drawback, as was the salmon, which was smoked -- not raw.

"Sushi may be too far afield," said my dining companion. "I think they should stick to what they know."

What they know best are blini, the thin Russian pancake, and syrniki -- the denser, cheesier equivalent of the Slavic pancake that, along with pelmeni, is one of Russia's greatest contributions to culinary comfort. Not to be confused with the cold, hockey-puck consistency of the variety found in cafeterias, the Metropol's syrniki are plump and creamy, with just enough tang from tvorog, the syrnik's cottage-cheese-like main ingredient.

It is also hard to pass up the steaming mound of blini, which may be accompanied by honey, sour cream, or various types of jam.

The Metropol buffet caters to a variety of international tastes. There are cooked tomatoes and baked beans for the British, muesli and sausages for the Germans, waffles for the Belgians and stewed fruits for the -- stewed fruit lovers.

If you spell breakfast S-T-A-R-C-H, there is an ample selection of croissants and morning pastries, from pain au chocolat to raisin-and-cinnamon buns. A few of these selections -- one in particularly looked remarkably similar to cheese cake -- are dangerously close to being categorized as a full-fledged dessert.

Those opting for a more traditional morning meal can head for the have-it-your-way omelette man, who is at the ready with chopped ham, cheese, mushrooms and the like. An army of eggs -- their yolks intact for sunny side up lovers -- stand cracked and at attention in little ceramic Metropol cups.

After making a return trip to the syrniki table, we had no room to test the expertise of the omelette master. We also had no time, as our decision to breakfast at the Metropol coincided with U.S. Vice President Al Gore's decision to lunch there.

The Metropol may normally be a spot for a leisurely morning meal, but our breakfast came to an abrupt end. We sensed there was trouble when the waiter removed the flowers on our table while we were still dipping our blini in sour cream. They did have the decency to wait until we had left the table to move it aside.

If you wish to linger over unlimited cups of coffee, watch out for visiting dignitaries. They can throw a monkey wrench into any breakfast plan.

The final price tag for this meal, which included tea and coffee and a complimentary harpist, was $28 per person. Considerably more, perhaps, than you would like to spend on breakfast. But if you make ample use of the buffet, you won't be hungry until dinner.

The Metropol Restaurant, at 1/4 Teatralny Proyezd, is open for breakfast daily from 7 A.M. until 10:30 A.M. Telephone: 927-6122. Rubles and credit cards. Nearest metro: Teatralnaya.