Friday, June 29, 2007

Moscow Restaurants

My brother is going to Moscow and called to get restaurant recommendations. In the two years I spent going back and forth to Moscow I ate in a lot of very good restaurants and every time I go there I discover new great places. The scene really is exploding as if people are trying to make up for 70 years of communist drabness and dreadful food.

Below are a few of my favorites:

1 Red Square
(Russian/Czarist recreation)

This restaurant on top of the Natural History Museum is worthwhile for the view alone. North side of the Red Square over to the Kremlin and St Basil’s, not bad at all. I’ve been there a number of times and particularly like the Milk-fed veal with fried chanterelles and the Pork brisket. They also make something called a koulebiaka which is sturgeon blended with rice, cream, and spices, baked in a flaky pastry. Quite an astonishing dish.

Cafe Pushkin
(Russian/Czarist recreation)
26a Tverskoi Bulvar

I love Café Pushkin it is almost certainly my favourite in Moscow. It is the sort of pretentious, pointless place that only Moscow does well. Supposedly the restaurant is a recreation of what dinner was like at the Czarist court in the 18th century. Sure if really large sideburns where a dominant feature. Pushkin is a bit of an amusement park but the food is very good and so is the service. It is also open 24 hours a day so you can show up there at 4 in the morning and have pirozhki with some seriously scary types. I prefer the café downstairs to the formal dining rooms upstairs and if the whether is cooperating then the roof top garden is great.

Café Pushkin is a good place to have caviar and blinis, the fish soup ukha and grilled sturgeon. Anything vaguely gameish such as smoked quail and tongue and onion is done to perfection. I once had something that they called filorett or something to that effect which was meat, eggplant and tomato gratinated with cheese and very yummy.

Drink vodka, they have a very impressive selection.


Moscow is full of very good Georgian restaurants but I particularly like Genatsvale. It is load, big and very original. Veal shashlick, hachapuri (a pie filled with salted cheese), harcho (a goulash like beef stew) and anything that they roast or fry and cover in sauce is good. Last time I went they way load speakers going that where very unpleasant but they atmosphere is great non the less with huge tables full of very drunk parties doing endless toasts.

Noah's Ark
Maly Ivanovsky per. 7-9/1

This place is a bit like Café Pushkin in that it is an attempt at creating some vision of a past that never existed. A really palatial place in a sort of faux antiquity style. Food does not disappoint, however. I don’t really know Armenian cuisine well enough to know the names of stuff but shashliks, tolma in grape leaves, mutton kebabs are the sort of thing you would expect.

16 Sadovaya-Samotechnaya street

It may appear a bit pointless to seek out Italian restaurants in Moscow but they actually have some of the Italians I’ve visited. My absolute favourite is Cheese. I find the décor irresistibly funny – the ground floor is decorated to resemble the inside of a cheese – and they do some of the best simple pasta I’ve had. Last time I started with a truffle pasta, which to be fair was very expensive, that had more truffle in it than I’ve ever seen in one dish. The pasta itself was fresh and had only just been made. The only other ingredient was butter... I also had a rather large and perfectly cooked veal chop.

Cantinetta Antinori
20 Denezhny Pereulok

I think this place belongs to the same restaurateur as Cheese but unlike Cheese it is done in a very elegant and unpretentious manner. I particularly like the very intimate upstairs dining room. Everything really is very good at this restaurant although I particularly remember the octopus in red vine sauce.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Verre Dubai

Hilton Hotel Dubai Creek,
(17 June 2007)

This is Gordon Ramsay’s effort in Dubai. I vent there with business partners for Sunday dinner. I found the setting in a glass box on the mezz floor of the Hilton Dubai Creek a bit cold but at least the food and service where pure Ramsay.

I had:

  • Yellow fin tuna two ways – marinated then seared and carpaccio with pickled white radish, soy dressing: no complaint here. While this was not exactly an inspired dish it was very good and since I knew the main course would be heavy a liked the lightness of touch that went into preparing it.
  • Slow cooked pork belly, creamed Puy lentils, black pudding and pan-fried foie gras with braising jus: I have no idea what the foie gras was doing there other than justify the price but the rest was magnificent. It really is difficult to mess up slow cooked pork belly but this one was particularly good and the puy lentils and black pudding worked a treat.

