From St. Petersburg with Love: dinner at Mari Vanna
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You may initially have assumed that the name, "Mari Vanna," was more of a play on the infamous 7-leaved, smokable green than that of a Russian restaurant. Don't feel bad. Unfortunately, I just could not get past that name.
Having dated a Russian gent a couple of years ago - and being half Russian, myself - I am somewhat familiar with the country's less-than-stellar cuisine...and the added "cheese" factor that, more often than not, comes in the form of shiteous decor and techno music (atleast from what I've seen, first-hand, at many of Brighton Beach's finest). My experience at Mari Vanna, however, transformed my previously questionable opinion of the flavors of my homeland...
When I arrived at MV (Mari Vanna), I was completely taken aback by the shabby chic, casually-ornate, antique-French decor. "This is absolutely gorgeous," I gushed, after being greeted by the friendly hostess.
As the hostess led me towards my table, I couldn't help but notice picture frames reading, "Waiting for so-and-so," adorning many of the tabletops. I chalked it up to "VIP reservations," until I saw one that read, "Waiting for Ceci," which happened to be the name of my dinner date."We do this (picture-framed names) for all of our reservations," the hostess informed me, in her thick Russian accent. How incredibly special!
"This place is awesome!" Ceci squealed as she plopped down in to her chair. Just as we began to flip through the food, wine, and infused vodka menus, we were presented with a small parchment paper-topped butcher board that was anointed with sliced raisin and wheat bread, radish quarters, a green onion sprig, a pinch of sea salt, and a duo of butters: one plain, and the other dilled.
After receiving our beverages - glass of red wine for me, honey-oat house-infused vodka for Ceci - we came to the mutual decision that we would split multiple plates.
Lemon & artichoke salad: Just when I was about to ask, "Ceci, remind me again W H Y we ordered an Italian-influenced salad at a Russian restaurant?..." I took my first bite. Thinly-sliced artichoke, lemon zest, olive oil, freshly-ground black pepper, and shaved parmesan cheese came together brilliantly in this fresh, summery concoction of market greens.This also happened to be one of the appetizer "specials" of the evening.
Mushroom Blinis: A "blini" is Russia's version of the French crepe, or a thin pancake, which can be filled with a plethora of different ingredients. This is a dish that I grew up eating - aside from the fact that my family served sweet, not savory, blinis. So, when I saw that MV's menu offered a variety of blini fillings, I told Ceci that we must sample at least one. We settled on mushroom which, we decided, was the perfect segway between bland (cottage cheese filling) and too authentic (smoked salmon filling).The blini, itself, was dense and thicker than those that I've had in the past. It had a mildly sweet aftertaste. The filling contained sauteed, sliced mushrooms that were not bound together by another agent, which I liked. Paired with the cool sour cream, the trio of components (blini, mushroom filling, sour cream) made for one incredibly delicious and texturally exciting bite.
Hachapuri: This "Georgian-style cheese pie" tasted just as fantastic - if not even more so - than it looked, if you can believe that. Enveloped within a flakey, buttery, paper-thin crust was an overabundance of warm, gooey mozzarella and manouri (similar in consistency to a dry ricotta) cheeses. Ceci and I finished every last crumb.
Pelmeni: The "pelmeni" is Russia's version of tortellini/dumplings. Ceci and I ordered MV's handmade veal pelmeni, which arrived in a soup bowl under the skirt of a traditionally-dressed Russian doll. The dumplings sat in a shallow broth and came topped with a delicate sprig of fresh dill; sour cream was served as an accompaniment. "These remind me of my Italian Grammy's homemade chicken tortellini!" Ceci gushed.
Conclusion: My dinner at MV was one of the most pleasantly surprising and special meals that I've had in recent memory. The food was comforting, homemade, fresh, and prepared with highest of quality ingredients, which is not something I that I've been particularly used to from my prior Russian dining experiences. The service was incredibly warm, welcoming and, most importantly, non-intimidating. But it was the atmosphere at MV that really stole the show: I cannot wait to recommend this restaurant to friends and readers who are looking for a special place to have an intimate brunch, a small wedding/baby shower, or even just a romantic date.
Painting the town red
At a lunch at downtown Russian restaurant Mari Vanna last week, crisply dressed waiters served potato dumplings and cubes of sturgeon to a small party hosted by Princess Kristina Kovalenko, who moved to NYC last year from Moscow. As she dined, the princess sipped her signature cocktail, a $5,000-a-bottle Louis XIII Remy Martin cognac with apple juice.
