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Hookahs and Hummus
By Sveta Graudt
Issue 11
November 4 - December 2, 2004

Tired of overpriced restaurants and snobby waiters? Looking for the cozy atmosphere of a family-run ethnic eatery? Then head south for a taste of the Middle East — for student prices — at one of the many eateries on the campus of the People’s Friendship University.

Luke Tchalenko
spices galore: Mirazh
Mirazh Student Cafe

Whether you are a student or just a student at heart, little else can beat an appetizing 40-ruble shaurma kebab (chicken meat, cabbage, cucumbers, tomatoes) wrapped in paper-thin Armenian lavash that you can wash down with a Baltika No. 3 for 35 rubles. And we aren’t talking about the usual greasy, metro-side, eat-as-you-go fare. These meat sandwiches at Mirazh are so good, you would be reluctant to give up even a tiny morsel to a canine with the saddest puppy eyes. Besides different-sized shaurmas (from 35 to 125 rubles), there are salads, cheap soups, coal-fried chicken, shashliks and bliny.

The eatery has two no-frills dining halls. The larger hall has a huge double-glaze window filled with gifts that cafe owner Hasan’s many friends gave to him: A Syrian coffeepot cohabits peacefully with a Russian samovar. Hasan, a postgraduate student at the university currently on an academic leave, came to Russia from Jordan more than a decade ago, and along with his business, he built his family here. Now Russified, he vacations in Egypt with his Russian wife and is happy to chat with the guests that stop by to say hello. He is the smoker in a dark blue baseball cap seated at a table by the cafe entrance.

Luke Tchalenko
Simbad: Hookah Master
Simbad Cafe & Bar

Simbad’s biggest draw is arguably Makhmud, a tall, dark and handsome hookah master from Egypt. Clad in an embroidered vest and a maroon fez, he is quick to make a joke in one of four languages he knows (although, his Russian isn’t so good; he’s only been here for a few months). The reason why he’s a hookah expert is that he’s been fixing his father’s smokes since he was 9. Makhmud, or Figo, as he’s also known because of his resemblance to the Portuguese footballer Luis Figo, and Simbad’s owner Ali, a former university student who hails from Syria, mix up Simbad’s special tobacco blend (several kinds of tobacco, honey and mint) that fans can buy to take home with them. But you can’t take their hookahs, so you might be better off indulging yourself with tasty puffs in the cafe’s modest dining areas. Water, wine and cognac hookahs are 120, 150-200 and 200-250 rubles a smoke, respectively.

The entries on the menu displayed above the service area inside the restaurant inform of its European and Eastern influences: from plov, manty, shaurma, shashliks and Russian-style salads to falafel, hummus and bamia, or beans and meat dishes from Syria.

And now on to the last, but not least, detail: an average tab for one without alcohol is 100-120 rubles.

Luke Tchalenko
exotic tea: Beirut

Belly dancing, Turkish coffee and Arabian tea are the order of things in Beirut, a spacious Lebanese eatery that attracts a diverse crowd — we are told diners travel from all over Moscow to eat here — and serves authentic Lebanese food. As you enter through the doors decorated with two crossed swords, a pleasant haze from the hookah room to your left may entice you to enter. Be warned, because once you do, it is with great reluctance that you will leave — if at all. Pictures of Lebanon and tiny carpets adorn the walls. The seats, fitted out in blue and red wool covers and low wooden tables with inlaid woodwork on them should be your port of call if you fancy a hookah (250 rubles) and, say, something light like hummus or falafel.

Pretty waitresses decked out in long embroidered dresses glide effortlessly through the main dining room that resembles a square surrounded by the whitewashed walls of a medieval city. You can catch a glimpse of an open grill between the coffee-making station and the main bar.

What’s here for eating? All sorts of grilled meat dishes, including some of the more exotic options, for Moscow, anyway, such as bull’s testicles roasted on hot coals for 220 rubles or quail cooked in the same fashion, for 280 rubles. But not all meat dishes are given the fiery treatment. The restaurant’s manager Robert, a fluent Russian speaker from Beirut, recommends Kibbeh Nayyeh, a raw meat minced in a blender with cracked wheat, spices and olive oil (180 rubles.) A three-course business lunch (99 rubles) is served daily, except for Sundays, from noon to 4pm.

Expect to pay 300-400 rubles per head without alcohol.


Dionis’ menu caters to its varied clientele. A group of African students may be having an animated discussion at one table while serious-looking Arabs puff on a hookah a couple of meters away. The sand-colored walls of this Lebanese eatery are covered with murals. But to please everyone, there are both European and Eastern (the owner of Dionis is from Lebanon) entries on the menu: order some blini with sour cream (30 rubles for two) for breakfast, and then follow up during lunch hour with kufta (85 rubles), a beef mince roasted in the oven with potatoes and tomatoes, or a shaurma (40-120 rubles.) For a game of billiards (40 rubles), go to the downstairs bar.

13 Ul. Miklukho-Maklaya (M. Yugo-Zapadnaya / Belyaevo)
434-6019, 10am-1am.

19 Ul. Miklukho-Maklaya (M. Yugo-Zapadnaya / Belyaevo)
424-6357, 10am-1am.

21/2 Ul. Miklukho-Maklaya, Corpus 9 (M. Yugo-Zapadnaya / Belyaevo)
787-3901, 11am-1am.

3 Ul. Miklukho-Maklaya, Corpus 1 (M. Belyaevo / Yugo-Zapadnaya)
431-2865, 10am-1am.

Today's Gigs
20:00 - Subelectronica with Boris Romanov aka DJ OnLee plus special guests: non-lounge electronic music, uptempo, leftfield
Live concerts, special projects
The Routes


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