Moscow, great places to eat?
We just got back from 9 days in Moscow, and I have to say, Russian food isn't great. It's pretty good, though, and all those cold salad-y appetizer-y snack-y things can be great fun. The herring, mayo, onion, beet combos with good vodka (see, I met this Russia rocket scientist with definite opinions...) You'll have a wonderful time.
I was in Moscow in 2004 on a tight student's budget so I can't recommend any upscale restaurants, having never set foot in one. I particularly enjoyed Georgian food while I was there. The only one I can remember by name is Mama Zoya by Kropotkinskaya. What I wouldn't do for a bite of khachipuri...
Just came back but can't really help you. The coffee is universally bad, and now very expensive (Moscow has just replaced Tokyo as the most expensive city to live). We had lunch inside Gum's shopping mall. Mostly fast food. There is this one place that serves crepes (or was it blini?), it's acceptable. There was nothing along Arbat Street, which is a sorry excuse for a shopping district. There were some restaurants lining the street but nothing that we saw resembling Russian cuisine. We had coffee at one place and it was like $4 US for a capucinno.
Moscow! You lucky duck! I second the recommendation for Cafe Pushkin... their dining room is like a 19th century fairy-tale, with waiters in breeches and high socks, incandescent chandeliers and delicious haute Russian food (if you splurge one place, splurge here on the blini with black caviar).
-Barashka, near the Bolshoi Ballet has upscale Azeri food in a cozy atmosphere, delicious zakuski (try the selection of Georgian cheeses and the flat breads), the chicken "lula" kebab.
-Starlite Diner has terrific turkey rubens and two locations, one at Mayakovskaya and one very convenient to the Tretyakov at Oktyabrskaya.
-Simple Pleasures - airy restaurant, serves modern American fare. I enjoyed the "julienne burger" a beefy bomb with sauteed mushrooms, onions and swiss cheese. Lighter fare includes composed salads, soups (gazpacho).
I was in Moscow in 1990, when it was still the Soviet Union. The ice cream was great, but one could only get vanilla, which I figured was the state flavor.
My hotel served awful, dishwater coffee. One day I was walking down Arbat and I smelled the wonderful smell of fresh ground coffee. I followed my nose and ended up in a dark little coffee bar that served nothing but black espresso in large cups. It was great coffee and cost next to nothing.
It was very difficult to get a good meal back then. I'm sure everything has changed.
re: Peter Cherches
Casual and cheap: Go to Teremok for excellent blini. This place has outlets all over town (a handy one in the Okhotnyi Ryad mall food court; right near Red Square). Some are just little stands on the street, others have sitting room. I highly recommend the blin with red caviar - a steal at the equivalent of $5. A few of the outlets carry black caviar blini for $22 (the one in the food court does). Also good: the blin with mushrooms, and blin with smoked salmon.
Rustic French with some Russian dishes: Jean Jacques on Nikitsky Blvd (there is a grocery and a cafe with the same name on the same street, so be sure you find the cafe!). The new potatoes with mushrooms and pancetta were spectacular. Very good French onion soup. Interesting wine list. Does all the basics right; I loved it for the comfort food factor and cozy room.
Italian: Prego just off Triumfalnaia ploshchad (Triumph Square) is excellent. I particularly liked their pizzas, but enjoyed their pastas very much too. Mi Piace has very good appetizers (I had salmon tartare, ruccola salad with asparagus and strawberries, both excellent).
For Russian food, the above-mentioned Teremok is great street/casual food, but if you want something upscale and worth the money, go to Pushkin on Tverskoi blvd. It is the Russian restaurant of dreams, with excellent service and a diverse menu and wine list, and close to the centrally-located Pushkin Square. Make reservations.
Seiji - delicious Japanese food, with some unusual and interesting dishes, in a gorgeously sleek room.
You will especially enjoy trying different dishes and cuisines that are not often encountered in the U.S. or Europe (try Georgian specialties while you are there). Russian soups are especially delicious. Try cold borsch! Visit a farmers' market to sample fresh local berries, honey (Russian honey is amazing), and smoked fish of all types (a fabulous picnic lunch when coupled with dark Russian bread and sliced tomato and onion). Beverages like honey-pepper vodka (sweet on the tounge, fiery aftertaste) are also unique to the region and worth trying. The large chains, predictably, are to be avoided (like many corporate chains, they are very popular, and offer truly miserable "food"). And bear in mind that Moscow is very smoker-friendly; if you want a non-smoking section, you have to ask - some places can offer one).
Enjoy your visit to Moscow. I wish I were still there, to a large degree, because I enjoyed beginning each day deciding where I would should eat.