15 Best Restaurants in Russia and Its Neighbors
December 5, 2012
15. Sato (Riga, Latvia)
At Sato, Oriental rugs, delicate pottery, and plush chairs distributed among three dining rooms create a cozy and inviting space in which to enjoy Sato’s Uzbeki cuisine. The extensive menu includes cold appetizers like the Georgian dish adzhapsandali, a ratatouille-like medley of vegetables (eggplant, tomatoes, peppers, and onions) with veal tongue, and hot appetizers like manti, dumplings stuffed with a variety of savory fillings and served with tomatoes and sour cream. Mains include chayhansky pilaf with spit-roasted lamb, and a variety ofshashlik, tender spit-roasted meat cooked over coals and served on skewers accompanied by pita.
14. OKO (Kaberneeme, Estonia)
Located 30 minutes from Tallinn, OKO looks like a seaside home, complete with a handful of guestrooms where diners can spend the night. The bright and airy dining room, decorated with a palette of creamy earth tones, offers a breathtaking view of the Baltic Sea and a nearby marina, where fisherman can be seen hauling in fish to be served at the restaurant. The small menu includes starters like smoked duck with fennel ravioli, pumpkin salad, and pumpkin seed praline and mains like beef cheek with wine sauce and juniper vegetables — and plenty of simply cooked, freshly caught fish, of course.
13. Neh (Tallinn, Estonia)
Chef Peeter Pihel’s Tallinn restaurant Neh was meant to be open only in the summer, but Pihel, who also runs Alexander on Muhu Island (ranked 10 on The Daily Meal’s 15 Best Restaurants in Russia and Its Neighbors), now keeps it open year-round. As at Alexander, Pihel brings Nordic Island cuisine to the forefront, incorporating traditional Baltic island smoking, pickling, drying, and salting methods to such creations as Muhu ostrich äkis (flash-marinated) with fresh horseradish and marinated ramps, and roasted Järveotsa farm quail with Rautsi Farm vegetables and Koplimäe Farm buckwheat with pumpkin cream.
12. Ida Basar (Vilnius, Lithuania)
With just a quick look inside Ida Basar, you might mistake it for a museum, but it is an extraordinary restaurant adjacent to a collection of 6,000 artifacts, including displays of silverware, flatware, porcelain, and ceramics from the last 400 years. The restaurant serves cuisine — largely vegetarian (there is fish, but no meat) — that is as impressive as the artifacts on display. The four dining rooms offer seating for 120 guests and the dishes are prepared from recipes of the Grand Duchy from the 14th to the 18th centuries. Mushroom dishes are a specialty.
11. Idiot (St. Petersburg, Russia)
Though it is a more casual restaurant than its counterparts on The Daily Meal’s list of 15 Best Restaurants in Russia and Its Neighbors, Idiot is a favorite gathering spot for locals and visitors alike. Idiot’s family-friendly ambiance — soft music, games, and large menu — are just as inviting as its traditional Russian menu with home-style favorites like borsch, blini (pancakes), and pelmeni (dumplings).
10. International SV (Riga, Latvia)
From the vintage photos on the wall to the black-and-white color scheme, International SV, as its name and a painted map on the wall suggest, draws inspiration from all four corners of the world. The menu, divided by country (France, Greece, Latvia, and Russia), region (Asia and Scandinavia), and theme (Meatland and International Kitchen), features dishes like bacon-wrapped pork fillet served with pea purée and cranberry sauce and trout with roasted seasonal mushrooms and sorrel sauce (from the Latvia menu), red king crab tempura sushi with mango yuzu dressing (from the Asia menu), and cold tomato basil soup with oranges and Greenland shrimp (from the International Kitchen).
9. Alter Ego (Tallinn, Estonia)
The exposed ceilings, billowing curtains, and metal work lend a Bohemian ambiance to Alter Ego, Tallinn’s top Mediterranean restaurant, located in the capital’s Rotermann Quarter. The menu features two dozen tapas like pulpitos a feira (octopus seasoned with paprika, olive oil, and flaked sea salt and served atop boiled potatoes) and jamón ibérico de bellota gran reserva (acorn-fed Iberian ham hand-carved at the bar), as well as soups, salads, and mains like seafood paella and pan-grilled mahimahi with horseradish cream, king prawn brandade, and piquillo peppers.
8. Café Pushkin (Moscow)
Don’t let the opulent, retro surroundings of this three-story mansion near the Red Square nor its 24-hour schedule sway your opinion of Café Pushkin. While the décor of detailed woodwork, scholarly bookshelves, and antique sconces may be a throwback to pre-revolutionary times, chef Andrei Makhov’s food is not. The hefty menu — both in weight and on the wallet — features modern interpretations of traditional Russian dishes like boiled veal tongue with potato salad, mustard, and horseradish jelly ; pike and salmon pie with sour cream sauce; borsch with smoked goose fillet; and eel stewed in white wine with shrimp, red caviar, and marinated vegetables. There is also an impressive vodka selection. (For those not planning a trip to Moscow, Café Pushkin also has locations in Paris and New York City.)