“Only I know the proportions,” says 32-year-old Kovalenko, pouring a round for the table. Kovalenko, who says she’s a royal from the tiny Russian republic of Kabardino-Balkaria, spent $6,500 on one lunch at Nello in March and thinks nothing of dropping $300 on a cocktail or blowing $8,000 for a night out with friends.
“If they drink whiskey, it’s two to three thousand. If they drink cognac, it’s six to eight,” she says of the bill, shrugging. “I want people to feel as if they are at home.”
Welcome to the New Russian Wave. According to night-life insiders, a surge of rich Muscovites has arrived in New York City, and they’re taking over where the beleaguered investment bankers left off — flashing credit cards at clubs, buying up bling at Bulgari, and draining wine cellars of their best bottles all over town.
From newly minted New Jersey Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov to gorgeous lingerie model Irina Shayk, more Russians than ever are painting the town “red.”
Just like notorious Russian spy suspect Anna Chapman, who famously frequented New York hot spots such as the Thompson Hotel and Greenhouse, this new group is selective about where they live it up. “They go to the three best clubs in the city: Avenue, 1Oak, and SL. They spend $10,000 or $20,000 on magnums and don’t even drink them,” says Eddie Miller, an event planner who came to the US from Ukraine in the early ’90s, when he was 6.
On a steamy night last month, a Russian billionaire threw a party for a half-dozen of his friends in Midtown. He rented the roof deck of strip club Rick’s Cabaret (which sources say was a first for the spot), and the group shelled out at least $20,000 for Davidoff cigars, cases of champagne and the private company of the club’s top dancers. Rick’s Cabaret wouldn’t identify the tycoon, but the dancers described him as “40-something, slim and handsome, with chiseled features.”
“It was awesome,” says a dancer who goes by the nom-de-night “Cynthia.” “There were like five girls for every guy. They were very generous, definitely big tippers.”
Another dancer named “Monica” says she was tipped in the four-figure range for the soiree. “We thought there’d be more guys because they requested so many girls,” Monica says.
Cynthia, for one, is delighted by these visitors from the former USSR. “I guess I am going to have to learn how to speak Russian!” she jokes.
While London used to be the hub for rich Russkies, sources say New York is now becoming more popular as travel restrictions have eased.
“For a long time they couldn’t get visas to come here, so a number of the oligarchs went to London instead,” says night-life impresario Mark Baker, a partner at Juliet
Supperclub, where red-headed Chapman, 28, partied during her two years in NYC. “But we always knew New York was the endgame.”
It helps that NYC is positively cheap when compared with Russia. In Moscow, a table at a high-end nightclub costs at least $15,000 compared with $1,500 in New York, sources say.
And now that Nets owner Prokhorov has decided to make a home here, even more of his wealthy compatriots are expected to come Russian in.
“It’s like if Madonna flies to Moscow tomorrow and sets up a house for six months, a lot of other singers are going to follow her,” explains Tatiana Brunetti, manager of Mari Vanna.
Prokhorov’s presence has, in fact, already energized the Russian night-life scene. Ginza Project group, the company that owns Mari Vanna along with a string of high-end eateries in Moscow and St. Petersburg, plans to open three more New York hot spots in the coming months.
“Our Russian customer is very spoiled,” says Brunetti. “We are bringing those standards here.”
Consultant Marina Izaryeva, who connects wealthy Russians who speak no English with plastic surgeons all around the world, says that her clients will spend between $25,000 and $100,000 for a two-week stay in the city — and they’re extremely demanding.
“I have a very particular business,” explains the self-made Siberian who commutes between Moscow and New York. “They buy luxury apartments. They love comfort. Some of them renting Ferraris, helicopters, all rooftops and penthouses!”
They also have a taste for the city’s designer labels. “Because there are lots of big people and big food [in New York] you can find the [smaller] sizes,” says Izaryeva, adding that size zeros are more plentiful here.
Sexy model Shayk, who’s dating controversial soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo, is a VIP customer at Meatpacking District boutique Christian Louboutin. She’ll “buy two or three pairs at a time,” according to her flack Ryan Brown.
