If we were to tell you we know a nice, little, inexpensive restaurant somewhere in Moscow, where delicious meals are cooked by a lovely, perpetually smiling babushka with rosy cheeks and a soft voice, you probably wouldn't believe us.
And you would probably be right too. For one thing, we can't remember the last time we saw a lovely, perpetually smiling babushka, let alone with a soft voice. Moreover, we didn't really check the kitchen in the place to see whether there was actually a babushka acting as chef there.
But this is certainly the feeling you get when you go to the Ukrainian restaurant, Korchma u Pletnya, (the cafe by a fence). You might have passed it a hundred times because, basically, there isn't much more than a modest notice on the wall to show it exists from the street.
Once you get inside, the feeling is totally different. Forget these gray, cold, impersonal stolovayas you may have gone to from time to time when you were feeling hungry but wanted to keep expenses low. A meal here won't cost you all that much more, but you are in for a quantum leap in quality.
Entering Korchma you'll find yourself in a small room with white walls, white wooden tables and nice little white curtains, decorated with red Ukrainian peasant drawings. The tables are separated by wattle fence-like partitions and sunflowers.
You might feel sorry for the stuffed squirrel over the bar, or think the TV set is slightly out of place in such a lovely setting (although it never seems to be turned on) but once you've settled at your table, you quickly forget about these minor inconveniences. Of course, one could also wish to hear romantic Russian or Ukrainian ballads, instead of American or Russian pop music on the radio, but, then again, nothing is perfect, and this already comes close enough as it is.
The waiting staff is polite, friendly and very helpful. Some waiters will be happy to advise you on dishes and, occasionally, even go so far as to suggest a dish that is cheaper than the one you were going to order, and just as good. The samogon (moonshine) they often bring you on the house as a welcome drink also helps to warm up the atmosphere, especially on a cold winter night.
As for the food, it is just as inviting and heartening as the rest and at ridiculously low prices. All the main courses are between 80 and 150 rubles, and the portions are usually quite generous. Of course, here, Ukrainian dishes rule. Some have become classics all over Russia, and sometimes beyond that country's borders. And here, you can be sure you'll get the real thing.
Take the Chicken Kiev. Often fatty and greasy with little taste; here it's excellent, lean and tasty. Another favorite is Odessa-style chicken; a leg stuffed with meat, herbs and melted cheese, especially good when served with mashed potatoes and a Baltika Seven.
Soups include a great borshch and rassolnik, a fantastic vegetable soup with chunks of sturgeon. Sturgeon lovers will also enjoy it Ukrainian-style, served with potatoes and a cheese gratin, while particularly delicate palates will want to try the quail this place offers for a modest 140 rubles.
Korchma u Pletnya also offers a business lunch for 40 rubles until 1:30 p.m., which includes salad, soup, a main dish and fruit juice. Nothing really fancy, but always decent and at a bargain price.
Although friendly, the service sometimes has a tendency to be a little too slow, especially when you just order a main course. At least, you can be sure, however, that you won't get a quickly re-heated frozen dish here. All in all, Korchma u Pletnya is probably one of the best eating options near Paveletskaya and Riverside Towers, an area markedly poor in good and cheap eating places. Be sure not to miss this one.
KORCHMA U PLETNYA
77 Sadovnicheskaya Ul.