Despite the name, Pomidor isn't really about tomatoes. A tomato restaurant could have been interesting. Tomatoes are quite versatile things, after all you can fry them, drink them, put them in salad, wait until they go rotten and throw them at people you don't like. But this isn't a review of tomatoes, it's a review of The Tomato Pomidor a discreet place tucked away down quiet Sadovnicheskaya street in one of those corners of Moscow that lives its own obscure life away from the crowds and the places to be seen.
Actually, I went to Pomidor because I was told it had an Armenian connection. An Armenian connection can be a very good thing, especially if it manifests itself in a sublime culinary form. I took along an Armenian dining partner for good measure, just to strengthen the links between us, Pomidor and the bountiful delights of the Southern Caucasus.
The first room we entered was all warm wood, hushed, dim tones and serious men talking serious things at their tables. But we two frivolous, jeans-clad females were led onwards to another room where we had the company of two women seated in a corner.
This room seemed to be inspired by vistas of old French towns, the kinds of places the Three Musketeers might pop out of, swords at the ready. Here, too, was plenty of wood, all interspersed with decorated glass to create a touch of European opulence. Across the corridor we could see another smaller room with a large round table and an alpine view.
The alpine view made us aware of the alpine freshness blasting us from the air conditioners too much even for blustery-gale-loving me. It was beginning to make me recall the time I ate in a Minsk restaurant where everyone wore their coats and hats because winter was upon us and the heating was nowhere to be felt. But a word to the waiter quickly rectified that situation.
The service in the women's room' left us no grounds to feel discriminated against. The waiters popped in and out regularly and our table was soon covered in an array of food. Pomidor believes in giving diners a wealth of choice, at least on the menu pages. For a start, it advertises itself as serving a range of European, Russian and Caucasian cuisine a rather ambitious undertaking, in my opinion.
This could help explain why, as we made our orders, we encountered that bane of Moscow restaurants that is the absence of various items on the menu. Many restaurants in this city cling to the habit of making more promises than they can deliver on, rather than perhaps being a little more modest but not having to tell the client that a good portion of the menu is off tonight.
Red Lobio was off, but we got Green Lobio (120 rubles), some garlic-and-walnut-stuffed eggplants (110 rubles) and lavash. We had been planning to order some Armenian cheese, but it turned out that the cheese was ordinary brinza, so we declined. They did, however, have Dzhermuk mineral water (45 rubles), one of my favorites, and mulberry vodka (60 rubles a shot), a fine Armenian drink with which to warm oneself up after a blast of alpine freshness.
Though disappointed at not having been able to order everything we'd hoped for, we were satisfied with the food we did end up with, and we went a second round on the eggplant. The mulberry vodka was perfectly drinkable, but to be honest, I must say that if you really want mulberry vodka, go to Armenia and find people who have made it themselves, for anything else just cannot measure up.
Main courses at Pomidor emphasize various meats and are not expensive. A number of fish dishes are also on offer. I selected one of the latter, salmon baked with sour cream and mushrooms and served with rice and vegetable garnish (265 rubles). The garnish included tomatoes, though they were of the perfect-looking but somewhat tasteless variety. Clearly, they weren't from Armenia, where tomatoes are eminently full of taste. The rest of the dish left me happy enough; it was nothing fancy or original, but was decently prepared.
My dining partner, despite her carniverous Caucasian upbringing, decided to go vegetarian and, already rather replete with eggplant, contented herself with a mushroom julienne (120 rubles). By this time, the women in the corner were gone and were replaced with men discussing certain not-very-legal matters I shall not discuss in turn out of a desire not to have them plot anything in my regard. The men were quite cheerful, and by now there was musical accompaniment in the form of crooning Armenian pop coming from the first room.
We were ready for tea and dessert, which we intended to be Napoleon cakes, but Napoleons were off, so we ordered walnut jam (100 rubles), instead. The walnuts were from Azerbaijan and were thus an example of inter-Caucasian friendship as they got happily eaten by my Armenian dining partner, though she did say that Armenian walnuts were bigger. For anyone not familiar with walnut jam, it is what the name suggests jam with whole walnuts in it and I highly recommend it.
It was late when we finally left Pomidor. This was because the room we were in had no windows and this created a strange sense of losing track of time. We still weren't quite sure what to make of this Caucasian-Russian-European little kingdom with its somewhat eclectic decor. It's a pleasant enough and reasonably inexpensive place if you happen to be in the neighborhood. But it would be interesting to know why they called it Pomidor.
Sadovnicheskaya, 54, bldg 5
Tel: 238-2883, 238-7060
Hours: Noon till last customer