THE DISH: Steakout
Meat Head // 2 Konyushennaya Ploshchad //Tel: 955 5559 www.meat-head.ru //Menu in English and Russian //Open daily from noon till 1 a.m. //Dinner for two with alcohol 4,060 ($132)
Published: October 24, 2012 (Issue # 1732)
For young Americans, the phrase “meat head” is likely to conjure up images of the cast of Jersey Shore dressed in wife-beater shirts and with greasy hair and fake tans. For an older generation of U.S. citizens, it evokes memories of Archie Bunker (of the T.V. series All in the Family) yelling “hey meathead” to his son-in-law. While these may not be the exact images that spring to a Russian mind on hearing this phrase, the name Meat Head is still a rather unusual choice for a restaurant.
After stepping inside the latest addition to the culinary hub that is Konyushennaya Ploshchad, however, all thoughts of unsophisticated gym rats quickly evaporate. The restaurant is a sleek establishment that achieves a modern feel without the worn-out use of stainless steel and white leather. Instead, warm red brick covers the walls and ceiling and large plaster heads of cows and pigs adorn the windowsills. Sizeable black chalkboards, decorated with sketches of food, hang on the walls, adding a casual, almost playful tone to the decor.
In the entryway, a stylish deli counter boasts an array of decadent cakes as well as several cured hams and large selection of cheeses. It seems that this is merely a decorative tease, designed to set patrons’ mouths watering, as the counter remained unmanned throughout our meal.
Large televisions hang in every corner of the restaurant, and proved the only point of annoyance throughout the evening. Dramatic images flashed continuously across the screen, displaying everything from the mating rituals of tropical birds to tornados sweeping across desolate landscapes. While entertaining for a moment or two, the televisions soon became no more than an unwelcome distraction from the conversation.
After being graciously seated by a hostess who spoke flawless English, a waiter promptly appeared and began a brief lesson on the restaurant’s pride and joy; Josper. Josper, it turns out, is not a person, but a unique kind of oven manufactured in Spain. Heated by charcoal and lined with metal, it is designed to cook meats from all sides, ensuring that they never dry out or become too tough. The waiter boasted proudly that the restaurant considers its specialty to be steak and promised we would not be disappointed with meat of the rib eye or sirloin variety. Although our party was not comprised of hardened steak aficionados, we opted to test the waiter’s claims and found them all to hold true.
After starters of wild mushroom soup (480 rubles, $16) and artichoke hearts (310 rubles, $10) we were presented with the acclaimed sirloin steak (1,300 rubles, $42) as well as an entrée of risotto with chicken and saffron (480 rubles, $16). The flavor of the risotto was rather mild, but a little salt and pepper, combined with its creamy texture, made it a dish worthy of recognition. While all of the food merited high praise, the steak definitely stole the show. It was everything our waiter had promised, and more. Tender and juicy, perfectly browned and accompanied by a porto sauce (210 rubles, $7) that our waiter expertly recommended, the dish left nothing to be desired.
What little was left of our appetites after the main course was quickly satisfied by dessert. On another well-informed recommendation from the waiter, we ordered the pineapple ravioli with mascarpone (390 rubles, $13) and the more traditional tiramisu (380 rubles, $12). The ravioli was not, in fact, ravioli stuffed with pineapple but rather an imitation of the pasta that included a pineapple casing filled with mascarpone: A strange yet intriguing and ultimately mouthwatering creation.
Drinks by the glass are not outrageously priced at Meat Head, with a good Sauvignon Blanc starting at 190 rubles ($6). Wine is also available by the bottle and half-bottle, with prices ranging from 9,900 ($320) to 56,000 rubles ($1,814) for a full bottle.
The attentive service, sophisticated atmosphere and superb food combine to ensure it is hard to leave Meat Head feeling anything less than a prince or princess. The glamour of the experience is completed by the enchanting view of the Church of Spilled Blood that hits you as you step out of the door: The icing on top of the pineapple ravioli.