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Russia Restaurants

13/2 Voznesendsky Prospekt
St. Petersburg
Russia 190000
Tel: 7 812 315 5148

Welcoming locals, expats, and visitors with the same lack of fuss, this homey place is as near as you'll get to dining chez your own babushka. A huge (150-dish), inexpensive menu lists the essentials and stars the best borscht in town. The blini aren't bad either, maybe with sturgeon to follow. Stick to the Russian dishes; get your pan-Euro and your pasta elsewhere. The operative word is "stick"—the portions are huge.

Bosco Bar and Bosco Café
3 Red Square
GUM Department Store, Ground Floor
Russia 103012
Tel: 7 495 627 3703 (bar)
Tel: 7 495 620 3102 (café)

Named after a fashion label and luxury importer and designed by Andrea Stramigioli and Sean Dix (an Italian architect and American designer known for their retail designs), Bosco Bar has a 1970s psychedelic feel, with bright splashes of color and funky plastic furniture. It's a bit pricey, but so is all of Moscow, and you're paying for the location: right on Red Square. Come to Bosco Bar for a lunch of celery cream soup and arugula with Gorgonzola, or a Caesar salad (a new Moscow standard), or better yet, grab drinks, a sandwich, or a scoop of designer ice cream (flavors include tomato-basil) just before dusk to watch the sun set over St. Basil's Cathedral. For a more formal meal, follow GUM's facade away from St. Basil's and dine at the more formal Bosco Café, where the waiters wear jackets and bow ties and the decor is in cream-colored linens. The Italian menu includes carpaccio and risotto, as well as some Russian specialties such as beef Stroganoff. Desserts include chocolate torte with raspberry sauce and grapefruit yogurt parfait, and they make a killer Irish coffee. Lenin, of course, would have despised this place, so while you sip your costly cocktail, enjoy the view of his tomb and muse on the twists and turns of history. Both Bosco Bar and Bosco Café have summertime outdoor seating area that opens directly onto the square.

Open daily 10 am to 11 pm.

Café Botanika
7 Pestelya Ulitsa
St. Petersburg
Russia 191028
Tel: 7 812 272 7091

Café Botanika bills itself as "the best vegetarian restaurant in Russia (and maybe in the world!)." An overstatement, perhaps, but it's still worth a visit for its lovely Art Nouveau–style interior and creative fusion menu mingling Russian, Indian, Italian, and Japanese influences. The pav bhaji is served with ciabatta; "Italian sushi rolls" are made with arugula, yellow pepper, and pesto; and blinis are stuffed with cabbage or sweet farmer cheese. Don't be shocked to find Hezbollah on the menu, too: It's hummus, lettuce, tomato, sweet pepper, and parsley rolled in lavash and served with tahini. Café Botanika has interesting neighbors on Solyanoy Pereulok, the adjacent side street, including the Stieglitz Museum of Decorative and Applied Arts and the Blockade of Leningrad Museum. Note that a meal before or after a visit to the latter may be hard on the stomach.—Sophia Kishkovsky

Open daily 11 am to midnight.

Café Pushkin
26A Tverskoy Bulvar
Russia 125009
Tel: 7 495 739 0033

The Pushkin Café is open and buzzing, 24/7. By day, the well-to-do and middle-aged lunch on caviar and blini. When they have gone to bed, night owls come here looking for dinner at 1 am; still later, exhausted clubbers stop in for breakfast. Given the prerevolutionary decor, including French windows, high ceilings, and shelves of ancient books, you may feel a bit like a character in a Russian novel yourself. The waiters, who tend to sport impressive sideburns, offer prompt service, and the Russian menu is high-priced but hearty.

Open 24/7.

Carré Blanc
19/2 Ulitsa Seleznevskaya
Russia 127473
Tel: 7 495 258 4403

This expensive, classy eatery, established by French expats, is among the city's best (then president Putin hosted a New Year's party here). Its name is inspired by Malevich's work and by the restaurant's square white plates. The excellent food is classic French: Try the scallops glazed in balsamic vinegar to start, and veal fillet in a sauce of shallot confit and orange zest with stuffed mushroom gratin. The 700-bottle wine list is encyclopedic. Elegant and candlelit, the dining room is perfect for a date—particularly since oysters are delivered from France four times a week. Although this practice is unusual for Moscow, you may order dishes in half portions if you wish to taste a selection. If you're trying to conserve rubles, tapas and sherry at the bar or a simpler meal in the bistro area are slightly cheaper than eating in the main dining room.

