The World’s 50 Best Restaurants’ most attractive establishment serves up old school and modern Russian cuisine, from salad soup to ‘swan livers’
RESTAURANT: White Rabbit
LOCATION: Moscow, Russia
ON THE PASS: Vladimir Mukhin with Victor Khripachev
WORLD’S BEST RESTAURANTS RANK: 23 (2017)
MICHELIN STARS: N/A
FOOD STYLE: Modern Russian
STANDOUT DISH: Crab, carrots, pike caviar and salted egg yolk
TASTING MENU: 8500 RUB ($150) for eight courses, plus five complimentary dishes
Nowhere is easy to find in Russia, but White Rabbit is worth the expedition. Perched atop a skyscraper in Smolenskaya Square, it boasts sweeping views of Moscow through huge clock face-like arched windows that bookend the restaurant. They blend so well with the Alice in Wonderland rabbit theme, which is echoed throughout, with classic-style paintings reimagined with rabbits as subjects, rabbit print wallpaper in the bathrooms and rabbits in the arms of the painted Russian dolls, which your bill will be delivered in.
Vintage-style furnishings made playful in multi-colours, punctuated with oversized exotic floral arrangements are presented in this sky-high glass dome as though in a display case – which is exactly where you’d expect to see such treasure. Of all the World’s 50 Best Restaurants I’ve experienced, this one wins Best Interior Design – an award the association doesn’t yet give, but should in homage to the effort made here, and as a way to encourage other W50B venues to make more of one.
Inside White Rabbit
Bills are delivered in Russian dolls
The artwork has a touch of the mad hatter
Rather than opt for the tasting menu – a decision I deeply regret (always have the tasting menu, always) – my FD and I decided to go a la carte to experience some traditional Russian dishes on my to-do list. Here’s what we ate…
Bread selection with butter
Did I mention there are rabbit motifs dotted everywhere, from the butter covers to the table’s ‘reserved’ signs.
Rasstegai with catfish
Russians are big on pies, and rasstegai is a traditional one, historically made with a hole in the top so broth, served on the side, could then be poured in. Here’s it’s a sealed deal; well made but not memorable.
Okroshka with kvas
Cold soup is an acquired taste, but when in Russia… I’d sampled the chilly depths of beetroot-based borscht before, but okroshka with kvas was new to me. Made by adding sausage, cucumber, radish, spring onion, dill and boiled eggs to kvas (a fermented drink brewed from rye bread), it’s a popular summer soup in Russia. Summer didn’t seem to come when I was in Moscow, so the purported thirst-quenching benefits of this elixir were lost me, and I felt as though I was wading through a surreal salad soup, which was a tad tart. A more memorable experience than the rasstegai, but not one I’m likely to repeat any time soon.
Crab cutlets with asparagus and sauce rouille
After the traditional dining, came the modern Russian cuisine Vladimir Mukhin is famous for. My dish of the day was this one – juicy fat cutlets, fried without being dried out, served with rouille, a French sauce made with olive oil, breadcrumbs, garlic, saffron and cayenne pepper, originating from Provence, where it’s a classic garnish for all kinds of fish dishes.
Ravioli with king red crab
A signature here, this popular dish reads as Italian pasta plate, but is equally a nod to that most Russian of staples, the dumpling, which, when made well, gives ravioli a run for its rubles because, in my experience, there’s usually more filling. Think dim sum, but with less pastry.
Veal fillet with baked garlic and morel sauce
After this rich and creamy number, there wasn’t any room for dessert, which is a shame as I wanted to try the swan livers. Fret not; ‘swan livers’ are a type of old-school Russian marshmallow. You can currently sample them as part of the tasting menu, listed below. If only I’d ordered the tasting menu…
SAMPLE EIGHT-COURSE TASTING MENU
- Sour shchi and smoked herring
- Crab, carrots, pike caviar and salted egg yolk
- Kundyums with moose lips and morels
- Cod, sour malt and sour spelt
- Tavranchuk – beef ribs cooked in kvass
- Borodino bread, sour cream and sea water
- Willow herb and honey
Additional complimentary courses:
- Pear, aged mead and Vendace caviar
- Chestnut honey and duck
- Loaf, gouda cheese, dried salmon and сarrot, and raspberry water
- Swan livers ryazhenka and Antonovka apple paste
- Birch bread and herring milt and hare forschmack ✪
WORLDINER ADDRESS BOOK
3 Smolenskaya Square, Building 3, 16th Floor, +7 495 66 33 999, https://www.facebook.com/whiterabbitmoscow, https://www.instagram.com/whiterabbitmoscow/,