Friday, June 29, 2007

Mappin' Around

Now that I know how to Google Map, the MDBIT steamroller is unstoppable. My first project was on a theme near and dear to my heart: how to get drunk on the relative cheap downtown without drinking antifreeze. (It's good to see we have a sense of humor about things.) Click on the map to take you thurr.

Silver's is a pocket-sized Irish pub a short jig away from the Kremlin. Ruinous half-liter 180-ruble bucket o' Long Island Iced Tea, which is now rumored to be 200 rubles, kick-started most of my relationships in Moscow. Great place to perfect your all-purpose British Commonwealth accent. Forever congested with bleating expats, smoke and one retardedly hot South African (Hi, sugarbutt!). Do NOT try to change the channel from rugby on Friday night, clown.

Oft-overlooked on the drunken warpath is booze 'n' noodles joint Barfly, perhaps Moscow's best kept secret. Criminally bad service — "You waited 30 minutes to tell me you're out of vermouth for my cocktail?! Let me just go hang myself in the bathroom" — is made up for with 99-ruble Harvey Wallbangers. Assemble midnight snacks piecemeal from Moscow-rare ingredients like egg noodles, Shitake mushrooms and "tofu cheese." Barfly is so small, it'll only have a table if you drop by at 6 a.m. Which you should.

Cheese and wine, wine and cheese — what else do you want? Instead of dinner, head to VinoSyr. Bottles of wine start at $15 and cheese plates are, uh, also cheap. Beware: there's really nothing besides wine and cheese. Again, I cannot stress this enough: the best thing about this place is that no one goes there and you can have the whole elongated table to yourself.

The summer of 2007 zeitgeist bar, and it's not that expensive! Fashion designer Denis Simachev is soooo IT right now, as is the bar in his new boutique. Hey look, I already wrote about it. Cocktails start at a not insane 165 rubles, and house cider is 195. Yes, that's a hentai mosaic: black humour is the name of the game here. Fills up with Moscow's weirdest-haired hipsters by dark, so move quick to get a table.

Too poor to be pretentious, FAQ Cafe is bravely artsy low-key egalitarian in a city that hates that shit. So cheaply put together, looks ready to cave in at any moment. Split a bottle of Sovetskoe champagne for only 390 rubles (Wait, hippies, that's a 400% mark-up!). Some of the best people in the world work there, including free-spirit waitresses who take off their shirts. No, really!

Bargain-bin boho bar Gogol was an anomaly on upscale Stoleshnikov, before Simachev Bar came along and freaked everyone out. Big place with lots of lebensraum. Half-liter draft beer for, like, 100 rubles. Bypass the food. Some find the DIY interior and matching clientele DEPRESSING, but it's not as bad as OGI. Above all else, dependable when you've been denied entry everywhere else.

Some say the cocktail was born at Help. They are wrong, but this place does have the city's thickest tome of mixed beverages (starting from 180 rubles). Girls, if he's dating you here he thinks you're cheap, too. Bartenders do wacky tricks, are insolent and hate cheap expats.

Duma. (No, not THAT Duma!) A good-natured club that's terribly hard to find (but now you have a map, yo). Barely gets in on this list in terms of price (150 rubles for cheapest draft beer) but you're also paying for ambiance. Has the power to draw in a bigger Moscow Times/Bloomberg crowd than a Dissenter's March or a Strokes concert.

Last Drop is dank and underground with unreasonably loud music, but nonetheless it's a convenient place to sustain a 4 a.m. second wind of drinking when it's too cold to do it on the street. Prices marked in "droplets," which are actually just the number of rubles.

, 5 Tverskaya Ul (entrance on Nikitsky Bulvar), Metro: Okhotny Ryad; Barfly, 6 Strastnoi Bulvar, Metro: Chekhovskaya, Tel. 209-2779,; VinoSyr, 6 Maly Palashevsky Per., Metro: Pushkinskaya, Tel. 739-1045,; Simachev Bar, 12 Stoleshnikov Per., Metro: Teatralnaya, Tel. 629-8085,; FAQ Cafe, 9 Gazetny Per., Metro Okhotny Ryad, Tel.; Help, 27 1st Tverskaya-Yamskaya Ul., Metro: Belorusskaya, Tel. 973-8000,; Gogol, 11 Stoleshnikov Per., Metro: Pushkinskaya, Tel. 514-0944,; Duma, 11 Mokhovaya Ul., Metro: Okhotny Ryad, Tel. 692-1119,; Last Drop, 4 Strastnoi Bulvar, Metor: Pushkinskaya, Tel. 292-7549,

Thursday, June 28, 2007

The One About Monkeys

The metaphor came to us while drunk — of course we were drunk — then took on a life of its own.

