FoodFrom our Archives

Food journeys of a life time: France & Russia

Extraordinary places to eat around the globe

Eating is part of what makes travel so exhilarating. When one thinks of a place, one of the memorable experiences recalled is either because of the food eaten or the people one has shared it with. A meal abroad is more than an intake of calories, it is an exercise in cultural immersion. What people eat, when they eat, where and how they source their food, what gastronomic rituals they observe – all offer telling insights into a place and its people. Celebrating a unique relationship between food and travel, between place and plate, this endlessly fascinating adventure will be regularly featured in our pages

France

Bistros modernes in Paris

A new way of Parisian chefs offers fabulous bistro dining, good for both the palate and the wallet.

The bistro moderne movement began as a reaction against the fussy cuisine that used to prevail in Paris. Chefs started to look to seasonal market goods, less expensive cuts of meat, and food from local producers to offer customers excellent meals at affordable prices. Spearheading the move was Yves Camdeborde, a classically trained chef who had worked at the Ritz, Maxim’s, and La Tour d’Argent.

In 1992, he set up his first restaurant, La Régalade, in southern Paris, serving rich gourmet French Bistro fare at prices that were unheard of in the city at the time. Other chefs observed his success and quickly cottoned on to the formula, with the result that there is now a plethora of options. On the Left Bank, try Jean-François Debré’s LesRacines in Rue Monsieur Le Prince or the Delacourcellebrothers’

Le Pré Verre in Rue Thénard ideal for lunch after viewing the stunning ‘Dame à La Licorne’ (Lady and the Unicorn) tapestries in the nearby Hôtel de Cluny. In eastern Paris, sample the menu at Thomas Dufour’s L’Ébauchoir near the Bastille, or the Nidhsain brothers’ La Boulangerie in Ménilmontant.

As for the man who started it all: Chef Camdeborde sold the La Régaladein 2005 and now heads up a tiny bistro called Le Comptoir at the Hotel St. -Germain, also on the Left Bank. There are only 20 tables, and all the diners eat from the same five-course, prix-fixe menu. It is one of Paris’s most authentic and delicious meals and will cost 45 euros (about $60).

When to go: Paris in the springtime may be every lover’s fantasy, but Paris in late fall is the gourmet’s preference. This is when truffles and foie gras are in season, and cheeses made with the summer’s buttery milk are ripening.

Planning: For bistro recommendations, strike up a conversation with other customers in a good café. Parisians know their food well and are not as unfriendly as their reputation suggests. Always book in advance.

Websites: www.hotel-paris-relais-saint-germain.com, www.lebauchoir.com, www.lepreverre.com

Bistro Fare

Terrines, sausages, cured meats, and unusual cuts are the order of the day in a Parisian bistro moderne. Look out for Boudin noir (blood sausage), plates of charcuterie, riz de veau (sweetbreads), pieds de cochon (pig’s feet), and jouede boeuf (the cheek of a cow) – a rich and delicious cut of meat.
Bistros modernes are also great places to sample some of the best of France’s cheeses. Ask the waiter to talk you through the cheese cart. Some bistros will have more than a dozen to choose from. A good waiter will help you pick out exactly what.

Russia

Moscow

Top chefs, the choicest ingredients, and lavish settings make Mosocw’s restaurants among the very best for opulent dining.

For an authentic slice of pre-Revolutionary Russia, head for the Café Pushkin, with an upstairs dining room that more closely resembles a grand library. Another haunt of epicureans is CDL at the Central House of Writers, where fine cuisine is served amid a riot of baronial splendor. For a taste of the good old bad old days, Gorki and Politica offer Soviet-style retro chic, but with nothing communist about the food or the service.

International cuisine of almost every description is also well represented, with sushi and Asian fusion currently all the rage. Dine on Vietnamese-style frogs’ legs wrapped in lily pads alongside oligarchs at Opium in Barviikha  Luxury Village, or for pan-Asian cuisine in a setting that pays homage to the Palace of Versailles, try Turandot. As in imperial days, French cuisine is again in vogue, with places such as Mon Plaisir, an 18the-century aristocratic throwback in a classical mansion; Restaurant Villa, resembling a Côte D’Azur villa with Mediterranean dishes to match; or Casual, for mainly Provençal dishes.

For the best views in town, reserve a table overlooking the Kremlin and Red Square at upscale Jeroboam in the Ritz-Carlton, or at Yoko, a fine Japanese restaurant with superb views towards Christ the Savior Cathedral.

When to Go: Furs are de rigueur in winter, whentemperatures plummet. Summer arrives in June and lasts well into September, with the hottest, most humid weather in July and August.

Planning: U.S. and most other citizens require a tourist visa to enter Russia. It is usually easiest to arrange one through a specialist agency.

Websites: www.quintessentially.com, www.barvikhahotel.com, www.cafepushkin.ee

Other opulent offerings

• Yar: Founded in 1826, and in its present location at the landmark Sovietsky Hotel in Moscow since 1910, the eatery is a decadent haunt of Moscow’s elite. With

marble columns, floor-to-ceiling frescoes, stucco and gilt aplenty, this restored restaurant valiantly recreates the opulence of the turn of the 20th century.

While tiger prawns, sturgeon and lobster, loom large alongside French classics, do not overlook treats like borscht, piroshky and veal Stroganoff.

• Yeliseyevsky: Few places better symbolize Moscow’s transformation into a consumer’s paradise than this 18th century mansion, which opened in 1907 as Moscow’s grandest food hall and has now been restored in palatial manner after communist-era neglect. Besides regular Russian fare,

Yeliseyevsky also trots out reassuringly expensive global goodies to satisfy the most discerning tastes.​



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