THE DISH: Pan-Asian Panorama
Dlinny Kvost//92 Nevsky Prospekt//Tel. 244 2356//Open 24 hours a day//Dinner for two with alcohol: 2,000 rubles ($63.98)
Published: April 30, 2013 (Issue # 1757)
“We’ve been open a year, and nobody knows we’re here,” said the handsome young thing manning the door at Dlinny Kvost. Entering the glittering atrium that is taken up by a huge sculpture of a character straight out of a Japanese comic book, it’s no wonder people aren’t finding the place. From the outside it looks like a rather expensive teashop and nothing more, but coming in from the bustle of Nevsky Prospect late on a Sunday evening, the hushed calm seemed just right.
Offered the choice between four separate dining areas, we chose to head upstairs rather than face the more bistro-like atmosphere of the lower dining room, which seemed a tad too bright for comfort. Once we had climbed the stairs we were given the choice of a table staring at the ears of the aforementioned cartoon character, which protruded up through the floor, or one nearer the bar, through a maze like space that is part Thai wooden house, part Chinese opium den.
After settling into a plush velvet-covered banquette, it took some time to decipher the higgledy-piggledy combination of pictures and text that make up the menu. Deciding to take the full pan-Asian theme-ride, we set about selecting dishes from around Southeast Asia. But first we needed some liquid refreshment.
Taking the slight chill in the evening air as a cue to try one of the warm drinks, we started with a Bombay Courage (290 rubles, $9.27) and a Saigon Boogie (280 rubles, $8.95). Both were delicious, cunningly hiding their nearly lethal doses of booze behind a complex flavoring of fruit and spice.
Soon after, the dishes began to arrive from the kitchen in as disorienting a way as they were presented on the menu. One of the main courses — Pad Thai with shrimp (380 rubles, $12.15) — appeared first, followed by a warm salmon salad (300 rubles, $9.59). Sadly, the Pad Thai was a genuine disappointment. It had none of the intricate, astringent sweetness that the dish is famous for and was simply doused with a splash of monotonous soy sauce for seasoning.
The salad, however, made up for the banal noodles with a complex assortment of flavors. Slightly sour pickled onions and slices of fresh citrus fruit sat among a peppery tangle of arugula, which was topped with perfectly cooked morsels of salmon and a scattering of toasted pine nuts. A ginger and soy dressing ensured that each component sang in the same key of delicious.
Next out of the kitchen, via Singapore, was an order of Ha Kao. The steamed shrimp dumplings (260 rubles, $8.31) were delicately smoky and topped with black sesame seeds. More soy sauce for dipping appeared alongside a small dish of overly sweet chili sauce. But nothing could dim the brightness of the dim sum, shrimp encased in perfectly steamed rice flour parcels.
It was a bit of a wait for the last and final dish, which gave us a chance to have a look around. For a place that doesn’t seem to be on the radar yet it was reasonably packed with fashionable 20-somethings, all sipping cocktails or sucking on the inevitable water pipes these kinds of places can’t seem to do without. The decor looked as if a truckload of Asian knickknacks had tipped over on the way to the mall, but the effect was pleasant nonetheless.
Finally an order of rendang beef appeared (490 rubles, $14.70). While tasty, the dish really had nothing much to do with the slow-cooked beef in a fiery brownish-red sauce found in Indonesia. That said, the meat was tender and the spicing pleasantly hot for a Russian restaurant. Too bad that the waiter had forgotten the bowl of rice we had ordered to soak up the sauce.
The waiter also managed to forget to bring the check and so we spent a leisurely ten minutes waiting for it to appear. But appear it did, with a smile and an apology, so all was forgiven. That the place is so reasonably priced and sufficiently interesting means that it shouldn’t take too much longer for people to catch on. Once they do, they probably won’t be going for the food but rather for a bit of light exoticism and the powerful cocktails the place has to offer.