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Smartwine: Lots of Wine in Our Neighbourhood.

restaurant Smartwine, Ленинский проспект 15, Москва, Moscow, Russia / 20 ноября 2017

«We’ll become drunkards…. «, looking out of the window at the strange new restaurant, in this mysterious deserted hotel, in Malaya Kaluzhskaya, my husband made a statement.  An establishment with 850 different wines and within walking distance from home, works until 4 am – this is a real setup for athletes like us.

I’ve heard from our friends about the nightmare like «your local pub is literally in the same building you live in». And they did for some time lose their peace and sober sleep: although every day the head of the family honestly tried to slip past the bar, after his work with his eyes closed, yet each time the idea of sober evening did collapse.

When, among the rows of bottles, I saw the contented face of an old friend and desperate wine lover Igor Zigar, I stiffened and froze. «We are fucked,» I was honest saying it to my husband. Igor will get a nun drunk to the gills therefore it’s obvious what will happen to us. A lot of stories float around about this man’s wine love, but none of these stories are close to reality.

The race began. At one o’clock in the morning we “wander” with our dog at Smartwine. Our dog likes it. Igor secretly crumbles and feeds our dog with something like cottage cheese. The dog understands everything.

Then we have our vertical tasting and then the horizontal one.  And here are 5 bottles of champagne for three of us. Owners have to taste as well. And then the tasting of the «house» begins – it means that we are about to go home. We have a patient dog. And Igor is hospitable. We are fucked. As soon as you think that the most interesting is over Zigar raises his index finger to the ceiling and says this same «Oh!» meaning «there is something else we have to try». And right after he comes back with a couple of new bottles from Becka or Nappa valley, the Rhine slopes, or chalky dolomite, smoky, spicy, acidic, different and equally delightful.

Over time regulars start to appear.

The fact that around Leninsky for wine gastronomy was responsible just one Sky Lounge and for many years – it’s no secret. Now it has – no, not a competitor, rather another younger brother. Which allows people not to leave the district in search for a night glass and calmly “wander” with your dog up until dead drunk.

Gelateria La Romana: We Were Visiting Every Day and We Want More.

Gelateria La Romana Via Venti Settembre, 64, 00187 Roma RM, Italy / 17 ноября 2017

It seems like we have figured out how to recognize Gelateria in Rome. Where to go and where it’s best not to; all at the same time. Guess more of which ones we did find?  The ones where the gelato tubs stand at the showcase, under the glass, tempting you with fruits spread on top; this way letting you know which gelato is which out of which. The more of these fruits, this lecherous strawberry and fervent mango, are spread on the ice cream; the more you don’t go there (yes, I wanted to rhyme it badly, forgive me). Well, do get me right it would be fine, yet not perfect. You must go where gelato is under the lid. And no one puts stuff on it, because there is nothing to put, nothing. Because no one knows, how should fucking ecstasy look like.

This particular gelateria I did accidentally pop in to, when first time in Rome and ate everything there. Yet, not all. Then I took my children there and my son put his finger at the signboard «Crema Dal 1947» and said: this one. I shrugged, because he is strict and it is useless to tempt him with stracciatella, chocolate, pear with ginger or with forest berries. I want crema of 1947 and that’s it. Well, a splash of chocolate on top (you get this option there).

Once again we ate everything, yet our hearts were given to that crema. There «ice cream is in scoops» you can take one, two, three, a box to take home. But among all of it there should be crema of 1947. It is indescribable. We have never tried this crema before, but we knew for sure – that crema is SOMETHING. A good gelato is like this; you know what you get from the description. They should have a sign at the entrance: «cautiously, very addictive with possible withdrawal syndrome», but they did not write it down. I write it now. Caution! Eat everything there. And do not do stupid things like I did. I was always offered: “cream on top?“ and kept on saying: «thank you no.» Only fools can do such a mistake. But the last day, I said yes. Lick then another lick and then I wanted to scream — more, more cream! It is so airy, not sweet, not fat; it dissolves in your mouth, smiles inside of you, and you are, like – «ah, here it is, fucking happiness.»

These: Hyper-Cozy Dream-Decadence™.

