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Restaurant Reviews
Planning to dine out? Visit the Expat Site Restaurant Guide
for a listing of restaurants and menus in English and Russian.

Every two weeks the Moscow Expat Site presents yet another Moscow eatery for your consideration.
If you'd like to suggest a restaurant for review - or even review a restaurant yourself - click here and we'll consider your suggestion.
 Suliko 

Cuisine: Caucasian
Address: Ermolaevskiy per., 7
Metro: Mayakovskaya
Tel: +7 (495) 650-4189
E-mail:  cafesuliko@gmail.com
Web: www.suliko.ru
Open from 12:00 until last guest.
All major credit cards are accepted.

By Neil McGowan

If you go out for a nice meal in Amsterdam, then you eat Indonesian food, of course. In Berlin, you'll find the best Turkish food in the world, and there's no finer Indian cuisine than that served in Manchester. And in the same way, in a tradition rooted back in the soviet era, it's hard to go wrong in Russia if you go for Georgian food - the best-loved ethnic cuisine of the former USSR. Stories of Stalin's legendary all-night revels (he and his henchman Beria were both Georgians themselves) are already legendary.

Of course, the soviet days when only a few Georgian restaurants might reliably have any food available are long gone. Moscow is almost awash with Caucasian cooking - I've got a choice of three places within 100m of my house. It's hard to have a disappointing Georgian meal, however humble the establishment - the traditions of hospitality prevent it happening. However, with instructions from the Expat Site's latest glamorous assistant in hand, I trekked down to the other end of town in search of a "classic of the genre" - Suliko.

Suliko is anything but humble - it's grand and imposing, with that special combination of comfort and swagger that makes the Georgian heart pulse faster. The interior is uniquely Georgian - polished stone walls in different colours, bright lighting, whimsical carved wooden beams, the obligatory fountain flowing from the mouth of a clay urn. If the decor says anything at all, it says "this has cost a stack". The welcome is warm but politely muted - they're there when you want them, but they stay out of your face. Everything is pristine, and Suliko would make the perfect place to entertain visiting clients who've been emailing you to ask if they ought to bring their own soap or perhaps some food supplies. Even the most cautious faultfinder would visit Suliko without a new tale to tell afterwards. It's not only appropriately grand in style - there is something slightly soviet about the expansiveness of the place - but there's another handy benefit too. If your cautious clients are boring you to death, just position yourselves in the rear, larger dining-hall - and a live and rather dominating floorshow of Georgian singing will spare you from having to listen to any more of their stories. If, on the other hand, you actually want to be able to hear them, then request a table in the first hall instead.

The convivial style of Georgian eating lends itself best to dining in small groups. A meze of hot and cold starters is laid, and this is, in effect, the main part of the meal. Somewhat later - in fact quite a lot later sometimes - a hot main course will appear, but very much in a supporting role to the delicious selection of appetisers and starters you've already had. These are not cleared when the main course comes (unless you've finished them - which is unlikely, given the portion-size) - the main course simply arrives as reinforcements, just when you thought you were finally making some indentation on the starters.

This point is especially worth bearing in mind when looking at the prices. The financial outlay on the starters might seem out of balance - but considering that a single main course, without side-dishes, will then be easily enough for two, the final bill is not the shock you first feared. Even so, Suliko is overtly catering to the well heeled, so if you need to impress - this is the right place.

It's very easy to over-order, or to pick too many heavy items - so we took the waiter's advice, and still over-ordered. The adjapsandal (spicy tomato stew) (250Rbs) was juicy and lush, with lots of fresh bite left in the tomatoes. One of the selection of Georgian cheeses (450Rbs) was extremely salty, so the adjapsandal came in handy - as did the deliciously chewy Georgian lavash bread, which is rather similar to ciabatta in texture. My own personal favourite amongst the starters were the Aubergines Stuffed With Nuts (200Rbs) - melt-in-the-mouth tender, but not greasy in the slightest, and lightly flavoured with cardamom.

Frankly, in terms of amounts, this would already have easily been enough for the two of us. However, because Georgian food is traditionally served with a huge variety of dishes on the table, we'd been encouraged to order more dishes - and they were, it's true, excellent companions to those we already had. The problem, in a nutshell, was not too much food - but too few diners to consume it. If we'd been Georgians, of course, we'd have arrived with a whole extended family to tuck into it all.

Some satsivi (300Rbs) came next - another Georgian classic, filleted cubes of chicken served in a Circassian sauce - ground walnuts, garlic, onion, ground coriander, and some more garlic, and left to marinade (it's served at room temperature). It's on this kind of dish that Georgian restaurants divide into the men and the boys - Suliko's manhood was unquestioned, and the chicken pieces were soft tender top-quality fillets. Lobio (180Rbs) has been a vegetarian lifesaver in Moscow since the Brezhnev era at least, and Suliko's is a hearty bean stew served in an individual clay pot.

Another great Georgian tradition is vegetable pates (300Rbs for a selection-plate of three different pates), and Suliko's are some of the best. One was based on beans and garlic - another had tiny baby carrots in it.

Georgia is - as any Georgian will tell you - the home of the grape, and claims to be the first country where wine was made. Almost certainly you've already tried the worst of Georgian wine - it turns up at parties where Russians seem to love the thin, acerbic yet semi-sweet reds. It doesn't have to be like this - if your taste is more for a French-style red wine, then pick a nice Saperavi. The more robust body of Saperavi is the perfect accompaniment to Georgian food. Suliko also serve wine by the glass if you prefer.

Finally, when you have chatted, and idled, and nibbled at all the starters, and listened to the musicians, comes the main course. We shared a single main course and there was still heaps left over - tsiplyata v ezhevichnom souse, chicken in a loganberry sauce (500Rbs). Brought to the table in its terracotta casserole, the outside is as crunchy as the inside is tender.

Suliko is the perfect set-up for upscale Georgian, and your mission - if you choose to accept it - is to find the right occasion and group of diners to enjoy it. It's not especially cosy, and you'd feel a bit exposed there on a lover's tryst. But if you have foreign guests over - especially if they already sick of sour cream and accordions - it would be a super treat for corporate-level guests that offers them a cuisine they'll not have tried elsewhere.

01.10.04

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