Food

Vegetarian Russia

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Russia surprises. And how. Firstly, it is glamorous and rocking and young. And the young modern Russian cuisine is equally vibrant. Even the so called Russian food has distinct French influences (during the Tsarist regimes). Here comes the biggest surprise…there are plenty of options for vegetarians. I research these threadbare in Moscow, St Petersburg and Sochi (Caucasian Riveria). Would you believe there is a sattvik, no-onion, no-garlic restaurant in St Petersburg? Its ten years old and run by a Russian woman.

And yet another surprise…due to the prevalence of Russian orthodox Christianity, Russians do not eat meat for six months a year. And remain mainly vegetarian.

But most of all,  it’s Russia’s dashing, brilliant young chef Vladimir Mukhin who symbolises the sign of the times. The dynamo multi-talented 5th generation chef creates delicious original masterpieces he makes magic. White Rabbit, his aptly named restaurant is the first restaurant in Russia to make it to the World 50best restaurant list for 3 years. I absolutely love the way his dishes look like food from the future, but have traditional tastes of the past and are made of only local products. I love his young, provocative, experimental contemporary Russian cuisine. And yes he not only has a vegetarian menu but also a vegan option!

Review: Canto Café and Bar

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Canto is not about gourmet food, it is a level headed response to our appetites for comforting, affordable food. And we welcome that!

Read my detailed review on: https://whatshot.in/mumbai

 

Caviar Capers

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Its an amazing opportunity. I’m not only in the home-country of  this supreme epicurean pleasure, but also in Russia’s only caviar restaurant where Russia’s only full-time vodka sommelier and most knowledgeable caviar master Alexander Dmitriev offers caviar master-classes.

I learn it all.. the very basics.. 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.

I 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. I do a vodka and champagne pairing. I sip and taste Russia’s history in its 142 year old grandest historic landmark…Belmond Grand Hotel Europe.

Review: Toast and Tonic

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This is it. The go-to, drop-in new casual restaurant for enlightened (and not so enlightened) foodies on all budgets.

Read my detailed review on: https://whatshot.in/mumbai

Russia’s Veggie Wow And P.M. Modi

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I serve you a taste of Russia’s magnificent history and cuisine and with it a peek into our Prime Minister Modi’s most recent abode in the stunning St Petersburg. It’s awesome. It is Russia’s largest most beautiful Presidential suite and this is where our very own Prime Minister Modi stayed last month. It sprawls under a dramatic domed gold-leaf ceiling, has its own grand lobby and antique Carl Schroeder grand piano too. Two bedrooms, a private fitness centre, kitchen and this antique rosewood dining table under the magnificent handblown crystal chandeliers where we shot the photograph. In the past 142 years of it’s history, it has played host to global superstars, Hollywood movie moghuls, presidents and royalty. Bill Clinton, Whitney Houston, George Bernard Shaw and many more. The great Russian composer Tchaikovsky (my all time favourite) honeymooned here in the Belmond Grand Hotel Europe. This most iconic landmark has been witness to the history of the stunning St Petersburg.  Its Neo-Baroque and Art Nouveau building is now classified as a historical monument.

RUSSIAN VEGGIE WOWS
It is here in this icon that I get a taste of  Russian history, art, culture and food. Here is the surprise…also vegetarian food. Which of course would please our very vegetarian Prime Minister to no end. The multi-talented Chef Ian Christopher Minnis ensures the finest gourmet dinners here. He also oversees the amazing plethora of restaurants here. From St Petersburg’s most gastronomique L Europe restaurant (serving authentic Russian masterpieces) to the legendary caviar bar to the new Asian restaurant Azia which also serves some Indian dishes and has an Indian chef Dev Kathait. I do a tasting of their Asian vegetarian (including delicious dal, kababs and tandoori) in Azia. And request them for a second taste of the most amazing creation of pumpkin dimsum and he is kind enough to share the recipe of  the very traditional Russian Borscht soup (pure vegetarian). Chef de Cuisine Larisa Kordik conjures superb dishes (tandoor, steam and wok cooking techniques) and Ekaterina Vasiljeva not only helps translate but also coordinates everything seamlessly.

BORSCH SOUP

INGREDIENTS

Beetroot 160 gms/ Cabbage 120 gms/ Onion 20 gms/ Carrot 30 gms/ Vegetable Oil 50 gms/ Vegetable Broth 800 gms/ Tomato Paste 15 gms/ White Wine vinegar 5 gr/ Sugar 25 gr/ Black Pepper  0.5 gr/ Bayleaf  0.5 gr/ Lemon 5 gr/ Garlic 10 gr

Method

  • Clean & cut carrots, onions ( julienne ) and sauté in vegetable oil.
  • Add cabbage as well, ( the cabbage should be cut into julienne the same way as the carrots and onions. Gently sautewithout color to the vegetables.
  • Add tomato paste to the mixture, and gently saute a little further until it is not bitter.
  • Blanch the beet root in the skin until it is fully tender
  • Peel the  beet skin and shred  through a food processor, or Slice in thin long strips, (Keep beet juice  and add to soup just before serving.
  • Add vinegar,vegetable broth, stir and stew.  Add the bayleaf& shredded beet root. mix
  • In 5-10 min till ready, add salt, sugar and spices.( lemon and garlic)
  • Do Not boil hard as the color will disappear.