Open daily noon to midnight.

27 Ulitsa Petrovka
Russia 127031
Tel: 7 495 937 4544

This hot spot is a creation of Arkady Novikov—the king of the Moscow restaurant scene. Photographic exhibitions give the venue a creative edge—its full name is actually Art-café Galereya—but people are mostly looking at each other. Moscow's beautiful people come here to see and be seen and block the road outside with their Mercedes and BMWs. If your face doesn't fit—too old, too fat, too lacking in Dolce & Gabbana—you won't get in here. Galereya is not gourmet, but everything, from the tuna tartare to the mashed potatoes, is superb.

Open 24/7.

47 Nevsky Prospekt
St. Petersburg
Russia 191025
Tel: 7 812 103 5371
Tel: 7 812 140 1820

Since the restaurant that was founded in 1785 and counted Tchaikovsky and Dostoyevsky among its regulars reopened in 2002, it's been the hottest haute table in town. Its czarist opulence is updated, its marquetry floors polished and ornate moldings restored, but it's the food that seals the deal. Maxim Krilov bases his menus on classical Russian cuisine, touched up with the classical French that St. Petersburgers so love: sturgeon baked in white wine served with crayfish and sautéed mushrooms, foie gras soufflé. Service is formally fawning, and there's usually live music to accompany.

16 Filtrovskoye Shosse
St. Petersburg
Russia 196625
Tel: 7 812 465 1499
Tel: 7 812 465 1399

So what if it looks like a set from Doctor Zhivago? It's good enough for Putin—plus various luminaries of the Western world, including Pierce Brosnan, John Galliano, and Prince Charles. Also, the quaint log house with a conical tin roof and a weather vane perched on top happens to have really good, authentic rustic Slavic food from any Baltic Rim tradition you can name—and some you can't: Moldavian Mititei with Mouzhdei sauce, anyone? (It's sausages.) Pumpkin soup with foie gras and berries, boar ham en croûte, and a huge array of spiced meats and kebabs grilled, most medievally, on open fires in the big courtyard are the kinds of thing to expect from a vast menu, some of which is listed with impressive cooking times. Unusual flavored vodkas (cowberry leaf?) speed the wait. This is an outing—it's 15 minutes by taxi from the nearest subway (Moskowckay Station) out of St. Petersburg and near the main entrance to Pavlovsky Park—but it's worth it, especially if you combine it with a trip to the Catherine Palace at nearby Pushkin.

Fontanka 40
St. Petersburg
Russia 191025
Tel: 7 812 275 3558

One of the better examples of the slightly perplexing but fun trend of Soviet era–kitsch places—a youth cult thing. This one's centered firmly around the Constructivists: a low vaulted cellar done out in tank green and Soviet red, with cast-iron beams and perforated steel lamp shades. Not that it's altogether serious, with its soundtrack of chirruping crickets, music speakers with volume control on every table, and waiters dressed as Communist Boy (and Girl) Scouts. Food is better than it needs to be, from cold cuts and caviar to crepes with smoked trout, lime, and dilled hollandaise; pike perch with fries; and an array of burgers. The bar is open around the clock, and food is served until 3 a.m. Viva Rodchenko!

Suliko na Patriarshykh
7 Yermolayevsky Pereulok
Tel: 7 495 650 4189

For all the fondness Muscovites and expats have for Georgian food (Russians do love the cuisine, geopolitics notwithstanding), Georgian restaurants in Moscow tend to make excessive efforts at rustic kitsch and serve huge, greasy portions of regional specialties such as walnuts, beans, and suluguni cheese. But Suliko na Patriarshykh is, essentially, a tapas restaurant that happens to be Georgian rather than Spanish. The brick walls, pastel trim, and soft jazz in the background lend it a wine bar feel, and the rustic touches are limited to folk scenes hanging on the walls. Georgian wines are still banned in Russia, but there's a long list of French and Italian bottles as well as house wine by the jug billed innocuously as "southern Caucasian." There's an equally lengthy selection of khachpuri (Georgian cheese bread) in addition to other Georgian favorites such as satsivi (chicken in walnut sauce) and lobio (a bean dish). Portions, which may appear small, turn out to be just right for such substantial food. The best seat in the house is a table by the picture window overlooking Patriarch's Pond, one of Moscow's urban oases.

