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Is Moscow the world's next fine-dining destination? A look inside the city's first Michelin guide

Thanks to a new Michelin guide to the city, epicurean eyes are on the Russian capital’s thrilling restaurant scene.

Published 9 Nov 2021, 06:00 GMT, Updated 10 Nov 2021, 12:52 GMT
Beluga, Moscow, which was awarded a Michelin star for its outstanding Russian cuisine.

Beluga, Moscow, which was awarded a Michelin star for its outstanding Russian cuisine. 

Photograph by e-kulibaba.ru

In the galaxy of Europe’s gastronomic capitals, Moscow has long orbited somewhere near the edge, the capital of a country long associated with the likes of stroganoff, caviar and wincingly strong vodka. That’s all set to change with the publication of the very first Michelin guide to the city, released this autumn, which shines an overdue spotlight on the Russian capital’s world-class culinary offerings.

A glittering 69 restaurants have made the cut in a list that reflects the brilliant, bold progress in Russian cuisine over the past three decades. It’s been a long time coming, according to Michelin’s international director Gwendal Poullennec, who says Russia’s geographical position provides a unique culinary canvas for chefs across the city. “Inspectors have been particularly seduced by the high-quality local produce”, she said. “Russia is a wonderfully wide-ranging expression of nature: from sea coasts to wild forests, from aromatic herbs to first-class seafood.”

That natural bounty is front and centre at two-Michelin-star Artest – Chef’s Table, where Arkady Novikov and Artem Estafiev push the culinary envelope, going big on fermentation and wide-ranging flavours and textures. Book ahead at their slick restaurant in the Arbat district for plates including trout tartare; smoked catfish with pickled courgette flower; and oyster mushrooms with guinea fowl yolk. Twins Garden, run by brothers Ivan and Sergey Berezutsky and based on the concept of a ‘symbiosis of science and nature’, has also been awarded two stars. The duo have their own farm, from where most of the ingredients are sourced, and their ‘Rediscover Russia’ tasting menu explores the best produce from across their vast homeland. Ekaterina Alekhina, meanwhile, offers a menu similarly steeped in provenance at one-Michelin-star Biologie. As the name may suggest, produce is organic and there’s a zero-waste policy, too — right down to the glass, which is melted down to make sculptures. 

If you like your dinner with a view, head to Sakhalin, a 22nd-floor restaurant that champions the fresh seafood of the island for which it’s named — and has a panorama as exquisite as the food. Alternatively, Moscow institution White Rabbit, which sits in a glassy space atop the Smolensky Passage shopping centre, has just earned its first star. Tuck into Vladimir Mukhin’s dishes, such as meringue, foie gras and madeira, and jellied red king crab — all subtle riffs on Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. 

The 35th gastronomic destination to have been selected by the Michelin Guide, Moscow has also scored a hat-trick in the form of Michelin green stars, awarded to restaurants deemed pioneering in their sustainable approach. As well as Biologie and Twins Garden, New Nordic restaurant Björn has been commended for its sustainability ethos, particularly its ambitious aim of zero-waste production. Diners keen to learn more can set off on ‘Wild Dinners’ — sylvan suppers hosted in unspoiled locations outside the city, such as wild strawberry meadows or pine forests.  

And it’s not just the land inspiring Muscovite masterchefs. Michelin also highlighted Russia’s unique cultural and historical position as an enduring source of inspiration for a new generation of chefs. “Thanks to cultural exchanges throughout history between Russia and Europe, Central Asia and the Middle East, gourmets will experience unforgettable meals full of flavour”, said Poullennac. Cases in point are one-star Grand Cru, courtesy of Alsatian chef David Hemmerle, and Eva, which picked up a Bib Gourmand for its stand-out Greek food.

Traditionalists needn’t worry, as the old emblems of the nation’s cuisine haven’t been entirely ignored in this new wave of gastronomy: vodka and two dozens varieties of caviar are order of the day at Beluga, at the National Hotel near Red Square, which bagged a star for outstanding Russian cuisine served beneath gleaming chandeliers.     

To see the full Michelin Guide to Moscow, visit guide.michelin.com.

This duck dish is one of the many groundbreaking dishes served at two Michelin-starred Twins Garden.

Photograph by Roman Susov

Pick of the plates

The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list was revealed last month; here are some highlights to whet your appetite:

#1 Noma, Copenhagen
René Redzepi’s trailblazing New Nordic restaurant can add another gold to its ever-growing array of awards.  

#4 Central, Lima
The highest Latin American entry on the list, Virgilio Martínez and Pia León’s restaurant is a paean to Peruvian cuisine.

#14 Mugaritz, San Sebastián
Spain’s six entries on the list don’t get more brilliant than Andoni Luis Aduriz’s all-sensory epicurean odyssey. 

#25 White Rabbit, Moscow
Dishes including pâté with torched marshmallow made this Moscow restaurant the highest Russian entry.
  
#32 The Clove Club, London
The highest-ranked UK restaurant dazzles with Modern European plates in the former Shoreditch Town Hall.

Published in the December 2021 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)

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