Before getting too deep into this review, I want to clearly state and without qualification – go and dine out for lunch or dinner at Bar Port (BP). Do not delay – seriously. You will not be disappointed in the cuisine, pricing, or atmosphere. For expats, there is a very small window right now for restaurant customers in which, generally speaking, menu pricing has not caught up with the significant devaluation of the rouble during the past 6 months. Carpe diem – you will not regret the Italian inspired cuisine at BP.
“Hard to find, difficult to forget” is the motto that greets you when, well, you find BP. Upon arrival by car or metro, ignore the row of colorful restaurants that line the boulevard bombarding your optical nerve. BP is tucked into a nook at the short end of the monster, long building – walk along restaurant row towards the Garden Ring. Turn right at end of building, keep walking, look to your right, and you will see the BP sign, brightly stating it’s hard to find motto. Once found, though, BP is easy to find again.
As you can see on its website, BP has a sleek and classy interior with a balanced layout of bar and restaurant sitting areas. While it might seem trite, I was tickled to see that almost every seat at the bar has…drum roll please…an outlet to charge your electronic devices. From working on a laptop to keeping your phone or tablet satiated, the outlets were a thoughtful aspect. Not to worry – there are a large number of outlets in the restaurant area. This is clearly a sign the BP opened recently (December 2014) and is in tune with the finer things that its clientele will appreciate.
On most nights, BP gains a lively, edgier atmosphere as the evening progresses with either an in-house DJ or live music. BP is also located in somewhat of a mini business district - the after work drinks, dinner, and dancing scene heats up quickly. BP is also very active in social media, so take a look at BP’s Facebook page before going, as there may be a special event or menu items offered at that time that you will not want to miss.
I got the evening started with a mug of Guiness
(400 RUR) to relax and a San Benedetta Water
(200 RUR) to hydrate. A bit of a paradox, but BP is a bit paradoxical, so that was the culinary path that I took. To note, BP does have an extensive wine, beer, and liquor selection.
BP has a rich menu of small appetizers called unico that are similar to tapas, but not quite the same. Prices range from 100 RUR to 150 RUR per serving, with most priced less than 120 RUR. This is a key aspect of the “Gastronomic Bar” identity that BP is aiming to hit. Unicos - carbonara, seafood, duck, lamb, salmon, veal, mushrooms, and other vegetables.
I started with 3 unicos – duck ragu, carbonara, and beef with zucchini. The Duck Ragu
(100 RUR) was underwhelming – too much dough taste that diluted the duck flavors. The Carbonara
(100 RUR) is a surprising black color that delivers a powerful thick wave of mouth watering flavor. From my notes, the Beef with Zucchini
(120 RUR) was excellent with tree exclamation points. Suffice to say, the small sized unicos delivered an out sized punch of flavor that greatly exceeded expectations.
To the opening wave of unicos, I added an appetizer of Tuna Tartar with Melons
(520 RUR) that was, quite frankly, the best tuna tartar that I have had to date in Moscow. The tuna tartar was presented in a layer of sauce mixed with white melons that gave it a balance of savory flavor and sweet wetness that was divine. For the price, the portion size and high quality are compelling – I highly recommend this dish. There are a number of other enticing appetizers on the menu – and I venture that they all exceed expectations.
At this point in the meal, I was very impressed with BP, and I could not wait for my main entrée to arrive. It was difficult to choose one entree, but I had to limit myself to one, as I wanted to return to the unico menu, plus a couple desserts and coffee. The menu offers a mix of pastas, risottos, seafood, and meat dishes. My final choice was narrowed down to Tagliata Tuna Breaded with Cuttlefish Ink
(690 RUR), Dorado al Cartoccio Baked in a Sleeve with Olives Tadzhaski, Cherry Tomatoes, Lemon and Herbs, with Fragrant Smoke
(750 RUR), and Saltimbocca Veal alla Romana with Ham and Marsala Sauce
I chose the saltimbocca, and – a week later – and I am still very happy with my decision. I had never tried this dish before, and I have had tuna and dorado previously. The saltimbocca at BP is my culinary high point for 2015, in part because I did not know what I was ordering (the surprise factor), but primarily because the dish was a knockout punch of pleasure to my taste buds. Tender veal, plus prosciutto, plus marsala sauce, plus the perfect preparation means that this is a dish that I will go out of my way to recommend to others and return to BP to have again. This was a very rare occasion where I forced myself to slow down and eat small bites so that I could enjoy every second that this dish was in front of me. Five stars, ten stars – whatever the ranking scale is, you must try this entrée if you are dining at BP!
After the saltimbocca, a small window opened before desert and coffee that simply had to be filled with an order of two more unico dishes. I chose unicos Marinara with Seafood
(100 RUR) and Lamb, Red Onion, Eggplant
(120 RUR). The marinara with seafood was very good with thin dough that did not dilute the seafood tastes. I could tell that the lamb unico used high quality lamb, but I would suggest a sauce or similar be developed since the overall taste was somewhat boring. If a light, savory sauce were added, the lamb would be “more tasty” and not be so much of the “only taste” in the dish.
Dessert and coffee are oftentimes the make or break moment of a dining experience for me. Great meal, bad dessert does not leave a great, literal, taste in one’s mouth. However, great meal, even better dessert is like hitting that aces over kings full house at the poker table.
BP has a diverse array of desserts that are similar to other restaurants, so I had resigned myself to the feeling that dessert would be a “check the box” endeavor of “good, try it if you would like a dessert”. I ordered Coffee Americano
(170 RUR) and two desserts.
Much to my surprise, the least sexy dessert item – Cake with Pears
(320 RUR) – was absolutely divine with a fluffy, tiramisu-like top layer, a second layer of juicy pear, and then a final layer of cake was the perfect combination. My fork sank hungrily through the cream layer, bit into the pear, and melded it all together with the cookie cake layer – to wit, this dessert was so good that it warranted instant recommendations to a number of friends in Moscow who work close to BP. Cheesecake with Passion Fruit Sauce
(320 RUR) was also very good with a tangy sauce, but if you really need cheesecake, there is not a shortage of cheesecake choices in Moscow. However, the cake with pears that BP offers is found in only one place – Bar Port!
In closing, the total bill came to 3360 RUR before tip, an exceptional value for the level of quality, presentation, and atmosphere that BP offers. I will return to BP any time that I am in this area of Moscow, and I will continue to highly recommend BP as both a restaurant scene and a bar scene.