Geographia: A Culinary Discovery
Geographia // 5 Ulitsa Rubinshteina // Tel. 340 0074 // Open 11 a.m. until the last guest leaves. // Dinner for two with alcohol 3,980 rubles ($120.56)
Published: January 15, 2014 (Issue # 1793)
The latest eatery to open on Ulitsa Rubinshteina, Geographia is a cut above the rest, single-handedly raising the tone of a street that frequently offers more choice than quality. Of the street’s handful of truly enjoyable restaurants, Geographia now tops the list of places that deserve a second visit.
Visiting early on a quiet evening over the new year holidays, the true character of the place was not yet in evidence. What we did find was a calm, elegant and modern oasis that was at once welcoming and familiar.
Ushered into the back dining room — a windowless chamber that is tranquil and plush — we settled into a wide, comfortable booth. With walls covered in a burgundy red painted paneling and herringbone tweed and red seat coverings accented with a band of electric blue, the room is furnished with a beautiful hexagonal table at its center and resists seeming claustrophobic despite the lack of natural light.
The menu at Geographia presents a mix of Asian inflected dishes that treads a fine line between fusion and classicism. The wine list is one of the best we have come across in a long while and the selections by the glass are all appealing. While waiting for glasses of a 2010 Billaud-Simon Petit Chablis (390 rubles, $11.81), we skimmed the concise menu finding it hard to choose from the delights on offer — but choose we did.
For starters, a Greek salad (320 rubles, $9.69) seemed like a good way to find out what the kitchen was capable of, requiring as it does a certain amount of restraint and the highest quality ingredients to make it sing. What arrived was a wide and shallow black bowl filled with a mix of greens, roasted peppers and tomatoes with an herb-covered slab of rustic feta. To keep the salad from being over dressed or wilting, the sauce was presented in a footed shot glass. While not strictly traditional in flavor it was, however, delicious.
The next appetizer to emerge from the kitchen was a roasted beetroot carpaccio with a house-made cheese (290 rubles, $8.78). Expecting a pinwheel of crimson discs on a plate, it was a pleasant surprise to be presented with five slices of beetroot folded around a creamily delicious cheese perched atop a bed of arugula and tomatoes. Presented on a wooden cutting board covered with a piece of butcher’s paper, the beets were slightly charred and perfectly complimented by the creamy cheese and a tiny dash of fresh horseradish topping each Agnolotti-shaped bite.
For mains we selected for lamb chops (850 rubles, $25.75) and a steamed sea bass (640 rubles, $19.39). The fish apparently changes with what is available in the market but we were pleased with the bass, which was the platonic idea of clean simplicity, steamed in a banana leaf and served a slightly spicy Thai tomato sauce. The lamb arrived atop a trio red and yellow roasted peppers and was perfectly rosy on the inside and crusted with a blend of spices that included black pepper, garlic and coriander. The lamb was accompanied by two violently colored sauces — one red and one green — which suited the meat perfectly. A plate of grilled vegetables (240 rubles, $7.27) that included tiny new potatoes, peppers and eggplant were cooked to perfection and provided just enough of a side to share.
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