THESE, 2 Chome-2-15-12 Nishiazabu, Minato, Tokyo, Japan / 17 ноября 2017

In life, sometimes there appear such places that seem like they’ve been made at your request.

Although you haven’t placed this request anywhere.

No, we ain’t gonna stoop to the ‘seen in dreams’ thing, though suddenly: you’re walking and looking around, and you notice yet only a building, you don’t even know if there’s something inside; you just look at the walls, at the city around these walls that is woven into a sort of perfect knotty broth, and at the sky, traffic lights, rain, street – and you know for sure: you have to enter it and try.

“You see, Jude, in life, sometimes nice things happen to good people. You don’t need to worry – they don’t happen as often as they should.” (c)

Here again: it doesn’t happen as often as it should.

From the entrance to the upper tiny cubbyhole with books floating under the ceiling, for some reason there’re some Russian ones among them; from a tray of fruits: to choose/make a cocktail on your own, up to the last spoon of spinach and persimmon curry – everything/everything here is for me.

It’s dark, and Portishead is playing, and then Sinatra, and some Japanese covers; it’s all playing from the best of the best B&W signature speakers from the late 90’s, the white plastic of which has become creamy.

There’re some narrow stairs, sand blind bulbs, and it’s dark again.

It’s open from 19 to 28 according to the local bohemian fashion; that’s how it’s common on the block.

It’s whether a bar or a restaurant, or a bohemian den. There’re foreigners and locals,  talks on art, design and stuff are creeping around in whisper.

It’s hyper-cozy decadence.

Lame menu: India, Greece, deep fried Camembert, Tom Yam noodles… and damn, despite you’re in the very heart of the city, and the huge Roppongi Hills cuts open the night with its lights – you get the feeling that you’re inside a Miyazaki animation about fox-demos and trees reaching the sky and the painted blue sky itself.

And why? – hell knows, but this feeling eats into you to the joints. You can’t get rid of it.

To me, it’s the true soul of Tokyo; no matter how uncool it is to write down such sonorous letters.

I’ll be back; as many times as I’m in the CITY.


Plenty Poke & Crudo Bar: Poked Where Was Needed!

Plenty Poke & Crudo Bar, Miami Beach, FL, United States / 15 ноября 2017

In general, the English word «poke» (yes, that strange button/function on fb) has a fairly wide range of meanings. Starting from a variety of verbs such as thrust/stick/disturb/screw and ending with nouns like quitter/bummer/sack/kick.

At first, when I saw the name of this tiny corner place on South Beach, I was a bit lost as you can imagine. It turned out that «poke» in this case is nothing more than «POH-keh» (rhyming with «okay»), a traditional Hawaiian dish, which is diced marinated fish.

At the moment Poke Bowl is rapidly gaining popularity and it is no surprise because it is tasty, easy to prepare, healthy, low in calories, on top of that it gives a feeling of satiety for quite a while.

We drove to «Pokey» for a light dinner. (Yes, I am on a diet, because my new swimsuit won’t go out on it’s own, yep). So what I did like it was the complete variety of combinations. Sets of mix salads, which you can complement with tuna or octopus, or salmon, shrimp, white fish, oyster mushrooms, algae, maybe something else or all at once. Poke – the signature dish – wasn’t a disappointment too. «Bed» (literally — the bed, yet in fact, kind of pedestal) is a good alternative to bowl: quinoa , rice, glass noodles or just kale leaves (!!! Rarity! Option for the ones determined to have something stricter; that was my choice))). There is another option – «your own bowl,» as I called it. To design if you feel like being very independent: from a wide range of ingredients you choose everything you wish for. Express yourself to your maximum!

So we showed off and did design couple of fantastic bowls of our own. As for drinks – coconut water (my favourite) and cola light (contradicts my religion).

The service was quick. Beautiful and colorful glass bowls with fresh vegetables and seafood «on  top of.»  Sauces are pleasant.  As a complementary dish we were given a spicy soup, kind of Miso.  Cheap. For all we had it was about $ 50; tips and taxes included.  It was delicious. And indeed my new swimsuit was perfect on me)).

