Saturday, September 29, 2012

O2 Lounge (Moscow, RUSSIA) ★★★☆☆

Our last night in Moscow.....

After a very late dinner at Ritz Carlton Moscow, we went up to check out their roof-top bar, O2 Lounge. 

O2 Lounge serves a good range of cocktails and finger food (like sushi) and has a nice outdoor terrace overlooking the Red Square and Kremlin.

There was a laser show on this night so at 11pm, people were just starting to leave the Red Square. We decided to check out this historic place one last time after enjoying a drink at O2 Lounge.

The St. Basil's Cathedral, one of the iconic architectures in Russia, if you think about Moscow. This has been a very memorable trip. I got to meet some new friends here and also know a few folk songs along the way. I will sure miss this place.

Price: €€€
Address: Tverskaya Street 3, Ritz-Carlton Moscow, Moscow 125009, Russia
Closest Metro Station: Teatralnaya
Tel: +7 495 225-8888

Caviarterra (Moscow, RUSSIA) ★★★☆☆

One thing I have learned about Moscow during our 8-day stay here - the traffic is as unpredictable as the weather. After catching the Great Moscow Circus, we got caught up in the traffic on our way back to the hotel. By the time we got to Caviarterra, it was already 10pm.

Situated on the ground floor of the Ritz Carlton Moscow, Caviarterra is a restaurant that specializes in caviar as well as modern European dishes.

Our set dinner started with a celery salad with mint dressing. The mint dressing was very strong and it felt like toothpaste. Didn't like this one at all.

The cream of porcini mushroom soup was much better.

Fillet of salmon with eggplant and tomato was next and it was a good one. Arguably the best dish of the night.

Dessert was a simple vanilla ice-cream with strawberry sorbet on the side.

Food Rating: 5/10
Price: €€€
Address: Tverskaya Street 3, G/F Ritz-Carlton Moscow, Moscow 125009, Russia
Closest Metro Station: Teatralnaya
Tel: +7 495 225-8888

Friday, September 28, 2012

Varvary (Moscow, RUSSIA) ★★★☆☆

Anatoly Komm has long been worshipped as Russia's own Heston Blumenthal for its creativity and flair in re-defining the Russian culinary landscape. His electrifying interpretation of traditional Russian cuisine with dazzling avant-garde techniques made his restaurant, Varvary, one of the best known secrets in Moscow for foodies around the world. Finally we had the chance to meet him in person.

Our taxi driver got us as far as the "Chicago Prime Steakhouse" but had trouble locating the exact location of the restaurant (it was actually right behind the Steakhouse). But luckily with the help from a few pedestrians, the mission was finally accomplished.

Varvary is located in a rather unusual venue for a fine dining restaurant. The low-rise building with minimal decoration has commercial written all over it. The formal dining room is situated on the 5th floor of the building if my memory serves me correctly while a more relaxed brasserie is located right upstairs.

As expected, the dining room is a classical design with modern touch. That is so fitting, provided that the cuisine being served here also matches that theme perfectly.

We began with a medley of small nibbles as amuse bouche. There was a salad with pickled herring that was dressed like a sushi. They chose to serve it with a red beetroot sauce rather than the usual wasabi soy sauce. That was very clever and unique. The rest included a small rye bread and minced beetroot topped with a capsule of organic sunflower oil, a Jerusalem artichoke soup with cheese ice-cream and lastly, a yellowish roll made of sea buckthorn berry with cottage cheese.

The herring sushi was the highlight of the amuse bouche. The remainder did not impress enough to register any high marks (5/10).

Borscht with foie gras and pampushki, 6/10
The gastronomic show started with the house's specialty, the Borsch soup with caramelized foie gras and Russian salad. Our server slowly poured the warm borscht soup onto the bowl where the frozen sour cream sphere melted instantly by the heat.

It was a nice cross-over between French and Russian recipes but the taste was not as compelling as its appearance would suggest.

Soup with langoustines, squid essence and crawfish, 6/10
My starter was a couple of langoustines, one raw and one cooked, served in a squid consomme along with a buttery roe mousse. The strong squid essence was a good complement to the langoustines although the texture was a bit questionable.

