It’s heady. Its memorable and its incomparable. I refer to the amazing spectrum of tastes that I am feasting on. Here in Russia’s most magnificent 143 year old landmark, Im not only devouring Russian cuisine, history and culture but also a taste of India. From taking a Masterclass in the most supreme of all Epicurean luxuries, Caviar to tasting traditional and contemporary Russian dishes to vegetarian Asian delights and (here’s the happy surprise) superb Indian cuisine too.
It’s great to be part of gastronomic history: dining in Russia’s first restaurant which had electricity, feasting on 143 years of history in this stunningly beautiful Grand hotel Europe in St Petersburg with its high stained glass ceilings, balconies where the Tsars sat is a treat. Luxury and class drips from every detail. It is here that Tchaikovsly honeymooned, where Elton John played on the piano Bill Clinton, Whitney Houston and our Prime minister Modi dined. And this is where I attend an amazing caviar master class.
OF CAVIAR CROWNED
It doesn’t get any better than this: attending a caviar masterclass in the home-country of this supreme epicurean pleasure. And that too in Russia’s only caviar restaurant, Caviar Bar & Restaurant, which serves only the best caviar with vodkas you won’t find anywhere else in the world.
Would you believe that the best way of tasting caviar is to put a bit of it on the back of one’s hand and lick it off? The caviar master and sommelier articulate and knowledgable Nikita yurin explains it all… the very basic… only fish eggs produced by the sturgeon fish ( a prehistoric huge fish ) can be called caviar to the types, preservation, history, telling fake from real. etc.
It’s a joy to accompany the dapper, dynamic Sven Gevers, a knowledgable caviar buff, who helms this landmark. This discerning, highly qualified economist and globe trotting gourmet even breakfasts on eggs and caviar. Chipping in with her experiences and helping translate many a Russian term, is the ever helpful Irina Khlopova.
Before us are Mother of pearl spoons (essential to serve the caviar to avoid metal oxidation). The finest caviar to the least expensive salmon one, a line up of vodkas and champagne. Also accompaniments, take your pick (though toast is the most traditional) Russian coin shaped pancakes or blini, Boiled potatoes
Pancakes go well too.. One thing is for sure, points out Nikita, “caviar should not be eaten with onion or lemon” It should be
Stored in the coldest part of your refrigerator, as close to the freezer as possible.
We taste the finest Beluga (made from the Beluga fish of the sturgeon family) caviar, it has the largest grains, is creamy, has a fishy flavour, of seaweed and even walnuts.
Oscietra fish (16 types) Sevruga Sterlet (smallest grains) and Bester are some of the main varieties of caviar. In this short space its impossible to include it all,
All I can say, is that it’s fascinating to learn about these precious black pearls, which Russia s been eating since before the 14th century. It’s methods of production and preservation, which determine the taste and price of caviar. When pasteurized the price and taste gets compromised.
CAVIAR WISHES AND CHAMPAGNE DREAMS
To crown it all is the Tchaikovsky night where I taste Russia’s food, history, art, culture, dance all in one bite of this traditional “egginanegg” dish you see in the photograph. It has egg crowned with caviar which pirouette with salty buttery nutty notes on my palate as the ballerinas twirl to Tchaikovskys compositions. Caviar wishes and champagne dreams do come true. May yours too.
Amid the finest of caviar, the best of Russian and modern Russian dishes, Japanese and Asian dishes our very own Indian dazzle too . Appreciated and enjoyed by Hema Malini to our Prime Minister Modi who stayed here but happily by the Russians too. Seeing the popularity of Indian cuisine the multi-talented Executive Chef Ian Christopher Minnis is in the midst of coordinating a “Mystery of India” festival here. He ensures the finest gourmet dinners in St Petersburg’s most gastronomique L Europe restaurant (serving authentic Russian masterpieces) to the legendary caviar bar to the Asian restaurant Azia. It is here that the young talented chef Indian chef Sachdev Kathait’s Indian menu is in great demand. Authentic delicious dal, kebabs and tandoori, Chef Kathait ‘s unique “pickle prawns” and “cheese chicken” combine the best of both worlds but retain their authentic Indian flavour.
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