Thumbs down: Kikaku and Tyubiteika restaurants
Tyubiteika is an Uzbek restaurant in western Moscow by the Grebnoi Canal. Upon reading a restaurant review of the same in The Moscow Times, we drove up there to check it out. Although the view is interesting, the quality of the Uzbek food sucked. We arrived around 3pm on a saturday afternoon and the place had a few customers, not-unexpected at this odd hour. It was the worst plov I have ever tasted and everything seemed to be leftovers from the night before and microwaved. As usual, the ratio of quality to price (our bill was close to 4000 rouble or 130 USD) is absurd in Moscow and while the service was attentive this is not a place where we will return.
It amazes me that these kinds of places continue to exist (assuming that a restaurant flourishes due to repeat customers) and patrons don't hesitate to drop outrageous sums of money on mediocre food. Given how closed the Soviet system was and that its citizens were not allowed to travel and experience the world, the only explanation I have is that Russians don't know better. They are unable to differentiate quality and don't have a reference for value for money.
Yet another example of a disppointment is the Chinese restaurant Kikaku on Begovaya Ulitsa, near Dinamo Metro station. Since we moved to Moscow from Hong Kong, we were craving to satisfy our Cantonese hankerings. Same story here: We arrived here around 6pm on Sunday evening, July 15th, to find not many patrons at this hour. Ornate surroundings, with hookahs which appeared incongruent since the hookah is a Middle Eastern and Central Asian tradition, not a Chinese tradition. Foodwise our expectation was deflated. Dimsum that tasted like fastfood, as it was stale and greasy and literally tasted like leftovers that were microwaved. It was not fresh and steaming. We were not exactly expecting dimsum being rolled in the carts as is traditional in China (this practice can also be seen in restaurants in Chinatown in the US). We asked for steamed rice but they gave us fried rice!! DUH!!! Who has fried rice except the tourists who are not adventurous to try anything new in their Asian adventures!! While the deep-fried carp was acceptable, the sweet and sour pork was again mediocre. The bill came to 3500 roubles or approx. 120 USD. This meal would have cost about 50 USD both in the US and in Hong Kong and once again there is no relationship between price and quality on the Moscow restaurant scene.
Kikaku listed Thai, Singapore, Chinese and Japanese cuisine on its menu. Given that there was such a diversity of cuisines, the chef is probably not a specialist in anyone cuisine but a home chef who can whip up some basic diverse dishes.
I consider myself to be a home cook. I regularly whip up all kinds of delicious soups, roast fish, leg of lamb, veal ribs, make vietnamese spring rolls, make thai curries and indian cuisine. For a home cook, who understands ingredients, makes things from scratch, has a discering eye on complexity of pairings, freshness, taste etc, Moscow does not offer exciting gastronomic experiences on a regular basis. The same elements continue to prevail in the restaurant scene: Ornate surroundings, inflated prices and mediocre quality food. There are more misses than hits and the point is that one cannot be assured of a fabulous meal even if one is paying 120 USD for a meal for two.
So far, Cafe des Artiste, Scandanavia, Propaganda, Uzbekistan restaurants in Moscow have satisfied my discerning eye and my gourmet inclinations. I felt Aist and Cantinetta Antinori had inflated prices for what they offered.