When researching dining options for our trip to Moscow I came across a reference to a place which had been mentioned in Restaurant magazine’s annual “The World’s 50 Best” survey (it’s currently at number 23). Once I’d checked with our friend that it was the kind of place she’d like, she booked a table and off we went to White Rabbit. The name suggests an “Alice In Wonderland” theme, but I was relieved to find that, apart from the odd painting on the wall and a repeated rabbit motif on stationery this wasn’t the case.
It’s located at the top of a skyscraper just outside the centre of Moscow. You enter the ground floor through a shopping mall and take the elevator up to the 16th floor where a spectacular view awaits. We were asked if we’d like a table next to the window to which we replied “DUH”, and after a quick stroll around to take photos of the skyline we took our seats.
We’d arrived slightly early but this was just as well as it allowed us more sunset-ogling time before darkness fell.
The tasting menu. One of our party was unsure about some of the items on this list but we talked her into it, and the restaurant kindly removed any crustacean element from certain dishes at her request.
The fag page at the end of the menu. Seems strange to order cigarettes when they won’t let you actually smoke them inside the restaurant (and you’d have to go down 16 floors in order to step outside).
We started with a cocktail. Chili Margarita (Tequila, thai chili pepper, avocado, agave syrup):
Drunk Bumblebee (Vodka, propolis, Limoncello, basil, pineapple, lemon, fructose):
White Rabbit (Red currants, apple whipped with sake, apple liqueur, carrot):
First amuse-bouche: pear, mead, caviar.
Duck liver, chestnut honey and truffle.
Wafer thin bread and a cream of Gouda with flakes of dried salmon.
Carrot and rapberry water.
Ryazhenka (which is basically a kind of yoghurt known as “baked milk”). Foie gras underneath, and topped with a block of pastila, which is a kind of Russian fruity marshmallow, made using the dried apple flesh left over after they’ve been pressed for juice.
And then along came the nice lady with the blowtorch.
Birch bread with herring milt and hare forschmack (a kind of salted, minced meat). I like the idea of bread and butter served as an actual course rather than sitting on the side throughout the meal.
On to the “proper” courses, although many of them were the same size as the amuse-bouches. Shchi (cabbage broth) with smoked herring. Pre-broth:
Onion, white chocolate, sea urchin. Weird. Yummy.
One of the highlights: crab, carrot, pike caviar, and salted egg yolk which was strangely chewy but very nice indeed.
Kundyum (a kind of baked dumpling) containing moose lips and nettle.
Cod, sour malt and spelt (I’m never sure how to spell that). Quite sour but not unpleasantly so.
The final main course, and the only one I couldn’t really rave about: beef ribs cooked in kvass (a fermented beverage made from rye bread) with onion and mushroom. The emulsion was very sticky and sweet, and the “salad” a bit slimy and tepid.
Tea and a medlar sorbet.
Borodinsky bread flavoured ice cream with sour cream and sea water. So sour, sweet and salty all at once; I was the only one at our table who liked this.
The inevitable nose course. Three porcelain proboscides, each impregnated with a different scent based on a dish from the tasting menu. We were asked which we preferred.
Based on our answer we were then gifted a small bottle of the relevant scent.
Service was very good, and our waitress explained the history and sources of each recipe. Many of the dishes involved rediscovering traditional Russian foods which had been forgotten in the rush to embrace exotic foreign foods in recent years such as sushi and Italian food. Chef Vladimir Mukhin was recently profiled on the Netflix series Chef’s Table and you see him making trips out to the countryside to visit farmers and old ladies cooking traditional dishes in their homes. He also notes, interestingly, that this type of food regained popularity in recent years not only through his efforts, but also out of necessity as certain foods couldn’t be imported any more due to the sanctions imposed following the annexation of Crimea.
As yet there is no Michelin guide to Russia, but White Rabbit deserves at least 2 stars.