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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Modern Mex Minus Tex

MTThe Spartan design is a pleasant change from other Mexican restaurants.
A common complaint among expats is the difficulty in finding their favorite ethnic comfort foods -- the kind of meal found in family-run corner eateries back home.

Sure, Moscow has plenty of its own inexpensive variants, such as Caucasus or Central Asian cafes. And these days, you can find a decent Indian curry or even a spicy Thai soup if you're willing to spend a little more. But perhaps of all the ethnic wish-list cuisines, it's Mexican that seems to stir up passions most of all.

With no sizable Mexican diaspora opening up eateries in the Russian capital, or any flood of Muscovite tourists returning from Mexico and clamoring for more of that country's cuisine, there are precious few Mexican eateries to sate Tex-Mex-craving Americans.

Doug Steele's recent opening of La Hacienda has added a fresh twist to Moscow's modest Mexican dining scene. Unlike most others, this eatery goes easy on the sombrero/bandito theme, opting for a more refined feel.

Following the streamlined interior design, the menu also steers clear of cliches, or in some cases has a fresh take on some old standards. The nachos La Hacienda (340 rubles with chicken), for example, isn't the usual heaping helping of thick corn chips drowned in a mass of melted cheese sprinkled with various bits and bobs. Instead, every wafer-thin chip sits on the plate as an individual entity, with a small portion of cheese, refried beans, meat and jalapenos allocated to each; the result is light and modern. Likewise, the chicken fajita (510 rubles) is light, with a simple flavor and a healthy citrus tang. The guacamole (270 rubles) is probably the most classical dish served, varying little from what you'd find elsewhere. The drinks menu is impressive and the sangria list is especially good.

La Hacienda may not be everyone's cup of tequila. If you are looking for a greasy-spoon kind of joint serving large, heavy portions that leave you groaning while clutching your belly, then this is probably no comfort for you. But if the idea of modern Mexican cuisine appeals, then La Hacienda should impress.

13 Komsomolsky Prospekt, 246-5726, 24 hours. M. Frunzenskaya.