CAVIAR MASTER-CLASS

What better place to learn about and do a caviar tasting than in the home-country of this supreme epicurean pleasure? And even better in Russia’s only caviar restaurant, Caviar Bar & Restaurant, which serves only the best caviar with ice cold vodkas you won’t find anywhere else in the world. And I am fortunate to do so under the tutelage of Russia’s only full-time vodka sommelier and most knowledgeable caviar master Alexander Dmitriev.

Their menu boasts 15 types of caviar, 12 Dom Perignon vintages, 35 types of vodka and 15 varieties of distillate.

What is caviar? Interestingly, like only sparkling wine made in France’s district of Champagne can be called champagne, only fish eggs produced by the sturgeon fish can be called caviar. Russia’s been eating caviar since before the 14th century. The real black caviar comes from the sturgeons ystick. And this large fish (the biggest is Beluga) lives in the Caspian sea, Siberia and Sakhalin .
Caviar differs in colour texture and size depending on fish AND how it is produced. I learnt all about the production methods of production and preservation(which determine the taste and price of caviar)
Am dazzled by the types of caviar black caviar…sturgeon/ albino caviar from an albino sturgeon. Sturgeon fish family…Beluga fish is the biggest (oldest prehistoric fish) and has the biggest grains. Oscietra fish (16 types) Sevruga Sterlet (smallest grains) and Bester are the main varieties.
I taste the finest caviar, it is creamy, has a fishy flavour, of seaweed and even walnuts. It is intense creamy and not too salty. Is non pasteurised and made by the traditional method. I do a vodka and champagne pairing with it too and end up sipping and tasting Russia’s history in its grandest historic landmark…Belmond Grand hotel Europe.

A Taste Of The Grandest

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I’m tasting Russia’s history, art, culture, dance all in one bite of this classic “egginanegg” dish you see in the photograph. Its in the 142 year old high ceilinged, stained glass ceilinged beautiful restaurant “L Europe” the haunt of global superstars, presidents and royalty. Bill Clinton, Whitney Houston, George Bernard Shaw and many more have dined here. The great Russian composer Tchaikovsky (my all time favourite) honeymooned here and today is Tchaikovsky night here in the Belmond Grand Hotel Europe, the most iconic landmark, witness to the history of the stunning St Petersburg. So the ballerinas dance in the restaurant. The multi-talented Chef Ian Christopher Minnis who has created this egginanegg (egg, caviar in the bejewelled Faberge egg) ensures the finest gourmet dinners here. He also oversees the amazing plethora of  restaurants here. From the legendary caviar bar to the new Asian restaurant which also serves some Indian dishes and has an Indian chef. Our very own Prime Minister Modi stayed here last month. In fact, since Im staying here they’re flying the Indian flag outside the hotel too. Jai Hind!

Review: Su Casa

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In Su Casa the cheery, high ceilinged ambiance, the service (thanks Akram) and drinks delight. So even though it has a clichéd crowd pleasing menu with many a dish which lack panache and consistency Su Casa ends up offering a pleasant experience.

Read my detailed review on: https://whatshot.in/mumbai

From Russia With Love

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I write from magical Moscow. The spirit of Russia is distilling itself in the photograph I shot. I’m not referring to just to the vodka and the epitome of epicurean pleasure, caviar (which the chef is holding), but also to the spectacularly beautiful Red square (flanked by the Kremlin and the cathedrals) which is visible. I shot it from the glamorous rooftop lounge of Moscow’s most luxurious landmark done up in the classical gilded luxurious glamor of nineteenth century Russia. The magnificent Red square has been witness to  centuries of  Russian history and culture and art. It continues to throb with the vibrance of modern Moscow. And here in this uber hotspot rooftop lounge, the knowledgable and brilliant French executive chef Yoann Barnard explains the centuries of connection between French and Russian cuisines. Did you know that during the reign of the Russian Tsars, the nobility spoke mainly  French? French food was the norm and many French chefs worked in the Tsars kitchens and those of the nobility too. This French-Russian style continues to be popular even today. I taste this fare in “Café Pushkin”in “Matryshcka” in the innovative and highly awarded “White Rabbit” and the many spectacular restaurants of the Ritz Carlton too. Here I do caviar tasting and learn to distinguish the fine from the rest. I continue to explore vegetarian food in Russia…but that is a very long story.

Review: Oriental Spice

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If it’s the wedding of Chinese cuisine to Indian flavours (moderately priced too) that you’re looking for then “Oriental Spice” is where you should head to. That’s of course if you’re in the vicinity of Thane.

Read my detailed review on: https://whatshot.in/mumbai