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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

GOURMET'S NOTEBOOK: Sirena




The stern of a ship welcomes you to the fish restaurant Sirena, and the waiters in sailors' uniforms continue the nautical theme.


Ours, jittery with nerves, was obviously a young new recruit and by the end of the meal, we felt like taking him home, letting him watch "Spokoinoi Nochi, Malyshi" and putting him to bed. The only waiter with shorn hair, he looked as if he'd been through a severe bout of navy-type hazing -- his boss even hovered around him whispering sour somethings into his ear as he served.


The doorman was very nice, however, and showed us around the rest of the restaurant. Most impressive is the room with a glass floor, underneath which gigantic sturgeon squirm in a foot of water under the feet of the diners. It all looks amazing, though I'm sure the cramped fish are probably relieved when they're finally dragged out for a place on the dining table. The doorman assured us of the floor's strength, saying it had been tested to withstand up to 1,000 kilograms. The other major dining area is packed full of aquariums. Just outside it are numerous photos of rich and famous visitors -- like Sting, Liza Minnelli and Oleg Menshikov -- looking disgruntled at having their meal interrupted.


We'd already booked a place on the patio, and unfortunately they were too busy to let us move to a more fishy atmosphere inside. It was pleasant, if a little plain. The hum of muzak surrounded us, and the air-conditioned rooms beckoned.


Wines were from $50 a bottle to extortionate amounts. We both went for the beer ($6 for draught, $5 for a bottle) and an artificial-tasting orange juice ($6).


Our choice of the simple appetizer of bliny with black caviar ($20) let us skip deciding between the tuna, salmon and turbot carpaccio ($26) or the smoked eel with crayfish ($33) and many other starters. Two bliny, ample caviar and a dollop of smetana was fine if not memorable.


My friend skipped the salmon, sturgeon, crayfish and numerous other fish, ordering the sole ($36), which we expected to be grand but actually looked like an extremely close cousin of a dish from my local fish-and-chips shop -- a quarter of a lemon, a pile of thin greasy looking fries and a big flat fish. The only thing missing was that it didn't come wrapped in newspaper. Then my dish arrived -- wrapped in a brown paper bag as if in the bag missing from the other dish. The mixed seafood in parchment ($33), was very tasty and steamed happily out of the bag as the waiter cut it open. And despite its appearance, the sole was still cooked perfectly and received praise from my friend. Other dishes that may have more of an impact are the Scottish salmon in almond sauce ($36) or the turbot in lemon sauce ($39).


For dessert we had a large, if overly sweet, creme brulee ($11) and an even larger portion of strawberry ice cream ($16).


I expected Sirena to be expensive -- Liza Minelli doesn't eat out cheap -- but for the food we got, it didn't impress. But I liked the fish- beneath-your-feet room and for that alone I'd risk a return if at someone else's expense.


Sirena, 15 Bolshaya Spasskaya, 208-0200, noon to midnight. Metro: Sukharevskaya.


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