Unlike rich Wall Streeters, who still feel too ashamed to overspend during the recession, wealthy Russians have no such qualms, says Juliet Supperclub’s Baker.
“Russians don’t have a lot of guilt,” Baker says. “When Wall Street went south, my business was picked up by my Russian and Eastern European friends. You’re looking at a generation that was repressed. Now they’re fun. Russians are good for the economy, man.”
But while the Russian wave is embracing a luxe lifestyle in Gotham right now, most of them sniff at alleged spy and fellow New Yorker Anna Chapman, who’s recently put their country on the map again. She is simply no beauty, dah-link.
“There’s nothing wrong with her, but it’s all over the papers ‘this gorgeous redhead.’ I mean, I meet so many gorgeous Russian girls, and she’s just not one of them,” laughs Siberian-born stunner Iva Stelmak, a former model who emigrated to New York in 1994. “But if anyone asks what I do, I’m going to say, ‘I’m a spy.’ It’s very ‘in’ right now.”
Moscow on the Hudson: Best Russian eats in Manhattan
I was your typical rebellious Russian immigrant child growing up in Texas. I didn’t drink, I didn’t smoke and I didn’t get B’s on my report cards. Instead, I committed a much greater sin, at least as far as Russian mothers are concerned: I rejected my home country’s cuisine.
The worst was when I would have friends over to my house. My mom would prepare a big Russian spread complete with Salat Olivier, pickled cabbage, caviar sandwiches and radishes for garnish. How embarrassing!
The Post’s Nora Barak raises a Cosmonaut cocktail as she’s about to dig into a plate of blintzes at the Russian Tea Room. Zandy Mangold The opulent interior of the Russian tea Room. The writer as an infant with (from left) mom Galina, sister Bella and dad Alex, back in the USSR in 1987.
I just wanted to fit in, OK?! So sue me. I would beg my mother nightly to make Pasta Roni for dinner.
Secretly, though, I loved Russian food, and I’d fill up on salty herring leftovers when no one was looking. What’s not to love about it? I’ve always wondered why Italian and Chinese cuisines are mainstream, while most Americans can’t even name one item off the Russian menu. I mean, Russian food is so salty. It’s so fishy. It’s so . . . mayonnaise-y! Oh. Did I just answer my own question?
By my teen years, I came out of the Russian-food closet and began openly enjoying everything my family cooked: pelmeni, caviar and blinchiki, beef stroganoff, borscht — I was in heaven!
But things went bleak when I moved to Manhattan in 2010. Feasts of the motherland were not constantly accessible to me. So, spurred on by the Winter Olympics in Russia, I set out on a mission. Dreading the long shlep to Brighton Beach’s Little Odessa, I was determined to find the food of my family in Manhattan.
The Russian Tea Room (150 W. 57th St. 212-581-7100) was my first stop. Even the grand atmosphere couldn’t distract from the fact that they were in it to please American tourists more than anyone. The only truly Russian thing in the whole place was our waiter Sasha, who, when my friend said, “I’m good,” to signal she’d had enough on her plate, responded sternly, “You not good,” and continued serving her until the plate was perfect by his standards.
Judging by the sweet flavor in the borscht — a traditionally savory beet soup — this isn’t a restaurant that keeps the Russian palate in mind. I could almost sense my grandpa rolling in his grave when Sasha presented us with what was supposed to be pelmeni — a veal dumpling dish served in broth with sour cream — but was actually a truffle tortellini Alfredo dish you’d expect to see at a homey Italian restaurant.
Nora Barak sidles up to Roman Kaplan, owner of Russian Samovar, where the live entertainment and infused vodkas are top notch. Anne Wermiel The food at Onegin — (clockwise from top left) beef stroganoff, “herring in a red coat,” stuffed cabbage, and traditional Ukranian dumplings — will make you believe there is a babushka in the kitchen. Brian Zak The perfect combination of food, people and atmosphere, Flatiron District restaurant Mari Vanna brings a bit of Mother Russia to New York. Brian Zak
I moved on to Russian Samovar (256 W. 52nd St. 212-757-0168), where the crowd was far more interesting than the food, which is actually a good thing. Russian food doesn’t need to be creative to be impressive if the recipe’s right, you’re golden. And you’re free to focus on the thing Russians appreciate most, and what Russian Samovar does best: entertainment. The live music, the plethora of infused vodkas, and the friendly one-eyed owner will make sure you have a night to remember (or forget, depending on how many vodka shots you’re forced to take). But be advised: The 10 p.m. crowd gets down, even on a Tuesday.
