Location: Moscow, Russia
Another one of those pinch me moments. It’s not everyday that you get to eat at one of the 50 best restaurants in the world. To be precise, White Rabbit is currently ranked 15th best in the world. And so, when you do get the opportunity to eat at one of these restos, it warrants its own blog post – only this one is a little special. For a change, this post was not written by me, but the person I got to share it all with. No prizes for guessing who.
Arriving at shopping mall where the White Rabbit is located, the building itself is unassuming and not memorable considering the grandeur of some of the buildings lining Moscow’s boulevards and squares. Upon arriving at the quiet, almost underwhelming reception area, we were escorted through one of the stairwells of the mall, through to the lifts that take you to the fifth floor, a few paces across to the second tier lifts, and up to the sixteenth floor.
The restaurant itself nests atop the soviet era building amid a stunning glass lattice enclosure, allowing diners to experience views of the city’s buildings. Though we had already experienced the stunning Moscow skyline from the O2 lounge at the swank Ritz Carlton towards the Red Square end of Tverskaya Street, the vista did not disappoint and offered impressive views in most directions across the city, particularly the one of the nearby Seven Sisters. An open air terrace around the back end of the restaurant (which includes private dining terraces) are worth a visit alone.
White Rabbit is known for its modern take on traditional Russian cuisine, showcased by the fourteen course tasting menu which we opted for, as well as their à la carte selection. Surprisingly, and perhaps as a nod to visitors’ want for less meat, only two dishes consisted of meat, which were easily replaced with vegetable or fish-based items.
Most of the dishes drew on Russia’s bounty of fish, shellfish and wild or foraged vegetation and fruit. Russian cuisine to me is, notwithstanding the simple “meat and potatoes” reputation of Eastern European fare, imperial food and as such is characterised by an incredible level of delicacy and subtlety. Bearing this in mind, White Rabbit is a true showcase of Russian recipes and produce, using no more than a handful of flavours at a time to craft delicate musings, evoking both Russia’s natural and historic landscape.
As explained above, the flavours are delicate to the extent of being almost ethereal and light, but slowly builds and flavour intensifies as the meal progresses, from fresh vegetable and fish dishes and culminating in intensely savoury meat and dessert dishes.
Whilst special mentions of the cabbage and caviar dish and the ‘stew’ are required, three dishes really characterise the experience: 1) the scallops; 2) the okroshka; and 3) the bread-based dessert. These dishes showcase Russia’s ingredients and preparations, whilst delivering on the ‘twist’ on the tradition.
The scallop was thinly sliced, dense but soft and sweet, served with a savoury sauce and a ‘snow’, playing on a contrasting textures and temperatures, whilst still showcasing the fresh seafood. If in any doubt at all about the freshness of the seafood, tanks including local lobsters and live snow crabs bubble away near the bar, providing entertain if the queue to the restroom is challenging.
The okroshka, a take on a traditional soup again challenged conventional perception of what Russian cuisine is – pickled wild mushrooms, tangy and sour, bathed in an intense green tomato soup, fresh, savoury and fragrantly herbaceous. Again, the texture and the richness of the dish in spite of its simplicity really delivers a memorable experience.
The rye-bread based dessert really brings things to crescendo, building on the previous dishes to deliver an intensely savoury and sweet dessert, blurring the lines between a pudding and a savoury dish with the use of the coriander scented bread and black garlic.
Overall, whilst not all dishes gave huge lashings of flavour, that was beside the point entirely – the menu sought to showcase Russian ingredients and build upon layers of delicate preparations traditional ingredients and rich flavours of local produces to paint a mural, a story of humble things being transformed into grand representations of those things, true of Russian cuisine as it is of Russia itself. Altogether an exceedingly impressive offering from Moscow’s extremely competitive food scene, and to boot, very well-priced compared to many of its peer global Michelin guide restaurants, with which it keeps company very well.
Have you been to White Rabbit? Let me know your thoughts below! xxx
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