Moscow has never been exactly well known for its health food restaurants. For many foreigners, this is a bit of a let-down as healthy eating has long been part of our culinary landscapes in our home countries. Enter the ‘Have A Nice Day’ healthy food café inside the Tsvetnoi Market, to where members of the Moscow Good Food Club were treated to an extraordinary non-meat meal.
Not knowing what to expect, we were happy to be addressed by Brand Chef Said Fadli who explained something of the concept of the ‘café’ as a whole. The tone of the evening was set by the ‘welcome dish’– the ‘Bruschettas Trio’ of carrot dough with a guacamole sauce, tomatoes, fig, maple syrup, broccoli and asparagus spread onto crackers. In general, comments were positive about this unusual opener, however there were one or two comments about a slightly overbearing presence of figs and parsley for this time of year. Nobody had anything but positive assessments of the first wine served: a ‘Black Label’ Sauvignon Blanc ‘Babich’ 2015 from New Zealand. Like all of the wines and most of the food served, this was produced organically.
The second course, a salmon, mango and avocado burger was appreciated by all as being a highly original and creative combination. Above all, it was very tasty, and by this time, most (but not all) members had forgotten that we were eating a non-meat meal! There was a range of opinions about the 2015 Chablis Viellis Vignes ‘Saint Claire’ wine. Some said it was a little acidic, young and served cold, however others thought it was well balanced, and adequately set off the sweetness of the avocado and mango tartar.
A Falafels Trio of sweet potato, beetroot and spinach caused intense discussion amongst members. Interestingly, our Austrian contingent had markedly different feelings about this dish. Some said that the spinach was too dry, and that the potatoes were too spicy, however all said that the sauces were excellent, in fact a universal desire was – more sauces please! One table exclaimed that the Gavi served with this dish – ‘Ottosoldi 2015, Piemonte, Italy’, was the best wine served so far.
The fourth dish, which could have been the main course as it featured a halibut filet with pelati, curry, saffron, curcuma sauce served with quinoa, dried fruits and nuts once again created a varied feedback. Members who were perhaps more familiar with non-meat cuisine found the delicacies available in these dishes exciting, whilst hard and fast carnivores were perhaps a little bored with all the subtle harmonies of tastes available. We were in fact, journeying into another world, and it was difficult to immediately discard all ones’ baggage in a situation of non-meat weightlessness.
The only discernible criticism of the Reisling Curvée served with this dish was that it was a little too cold. The meal was finished off with chocolate banana cake which was served with the best intentions but some members felt was a little too heavy after such a subtle dance of tastes. This was a pity because the chocolate is made specially in the restaurant, using and maple syrup as a substitute for sugar.
This meeting of the Moscow Good Food Club was noticeable for the seriousness and intensity at which members discussed the food and wines that they were so professionally presented with. In general, the impression created by the food, wines and service was most favourable. We wish the ‘Have A Nice Day’ restaurant well!
by Kim Waddoup
Sometimes it’s good to be different! This certainly was the Motto by which eminent members of the Moscow Good Food Club were welcomed as the made their way through the doors of the charming Burov and Sova Russian Bistro on Kuznetsky Most. In a short time since its opening this rather humble establishment has made quite a name for itself!
Rather than the normal Aperitif and Canapes favoured my most Restaurants, the talented Chef at Burov & Sova decided to welcome us with a vast buffet consisting of Russian favourites including Deer, Duck, Roast Beef, Beef Tongue, home made duck and deer pate, amazing Rabbit pirogi’s, his own unique black caviar and much more!. To complete the uniqueness of this welcome we were invited to savour the delightful tastes of their Wormwood and Horseradish house liqueurs. This really set the mood for the evening. Following an introduction we were asked to take our seats in the main hall.
This Russian feast continued with a Sauerkraut soup with smoked duck washed down with a glass of the unique Garlic & Pepper Polugar. This was followed shortly after by another Russian favourite, Herring under a Fur Coat with fragrant Pacific Herring, roasted vegetables and light beetroot mouse accompanied by our first Russian wine of the evening, a light, rather young Sibirkoviy Vedernikov 2014.
The next dish was quite a surprise, Kamchatka Crab cooked in butter with cheese and tomatoes. Initially many were intrigued y the cheese covering the crab and the first bites did confirm that this was maybe too much protein at one time, however, almost as if by magic, the plates were cleaned and nothing left to waste. Maybe this was due to the impeccable taste of the Roussane de Gay – Kodzor 2015.
The next dish was a meat Skoblyanka of beef, pork and duck with white mushrooms and salted pickles. The dish favoured a hearty creamed sauce that was then delicately balanced by the inclusion of a specific berry that broke the creamy flavour and cleansed the palate. However the robust Dostoiny Premium Zaporozhskoe from 2014 was excellently paired proving to admirably complement the intricate flavours of this exceptional Skoblyanka.
Dessert was a generous slice of Bird Cherry pie with orange sauce which proved to be a tart tasting cake and a speciality of the restaurant when the bird cherries are in season. The almost bitter flavour of the cake was beautifully balanced by the superb Muscat White Red Stone. An amazing wine and a superb end to a magnificent Russia banquet worthy of a Tsar.