«8»: Come on Baby, Light My Fire!

8 hachi, 1 Chome-4-25 Nishiazabu, Minato, Tokyo, Japan / 13 ноября 2017

I’m madly in love with “Korean barbecue”. To my taste, there’s no better way to have a fun/tasty/drunk night with the right people for reasonable money than going to this type of a restaurant.

Though, as a matter of fact, when I’m in such place I always feel that something is missing: either the design is horrible, or the price is beyond the limits, or the meat isn’t really good, or there’s no free flow.

We found this place while hanging out at Nishi Azabu (it’s an area full of tiny mansions; with each time I falling deeper and deeper in love with it). It was immediately all clear – this is it!

We could tell that by the stacked up bricks, which formed a “fireplace” at the entrance, and the tiny hall behind a display window, and the pots with coal on the tables, and the steampunk range hoods.

As for me, in such places the hoods should just get rid of the smoke, and that’s it: if it doesn’t smell of meat, why will you even go there?

Like many places in the neighborhood this one is open according to a very strange schedule: from 19 to 26 (some of them are open until 28 or even 30) – it’s local spécialité.

Further more.

The menu is only in Japanese. And there’s another one in English, which is touchingly hand-written and has the list of courses, the last of which includes “free flow of food” until you tell them to stop.

We had the one for 6000 ($55) that consisted of 12 dishes and we were right: it was enough.

Everything was perfect.

Starting from tartare and tongue up to wagyu steaks.

The dishes have many variations: with egg and without one, on a leaf, and of different degree of marbling.

At the end of the page with the menu in English there was a paragraph: would you like to try some kind of offal? They forgot to ask us. Though I think that night they had udder which none of us dared to order. We saw it vividly burning upon the coals.

The set consisted strictly of meat: no rice, no kimchi, no dessert. And, to my taste, it definitely should be that way – one has to focus on the main thing.

Besides, if you wish, you can always order some additives, which are really cheap.

The place is very atmospheric.

PS: The check for 5 people: 4 sets, wine, beer and a big wagyu steak aside.

Sushi Rinda: Incredible Sushi in a Residential Area of Tokyo and Six Types of Citrus Juice at $1350 for Four.

Sushi Rinda, Meguro, Tokyo, Japan / 11 ноября 2017

Okay, first of all, it’s tasty. Secondly, it’s fucking insanely tasty. Thirdly, it’s located in a godforsaken hole. And then, it’s also expensive. I don’t know how much the set is. We came and sat down behind the counter as if we were guests: there was neither a menu, nor any questions, except for allergy, of course. So we just sat there and ate. The verdict was “145,000 Yen ($1,350)” for 4 people, though including a sea of sake. This certainly isn’t gratis. Yet it’s worth it.

Trust me.

First you have to get to this residential piece of the city which is next to Shibuya. It takes time: be ready for that.

We enter – they’re expecting us.

The place is located on the first floor of a high-rise apartment building. It faces the road and has opaque windows. As a matter of principal there’s no design, but just a counter for 10 people (you’re 5 of them) – our kind of place!

We take a seat and at once they pour us some drinks. “Umeshu rokku, kudasia”.  Everything’s as we like it.

They start “serving dishes”.

And here come masses of revelations: just for you the sushi-master, like a surgeon, cuts the multilayered nigiri of different types of tuna by means of his meter-long knife – so that you get chutoro, otoro and akami; everything goes into one sushi or roll.

Courses come one after another. Either you get them from the counter or they just hand them to you, or it’s tempura in a tea cup.

Everything is incredibly delicious. It’s cut right in front of you. There’re no sets on wooden boards.

Only exclusively craft sushi that come one by one. They’re wet, shiny like Christmas ball ornaments and bring explosions of taste bombs that roll across your palate.

Do enjoy!

PS: Oh yeah, they also have 6 kinds of orange juice for dessert. Starting from musky-bitter one up to the sugary sweet. They say the younger brother owns a farm.

PPS: And yeah, when leaving the place you have to drink a bowl of sake with the sushi-master – they say it’s a tradition – and it’ll surely be a huge one.