3 Kazanskaya Ulitsa
St. Petersburg
Russia 191186
Tel: 7 812 937 6837

The fusion menu at Terrassa—a rooftop restaurant with a blond wood interior, an open kitchen, and views of the Kazan Cathedral's majestic dome—somehow manages to combine the fresh flavors of California with the hearty fare of imperial Russia. There are variations on salad, sushi, and steak (the requisite trio in Russia's trendiest restaurants), and both the pepperoni pizza and the beef stroganoff with boiled buckwheat and mushrooms are excellent. By glamorous Russian standards, Terrassa is not priced to outrage, and at about $8, the house wine is practically a bargain. It's a popular spot for a late, leisurely breakfast (service starts at 11 am), and during the White Nights, when expats and tourists mingle with St. Tropez–tanned locals on the terrace, it seems like the center of the universe.—Sophia Kishkovsky

26/5 Tverskoy Bulvar
Russia 125009
Tel: 7 495 739 0011

Turandot epitomizes the excesses of modern-day Moscow. But that's no surprise considering owner Andrei Dellos's previous ventures: He is the man behind Café Pushkin and Shinok, a (now shuttered) restaurant that re-created a Ukrainian peasant yard—milkmaid, live farm animals, and all. Gilded, and covered in frescoes, carvings, and authentic Louis XIV antiques, Turandot looks like a chinoiserie-inspired palace lifted from St. Petersburg. The equally glittery crowd is a slice of the new Russian upper crust: oligarchs, film studio directors, and provincial nouveauxriches on a Moscow jaunt. Alan Yau, of London's Hakkasan fame, oversees the kitchen, which turns out the city's best dim sum (now a staple of Moscow's priciest eateries), including lobster tempura. There are also entrées, such as king crab in a sauce of borscht and 20-year-old Chinese wine. One of the few misses is the huge rooftop terrace (it resembles a suburban garden center filled with froufrou deck furniture), but it's still worth a visit for the wild scene of it all. If you plan on eating heartily and having more than a sip of wine, be prepared to spend at least $150 per person.

Open daily noon to midnight.

Varvary (Barbarians)
8A Strastnoi Bulvar
Tel: 7 495 229 2800

Molecular borscht or blini? A fixed-price menu at $280 a head (not including wine, which runs up to $29,000 a bottle)? Are you kidding?! With their obsessive decor and astronomical prices, Moscow's high-end restaurants are usually ripe for mockery. But Varvary, or Barbarians, Russia's answer to El Bulli, seems to be in on the joke. Opened in early 2008, the dining room is a cross between a louche nightclub and an exquisite black-lacquer souvenir box and has a fabulous view over Moscow's rooftops. Depending on the season, Varvary offers one or two set meals—a seemingly endless parade of sci-fi interpretations of Russian classics. Kholodets (jellied mincemeat) might be paired with carrot ice cream. Boiled potato with onion and herring, a Russian staple, is arranged to resemble a miniature stone garden. Moscow ice cream with jam is a freeze-dried concoction. Anatoly Komm, Varvary's creator, is a geophysicist who got rich importing Versace and other luxury goods to Moscow in the 1990s; he has described Soviet cosmonauts' food as one of his inspirations. The service, by the way, is out of this world.

22 Gorokhovaya Ulitsa
St. Petersburg
Russia 191186
Tel: 7 812 448 5001

Opened in 2004, this library café gets its many fans so thoroughly chilled they lose track of time. Soft white walls, rice-paper lamps, black glass-topped tables, and blue couches with striped pillows are the backdrop for the main event: books. "Tell me where you eat, and I'll tell you what you read" is the house motto, and the house supplies the books, along with the food. The vaguely health-conscious menu has an uncommon amount of salads, which are not necessarily smothered in mayo, plus soups, steak, salmon, fish cakes, and apple baked with honey and nuts for dessert. Though it's peripheral to Zoom's appeal, the food's fine, and beer, wine, and liquor are served to the young bibliophiles. When you're finished, the check arrives tucked between the pages of a novel.

Zov Ilyicha
Kazanskaya ulitsa 34
St. Petersburg
Tel: 7 812 717 8641

Of all the retro-Communist places, "Lenin's Call" is the silliest and strangest. A cross between a brothel in a '70s porno, a souvenir shop, and New York's old Russian Tea Room, the all-red boîte has hundreds of plastic Lenins dangling from the ceiling, waitresses dressed in real Stalinist worker's uniforms—only much smaller—and former Soviet leaders giving speeches on TV screens in between scenes of soft porn. The comedic menu is divided into "Soviet Food" and "Anti-Soviet Food"—both of which are better than you fear. It's very popular, especially on the Russian song nights.

Information may have changed since the date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.