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Restaurant Review August 10, 2007
 
Art Fag-a-liscious
By Tofer Lamont Browse author
 
 

At first I wasn't planning on saying anything, because I didn't think I had to. I thought people would just kind of giggle on their own. But then I thought about it some more, and I've decided to just get it out of the way: ArteFAQ is just one letter away from being ArteFAG. Even with the "Q", it sort of sounds like ArteFAG. Which is funny. It's even funnier when you consider ArteFAQ has one of the funkiest designs in town, has a French accent, is owned by artists and intellectuals (the same ones behind FAQ-Cafe', also funny) and is housed in a building that is more than a footnote in the history of Russian art.

More like a chapter. The ArteFAQ building, tucked off-street just behind and east of Pushkinskaya, was the site of the famous 1910 "Knave of Diamonds" exhibition, which launched the Russian avant-garde. Russian public reaction to the "Knave" collective's paintings - which expressed a sort of post-Impressionist peasant worship - was a furious "what-the-fuck-is-this?" It was a lot like the reception another landmark of Russian modernism, Stravinsky's Right of Spring, received three years later in Paris.

In a conscious bow to this legacy, ArteFAQ, which bills itself as a club-restaurant-gallery, has poured a lot of thought and resources into art and design. Part-owner Sasha Gavrilov (who edits Knizhnoe Obozrenie) describes the result as a mix of "Old Provence, high-tech, and eclectic" styles. What this means is that there is a huge Lichtenstein look-alike on the floor of the bar, a see-through glass second-floor, lots of coral and turquoise pellets embedded in the original brickwork, piles of books atop old instruments, and a video art installation in the gilded Beetlejuice bathrooms that can make it difficult to get nature's faucet flowing. Big Brother Is Watching.

The food at ArteFAQ is no afterthought. The French chef has crafted a simple but delicious Italian-French fusion menu. Salads and light appetizers run between 180r to 350r. Tofer recommends the salad with salmon cooked in cognac and orange marinade. If you're only feeling moderately adventurous, trade in your Chicken Caesar for a Turkey Caesar (220r) with bacon croutons and a mischievous house sauce.

Hungry enough to eat a horse? ArteFAQ has an appetizer-sized portion of Mr. Ed for 250r, served with sweet peppers, Radicchio salad and a wide leafs of garden rocket. They also got all the stroganina standards: beef/chicken/pork/turkey.

Mains include pastas (Spaghetti Carbonara 260r/Tagliatelle with pesto 290r) and meat dishes of veal (340r) and a Seabass dish cooked in white wine and named after the surrealist Andre Breton (maybe it comes wearing eyeglass?) Tofer recommends: the Brochette of pork filled with applesauce (310r).

The dessert menu = three cakes: poppy, turcino, and strawberries with cream (210r - 280r). The tea list is long and speaks Chinese. And coffee ArteFAQ knows. They even have a proper Italian ristretto on the menu - 15ml of concentrated sludge fuel for 55r. What's not to love?

Once you've had your fill, lounge a bit. ArteFAQ was made for chilling. Or, in the words of the French/English press kit, it was planned "as a welcoming home for friends who enjoy creativity, the aura of cozy madness, and friendly communication." Along with the comfortable dining space and pop art bar, there's a fireplace-warmed chill-out space and tearoom under construction in the basement. The crowd here is young, attractive and hip, a bit different form the older intelligensia set the owners were shooting for, but I'm not complaining. Time Out has called ArteFAQ "the new home of the LiveJournal set." Take from that what you will. (Wi-Fi: check)

Every Thursday the art faqs behind ArteFAQ organize lectures on "forbidden foods" by writers and chefs. Last month featured a talk on absinthe in history and literature. Ticket price includes food, drink, and intellectual stimulation. Check the website for details. There are also dj's, and on weekends the place gets down.


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