IQ Wine Bar: A Test of In­tel­li­gence

The menu promised ta­pas and ex­pert rec­om­men­da­tions – but where was the som­me­lier?

The Moscow Times - - OUT & ABOUT - By Grace Wat­son art­sre­porter@ime­

IQ Wine Bar Bou­tique, a bar-cum-wine store nes­tled un­ex­pect­edly in a busi­ness park, lays its cards on the ta­ble from the out­set. Empty bot­tles proudly line the win­dowsills, grapevines are sten­ciled on the walls, Caber­nets perch atop dainty shelves. All of this sends a clear mes­sage: Our busi­ness is wine, and we take it se­ri­ously.

“Our staff is ready to rec­om­mend wine for any dish!” as­sures the menu. De­spite its rather heavy-handed decor, this self-pro­claimed “in­tel­li­gent shop & bar” pro­vides a pleas­ant am­biance for cou­ples and groups seek­ing a bite or sip in a place that seems to care about wine.

There is plenty to eat as well. IQ serves pri­mar­ily Mediter­ranean fare, like an­tipasti (280 rubles/$5) and crab gaz­pa­cho (280 rubles), but also gravlax (390 rubles), es­car­got (400 rubles), Moroc­can harira (300 rubles) and as­sorted cheeses (400 rubles). Br­uschetta and bud­get­friendly bites run at 190 rubles a pop.

The ta­pas plate (380 rubles) is al­ways a good in­tro­duc­tion to the kitchen’s range, and this one in­cludes a rare treat: cheese-stuffed, ba­con-wrapped dates. We also opted to try the br­uschetta with muk­sun, a Siberian white­fish.

In­spired by the menu’s en­thu­si­as­tic dec­la­ra­tion, we re­quested the wait­ress rec­om­mend a dry red to start off with. Startlingly, she ad­mit­ted lit­tle mas­tery of the sub­ject and scur­ried away, pre­sum­ably seek­ing re­in­force­ments. She even­tu­ally reemerged with Bare­foot Zin­fan­del, a bot­tom-shelf wine I had be­come fa­mil­iar with dur­ing my univer­sity years, sold here for a steep 1,500 rubles ($26.50) a bot­tle.

I was con­fused: Where was this som­me­lier whose ex­per­tise the menu her­alded? Af­ter some prob­ing, we learned: “He’s gone.” At least this Mon­day, the work shift had ended be­fore din­ner time, leav­ing the staff ill-equipped in drink­ing mat­ters.

The starters were mea­ger, even given their demo­cratic prices. The br­uschetta was a hum­ble af­fair—three thin slices of al­most-crispy white bread, smeared with non­de­script cheese spread, gar­nished with fish morsels and sprigs of dill. The scoop of or­ange-fla­vored caviar atop each one was a wel­come ri­val to the oth­er­wise bland soft­ness, though it was too mi­nus­cule to pro­vide a sat­is­fac­tory dose of the zing it teased at.

The ta­pas ap­peared more im­pres­sive, but like­wise were not group-friendly, as halv­ing a spongy sliver of stacked pota­toes is nearim­pos­si­ble. The roasted red pep­per was fla­vor­ful, though de­tracted from by a need­less bed of white bread. The dates were even a bit dry.

The mains, a handful of meat and fish-based dishes, in­trigu­ingly in­cor­po­rate wine as an in­gre­di­ent, mostly in sauces.The glazed sal­mon with bul­gur and buerre blanc (590 rubles) was a fil­let flanked by gen­tle mounds of glis­ten­ing bul­gur. The lat­ter was sat­is­fy­ingly but­ter­slicked, but the sal­mon was dry and lack­lus­ter, and while its ac­com­pa­ny­ing sauce was creamy and smooth, it was some­what drab.

Like the mains, the desserts in­clude in­ven­tive wine notes, a fi­nal chance to shake the palate. The pear in red wine (330 rubles) hinted at long-awaited culi­nary in­spi­ra­tion. A bur­gundy­blush­ing pear fanned across the plate, its mealy sweet­ness cut by the acid­ity of the wine.

IQ fills a gap in its area, with af­ford­able meals and snacks, as well as a de­cent se­lec­tion of wines. Stop by and hope that you’ll be served by the elu­sive ex­perts. Oth­er­wise, be pre­pared to re­sist turn­ing up your nose when you see Bare­foot served proudly to a nearby ta­ble. +7 (499) 990 77 12 72 Len­ingrad­sky Prospekt, Bldg. 1 Metro Sokol

Serv­ing af­ford­able food and a se­lec­tion of wines, IQ Wine Bar fills a niche in the Sokol area.

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