Soviet Nostalgia on a Plate

Today, MOSLENTA takes you on a tour of the Moscow cafes and restaurants which are recreating the atmosphere of the USSR through their design and menus

If you are hungry for a bit of soviet romanticism, the Moscow culinary scene can offer plenty of restaurants with a soviet-themed setting, ranging from humble snack bars to concept restaurants.

Dish of the Day

Petrovich restaurant on Myasnitskaya Street and the Black Cat tavern on Malaya Lubyanka Street celebrate Moscow’s soviet past in both name and in character.

The name “Black Cat” is a reference to the elusive armed gang responsible for a series robberies and murders in Moscow during the 1940s. The menu is full of dishes with a second world war and the post-war period theme. Try the “Berlin-style” ham hock, cooked with stewed sauerkraut according to a recipe which was popular in East Germany after World War II. Or the “Generalsky” mirror carp stuffed with quenelles and served with garlic-mayo sauce – a dish from the menu of the General Staff’s canteen.

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The Black Cat, Vorontsovskaya St.

The Black Cat also recreates some of the specialties offered by the top-class canteens of soviet governmental agencies. The menu contains “Kremlin-style” rabbit leg, prepared to a recipe from the 1948 menu developed by the Kremlin’s Health and Sanitary Department, as well as the sterlet “Staraya Ploshchad” in cream-and-caviar sauce – dishes that figured on the menu created for the General Secretary of Russian Bolshevik Party’s Central Committee. The only exception is “Komsomolskaya” herring-under-fur-coat salad, made to a classic recipe of salted herring, boiled beetroot, carrots and potatoes, with an apple and mayo dressing.

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Herring under a fur coat, a salad still popular in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and other countries of the former USSR

In contrast, the name “Petrovich” is only loosely linked with the soviet legacy: Petrovich, a cartoon character created by Andrey Bilzho, first appeared on the pages of Kommersant soon after the collapse of the USSR. The menu, however, is full of unmistakably soviet references. For example, the name “In Honour of the VLKSM” (chicken tabaka with the Georgian plum sauce “tkemali”) is evocative of the All-Union Leninist Young Communist League, or Komsomol. Another echo of the Soviet period is the “Four-Time Hero of the Soviet Union” (veal tenderloin served with fried vegetables and penny bun sauce).

A tongue with horseradish sauce is found on the menu under the name “ Viktor Chernomyrdin's Dish” – a reference to Russia’s Yeltsin-era prime minister, who was famous for his incoherent speeches. “Kremlin Chimes” is a variation on the popular soviet Stolichny salad, made with chicken, eggs, boiled potatoes, boiled carrots, pickled cucumbers and mayonnaise dressing.

Two of the vegetable dishes are named after the chambers of Russia’s Federal Assembly. The Council of the Federation is made with celery, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, sweet peppers, radishes and cauliflower; the dish called “State Duma” is made with aubergines, sweet peppers, zucchini, onions and grilled tomatoes.

Dishes with Soviet names can also be found in the Glavpivtorg beer bar, mostly in the salad section which features dishes appropriately called Sovkhoz and GDR. Stolovaya 57, in the GUM Department Store, chose a more politically neutral name “Irinka” (after a popular Soviet-era doll) for one of its gateaux.

Stolovaya 57 (Diner 57), GUM Department Store on the Red Square

Dining Soviet-style

People who want to taste the Soviet past in Moscow have more than a dozen establishments to choose from, all serving soviet culinary classics like potatoes with herring, herring-under-a-fur-coat and Mimoza salads, lightly-salted cucumbers, vareniki, pies, chebureki or kholodets meat jelly. To help you, we've grouped the soviet-themed gastronomic hotspots into three categories depending on their prices and design. The restaurants in the Upscale category are sophisticated and authentic in both their concepts and menus. The eateries listed as Decent are reasonably stylish and atmospheric. The cafes falling into the Simple category replicate Soviet-era establishments with wallet-friendly prices and no extra frills.

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Soviet Diner, Bolshoy Cherkassky Pereulok

Upscale (average bill: $24-$32 per person)

• Dr. Zhivago – Mokhovaya St.

• Moskovskoye Nebo – VDNKh

Decent (average bill: $16-$24 per person)

• Petrovich – Myasnitskaya St.

• Zhiguli – Novy Arbat

• Black Cat – Vorontsovskaya St.

• Varenichnaya №1 - Arbat, Bolshaya Dmitrovka St., VDNKh, Vorontsovskaya St., Vtoraya Brestskaya St., Klimentovsky Pereulok, Kozhevnicheskaya St., Nikolskaya St., New Arbat St., Pervy Magistralny Tupik)

• Glavpivtorg Beer Bar – Bolshaya Lubyanka

• Kamchatka Beer Bar – Kuznetsky Most

Simple (average bill: up to $8 per person)

• Stolovaya 57 (Diner 57) – GUM Department Store

• Soviet Diner – Bolshoy Cherkassky Pereulok

• Sovetskie Vremena (Soviet Times; a chain of chebureki cafes) - Verkhnyaya Krasnoselskaya Street, Varsonofyevsky Pereulok and Pokrovka Yana Kremneva