Nine restaurants earn stars as Michelin launches Moscow guide

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Moscow (AFP)

A French gastronomic bible, the Michelin Guide on Thursday awarded nine Moscow restaurants its coveted stars, unveiling its first range of restaurants recommended on the burgeoning Russian food scene.

Long derided as a food wasteland, the Russian restaurant scene has emerged in recent years from a post-Soviet reputation for blandness, with establishments in Moscow regularly making lists of some of the world’s best.

Representatives of the Michelin Guide – considered the international standard for rating restaurants – released the first Moscow edition of their iconic red book at a ceremony in Moscow.

Sixty-nine restaurants were recommended in total.

Two restaurants – Twins Garden run by twin brothers Ivan and Sergei Berezutskiy, and Artest by chef Artem Estafev – received two stars.

Seven restaurants received a star, including White Rabbit, whose chef Vladimir Mukhin appeared in an episode of the Netflix documentary series “Chef’s Table”.

None have received three stars – the holy grail of the restaurant world.

– ‘Hard time’ –

Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said at the ceremony that the publication of the guide was an important event at a difficult time for the restaurant industry.

“It is a great moral support in this time of pandemic, when restaurants are going through a particularly difficult time,” he said.

Sobyanin said it also shows that Russia has rediscovered a food tradition that suffered under the Soviet Union.

“Unfortunately, during the Soviet period, these traditions were lost,” he said.

“I am proud that the restaurants in Moscow have become a calling card for our fantastic city.”

Sixty-nine restaurants have been recommended by the Michelin Guide in Moscow Dimitar DILKOFF AFP

Michelin’s international director, Gwendal Poullennec, told a press conference that the guide used an international team of inspectors for its list and that there was “no compromise in our methodology”.

Speaking to AFP earlier, he said the Russian food scene has “reinvented itself” since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.

“There is an evolution of the Russian culinary scene. It is more and more dynamic,” Poullennec said.

He said he was surprised by “the quality and abundance of products” in Moscow restaurants, highlighting in particular seafood, such as crab and caviar, which are “exclusive” elsewhere but in Russia are available at “a reasonable price”.

Russia became the 35th country to have a Michelin guide, and Moscow was the first city in the former Soviet Union to receive stars.

The selection of restaurants will appear in print and will also be available through an app in 25 languages, including Russian.

– Crab, smetana and borscht –

Michelin said in December that the Moscow chefs had distinguished themselves by highlighting Russian ingredients, including king crab from the far eastern city of Vladivostok and smetana, the sour cream used in the preparation of beef stroganoff.

Moscow restaurants have increasingly turned to local ingredients after Western sanctions following Russia’s annexation of Crimea to Ukraine in 2014 resulted in a shortage of many European foods.

A number of restaurants that depended on meat, cheese and fish imported from the West have been forced to close, while those struggling to source ingredients from Russian regions have become more competitive.

Explaining why he chose Moscow, the guide last year highlighted the “unique flavors” of the “iconic first dishes of the nation like borscht”.

Another leading French food guide, Gault & Millau, launched its first Russian edition in 2017. In 2019, Gault & Millau was sold to Russian investors.

Twins Garden and White Rabbit have already been on the list of the 50 best restaurants in the world.

Michelin has also recently expanded to Beijing, Slovenia and California.