Зю/ Zu Restaurant
Multiple Locations/ Hours vary (see website)
Zu is one of those rarities in Moscow: a full-service restaurant in the heart of the city where the majority of entrees cost less than 400 rubles. The Thai-fusion chain has locations in most of the highly trafficked areas inside the garden-ring, including Tverskaya, Noviy Arbat, and Red Oktober, making it a convenient place to stop after a visit to a museum, concert, etc. Incidentally, the chain also shares an owner with the similarly democratically priced Pizza Express and the two often can often be found side-by-side.
Zu is also a restaurant that has clearly incorporated some features of Western customer service into its business model, which is more important than it might seem on the outset. Anyone who has been in Moscow for more than a few days has almost certainly had a run-in with a waiter/ salesperson who either completely ignores you or is outright rude. My personal experiences have ranged from a waitress asking me why I was complaining to her about my inedible soup when she hadn’t cooked it herself, to arguing with a manager about why they shouldn’t charge us for an appetizer that caused my friend to have a severe allergic reaction (there was no mention on the menu that the pelmeni she ordered contained seafood.)
Against this backdrop, I tend to give high points to an establishment that has it together in the customer service department. Zu greets customers with warm hand-towels and complimentary fluffy crab-chips with hot sauce. They also don’t charge you an extra 80 rubles for an ounce of Tabasco, horseradish, or whatever like most restaurants in the city, and at the end of your meal you get a fortune cookie (печенье с предсказанием). These small niceties might sound trivial, but, like most things, you only realize how much they matter when they’re not there.
Zu serves up most of the dishes that you would expect from a pan-Asian themed restaurant: Green-curry (370 rub.), Pad Thai (350 rub.), Tom Yum soup (260 rub.), spring rolls (130 rub.). It’s worth noting that most of their soups are entre-sized, so if you order the Tom Yum, you probably won’t leave hungry. If you’re really on a budget you can always order one of their fried-rice dishes (with vegetables, pineapple, etc.) for less than 200 rubles as well. Having visited on a few occasions, I can say that they do noodle-based dishes (лапша) and rice-based curries equally well. The level of spiciness might leave something to be desired, but the wait-staff are happy to bring you more hot sauce if you want to kick it up a notch. For desert, I’d highly recommend their Fondan with Green-tea Ice-cream (250 rubles), which is so tasty that I actually asked if I could buy a container of the icecream to go (you can, but they would charge the menu price by the scoop, so not a great deal.)
For group and faculty-led tours, a visit to Zu on Tverskaya could follow a visit to the Kremlin or one of the museums located in the Oxotniy Ryad area. There are several long wooden booths that could easily accommodate a group of 6 and it is certainly a more reasonable option price-wise than many of the other full-service restaurants in the very center of Moscow.