Showing posts with label hoods. Show all posts
Showing posts with label hoods. Show all posts

Friday, July 6, 2007

More Like Coolskaya

UPDATE: Kurskaya — gMapped! Click on it.

Moscow suffers from a marked lack of neighborhoods of consolidated coolness. Or neighborhoods, full stop. Due to high business turnover and lack of zoning, your favorite spots are far apart, which would make nightlife unmanageable if not for a functional Caucasian gypsy cab network. But you never know which one of those trips will end up with you in an icy ditch in Butovo.

All this makes you wax nostalgic for life back home, where hipsters are happy in their own segregated ghettos — Williamsburg, the Mission District and 3rd through 5th streets in Davis. But as always, if you squint real hard, you can see what you want in Moscow. Over the course of 2006, the industrial shantytown around Kurskaya train station transformed into the city’s nearest approximation of a ‘hood.

Here’s burgeoning Kurskaya, in no particular order:

Ikra (8 Kazakova Ul.): What a quality of life increase! Ikra has quality indie acts, and framed fur on the walls. I have my name misspelled on a club card. Katie once had a Puzzywizard cocktail mixed by their German intern, who for four months tried hard to awaken her sexuality. But he really underestimated her vaginal laziness.

Winzavod (1/6 4th Syromyatnichesky Per.) — It was the introduction of this art complex in fall 2006 that really pulled the neighborhood together. Moscow’s Chelsea on the premises of one decrepit wine factory, Winzavod is composed of several exhibition halls, studios and galleries, of which Guelman is the most notable, if only for having once hosted portraits of entwined Putin and Osama nudes. Dmitry Vrubel’s piss-take “2007” is on now.

Cara & Co. — Is a new addition to WinZavod. A “concept store” headed by Russian-Australian re-pat Rozalia Kamenev, Cara & Co. is accelerating the gentrification of wild Kurskaya with sensible, imported clothing that's light years more fashionable than anything else in Moscow.

Gazgolder (6 Nizhny Susalny Per.): The original dope underground club that no one could find, much less get into. That’s the way they keep it looking like a very, very well-filtered house party. As of mid-2007 Gazgolder still has enough friends, thanks.

Gazgallery (5 Nizhny Susalny Per.): Part of the Gazgolder enterprise, this club/gallery is located around the corner in a airplane hangar-sized old factory, which is much easier to lie your way into. Most people don’t understand the distinction and spend the entire night thinking Gazgallery is Gazgolder, despite the 1,000-plus crowd. But I was young; I wanted to believe.

Forkforeva Flea Market (5/9 Nizhny Susalny Per.) — Generally speaking, second-hand treasures get no respect in Moscow — “Vintage 1986 high-tops? Are you a fucking peasant?” — but some people are learning to appreciate the value of a good bargain. Such as a George Benson vinyl where his mustache is scratched off (455 rubles). It’s also a virtual flea market — they post photos of what’s up for grabs on their website, you press “buy” and a courier brings it to you.

+7095.Art (5a Nizhny Susalny Per.) — That’s the Moscow area code, bitch! With art attached. Russian fashion labels Chic Blesk Krasota and Emperor Moth have their pinkies in this studio-gallery, which means whatever they throw pulls in the Very Cool Kids. Like Danila Polyakov. Who’s Danila Polyakov? All in good time.


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,

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Summerfolk (or There Goes the Neighborhood)

You bet it gets hot in Moscow in the summer: 36 degrees today and climbing. In times like these, poor people take a dip in the Moskva, rich people drive to their dachas and very rich people drive to their dachas in Zhukovka, 10 km outside the city center on the Rublyevo-Uspenskoye highway. In this village's elite settlements, new cottages start at $1 million, with things like helicopters thrown in to sweeten the package. These gated communities bear spacestation names — Zhukovka-3, Gorky-22 — or else evoke faraway American suburbia: Green Hill, Apple Garden, etc.

Subbing birches for beaches, Zhukovka is Moscow's Hamptons, a pretty place soured by urban vs. townie, richy vs. poory tension. A long time ago, Tsar Aleksei decreed that no industry shall ruin Zhukovka's natural beauty, making it the prime destination for black-lung city dwellers in the years to follow. Standard-issue huts were distributed among the proletariat in the late Soviet era. In the present day, many owners have held onto these and tend chickens in them year-round, despite the creeping onset of very important neighbors. At the neighborhood potluck you'll find the political elite (many members of the State Duma and the FSB (ex-KGB), Ukraine opposition leader Yanukovych), captains of business (Roman Abramovich, Nornikel head and skiing whore-monger Mikhail Prokhorov) and pop singers (Eurovision loser Alsou). Putin's brigade, heading deeper into Rublyovka, chokes the highway twice daily.

Poor people living in huts, rich people complaining of the livestock smell — a class war is a'brewing, if you listen to the old man on the porch in the rocking chair. As demand for luxury housing in the suburbs increases, things are getting nepriyatnie. The Guardian reported in February of mounting land grab "casualties," including the car-bombed Valery Yakovlev, formerly a community property official. The more civil are leaving it at strong suggestions that stubborn people surrender their land titles. The plebes have responded with harshly worded graffiti.

Before the Revolution comes, don't forget to enjoy Veranda u Dachi (Summer Terrace of the Dacha), part of Zhukovka's upperclass retail/dining neighboorhood, which was named the Best Out-of-City resturant by the last two years. The theme is pre-revolutionary country living — owner Arkady Novikov calls the restaurant a love letter to one's own home — but there's no Chekovian idyll. Cozy details like rustic cupboards with marinating cloves are undermined by perversely expensive prices and a degenerately rich clientele. A conservative estimate for dinner (Italian, Japanese, Uzbek and Chinese cuisines) is 70 euros.

The restaurant is attached to Dacha, an art gallery started by collector Yemelyan Zakharov and Sasha Vertinskaya, granddaughter of the ballad singer Alexander Vertinsky and niece of director Nikita Mikhalkov. It sells provincial knickknacks, and hosts haute couture shows like the one below.

The entire point of this article when I sat down to write it, arms sticking to the desk, was that it's now summer veranda season. Moscow is really cold more often than its really hot, so we really care about these things, yo. Veranda u Dachi's patio opened; people went.

Veranda u Dachi, 70 Rublyovo-Uspenskoye Shosse, Zhukovka village, Tel. 418-3394,