In the Best Traditions of Russian Gentry Cuisine

Restaurateur Andrei Dellos picks his top-5 Russian dishes

By Federal Agency for Tourism

Medovik (21st Century) by tm agencyFederal Agency for Tourism

An artist and restaurateur

Andrei Dellos has founded and owns the Cafe Pushkin restaurants in Moscow, Paris and Qatar, in addition to Turandot and Matreshka. He is the only Russian restaurateur to have seen his restaurant — New York's Betony — awarded a Michelin star. 

Andrei Dellos (21st Century)Federal Agency for Tourism

“I’m sure that Russia will turn out a big surprise for food tourists from all over the world. One important thing that characterises Russian cuisine is its incredible diversity. Russia is a vast country where people from the east and the west, the north and the south  would share and combine their recipes for centuries. And all that time they borrowed recipes from neighbouring nations. 

In the 19th century, European chefs, including Italian and Austrian, but mostly French, enjoyed a vogue in Russia. All of them perfectly understood that it was impossible to simply continue making European-style dishes, so they came up with a completely justified trick of taking a Russian recipe and fitting it into their European mould. The result had been a worldwide image of Russian cuisine that appeals to many foreigners.”  

Original Pozharsky cutlet (21st Century) by tm agencyFederal Agency for Tourism

Original Pozharsky Сutlet

There are many origin myths around this dish...

The more likely version speaks of Russian emperor Alexander I who, while on his way from St. Petersburg to Moscow, had his carriage broken down and was forced to stay at Yevdokim Pozharsky's inn in Torzhok.

Cafe Pushkin (21st Century) by tm agencyFederal Agency for Tourism

At lunch, the emperor ordered a veal cutlet that was on the menu, but the owner had run out of veal. His daughter, Darya Pozharskaya, who we know for a fact to have existed, took minced chicken and fashioned it into some sort of a fake veal cutlet that she even set on a bone as per French custom.

The cutlet is an icon of Russian food culture famously popularised by Alexander Pushkin

When you have time to spare
Go dine at Pozharsky's in Torzhok;
Savour fried cutlets
And depart lightly packed.

Original Pozharsky cutlet (21st Century) by tm agencyFederal Agency for Tourism

A scandal broke out, and the inn keeper had to confess to the fraud. But the emperor liked the dish and even ordered that it be included on the Tsar's kitchen menu.

Restaraunt "Cafe Pushkin" by tm agencyFederal Agency for Tourism

It took us a lot of time to come up with the right recipe for the Pozharsky cutlet, but the result proved Cafe Pushkin's signature dish thanks to the high quality of ingredients and their seamless combination. 

To date, more than half a million of these have been sold, with many clients coming to our cafe specifically to try the cutlet.  

Spanish iris, morning glory, and cherries (1630) by Georg FlegelKupferstichkabinett, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

Borscht with Cherries and Croissants with Foie Gras

Turandot is a pan-Asian restaurant. So how did Borscht find its way here? Not to mention, that it's a rare cherry variety of this soup that even Russians themselves would find unusual.

Like many Asian dishes, borscht with cherries succeeds in balancing out the distinct tastes of sweet and salty.

Borscht with cherries and croissants with foie gras (21st Century)Federal Agency for Tourism

As for foie gras, it is, of course, a great match for cherry sauce, a French classic. This translated to an original mix and a blockbuster dish that has stayed on the menu for many years. 

Brioche with crab Olivier salad (21st Century)Federal Agency for Tourism

Olivier with Quail Lanspik and Crayfish Tails: Matryoshka

Olivier salad is the only Russian salad to have made a name for itself the world over. Which is paradoxical, because if you order an Olivier outside of Russia, no one will understand what you want them to get you. 

Brioche with crab Olivier salad (21st Century)Federal Agency for Tourism

Internationally, it is known as 'Russian salad’ or 'Salade russe'. However, if you ask for a 'Russian salad' in Russia, you will be in for the same miscommunication, because here it is known exactly as 'olivier'. 

By Dmitri KesselLIFE Photo Collection

The dish in question is assumed to have been invented by a chef by the name of Olivier in the mid-19th century, instantly becoming a local hit. It is simply unthinkable for any Russian to celebrate New Year without this salad on the table. 

crayfish fish place by RustourismFederal Agency for Tourism

Just as with many popular dishes, it has numerous varieties, from meat and chicken to crab, and so on.

Olivier salad (21st Century)Federal Agency for Tourism

Matryoshka's chef travelled all over the country in search for recipes and products before stumbling upon a rare and original recipe from 1894 that features hazel grouse, crayfish tails and a sterlet-meet-sturgeon caviar mix. The hazels, which are not easily found in Russia, would have to be swapped for quails.

This was a huge risk for the chef, who was presenting an original take on a salad that everyone in Russia, including restaurant critics, have known since childhood. Besides, there are many places that make excellent Olivier, which has remained exceptionally popular at our Cafe Pushkin for 20 years. But the gamble paid off with the new salad impressing diners and critics alike.  

Medovik (21st Century) by tm agencyFederal Agency for Tourism

Medovik: Cafe Pushkin

Medovik is apparently a simple honey cake, but there is one trick to it that eludes so many. Even with so many layers, it has to feel like a whole and melt in your mouth.

Alexander I Czar Of Russia 1777-1825.LIFE Photo Collection

This is what distinguishes Russia's medovik from other honey-made desserts popular in other countries. It has its own origin legend, this time related to Alexander I's wife Yelizaveta Alexeyevna. She didn't like honey very much, and everyone at the court knew that.

Portrait of Alexander I, Emperor of Russia (1820/1837) by Carl Gustaf Hjalmar M¦rnerRijksmuseum

Everyone except the newly appointed chef, who hadn't been aware and made a honey cake. Yelizaveta enjoyed the cake, asked for the chef and inquired about its recipe. 

Honey (21st Century) by tm agencyFederal Agency for Tourism

By that time he had already been told what a terrible mistake he had committed, and it took a lot of convincing before he shared his secret. Yelizaveta laughed in amusement, and that day, medovik cake was included in the tsar’s court menu.

Medovik (21st Century) by tm agencyFederal Agency for Tourism

There are many recipes for the medovik cream as we understand it today. The classic is from butter or sour cream, but there's chocolate, pistachio, rose and lychee and even banana varieties. 

Beef Stroganoff St. Petersburg by tm agencyFederal Agency for Tourism

Beef Stroganov: Cafe Pushkin

Beef Stroganov is an iconic Russian dish, and it is not as simple as it seems. A true Russian legend known all over the world, it was surely invented by a French as it evidently displays French culinary vision. Still, when he made it, he made it for the Russians ending up with a piece of Russian cuisine.

Beef Stroganov (21st Century) by tm agencyFederal Agency for Tourism

According to legend, the dish is named after Count Stroganov, and at first glance, seems extremely simple. Unless you are an experienced chef, however, it is rather difficult to turn it into a real treat. It is easy to make it bland. As a rule, only people with cooking flair will get far with this kind of dish. This is the first hiccup, while the second concerns the ingredients.  

World cuisines are routinely divided into those prioritising the ingredients and those focusing the recipe on the cooking procedure. These two concepts are equally important when it comes to Beef Stroganov. If the products are subpar, the whole affair will flounder, just as it will with the very best of those if your intuition fails you. 

Credits: Story

Сhief Сonsultant — Ekaterina Drozdova, restaurateur, gastronomic entrepreneur, food and social activist, Photo production — tm agency, Contributors — Andrei Dellos, Proximity Russia, Denis Yershov

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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