7. Ribe (Tallinn, Estonia)
Located on Tallinn’s Vene Road, known as the country’s restaurant street, Ribe has set itself apart from its neighbors since opening its doors in 2007. Head chef Andrei Shmakov’s menu changes seasonally and is enhanced with a wine list of 120 Old World labels. Diners have recently been treated to such dishes as herb-crusted lamb neck confit with eggplant purée, fried potatoes, goat milk yogurt cream, and port jus, and a dessert of apricot panna cotta
with peppermint jelly, apricot sauce, and baked apricots.
6. Alexander (Muhu Island, Estonia)
Located on the ground floor of Pädaste Manor on Muhu Island off Estonia’s northeast coast, Alexander has a small menu that focuses on Nordic Island cuisine. Named for the former owner of Pädaste Manor, Alexander von Buxhoeveden, the former land marshal of Muhu Island and a confidant of Russia’s last czar, Alexander offers dishes that are populated with greens and herbs grown in the hotel’s garden and greenhouses. Chef Peeter Pihel prepares a six-course "Islands' Degustation Menu" and a three-course Table d’Hôte menu with components from Baltic Sea islands like lamb, truffles, and aged cheeses from Gotland, Sweden’s largest island; cheeses, flounder, and herring from Saaremaa, Estonia’s largest island; and apple brandy and cheese from the Åland Islands, an autonomous Swedish-speaking archipelago off Finland’s southwest coast.
5. Syr (Moscow)
Arguably the most famous Italian restaurant in Moscow, Syr has been popular since its opening in 2001. It’s not surprising that Syr, which means "cheese" in Russian, has a décor and menu inspired by that dairy product, from the yellow walls with small windows and a labyrinth-like layout to yellow circular menus reminiscent of cheese wheels and a menu brimming with cheese options. Head chef Mirko Dzagiev also serves hearty Italian fare like lobster salad with peaches and toasted pistachios and octopus carpaccio with celery salad and seafood.
4. miX (St. Petersburg, Russia)
As equally modernistic as its home, the W St. Petersburg hotel, Alain Ducasse’s restaurant, with décor inspired by Russia’s famed Fabergé eggs, focuses on delicate dishes with classic French preparations. Though diners can order from the Alain Ducasse Classics menu, a collection of dishes that have made the French chef famous, they can also try new dishes created for St. Petersburg's miX, like Kamchatka crab and chestnut bisque, champagne-braised halibut, and rabbit à la royale.
3. Galereya (Moscow)
The brainchild of Arkadiy Novikov, Galereya is, as its name suggests, an art gallery-café, but the restaurant attracts a clientele as high-end as the artwork on display. More of a lounge than a fine dining destination, Galereya serves simple dishes, inspired by Italian, Japanese, French, and Russian cuisine, prepared by chef Sergey Markin . Standouts include a classic Russian smoked chicken salad, Russian-style beef tartar with potato chips, bufala mozzarella with tomatoes and pesto, salmon sushi, risotto with Kamchatka crab, and veal stroganoff with rösti.
2. Chaika (Moscow)
Dmitry Shurshakov helms Chaika, an opulent restaurant set within a modern two-story mansion serving avant-garde cuisine based on Russian and other European traditions. Large windows, chandeliers, and a bar resembling an old-school library set the stage for Shurshakov's stellar menu, which includes such creations as foie gras steak with apricots and berries, eggplant pâté with cold cheese fondue, and veal sirloin with tuna sauce and apples.
1. Varvary (Moscow)
With hand-carved stools, plush chairs, and plenty of woodwork, Varvary, which means "barbarians" in Russian, is anything but barbaric. Rather, the 10-table restaurant is a cozy perch from which to enjoy chef Anatoly Komm’s deconstructed Russian cuisine, an abrupt about-face on Russia’s gastronomic heritage of rigid, state-owned restaurants offering only a handful of foodstuffs. Komm's tasting menu, or "gastronomic show," as he calls it, offers classic Russian fare refashioned with gels, foams, and the like. "I would like to make traditional Russian food in a way that... a Russian would recognize from childhood, but at the same time, make it surprising, delightful and modern — 21st century," Komm said. And he has succeeded, with dishes like "Original Russian Flavor" (Jerusalem artichoke soup with cheese ice cream and sea-buckthorn and cottage cheese), borsch with foie gras, and homemade sweets and "katroshka" cake;.