Dumplings with Kamchatka crab and sour cream snow with herbs, 7/10
These were ravioli-style dumplings stuffed with kamchatka king crab meat and topped with salmon roes. The addition of sour-cream snow and herbs provided a nice balance to go with the sweetness of the soup and crab meat. 

Quail and eggplant with strawberries, 4/10
Another main course was the quail and eggplant. Our server poured in a honey garlic type of sauce and after the smoke has cleared, I was left speechless from the presentation (of this dish). It looked as if there had been an explosion.

The dish was a mix of quail breast which were grilled and quail legs which were slow-cooked and roasted. Trust me, they tasted a little better than they looked.

Underneath that flashy performance was a haute cuisine by Anatoly Komm that was unique, refreshing and exciting. The herring sushi was ingenious and the Borscht with foie gras was unparallelled with a special Russian-French connection. However, while the originality was there, there was still room for improvement

Russian haute cuisine with French cooking techniques at this caliber certainly came with a premium but at least, the bill came in a very nice box.

Food Rating: 6/10
Price: €€€€€
Address: 107031, 8A, Strastnoy Boulevard, Moscow, Russia
Closest Metro Station: Chekhovskaya
Tel: +7 495 229-2800
S. Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants: 60th (2012)

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Podvoryé (Saint Petersburg, RUSSIA) ★★★☆☆

Located 30 km south of Saint Petersburg near Pushkin (Tsar Village), Restaurant Podvoryé first opened doors to customers back in 1993. The restaurant is beautifully set in a traditional Russian-style loghouse with an interior filled with wooden panels and conventional decor.

Nowadays, not only is Restaurant Podvoryé one of Mr. Putin's favorite restaurants in Saint Petersburg, it's a huge hit for locals and tourists too.

The traditional wooden decor resembling a typical Russian terem (wooden palace) was amazing. I also loved the bear skins hung on different sides of the wall. 

The atmosphere is very relaxed and inviting here. Once our servers started passing around our food, the folk music show began.

I had a quick lesson on how to use this Russian treshyotka (translate as rattle) which is capable of producing a variety of peculiar sounds. Too bad they still think I am not good enough to join their band.

I had the Ukrainian Borsch (or beetroot soup) and it was a sweet start to our relaxed lunch (5/10). There's a green Borsch with sorrel in the menu that sounds quite interesting too.

Tomatoes stuffed with cheese, greens, garlic and mayonnaise. Too cheesy for me (3/10).

Home-made chicken roll was tender but nothing to write home about (4/10).

Cabbage roll with minced chicken was nicely prepared. A slightly flavorful sauce would have been the perfect finishing touch (5.5/10).

Podvorskie traditional pancakes with cranberries, honey and ice-cream. Simple but delicate (5/10).

Restaurant Podvoryé is more than just a restaurant for tourists. It's an authentic Russian food experience that should not be missed.

Food Rating: 5/10
Price: €€€
Address: 16 Filtrovskoe Shosse, St. Petersburg, Russia
Closest Metro Station: -
Tel: +7 812-466-8544

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Kupetz Eliseevs (Saint Petersburg, RUSSIA) ★★★★☆

The best part about staying at Grand Hotel Europe Saint Petersburg was that it's just around the corner of the busy Nevsky Prospect. It made our late-night stroll around the city that much easier.

On this night, we finished dinner very early and decided to take a slow walk along Nevsky Prospect. We could not help to notice this art nouveau architecture known as "The Eliseyev Emporium". The sculptured walls, stained glass and giant arch have all contributed in making it one of the most unique landmark in the city. No wonder it has been reported that the building is attracting over 180,000 visitors on a monthly basis. 

The Kupetz Eliseevs Food Hall is located on the ground floor of the Eliseyev Emporium. Apart from a little cafe in the middle, there are different counters selling up-scale delicacies ranging from modern French patisserie, cheese, caviar to fine wines, tea and coffee.

