Hola, eXhole Amigos. As is my wont, I'm gonna start this review off with a tale of teenage terror. But not the one about my friend Aaron who jerked off in the mayo at Blimpie's every week for years until the manager finally watched the security tape after a robbery. I'm saving that one for a slow week. This week's review is about Hemingway's, Moscow's newest Tex Mex joint, and I have a good story to hang on a Tex Mex review.
It's winter, 1993, an epic two-week between-semesters Brooklyn-Tiajuana-Brooklyn roadtrip. Myself, Cedric, and Dave were doing 90 in an old Taurus with New York plates somewhere in West Texas when we saw the flashing blues. It was 3 a.m. when we pulled over on the lost-looking highway. We had mushrooms, ecstasy, and sweaty palms -- "keep 'em where I can see 'em" -- when the Texas state trooper waltzed up with the flashlight and asked what three shaggy New York boys were doing in Texas. He held the light on Dave, a Korean-American drama freak who did his best to look and act as crazy as his hero, Artaud.
"We're on our way to Tiajuana, officer. Mexico."
"Step out of the car."
It took about 20 minutes for him to go through every one of our bags and inspect every inch of the Taurus. He found the mushrooms but grunted when Dave said it was sage he used for ritualistic purposes. The pills were in an aspirin bottle that the cop didn't even open. The truth is he couldn't have cared less about hippie drugs.
"Do you boys realize that you are on the most famous gun running route in the southwest?"
And then he let us go. Didn't even give us a ticket. We rolled into El Paso and feasted at a place called Taco Loco.
I was warmed by this memory as I settled into a Tex Mex dinner at Hemingway's last week. Or maybe it was the mojito, mai tai, and margarita (180r) that was warming me. In any case, it was something, because there was a rainy chill in the air and we were sitting in Hemingway's enormous backyard veranda, tucked away from Komsomolskaya, near Park Kultury. The veranda, with a huge circular bar, is a major plus in Hemingway's favor.
Moscow's youngest Tex Mex contender, Hemingway's isn't going for authentic south of the border fare; it plays straight Tex Mex, the relaxed mix of American and Mexican cuisine you find in America's southwest. Tex Mex is older than the Alamo, and when done right, it's damn good.
HEMINGWAY'S does it right. The chef is none other than Johnny from Starlite; the front end is handled by Chris, aka DJ Biscuit, of the infamous Phlegmatic Dog.
But first things first: Here is a serious selection of top shelf tequila. The cocktails are sweet and strong, and I tried all of the rum-based standards. The margaritas (regular or strawberry - 160/180r) are especially well-balanced.
There's only one way to start a meal here once you have the drinks sorted. The classic Tex Mex nachos (380r) are piled high with enough beans, cheese, sour cream and guacamole to put a 300-lb. Mexican wrestler on the mat. If you want something lighter, the cold gaspacho (140r), a fresh tomato salsa-like soup, goes down well during mid-day meal outside.
Carne lovers are directed toward the heavy Taco-Burrito combo (470r). The fajitas (beef and chicken) are tight and minimal, without too much of the onion or charred green pepper that you often find at Russian Tex Mex joints. Recommended fish dishes include the endangered Chilean Seabass (490r) and grilled shrimp.
Don't be afraid to bring along the vegetarian in your life. Old Papa was a famous hunter and fisherman, but his eponymous restaurant has veggie wraps that'll keep animal lovers in the bullfight. Ditto the soups.
My criticisms are few but not minor for a Tex Mex joint. Hemingway's needs a bit of improvement in the crucial salsa and tortilla departments. The salsa could use a bit of oomph, and a good tortilla is never crunchy.