With our members suitably fortified the spokespeople from each table, eloquently delivered their Critiques. All were unanimous in their praise of Burov and Sova and the amazing efforts of their talented Chef, Vlad Labutin. They all admired his creativity combined with his respect for tradition in preparing an excellent meal.
Excellent ratings for an independent restaurant. All were unanimous for their praise for the waiters who carried our their duties so proficiently and quietly, it was almost as if they were not even there. Hearty congratulations to this excellent team.
As is the custom at the Moscow Good Food Club our members were challenged with the question: ‘Winter is just around the corner. Imagine someone coming to Moscow for the first time to start work, what essentials would you recommend?’ Well inebriated, naturally the range of answers went from practical to sublime to the ridiculous including bringing ample supplies of bacon & sausages, bring plenty of vitamin D, obtain a large box of Polugar, buy a season ticket to a banya, good hat, gloves and good shoes. However it was mostly agreed that a sense of humour would be most essential to face a Moscow winter.
Bidding their fond farewells, the members left these hallowed halls and made their way back to real life!
An invitation to the Moscow Good Food Club in the Café Russe in the Ritz Carlton is hard to refuse and 38 venerable members made their way into these hallowed halls with the expectations of yet another great culinary experience. And they were not disappointed as it was set to be an evening of superlatives.
The Café Russe has become a refuge for many in a city that seems to run on adrenalin! It is elegant, yet comfortable and does not require the ‘airs & graces’ that so many other establishments employ. One would refer to the Café Russe as refined elegance.
As the members entered the waiters served them with a rose champagne. It was interesting to observe how many were pre-occupied greeting old friends but as they raised their glasses for the second or third time, the looks appreciation formed. We were drinking a Balaklava Brut Rose from the Crimea. This raised some eyebrows but this aperitif and the amazingly succulent canapés set the scene for the evening.
As is tradition, all members were asked to seat punctually at 20:00. We were welcomed by Bernie Aird from the Ritz Carlton and then introduced to our Chef, Pavel Belyalov. “Is he not a bit young mentioned one of our esteemed members!”). Then to the amazing personality of Anton our Sommelier for the evening. Pavel explained the menu and then disappeared into his kitchen. Anton explained that for this evening, he has specially selected wines from Crimea.
Our first course was Beetroot Marinated Salmon with green apple horseradish cream and fresh herbs. Many were surprised by the colour of the salmon as it was deep red from the beetroot. The tastes were immaculate and individual and the dish excellently paired with a Sary Pandas from the Zaharin Estate. An extremely well balanced wine and perfect for the salmon.
This was followed by Slow Cooked Chicken Breast, with smoked celeriac puree and chicken Jus. This dish received mixed reviews, the chicken was succulent but a little bland, however the crispy nuggets of well roasted skin flavoured the dish and suited the overall taste. Anton had warned us that this wine would be controversial and how right he was. The Chardonay Reseve Baccal Su, divided the group with some liking and some totally against it’s almost sherry flavour. However it was noted that few glasses remained full and the top up from the Café Russe’s excellent waiters were never refused!
On to the main course of Grilled Venison with pan fried Chanterelle, Herb Brioche, fresh berries and Venison Jus. Admirably paired with a bold and deep Kefessia from the Zaharin Estate, the venison was succulent and full of flavour. The brioche was quite surprising and added well to the combined flavour with the fresh berries providing some final sharpness. An excellently paired course with suggestions of the Winter to come!
Moscow Good Food Club members are canny and new to keep space for dessert. As the last of the dishes were cleared and the Kefessia being bid a fond farewell, the desserts appeared. The colour and decoration had most members grabbing for their phones to take pictures of this beautiful Raspberry Composition with intriguing Pain Perdue and Vanilla Chantilly. Again perfectly balanced providing an excellent flavour to cleanse the palate from this amazing meal. Always one for surprises Anton served a Berry Bitter, Beluga Gold to conclude this gastronomic journey.
Tea and coffee were served as the members discussed and prepared their Critiques. These have become an important part of any Moscow Good Food Club evening and lead to lively discussions on each table.
As each spokesperson took to the floor, it was evident that, even if there were some points for discussion, the general impression was excellent with great praise for the young Chef, Pavel Belyakov. Whilst each course was ‘dissected’ by our juries, you could see Pavel making note of each comment. A Chef rarely has such an opportunity to hear an honest appraisal of his creations.
The wines were also discussed in some depth with varying critiques but always to the pleasure of Anton who really appreciates such feedback. Once again the general impression was that Russian wines are certainly coming of age and will soon take the justified place in world markets. Once correlated, the ratings from our MGFC Members were:-
So congratulations to Pavel, Anton and the entire team at the Café Russia, for another excellent Moscow Good Food Club!
As is customary our members are asked some relevant questions. On this occasion the question was: The centre of Moscow has changed so much over the Summer with so many projects. If you had 3 wishes for the mayor’s Department for more improvements what would these be? As usual the answers varied from practical to outright hilarious and included:- Less Disney Land styles; more parking; food trucks in the centre; better communication with residents prior to re-construction; lifts to be provided in Metro stations: re-launch small shops in or near the metro stations and a 24 hour Metro.