When I stepped into Onegin (391 Sixth Ave. 212-924-8001) in the West Village, I was slapped in the face with gaudy. And I couldn’t help but notice how empty it was. I later learned from Sergey, the host, that this is because people only go to Onegin at night to party, seldom during the day. He even proved it by showing me rowdy videos on his smartphone from just the night before.
If you’re able to get past the décor, you’ll find Onegin is not any different from your typical Russian human: abrasive at first, but after some time and hard liquor, charming and warm. Once the food arrived, I knew I’d found my spot — or was that the fig- and gooseberry-infused vodka shot that the waiter insisted I take talking? Either way, from the beef stroganoff to the golubtsy (a staple beef-stuffed cabbage dish), this place tasted like home.
It wasn’t until I spent a late Monday evening at Mari Vanna (41 E. 20th St., 212-777-1955) that I knew I’d hit the sweet spot of Russian restaurants — that perfect melding of atmosphere, food and people. The Flatiron spot is so quintessentially Russian, I felt like just being there made up for all of the Russian language lessons I skipped in grade school. My parents would beg to differ.
Striped wallpaper, tilted lampshades and off-white tablecloths made me think I was sitting in my babushka’s kitchen for a second. I was brought back to reality when I saw a girl standing up, dancing aggressively and singing along to a Russian pop song. Everyone else at her 12-person table was sitting quietly, enjoying dinner.
And the dinner was definitely enjoyable. The most memorable dish was the borscht, served on a wooden plank with small bowls of various fixings, like chopped egg, sour cream, onion and garlic. The only borscht I’ve ever had that was better than this was my mom’s, to be honest*.
I didn’t know this before I got there, but Monday is Mari Vanna’s most popular night. Gradually getting louder and darker, the quaint restaurant slowly transforms into a full-blown nightclub. I really don’t know one person who has the kind of job that allows them to rage on a Monday night like this, but if you do, you know where to go.
Needless to say, I had to end my night early**, but I’ll definitely be coming back — probably on a late Saturday night when I can eat my dinner in peace.
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Those eating downstairs spoke unaccented English, which is par for the course when it comes to clientele these days. Most patrons are business travelers or neighborhood regulars, not Russian diplomats, according to McGovern. “They have a bar on property, and they don’t promote drinking outside of your home or the embassy,” he explains. That said, Vorobjovas recalls when Vladimir Putin’s team of pilots visited in 2004. “It took us a while to crack who they were—until they got a little tipsy,” the Lithuanian says.
Vorobjovas likens his restaurant to Epcot, saying Russian food and vodka make for more of a theme than anything else. But it hasn’t always been that way. Russia House was initially a private club founded by Edward Lozansky, a nuclear physicist who also founded the American University in Moscow. He currently serves as a columnist for the Washington Times. One of his recent articles bore the headline, “Let Trump be Trump—Ronald Reagan was Ronald Reagan.”
Most know Lozansky for his dramatic love story, captured in print and on screen. “For Tatiana: When Love Triumphed over the Kremlin” is a movie about Lozansky’s relationship with the daughter of a high-ranking Soviet Union general. It took six years and a hunger strike for Tatiana Lozansky to rejoin her husband in America with their 11-year-old daughter.
Lozansky told the Post in 1991 that royalties from the book and movie helped him purchase the Russia House building for $700,000 in the ’90s. He opened his club so powerful people could come together to help broker better U.S.-Russia relations.
Lozansky met with McGovern and Vorobjovas in 2002, inviting them to lease Russia House and convert it into a public restaurant. Limited to the first floor only, it opened in March 2003. “We took the next level and the next level and eventually we took over the whole building,” McGovern says. “Finally, we bought the building from Ed.”
“If you look in all of the articles, Ed mentions that he’s still a part of Russia House,” Vorobjovas says. “He has a key—he always comes in and sets off the alarm.” McGovern chimes in, “You can always tell when Ed’s here because he wears distinctive cologne.” “He’s worn the same cologne for 30 years—it must have been one of those cases that was on clearance at T.J. Maxx,” Vorobjovas jokes.