While Moscow's dating scene is a love parade for expat men, it isn't quite as easy to find romance here if you are a monkey on a tricycle. Statistically there are 4 women to every man in Moscow, which makes for a frenetic marketplace of love that can intimidate even the most dated of the dated. So how does a monkey on a tricycle rise above, beat the odds and find romance in such a competitive environment? It’s easy to become discouraged when you realise that while you may have been a star back home, a monkey on a tricycle is a curious and perplexing alien to Muscovites, rather like expat girls. The important thing is to try not to be discouraged by the fact that you are one of only a handful of monkeys on tricycles in Moscow. Don't feel isolated -celebrate your uniqueness! Recognise your unique selling point and use it to your advantage. Be mindful though, that while it's great to stand out in a crowd, the fact that you are a monkey on a tricycle already makes a sort of spectacle of you. There is no need to draw further attention to your exclusivity by, say socialising only with other monkeys on tricycles. One monkey on a tricycle is intimidating enough to most Muscovites, let alone a handful of tipsy monkeys on tricycles looking for love. You can stand out but fit in at the same time. Make a diverse group of friends and widen your circle. By not making the effort to fit in you may exclusive yourself right out of the market. You may be Prada, but a walk past their store will show you how quiet it is in there. And look at the roaring trade Terranova boasts! Don't think of it as lowering your standards — you're just changing them. As the saying goes, when in Rome, dress like a $2 tart, drink a lot more and more often and accept attention wherever you can get it, even if it’s the Tajik cab driver who offered to take you to his brother’s kiosk for dinner. If all this sounds like too much effort, just take the matter into your own hands and really own your celibacy. Remind yourself every day that you came to Moscow to become the best monkey on a tricycle you could be, and that relationships would just distract you from this. There are plenty of other things to do besides “it” in Moscow. Like museums, and stuff.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

See, We Have Nice Things

Oh, you know. Moscow is retarded expensive. This June saw the opening of the third outlet of Globus Gourmet, Arkady Novikov’s high-end grocery store, in Baravikha Luxury Village, where people are serious about their luxury.

There was already a GG on Bolshaya Yakimanka and one on Arbat, which I had the misfortune of wandering into last week trying to make a curry. I emerged with no lemongrass, no “soy cheese” (tofu), no acknowledgement by the staff that soy cheese existed, an obscure claim that they only stocked "natural food," a $12-can of coconut milk and an impotent zucchini. As Jerry Seinfeld would say, “N-N-Novikov!

$40 Green Pepper Tastes Like Progress

Blame the French, this time, though. Arkady is just the medium for luxury food line Fauchon to force its gourmet chocolate, wine, coffee, tea, jams and Dead Sea salt meat rubs on a country that’s fine squirting ketchup on pasta. Yo, where's the kholodets?!

Despite the pain of a curry deferred, Globus Gourmet, targeted at “young professionals with Western shopping values,” says it aims to make the shopping experience as comfortable as possible. The Baravikha opening, at least, was a Wizard of Rublyovka customer service wet dream.

And Duma deputy Alexei Mitrofanov was there, cutting Andalusian cow flanks.

And pop singer Anita Tsoi was there, bagging groceries.

And the president of World Class Fitness, Olga Slutsker, was manning the milk department.

And Star Factory contestent Yuri Titov was there, handing out eggs. Mmmm. Almost makes me want to eat again.

I don't know what this is about, but it's funny:

Globus Gourmet, Zhukovka, House 201, Tel. 418-3385


Monday, June 25, 2007

Hair! The Moscow Musical

Ever since Denis Simachev grew that freaky Hare Krishna braid out of the back of his head, weird hair has become quite popular in Moscow. It didn't used to be like this. For a long time, I thought three people were tailing me: designer Vika Gazinskaya, PR girl Darya Chichkina and Danila Polyakov (Who's Danila Polyakov? Shhhh, not now). Every gallery opening I went to, every time I dropped into Five Star for a sandwich, they were there, smoking cigarettes, with their weird hair.

Eventually I realized they weren't following me at all, they just had weird hair, which made them stand out. True story. Now it's different. Even Yuliya Volkova (t.A.T.u) has a lez helmut.

She was at the 5th anniversary show of hairdressers Toni & Guy in Russia last week (first salon on Stoleshnikov Per., 2002), which gave us the "Future Classics" of the Moscow hair world.

Of course, there was no one more avant-garde than young men from the provinces circa 2002, who were going around Bic bald save a tuft of bangs. I simply can't find any photographic records of it anywhere -- history must have erased it.