Suitably fulfilled by the excellent meal and with the warm feeling produced by the Berry Bitter Beluga Gold, the stalwart members of the Moscow Good Food Club bate farewell to the Café Russe and made their way out of the grand entrance of the Ritz Carlton to resume normal life in Moscow.
by Kim Waddoup
Great Expectations! Many restaurants are able to create quite a reputation and mostly because of this one wants to try them out. Therefore, one’s expectations are generally higher than they should be, and it is then a challenge for the restaurant to come up with the goods, provide food and service that is worthy of that reputation. Often in reality the expectations are higher than the actual experience.
When we heard that the Moscow Good Food Club had been invited to the Bar BQ Café we were intrigued. Yes we had heard that their steaks, burgers and ribs were good but was this not a bar where younger people are encouraged to drink from oversized glasses through straws?
Long term expat and owner of the Bar BQ Café Chain, Henrik Winter worked with his team to prepare what looked like an amazing menu with many very interesting wine pairings, but would they really be able to come up with the goods? With these thoughts, Moscow Good Food Members descended on the Bar BQ Café on Trubnaya Pl. The place is modern, bright and the interior decorations very comfortable. We were shown to our curtained-off area for our MGFC Dinner. Lovely waitresses with beaming smiles were quick to serve us with a very pleasant Nino Franco Brut, Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superior accompanied by the Chef’s selection of creative and delicious canapés.
Soon we were asked to take our tables and our feast could begin. With each course our hosts Sacha Murachev, the chief Culinary Director explained each course and Georgy Maximov the wines and why they have been selected for us. The meal started with a delicious Spicy Pumpkin Soup that packed so many additional flavours including pumpkin seeds and watercress. This was paired with a very soft and gentle Tenuta Sant’Antonio, ‘Fontana’ Soave.
The next dish of Salmon Tartar with ginger-citrus ponzu was soft and delicate but could maybe had done with a splash more lime to complete the effect. This was paired with a Jerman Pino Bano, Frui-Venezia Giulia IGT which was crisp and flavoursome and perfectly complemented the ponzu dressing.
Could this quality and flavour continue? Yes it could and it did with superbly prepared roast beef served with an onion chutney and back radish admirably paired with a Gaja ‘Promis’ Ca Marcanda, Toscana IGT.
Then came ‘la piece de resistance’ delicious King Crab prepared in warm butter with black salt and stewed white onion. Rumour had it that this is the signature dish in one of Copenhagen’s most famous restaurants and now admirably prepared for us also in Moscow! The robust Muga, Blanco, Fermentado en Barrica, Rioja proved that Rioja does not always have to be red and it’s white variety with bursting flavours was excellent for this comprehensive dish.
This was followed by Brisket served with fresh coleslaw, mustard sauce, leek and pickles. Once again the chef had prepared the Brisket to perfection and the coleslaw was fresh, crispy and full of flavour rather than the dull, mayonnaise soaked varieties that we are generally used to receiving. The Catena Zapata, ‘Catena’ Malbec, Mendoza proved to be an excellent choice, not as heavy and overpowering as many Malbecs but soft and mellow whilst remaining fully flavoured.
By now many of our members were showing the strains of packing away 5 courses and 6 different wines, but as well prepared connoisseurs, they had saved space for the dessert of Raspberry Lavender Mouse with fresh berries, a delightfully light concoction that freshened the palate. The Beringer, Moscato California Collection proved to be a worthy dessert wine, not over sweet but perfectly balanced by the berries and raspberry flavours.
As tea and coffee was served, each table was busy conferring with their spokespeople to prepare their critiques. All were unanimous in their praise of Bar BQ Café and the endeavours of Henrik Winter’s highly talented team headed by Chef Sergey Liminko. All mentioned that they were intrigued with the idea of attending a Moscow Good Food Club in a restaurant generally not so associated with haute cuisine but based on our reputation for Good Food, Good Wine and of course Great Company, non were disappointed, in fact quite the opposite all were delighted with the amazing high quality, the flavours, the attention to detail and the exceedingly well paired wines. Each spokesperson also praised the waitresses who were efficient, so friendly and never without a smile.
This ranks Bar BQ Café on a level similar to many of the great restaurants that we have attended over the years! Hearty congratulations to Henrik Winter and his incredible team. It goes to prove that the adage that ‘you can’t judge a book by it’s cover’ is also appropriate to a restaurant called Bar BQ Café!
The question of the evening was “Christmas is coming and it is time for a wish. To make our lives in Moscow more enjoyable what would your wish be and what are your reasons?” Naturally after several glasses of Prosecco and 6 different wines, some of the replies are best forgotten! Others included:- Magical Walks along the Boulevard, Come back EasyJet, lots of deep snow and of course many Christmas Presents.
After a really super evening it was time to bid farewell to Bar BQ Café and head out into the clear Winter’s evening in Moscow!