As a non Russian I'd describe the food as comfort food. Hmmm, shouldn't all food give some comfort? But you know what I mean. Hearty, warming food that sticks to your ribs - soups, bread, dumplings, pancakes, porridge, stews and casseroles, potatoes. My uninformed theory is the love of filling food stems from the days when there wasn't much to go around.
There are always several soups on the menu, including Borscht, and often Okroshka. Our daughter in law (who is Russian) says she can't go two days without soup and she loves Okroshka. This is a soup of thinly sliced vegetables and boiled meat and it's made with Kvas, a fermented bread drink. I know, it's sounding better and better! That it is fermented probably means it will be trending on western menus before long. It's an acquired taste.
|Our dumpling guy|
The son and d-i-l had recommended a beer and sausage place near the Bolshoi, so we went before the ballet. It's all culture right? Spicy sausages grilled over a huge pile of charcoal, stuffed into bread with onions and mustard. You'd think we were at a baseball game. We wiped our fingers before going into the theatre.
|The hunter-gatherer tracking down a spicy sausage|
Stews and similar dishes come thickened and always (in our experience) with potatoes. Pork, beef and lamb are all popular. Salads run from Greek to Caesar, along with local compositions such as the delicious Georgian salad with walnut dressing we ate one night.
|Georgian salad with walnut dressing|
Fish is popular, particularly fresh water species including, God be praised, salmon. Delicious salmon tartare, fillets, baked, smoked....yum. Russians' love of fish means sushi restaurants are very popular, which came as a surprise. Sushi and Russian don't go together in my head. Smoked fish, yes, and markets are full of it. And we ate little fish, smelt, quickly fried and very tasty. Like a larger, stronger flavoured version of New Zealand whitebait.
|walnut crumbed smelt with gazpacho sauce|
As in all European cities there are restaurants of every stripe. Italian, Chinese, Indian and so on. We didn't come away totally wowed by anything, but nothing was really inedible or terrible either. Possibly because I ignored the 'bovine brains' when I encountered them on a menu. Presentation varied hugely and there are attractive and unattractive ways to serve any dish. We saw some unattractive ones, some over complicated styling, some no frills slapitonaplate ones that still tasted good.
I love good food!