Moscow hit the highway of high gastronomy less than a decade ago. Just in 2011 Varvary, Anatoly Komm’s molecular bonanza, made it into the most prestigious restaurant ratings, and Komm, the Baryshnikov of Russian fine dining, started his better-than-Bolshoi-ballet tour “Around the world with borscht and foie gras”. Now we can see his successors staging the same type of guest appearances. In the nineties, Moscow restaurants had to serve sushi, whiskey, and hot blondes to survive; then came the era of arugula and shrimp salad and false claret with genuine labels. Now it’s all about beautifully marbled local beef, albino beluga caviar, farm-to-table vegetables, and orange wine from Georgia, a country that has no diplomatic relations with today’s Russia. Everything has changed––but the president whose politics imposed sanctions upon the country, sanctions that led to counter-sanctions. These counter-sanctions, in turn, inspired the daily business-class deliveries of fresh seafood from far Russian seas, the marbling of Bryansk beef, and the exodus of first-generation hipsters, rushing to far-flung farms, to grow kale for trendy restaurants. Et voilà, a new edition of fine dining, based on local and seasonal produce was born! Should one thank or curse Mr. Putin for that? Depends on the point of view. Moscow is the biggest piece of the Russian pie, home to one tenth of the country’s population––owners of nine tenth of the country’s wealth. Here you will see government officials wearing gold watches that cost as much as a Rolls-Royce, former oligarchs stripped of power but not––yet!––of capital, ritzy pop-singers, wealthy face lifting champions, glamorous widows and divorcees, rich kids, as well as united collars, diplomats and tourists. All of them have cash in their pockets and will readily exchange it for food. Thus the number of restaurants has kept growing, even after the economic crisis when the rouble was devalued by fifty percent. Arkady Novikov, Moscow’s No 1 restaurateur, owner of the biggest eatery in London’s Mayfair (humbly named after himself), and resident of Gianni Versace’s infamous gilded lake Como palazzo, has returned to Moscow and is launching new projects––from burger joints to fine dining outlets––on a daily basis. But unlike the 90s and 00s, when he was the undisputable king, he is now just one of the many faces of Moscow restaurant scene. Moscow paradox: on the one hand, the city is booming, on the other, many restaurants, old and new, were forced out of business in the past few years. Which, by the way, made the sales of used restaurant furniture a new trendy business with drug dealing margins. At the moment, there are twelve thousand restaurants in this incredibly vibrant city that simply cannot be limited in any way.

12forward by White Guide lists 12 eateries in each chosen city that represent the very forefront of gastronomy.

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