Whether it has to do with Russia House’s origins as a private club or present day politics, it’s undeniable that a certain mystique surrounds the business. The owners welcome it, but only to a degree. “We’ve been told over the years that we’re mafia-owned,” McGovern says. “I can’t tell you how many times we’ve been told that we run prostitutes out of this place … We don’t break any laws, we pay taxes.” McGovern, the head chef, maintains that the only thing secret about Russia House is his recipes.
Russia House has no doubt taken a hit, but operating a restaurant that serves borscht isn’t necessarily as risky as a game of Russian roulette. Business is booming at Mari Vanna on the other side of Dupont Circle at 1141 Connecticut Ave. NW.
The restaurant is appointed to look like a kitschy babushka’s house with its flower patterns, sunken couches, and framed photos. Mari Vanna has two locations in Russia and several in the U.S., and opened in D.C. in December 2012. General manager Tatiana Mis is from Belarus and manager Slava Grig is from Moldova. Both have been there since the beginning.
“Business is really good,” Mis says. “Especially because it’s winter and it’s so cold. People are trying to reheat themselves. That’s why they come here for vodka.” She adds that Mari Vanna raked in at least 20 percent more revenue in December 2017 compared to December 2016. She doesn’t think strained U.S.-Russian relations have stymied business.
“People who come—here they know where they’re coming, “ she says. “They are always really friendly. The only thing I would mention is that there’s a lot of interest. What dishes do you have? What do you sell here? What is Russian cuisine? But nothing aggressive or negative.”
Grig adds, “People coming here can separate politics and cultural life … This news gives American people more interest in discovering Russian culture and Russian food. Even if it’s not the best news.” Mis suggests that Russia House has received the brunt of the backlash because it has the word Russia in its name. “If we would write, ‘Russia Mari Vanna,’ things might be different.”
At the beginning, Mari Vanna’s clientele was predominantly Russian, but now more Americans are coming for dinner and to club when the second floor turns into a DJ-fueled dance party on weekends. The restaurant has loyal American superfans. “We have two regular guests—Bob and Edward—they’re here every day,” Grig says. “From the beginning, they’ve been here every day, and sometimes twice a day.” Another regular named Kevin made a Facebook group for Mari Vanna devotees.
The restaurant offers different specials every night, which also helps build a regular clientele. For example, on Thursdays after 5 p.m., customers can pay $29 for unlimited caviar, blinis, condiments, salads, and a shot of vodka.
While Americans continue to fill seats, Mis maintains that Mari Vanna is “the center of the Russian speaking community in D.C.” Unlike Russia House, Mari Vanna sees a fair share of people from the Russian Embassy, perhaps because Mari Vanna often pours vodka as a sponsor of the embassy’s cultural events. “They are good friends and come in here often,” Mis says. So do Russian hockey players who play for the home team. The Capitals’ Alex Ovechkin and Dmitry Orlov were at Mari Vanna for New Year’s Eve.
Mis is quite confident about the quality of Mari Vanna’s food and infused vodkas. When asked why she thought Russia House’s revenue has taken a small tumble, she chided, “It’s because of us.”
It’s been business as usual at Dacha Beer Garden, too. The Shaw bar at 1600 7th St. NW borrows its name from the Russian word for a summer home. “The name is a feel,” says co-owner Dmitri Chekaldin. “At a dacha you’re supposed to feel relaxed … It’s a refuge in the bustling life of the city.”
While the name is Russian and the bar is owned by a pair of Russian immigrants, you wouldn’t know the bar has a Slavic side. Most of the beers are German and the food menu reads like it was plucked from Oktoberfest save for hints of dill.
Chekaldin grew up in the city of Perm, Russia before moving to Moscow in 1989. He came to the U.S. alone in 1994 to study and swim on the swim team at the George Washington University. His business partner Ilya Alter arrived about two years before Chekaldin, and came with his whole family as a part of a program that enabled Jewish refugees in Russia to migrate to America.
Chekaldin and Alter consider themselves Americans and D.C. their home, but they say watching the news about their home country is surreal. “It’s unnerving at times,” Chekaldin says. “It puts a shadow on your origins and where you come from. People say, ‘Oh Russians, they’re sneaky. They’re not to be trusted.’”
While Chekaldin says they “had a very good season” in Shaw, some anti-Russian sentiment crept into last year’s negotiations over the Dacha Beer Garden planned for 14th and S streets NW. The owners were met with plenty of push-back from dissenting neighbors, who were most concerned with the proposed capacity of 600 people and the noise that would come with it. Some cited that in 2015, the owners paid a fine of $42,500 for capacity-related violations of a settlement agreement.
