Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016


I had passed the Grouper Bar a million times, and, with its cute cylindrical storefront and chichi name, it looked like a place worth dropping in on.

But for some reason, I never did. Perhaps the "bar" part of the name made me unsure as to whether or not they had food there, or maybe I wondered what a good restaurant was doing on the emptiest strip of the Garden Ring.

So it wasn't until the million and first time that I actually ventured in.

What I found was a friendly after-work beer-and-grub joint that, judging by some of the upscale selections on the menu, is striving to be a little more.

We decided to go for the most exotic dishes listed. I was looking forward to an appetizer of boiled crayfish in beer and lemon (100 rubles) -- which I'm told is a Russian delicacy -- but they were out of them. I settled for the much more economical crayfish necks in cream sauce (42 rubles), which was tasty, but had a lot of cream sauce and few crayfish necks.

My friend chose baked snails with green sauce (57 rubles) to start. We had fun spearing the snails with toothpicks and extracting them from their shells. Soaked in basil and butter, they pleasantly slithered down our throats.

My main course of grilled rainbow trout in white wine with pineapple (77 rubles) made a hearty meal. The fish, which was flavorful and juicy, was accompanied by delicious eggplant.

My friend ordered the frog legs for 82 rubles. They were simply fried in batter, but they must have tasted good, as they disappeared quickly.

The menu offers several other seafood items, such as mushrooms and shrimp in cream sauce for 80 rubles. Plenty of shashlik-type main courses are on offer as well, and barbecued glazed wings go for 59 rubles.

Oddly enough, there was no grouper on the menu.

Carp Beer on tap (28 rubles for a half liter) provided a great accompaniment to the surf-and-turf cuisine.

After the heavy food and beer, dessert was the last thing on our minds, but out of a sense of reviewer's obligation, I ordered bliny with whipped cream and cranberry sauce (17 rubles, 7 kopeks). It's a pretty hard dessert to mess up, and the Grouper faithfully delivered this Russian staple.

An espresso large enough to rocket you to the moon and back costs 6 rubles 7 kopeks, but once they fizz it up to make cappuccino, it jumps to 26 rubles 7 kopeks.The atmosphere is cozy and even romantic, with low lighting and wood paneling, but the mood is somewhat spoiled by the Russian pop music blaring from the speakers.

By 8 p.m. on a Monday, the place was practically empty, but the friendly coat-check man assured us that just an hour before it had been packed with people from the nearby offices.

So this cute little eatery with the fancy name turned out to be a pretty good gamble. We had to try pretty hard to spend 392 rubles and could have eaten well for a lot less. It's the kind of place Moscow could use more of -- a low-key but respectable establishment with interesting food at moderate prices. My Russian dining companion even said it was the tastiest restaurant experience of his life. But I have a feeling he was just being polite.

Grouper Bar. 2/4 Malaya Sukharevskaya Ploshchad. Tel. 208-8750. Open daily from 12 p.m. to 12 a.m.