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Restaurant Review March 11, 2005
Paddy O'Chen!
By Mark Ames Browse author Email

Peter Arenseberg is not with us this issue, as he's been spending more and more time at a secluded abbey/wine cellar in Bourgogne, "re-adjusting my palate sensors," as he put it, hinting that he had spent so much time in Moscow that he was becoming too forgiving to restaurants he would otherwise "discombibe with my own bare tonsils"... or am I putting words into his mouth? Arenseberg may be the finest restaurant reviewer in the English language today, but he is a notoriously cheap bastard who once forced a waiter to reduce a bill by six rubles after said waiter took away his bread plate before he could dip his wet thumb into the crust crumbs.

It's too bad Arenseberg chose to leave this issue, because the restaurant, O!Chen, is so transparently awful that he would have had a field day tearing it apart.

First of all, the name. Perhaps they meant to call it "Paddy O'Chen" -- after all, it's next door to Silver's -- but they switched at the last second when the interior designer got ahold of a shipload of cheap bamboo mats that they could hang from the rafters.

O!Chen is located down in a basement, so you have to watch your head as you navigate towards the cheap patio furniture that will soon be your home. Shitty Russian pop blasted into the dining room -- and not a tape, mind you, but Russkoe Radio.

"My god, we're at a shawarma stand," my dining partner observed.

The prices looked somewhat reasonable. We ordered shrimp spring rolls (150r), a smallish portion of edible, if crab-salad-like rolls that bore no resemblance to real Vietnamese spring rolls, which tend to be the size of a thumb, crisp and pork. Then we each ordered a "Pho," the Vietnamese word for soup (185r). Real Vietnamese Pho is a meal unto itself, offering a surprising array of spices and flavors. Not O!Chen's Pho. I had chicken, my partner had beef. Mine tasted like Gallina chicken broth, some chicken, packaged rice noodles and a bunch of scallions thrown in. It had the flavor of, well, water.

By this point we were appalled. With the tables empty of patrons, the only thing we had to look at was this Vietnamese guy who walked past our table on cue once every ten minutes. We wondered if he was being paid to give the place authenticity, then opined that perhaps if the owners let us shoot at him with salt pellet guns every time he walked past, the restaurant might attract more clients.

For the main, I got chicken breast in "nege," which was just flavorless boiled chicken atop mushroom gravy with some frozen vegetables on the side (207r). My partner got the "grill on lemon sticks" (293r), two lyula-kebabs dressed up as corn dogs on lemon stalks.

If this is "Vietnamese food for the Russian palate," then why bother pretending? Why not just serve real shawarmas and cheburiki, and just call them "Shawarma po-Karibbski" or "Cheburaki po-tailandskii"? At least we wouldn't be fooled into thinking that maybe, at last, the Russian palate had crawled out of the village that it came from. Let's face it: everything about a Russian is noble...except for that barren palate of theirs. Next time, we're sticking with Georgian food.

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Save The eXile: The War Nerd Calls Mayday
The future of The eXile is in your hands! We're holding a fundraiser to save the paper, and your soul. Tune in to Gary Brecher's urgent request for reinforcements and donate as much as you can. If you don't, we'll be overrun and wiped off the face of the earth, forever.

Scanning Moscow’s Traffic Cops
Automotive Section
We’re happy to introduce a new column in which we publish Moscow’s raw radio communications, courtesy of a Russian amateur radio enthusiast. This issue, eXile readers are given a peek into the secret conversations of Moscow’s traffic police, the notorious "GAIshniki."

Eleven Years of Threats: The eXile's Incredible Journey
Feature Story By The eXile
Good Night, and Bad Luck: In a nation terrorized by its own government, one newspaper dared to fart in its face. Get out your hankies, cuz we’re taking a look back at the impossible crises we overcame.

Your Letters
Russia's freedom-loving free market martyr Mikhail Khodorkovsky answers some of this week's letters, and he's got nothing but praise for President Medvedev.

Clubbing Adventures Through Time
Club Review By Dmitriy Babooshka
eXile club reviewer Babooshka takes a trip through time with the ghost of Moscow clubbing past, present and future, and true to form, gets laid in the process.

The Fortnight Spin
Bardak Calendar By Jared Lindquist
Jared comes out with yet another roundup of upcoming bardak sessions.

Your Letters
Richard Gere tackles this week's letters. Now reformed, he fights for gerbil rights all around the world.

13 Toxic Talents: Hollywood’s Worst Polluters
America By Eileen Jones
Everybody complains about celebrities, but nobody does anything about them. People, it’s time to stop fretting about whether we’re a celebrity-obsessed culture—we are, we have been, we’re going to be—and instead take practical steps to clean up the celebrity-obsessed culture we’ve got...


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