He says complaints occasionally got personal, especially on blogs similar to Reddit. “There were people saying, ‘You Russians are money launderers,’” Chekaldin says. He tried to laugh it off, noting that the restaurant industry is no money maker. “I didn’t really feel hurt. I think people say all sorts of things especially nowadays when nobody feels responsible for anything.”
Chekaldin has a patriotic message. “If you really look at Russians or any other immigrants that come to this country, we come in, bring our culture, our aesthetic, our knowledge, and the success of America is based precisely on this,” he says. “It’s the advantage of America that it’s not a homogeneous society.”
2. Mari Vanna
Food you must try: Russian Napoleon (cake with three layers of puff pastry, and two alternating layers of pastry cream)
As you enter Mari Vanna, it really feels as if you&rsquove entered someone&rsquos home. The decor is similar to the likes of a family dining room, so it immediately brings out a warm and cosy ambience. Diners have raved about the authenticity of Russian homemade food, friendly waiters and the amicability of the restaurant&rsquos very own cat! If you still have enough room for dessert, you need to try their scrumptious Napoleon cake, which is actually the Russian version of mille-feuille, a French pastry.
Address: Spiridonyevskiy per., 10a, Moscow, Russia, 123104
Website: Mari Vanna
Tradition Hotel, Saint Petersburg (Russia) - Deals & Reviews
A library and tea/coffee making facilities are featured in Tradition Hotel Saint Petersburg located 0.9 miles from Palace Bridge. This venue is set 1 mile from State Hermitage Museum.
The hotel is located in an touristic area of Saint Petersburg, close to Yubileyny Sports Complex. The city center lies within 0.8 miles of the property.
This pleasant venue is a 10-minute stroll from Sportivnaya metro station. Pulkovo airport can be reached in approximately 29 minutes by car.
The accommodation offers guests cozy rooms equipped with complimentary Wi-Fi, armchairs and smoke detectors. Guests can enjoy a splendid view over street from the rooms. The rooms also have a private bathroom with slippers, hairdryers and bathrobes.
Eat & Drink
Guests of Tradition Hotel will enjoy a daily buffet breakfast during their stay. The restaurant entices with dishes of local cuisine. Koryushka and Zhelania can be found about 150 feet away.
The hotel also features free public parking, a coatroom and a safe deposit box.
Wireless internet is available in the entire hotel for free.
Public parking is possible on site (reservation might be needed) at RUB 300 per day.
20 of the Best Restaurants in Moscow, Russia Written by a Local
1.) Mari Vanna ($ | Traditional Russian Food | Casual)
Marivanna’s Benjamin celebrating his 6th birthday at the restaurant!
Mari Vanna is a restaurant that is cozy and relaxed and modeled after an old Russian home. (They even have the cutest cat named Benjamin who will come out to say hello to the guests! He’s pictured above.) The staff is always friendly and helpful too. It’s worth getting a reservation here, as the wait can sometimes be up to an hour for a table.
I recommend getting the Borscht, Beef Stroganoff and their pelmeni (dumplings).
2.) Винотека Grape – ($-$$ | European | Dressy Casual)
I may be a bit biased on this one, as I used to live directly above this restaurant and loved how close to home it was, haha. But they really do have some of the best food in Moscow, and the service and atmosphere here are phenomenal. They also have an incredible wine selection.
From the outside, this restaurant looks tiny and cramped, but all of the dining is downstairs in an upscale wine cellar. In the summer it’s also nice because they set up a little outdoor patio area (pictured above). It’s a really lovely spot for a date night or a special night out. We especially like dining here before going to a show at the Bolshoi, as the restaurant is upscale, and they are generally not overbooked and can accommodate to make sure we leave on time for our show.
I never once had anything here that I didn’t like, but my favorites are the veel cheeks, duck breast and tuna. I also love their pumpkin soup and Thai shrimp soup. Their appetizer of stewed pear in wine with gorgonzola cheese and buckwheat popcorn is out-of-this-world delicious! And save room for dessert – all of their options are amazing!
