Our first and our last dinners in Moscow bookended our Russian adventure in style: Imperial style, then oligarch style.
Our first evening in Moscow, we went to Cafe Pushkin, which came recommended by guidebooks, as well as well-traveled friends and colleagues. Pushkin was a lovely restaurant in an old mansion not too far from our hotel – although with Moscow traffic that meant a 25 minute or so crawl by taxi. At 8:00 pm, it was as bright as mid-afternoon, and the English-speaking staff was equally bright and welcoming.
The casual elegance transported us to a different time in Moscow. It seemed straight out of Anna Karenina or War and Peace, with its multiple levels, leather-bound library and furnishings. I could imagine settling into one of the beautifully-furnished rooms to gossip about the upcoming dances or to share intimacies with the girls … The food seemed authentic Russian, yet contemporary at the same time. The setting had a period feel, but the place wasn’t stuffy or fussy. It was unpretentious and oddly comfortable.
I started the meal with a sea bass crudo, which surprised me with its salmon coloring. G feasted on cavier with millet pancakes. He had originally ordered buckwheat, but our server politely asked if he could recommend millet. Indeed. Good recommendation.
For our main course, Grishka (my Russian name for G) and I shared the roasted sturgeon. I wish I had taken a photo of the dish … the sturgeon was carved off the bone and then replaced on the frame and presented to us “whole” on a lovely silver dish. The meal was delicious and incredibly filling.
For dessert, we shared a dish of excellent cherry dumplings, and we ended the evening with Russian vodkas – a rye vodka and a “regular” vodka. We had no idea what we were ordering, but decided to plunge into Russia full-force.
Result? All good. Most important learning of the evening? Vodka is a good digestif? And this was good information to have for the week ahead.
Thus, dining Imperial style. Next up, oligarch dining at Varvary …