Basically, another great Ramsay restaurant.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Emirates First Class Dubai - London

Domaine Bonneau du Martay 1991

There really is no way for this service to go but down. That wine is by some distance the best I've ever had on a plane.

Chateau Palmer
Grand Cru Classe de Margaux 1997

Unbelivable, BA may have lost a client!

Iranian Caviar
Served with traditional accompaniment
Not exactly russian beluga but very good nontheless.

Arabic style braised lamb shank - couscous roasted vegetables, pine nuts... Mutch better than expected. Meat was moist and slightly undercooked for a braised lamb shank but very good. I have no idea why BA can't pull that.

Cheese selection

Not bad at all although it is mostly the quality of the vines that impressed
Sent from my Blackberry Mobile

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The Queens Head & Artichoke

30-32 Albany Street
Regents Park
London, NW1 4EA
Tel. 020 7916 6206

This is a very new and nice gastro pub in the Regent’s Park area just off Great Portland Street station. I went with some friends who where staying in a nearby hotel. It is a restored Victorian pub that looks exactly like a page from the IKEA Gastro Pub Guide but nevertheless manages to be very pleasant.

The menu is split in two, an extensive tapas menu with a Middle Eastern flavour and a traditional 3 course type menu. For starters we had tapas selections of treated fish and meats that were correct but there where individual tapas on the menu that sounded much more exiting. For example the Jar of foie gras with granary toast and Muscat grapes is actually something I want to go back for.

For mains most of us went for the Rainbow trout, baby vegetable ragout, lemon & almond butter. This was a very satisfying dish that I could have every day. We also tried the Crayfish & avocado tian, mousseline, rosemary crouton and chicken & foie gras boudin blanc with spinach. Both where good, not great, but sufficiently simple that you could eat there everyday.

I’m going back for the spring lamb cutlet, neck & leg, rosemary polenta, olive jus. That just sounds like a winner.

Washed it down with a red duero Portugal. I’ve never had this before but was very happy with it.


Frith Street
London W1D 3JW

Arbutus is a genus of flowering plants in the family Ericaceae, native to warm temperate regions of the Mediterranean, western Europe, and North America” – Wikipedia

I realise that is becoming harder and harder to come up with an original name for a restaurant but you really have to wonder if a random number generator was involved in selecting ARBUTUS! No doubt the two founders of Arbutus have some suitably clever story for how this name came to be chosen but it does seem terribly naff to me.

In any case I took a date there last Saturday and was quite pleased with the restaurant. I had been there for lunch and wanted to try the full dinner experience. The space is U shaped around a central stairwell so you do not get a feeling for how big the restaurant is rather it is quite private and you only see a half dozen or so tables. She found the décor rather cold and impersonal but then she’s a creative type whereas I liked the décor but then I’m an analyst type.

Service was attentive and unlike so many London restaurants they where not constantly trying to fill our vine glasses up to the rim. This may sound a bit ridiculous but I am really annoyed at the fact that London waiting staff rarely knows how to pour vine.

In deference of her dislike of food that looks back at you I decided against having the braised pig head for witch the restaurant has become famous. Instead we had:

  • Crab Salad with garlic mayo that she pronounced excellent;
  • Smoked eel with beetroot and beetroot horseradish cream that was an absolutely brilliant combination.
  • Bavette of beef with potatoes dauphinois and red vine shallot sauce – ordered medium definitely came rare and judging by the amount left over not to her liking despite her protestations that it was very good;
  • Saddle of rabbit, shoulder cottage pie and braised shallots – this really was excellent, the boneless saddle was perfectly cooked moist and tasty and the cottage pie really could have stood on its own it was that good;
  • Selection of cheeses: Nothing much to report although the Alderwood was excellent;

All accompanied by Gevrey-Chambertin, Cuve Ostrea, Domain Trapet 2004, one of my all time favourite vines which did not disappoint.