3.) CHOICE ($ | European, Healthy, Vegan Options | Casual)
And right next door to Grape is this wonderful restaurant – CHOICE! It took months of living above this restaurant before I convinced my husband to try it with me. We always thought it was “expensive” and only served vegan food. That was not the case at all! The food is incredibly affordable – on average a dish is 500 – 900 rubles (about $8 – $15 USD).
They have many healthy and delicious options (and yes they do have vegetarian and vegan dishes, but there is meat available too). It’s a great spot for lunch or dinner and has a very hip yet relaxed vibe. It’s an interesting restaurant! The waitstaff here is some of the best we’ve had in Moscow too. They are really attentive and friendly.
Again, I think we’ve had everything on the menu and loved it. However, our favorites are the salmon sliders, assorted “snack tray,” bruschetta and every single salad on the menu! They also make fantastic lemonades.
4.) Lucky Izakaya Bar ($-$$ | Asian Fusion | Casual – Trendy)
While an Izakaya is a casual Japanese drinking house, that is not what you’ll find at “Lucky Izakaya Bar” in Moscow. This is an upscale dining experience that serves phenomenal fusion food in a wonderful atmosphere. (Not that they don’t have a wonderful wine and drink selection, though!) The window tables provide some great people watching as well…
This is one of my favorite restaurants in Moscow by far. Just be sure to make a reservation if you go on the weekend – as they are usually jampacked!
I especially love their roast avocado, prawn mandu dumplings, Chargrilled beef sirloin with Japanese mustard and green tea mochi.
5.) Zotman Pizza Pie ($-$ | Pizza! | Casual)
This is hands down the best pizza I’ve had while in Moscow. Heck, this is some of the best pizza I’ve had anywhere – period! I especially love coming here in the winter as the atmosphere is so cozy, and you can sit near the wood fire pizza ovens for extra warmth. If you’re visiting in summer or on a weekend, I do advise calling ahead for a table as this place is always busy.
Their best pizza is their “pumpkin, chorizo and truffle honey pizza”. This is a seasonal pizza, though, and is not always available (usually late summer through fall it’s there). If they don’t have it – our other favorite pizzas are their chicken, broccoli and cream cheese pizza and also the lamb kebab with cumin and onion pizza. They also have fantastic homemade lemonades!
6.) Buba by Sumosan ($-$$ | Sushi | Casual)
Out of all the restaurants on this list, I’m pretty sure we’ve eaten at Buba’s the most. They are consistently amazing, and we’ve never had to wait for a table here. They also have the best sushi in Moscow by far, and the waitstaff is always very friendly.
While the sushi is great – I love their king crab with salmon and tuna salsa roll especially – I really recommend trying the wasabi shrimp. It’s an appetizer size, but it is SO good. Be sure to save room for mochi too!
7.) Masters & Margaritas ($-$$ | European | Casual)
We stopped here numerous times for drinks before we finally tried their food – and we were really missing out! The food is just as tasty as the cocktails. I really love coming to Masters & Margaritas for their inventive margaritas, though. The atmosphere here is also one of my favorites in Moscow. It’s very cozy and “hipster”… which I mean that in the best possible way. The decor is unique…and so are the beverages and food!
They also have AMAZING wasabi shrimp as an appetizer, and I enjoy their shrimp risotto. Obviously, try a margarita here, too! I like their mango margarita and blood orange, but their seasonal ones are especially fun – from pumpkin margaritas to hibiscus and more!
8.) Beluga ($$ | Russian | Dressy)
Beluga has arguably some of the best views in Moscow. It’s directly across the road from the Kremlin – so you’ll have a view of that and St. Basil’s Cathedral while you dine! The waitstaff here is beyond amazing too. They are so kind. We didn’t know a darn thing about caviar the first time we came here, and they didn’t make us feel like idiots…but instead educated us about the different kinds of caviar, what to eat it with and made some great recommendations for entrees and drinks as well! It was such a fantastic experience.
*Note: there is a Beluga Caviar Bar inside the GUM mall. That is different than this restaurant! I honestly haven’t tried that place yet and can’t attest to it.
Definitely come here to do a caviar tasting! We also enjoyed the scallop pasta and tenderloin. They also have some of the best Kvass (a fermented beverage) that we’ve had in Moscow.
