Tips from trip to Moscow
I'm just back from Moscow and wanted to share a few foodie experiences.
I would never have predicted that a city which spends much of the year below zero could have such good ice cream. There are hawkers with refrigerated cases all over town. They sell local varieties of Nestle products. My favorite was the "Mega," which has a purple ice cream center and a white chocolate coating. The center is a tangy berry flavor (the tang made me wonder if perhaps it was yogurt). The picture on the package shows blueberries and cranberries, so I presume those are the main flavorings. This was so good, I had two one afternoon. Price: 35 rubles, or about $1.40.
I also had ice cream at Eliseevsky, a fancy food store on the main shopping street in Moscow, Tverskya. I had the purple flavor (since it was so good in the Nestle bar) and the tan flavor, which turned out to be coffee. That was the only decent coffee I had in Moscow. Ice cream at Eliseevsky: 20 rubles, or about 80 cents.
We had dinner at Georgian restaurants two nights in a row. No Georgian wine, though, because there is an embargo. Officially this is due to health concerns, but it's really about the poor political situation between the Russian Federation and Georgia. Georgian food is excellent - - roasted veggies stuffed with walnut paste, chicken in walnut sauce, cheesy flatbread called "haa-jee-poor-ee," a non-alcoholic spiced fruit drink called compote with real fruit sitting in the pitcher. The first place we went (www.genatsvalevip.kafebar.ru) had better food; the second (www.upirosmani.ru) had a better setting (including an art gallery) and better entertainment. It overlooked the Novedevichy Convent, and it was lovely to sit by the window watching the sun go down, the spotlights turn on the walls of the convent, and the convent reflected in the pond across the street. The food was fine, too; I just enjoyed the spiciness of the dishes at the other place better. Perhaps this was just a case of ordering different things.
The night we arrived, my colleague wanted to eat at a favorite of his called Hokey-Pokey. It's a Russian cafeteria. Imagine a buffet brunch at a U.S. hotel. Now recalibrate your image and limit the offerings to Russian foods. Picture log siding and hunting trophies as the decor. That's Hokey-Pokey. I had marinated mushrooms, beet salad, cheese blintzes, fried potatoes with rosemary, and a ground chicken patty, plus a bottle of water. Hearty fare for about $10.
I wish I'd purchased the bottle of garlic liqueur I saw in the airport (I assume that's what it was based on the label's picture). Maybe next time.
So nice to hear that upirosmani is still going! I used to eat there fifteen years ago, when I was a student in Moscow. They were hard times in Russia (just after the coup which ousted Gorbachev) and food was scarce. We used to live on Georgian food, Pizza Hut, black bread, peanut butter and veg we got from the Central Market. I lost a lot of weight!
The place you refer to is most likely Yalki Palki, a chain of restaurants serving cheap and cheerful "local" food. Definitely a good bet if you're not looking to pay the standard restaurant prices in Moscow. Another cheap way to dine in Moscow is to go to one of the many baked potato street vendors. Brilliant in winter.
Mostly however, I would recommend Goodmans (steakhouse), Scandinavia (int'l), Starlite Diner, Akademia (Italian), the many Georgian restaurants (order shashlik in all its forms).
Ohhhhh Kroshka Kartoshka.... mmm that brings back memories! Some of the best street food in the wacky form of backed potatoes- so good with a beer from a kiosk in hand!
I'd only recommend Starlite Diner if you're looking for American-style diner food. Lots of expats go there when they're feeling homesick.