Since opening an outpost of his NYC restaurant Saxon + Parole in Moscow in November 2013, chef Brad Farmerie has been making semi-regular trips to the Russian capital to make sure things are running smoothly. His visits have taken him to some of the local markets as well as to the homes of his employees for traditional cook outs. On a recent trip, Saxon + Parole Moscow’s chef de cuisine hosted a meal featuring traditional dishes such as smoked fish (eel, sturgeon, and salmon) with pickled garlic, raw cucumber, spring onions; lamb chops; a Georgian-Armenian stew cooked in a bucket served with accompaniments like adjika, a spicy Georgian sauce, to finish the dish.
Meals like this are traditionally served with beer over the course of three hours of chopping wood to stoke the fire. For those not lucky enough to get an invite to a local cookout, there are plenty of other spots to sample Moscow’s unique dishes and drinks. Here, Farmerie opens his Moscow blackbook and shares his favorite restaurants, super-secret cocktail spots, and food markets.
“This legendary place is a little hard to find but worth the journey. Slava, one of the patriarchs of the Moscow cocktail movement, has created quite a cool underground bar serving great drinks and adventurous food. Make sure you have the pig’s ear lasagna and a cheeky pookie, a layered shot with a fruity start and a nice, spicy black pepper finish.”
“Even harder to find than Delicatessen, this speakeasy is a place where you need to call ahead and make a reservation or they won’t let you in. An unmarked door in a very dark back alley gives way to this subterranean Asian drinks den. The guys behind the bar take their time so be prepared to wait, but the results are tasty and the place is one of the most unique in the city. There’s also really great Chinese food available, cooked by a one-man army on one wonky burner.”
“Uilliams cranks out consistently tasty European cuisine in a beautiful room with beautiful people and a beautiful Molteni stove in the middle of the open kitchen. The interior is small but super cozy, and during the spring and summer months, the doors open up and you can watch the world go by.”
“Yes, it is shameless self promotion, but it’s a place that you can’t pass up on a trip to Moscow—great drinks, great atmosphere, and great food that delivers American cuisine with some Russian inflections. Have a perfectly-chilled Manhattan on draft and then tuck into one of the only menus in Moscow to offer raw oysters. Order locally made burrata served with Russian truffles, and enjoy a dry-aged steak served with bone marrow Béarnaise.”
“This spot is really big and a bit pricey, but it’s still a place that you need to check out. Expect over-the-top, old-school opulence that makes anyone feel like royalty. It’s like a time warp to a much more regal era, and makes every night feel like a celebration. It is open 24 hours, serving traditional Russian dishes at a Michelin-star standard. Get the smoked eel appetizer, and one of the whole sterlet (baby sturgeon) dishes.”
“This is a fairly new place run by Aussie ex-pat Glenn Ballis, featuring well-considered food with great flavors in a very comfortable atmosphere.”
“This massive market situated in a geometric glass dome sells everything—produce, fish, meat, and more. Stacks and stacks of beautiful fresh produce are artfully arranged in swaths of color and texture. The fish section contains local live offerings (sturgeon, carp, trout, and crayfish), along with imports and enough smoked fish to truly appreciate the regard in which this specialty is held in Russia. The fresh meat section is pretty hard core with cuts being separated with an axe, and the cured meat section has curiosities like reindeer, horse, venison, bear, and boar. There’s a small section of pickles and it’s worth tasting a variety to find the good ones. The dairy area is one of my favorites because it is undervalued by locals but appreciated by expat chefs. And as an added bonus, you can shoot some photos in here without attracting glares and stares as you would at some of the other markets in town.”
Photo by Brad Farmerie