9.) Turandot ($$ | Contemporary | Dressy)
I’m putting Turandot on this list because it is easily the most extravagant restaurant I’ve ever dined in. The baroque decor inside this restaurant is beyond gorgeous, and it’s quite the experience to dine in such a lavish setting! We reserved coming here only on a couple of special occasions, as it is on the pricey end of the spectrum. But if you only have a set amount of time in Moscow – why not go all out?!
Things to note, though, while this restaurant is impressive… the interior is better than the food. The food is good, don’t get me wrong, but not as good as one would think with this extravagant of a setting. And the service here is some of the worst I’ve experienced in Moscow. The waitstaff is not attentive or friendly or helpful at all… Going into this restaurant though, with the expectation that the waitstaff won’t be amazing, helped us to enjoy it more the last time we were there.
I recommend doing their special “set menu” options. These are dishes predetermined by the chef, and I do feel you get the best “bang for your buck” doing this option. We did the “modern” set last time with a wine pairing and really enjoyed it.
10.) Severyane ($-$$ | European | Casual)
I love Severyane in the summer because they’ll open the large window in the front of the restaurant and allow some seating outside. It’s a great atmosphere that is a little loud yet cozy. (And there is some great people-watching here!) The food is great, but what really sets this restaurant apart is its ambiance.
Anything off the grill is fantastic. Be aware that the portion sizes will be smaller and many times this restaurant is “cash only.”
11.) LavkaLavka ($-$$ | Contemporary Russian, Farm-to-Table | Casual)
LavkaLavka is great in the summer as well – as they have plenty of comfortable outdoor seating. They serve their food with the freshest of ingredients, and the staff here are all phenomenal! This was actually one of the first restaurants my husband and I ever dined at while in Moscow. Our realtor had recommended it to us and it set the bar VERY high for future restaurant endeavors.
I like the halibut here, but it’s one of the only restaurants that I’ve ever seen serve things like “deer heart with mashed celery, rosemary
crumble & cowberry sorbet.” My husband loves venison and trying weird food, so he had to try the deer heart. He said it was one of the most interesting dishes he’s ever tasted. (Not sure if he feels the need to get it again – but he’s glad he tried it!)
12.) Simple Things ($ | European, Wine Bar | Casual)
Simple Things is just as the name describes – it’s a nice, simple restaurant with a simple and fresh menu. I come here specifically for their rabbit. The portions are smaller, so you may also want an appetizer or dessert to fill you up!
Note: this restaurant is the nicest to dine at in the summer with its outdoor seating. The indoor setup is a little odd, and if you are not seated in the room with the bar the atmosphere is pretty awful.
Again, I really like their rabbit and their selection of wine is fantastic and reasonably priced.
Carl Ruiz had a series on YouTube
If you've ever wondered what a professional chef would think of your favorite fast food, fast casual, and sit-down dining chains, Carl Ruiz hosted a YouTube show where he would tell you. OMG Carl's Food Show gave viewers exactly what they wanted, a trained chef's take on places like Applebee's, Cracker Barrel, McDonald's, Subway, and Five Guys. He was honest, too, and no, he didn't hate everything.
Skip the cheeseburger egg rolls at Applebee's, for example, but their artichoke dip was a win. So were their quesadillas, which he considered among the best chain quesadillas he'd had.
How about Cracker Barrel? He found the decor weird, admitted they were off to a "rough start" with his first bite of country ham, but went on to say that it was real ham, and he hadn't been expecting that for the price. He lauded their eggs and their orange juice, and if you're starting to see a pattern here, you're right. Even dishes he wasn't super fond of he still tried to find something good to say about them, and that says a lot.
He was less thrilled with Subway, using the word "spongey" quite a bit.
What do I serve with Stroganoff?
I know it sounded like I just mentioned the last thing but I have more.
Dill pickles and mounds of mashed potatoes make beef stroganoff the best dinner EVA! If you are wondering why pickles are necessary, I am happy to oblige. Their acidity breaks up the richness of this dish and provides a great balance!
You might be surprised but potatoes are the most traditional pairing for Beef Stroganoff in Russia. We serve mashed potatoes at home and indulge in fried shoestring potatoes in restaurants. Try them, you won&rsquot be able to go back to egg noodles.
You can, of course, serve beef stroganoff over egg noodles like I did with my vegetarian version here. This creamy dish also goes extremely well over plain rice. Let the sauce provide all the flavour!
More Russian Beef Recipes:
This recipe was originally published in 10/2014. Updated with new text and a video in 09/2020.