We could not resist the temptation of these modern French patisserie and decided to take two of them back to our hotel room. Rosier (about €3.5 a piece) was easily the better of the two. It was a lychee dome with lychee mousse and real lychee chunks inside. This was an amazing dessert that had a striking similarity to something we had at Tony Wong Patisserie back in Hong Kong. Even the piece of rose petal on top looked identical.

The sculptured walls of the Eliseyev Emporium

All kinds of modern French patisserie on display.

How could they not have expensive beluga caviar?
Small cafe in the middle.

Rosier (right) was a lychee dome with delicate lychee flavoured mousse on the inside. That was an excellent choice! Jasime (left), with jasime tea and lemon flavours was average at best.
The construction of the building started in 1902 and finished one year later.

Food Rating: 6/10
Price: €€€
Address: Nevsky Prospect 56, St Petersburg, Russia

The Nikolaevsky Palace (Saint Petersburg, RUSSIA) ★☆☆☆☆

This is our second night in Saint Petersburg and after a long and eventful day, we're heading towards the Nikolaevsky Palace (Grand Duke Nicholas' Palace) for dinner. This beautiful architecture, built back in 1800's, is now a concert and exhibition hall.

It is truly an amazing piece of history that is enormous in size. In fact, after leaving the dining hall for the washrooms, I couldn't find my way back! That's how big it is!!!

I'm definitely keeping this dinner menu for my memory......

This is the main reason we came here for - their famous folk show.

Dinner was included in the package and we started things off with a simple potato salad and a couple pieces of smoked chicken.  

A traditional borscht, this one without beetroot.

It's just a touristy thing to have crepes with caviar on the menu.

For my main dish, I had this rubbery pork fillet on a bed of mashed potatoes. I probably need more than a knife to cut through these babies.

This is the typical of food you expect from a cafeteria but then again we're not here for the food!

Food Rating: 2.5/10
Price: €€€
Address: пл. Труда, 4, St Petersburg, Russia, 190098
Tel: +7 812 571-9304

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Caviar Bar and Restaurant (Saint Petersburg, RUSSIA) ★★★☆☆

We were awakened by a late-night snack attack in the middle of the night. Instead of opening our luggage for some boring biscuits, we suddenly thought of the Caviar Bar and Restaurant located on the second floor of our hotel.

Quickly slipping into our street clothes, we rushed down to the restaurant and to our joy, the Caviar Bar was still open.

The décor of the restaurant was a bit old-fashioned and there was live music performing in front of a slim crowd of diners. We wasted no time going through the menu and decided to try 5 grams of expensive Russian Beluga. That was not bad at all! Another dish we ordered was the Hunter salad with quail leg and breast and we thought that was just average.  

Apart from the Caviar Bar and Restaurant, the Grand Hotel Europe Saint Petersburg also has one of the most charming dining halls (L'Europe) in the world. 

Food Rating: 4/10
Price: €€€€
Address: Nevsky Prospekt Mikhailovskaya Ulitsa 1/7, St. Petersburg, Russia
Closest Metro Station: Nevskiy Prospekt

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Flotilla Radisson Royal (Moscow, RUSSIA) ★★★☆☆

River cruise is something that anyone must experience when visiting Moscow for the first time but I have a simple piece of advice - don't do it on your first night there when you are still feeling the effects from your jetlag!

We picked the Flotilla Radisson Royal on our first night in Moscow. Our cruise ship was parked right outside the Radisson Blu Hotel awaiting for us to board.

This was a very well-designed cruise ship. The ceiling-to-floor windows provided a clear view of the iconic architectures along the river.

Potato and vegetable soup, if I am not mistaken, started things off for us on our first dinner in Moscow.

Starter was a pretty decent Caesar salad.

For main course, I had their codfish on a bed of mashed potatoes. That was the best dish of the night.

But this was really what we came for, the gorgeous view along the Moskva River! 

This was a very memorable experience for us. But the 3-hour journey was a little bit too long for us especially considering that we barely slept since arriving here from Hong Kong early this morning.

Food Rating: 4/10
Price: €€€€
Tel: +7 (916) 228-44-55