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Moscow Goes Kosher

The Russian capital’s recent boom in kosher restaurants shows that kashrut isn’t just for Jews anymore

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Ilya Kiselev, the owner of Tel Aviv, with the lunch spread at the restaurant. (All photos Sasha Senderovich)

It’s no surprise, then, that of all the new options in Moscow, a kosher restaurant that understands itself as a Jewish restaurant offers the best culinary experience. This place is Misada (“restaurant” in Hebrew). The décor feels a bit like a recreation of an Arab street in Jaffa or East Jerusalem, its kitschiness exacerbated by the fact that the restaurant is located inside a glitzy shopping mall in Moscow-City, a new commercial development with office and retail space that has dramatically altered the city’s skyline. But, aesthetics aside, the dining experience here is unquestionably satisfactory. Unlike Moscow’s other kosher restaurants that target business diners, seekers of healthy and “luxurious” foods, or theme partygoers, Misada thinks of itself as a family-style establishment. (It does, however, have an economical business-lunch option that has, among other things, a wonderful lentil dish that could be a godsend to kosher vegetarians who land in the famously meat-eating Russia.) As the owner of the restaurant, Misha Amayev, who grew up in the Caucasus, explains, the concept of the restaurant was to collect in one menu the highlights of different cuisines from across Jewish diasporas, in addition to some highlights of Middle Eastern-cum-Israeli cooking (such as very good hummus), as well as a few nostalgically Soviet dishes (such as chicken kiev prepared with a butter substitute). Dishes at Misada range from predictable Eastern European Ashkenazi specialties to chudu, a wonderfully tasty pie with greens that’s a favorite of Mountain Jews (“In Dagestan this would have been local greens that got picked high up on mountain slopes, above the point where dogs would go to pee,” said Amayev, “but in Moscow we have to make do mostly with spinach”); to plov—a rice pilaf—from the Bukharan Jewish cuisine; to barbecued meats, including lamb shanks, among the best I’ve ever had, prepared by the restaurant’s Azeri barbecue chef; to khinkali, Georgian dumplings.

My friend Mila Dubrovina, assigned to cover Moscow’s kosher restaurants in a series of articles for Booknik, a project of the Avi Chai Foundation, got even luckier than me on her visit to Misada: She got to see the restaurant’s main client among the diners. Lev Leviev, a Russian-Jewish billionaire who runs Africa-Israel, the company that owns the mall where Misada is located, is quite likely the only reason that Misada exists. Another friend, who knows the Moscow Jewish scene inside out, hinted to me that Leviev simply needed a place to eat when he is at work: “He wanted to eat at his own restaurant, that’s all there is to it!”

Toward the end of my week of reporting and restaurant-hopping, I got to see Boyarin one more time. We went to Jerusalem, a restaurant on the top floor of the synagogue on Malaya Bronnaya Street that was expropriated by the Soviet state, recently returned to the Jewish community, and expanded in 2004; Jerusalem opened in the building at that time. This was Boyarin’s third consecutive night at Jerusalem—after the mediocrity and the pathetic pompousness of Noodles, after the hipster coolness of Tel Aviv, Jerusalem for him was the place where one goes to eat well without all the frills present at the other kosher establishments that profess to cater to non-Jews. The restaurant’s gilded ceilings, tall candles gracing its tables, the metal detector one has to pass through upon entering the synagogue—all this puts Jerusalem on a different playing field in comparison with most of Moscow’s new kosher establishments. But the food, indeed, is excellent (as are views over old Moscow from the rooftop terrace that’s open in summertime). Jerusalem, because of its predominantly Georgian Jewish clientele, may very well be one of Moscow’s best restaurants specializing in Georgian cuisine. They know how to make kharcho, a spicy cherry-plum-paste-based meat-and-rice soup that is a staple of Georgian menus, and several kinds of grilled meats that are truly out of this world. There is little at Jerusalem that will feel trendy and plenty that may scare off the uninitiated (Ian, a non-Jewish friend of mine, told me that he didn’t feel entirely in his element there when his observant Jewish ex-girlfriend had brought him there once), but Jerusalem, unlike most of Moscow’s new kosher establishments, knows its clientele and doesn’t need to be trendy. After all, “this is a bear,” as Boyarin said at dinner, “that doesn’t have to dance at all.”

***

Contact information:

Farmers Bazaar (market)
Address: 15/1 Tsvetnoy Boulevard, Moscow
Subway station: Tsvetnoy Boulevard
Phone: +7 (495) 234-24-12

Jerusalem (fleishig restaurant)
Address: 6 Bolshaya Bronnaya Street, Moscow
Subway stations: Pushkinskaya, Chekhovskaya, Tverskaya
Phone: +7 (495) 690-62-66

Jewish Community Center (milchig and fleishig restaurants on premises)
Address: 2nd Vysheslavtsev pereulok, 5A, Moscow
Subway stations: Maryina roshcha, Novoslobodskaya, Mendeleevskaya
Phone: +7 (495) 645-50-00 (milkhig); +7 (495) 231-27-77 (fleishig)

Misada (fleishig restaurant)
Address: Presnenskaia naberezhnaia, 2 (inside “Afimoll” shopping center)
Subway stations: Vystovochnaya, Mezhdunarodnaya
Phone: +7 (499) 408-01-06

Noodles (fleishig restaurant)
Address: 15-17/1 Bolshoy Cherkasskiy pereulok, Moscow
Subway stations: Lubyanka, Okhotny Riad, Kitay-Gorod
Phone: +7 (495) 623-53-96

Shokoladnitsa (milchig, kosher branch of larger chain)
Address: 32/1 Sadovaya-Kudrinskaya Street, Moscow
Subway station: Mayakovskaya
Phone: +7 (495) 935-73-54

Tel Aviv (fleishig restaurant)
Address: 30/1 Tsvetnoy Boulevard, Moscow
Subway station: Tsvetnoy Boulevard
Phone: + 7 (495) 964-01-45

Zucker (fleishig restaurant)
Address: 12/2 Bolshoy Kozikhinskiy pereulok, Moscow
Subway stations: Pushkinskaya, Chekhovskaya, Tverskaya, Mayakovskaya
Phone: +7 (495) 695-73-55

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Great Article Sasha!

gwhepner says:

SO LONG AS THE BEAR DANCES

It doesn’t matter if the bear

dances, if it dances its bear dance.

and so long as you’re aware

that you’re a Jew I don’t care if
your stance

towards your people and belief

is not what experts tell you it
should be,

and I’ll accept your lifemotif

as being great enough to dance
with me.

gwhepner@yahoo.com

ConnieHinesDorothyProvine says:

I’ll have to try out the kosher restaurants if I ever go to Moscow.

why would you call a kosher restaurant ‘Tel Aviv’. call it Modiin, Ramat Beit Shemesh, Bnei Brak, Mea Shearim…even Jerusalem. but of all names, why Tel Aviv.

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Exceptional blog and outstanding design and style.

2000

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Moscow Goes Kosher

The Russian capital’s recent boom in kosher restaurants shows that kashrut isn’t just for Jews anymore

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