Many Muscovites have a seemingly disposable income for fine dining, luxury travel, and fast cars. For a city that boasts more billionaires living in it than any other city in the world, I was surprised to learn that Moscow has only one three Michelin starred chef. Pierre Gagnaire, decorated with the highest gastronomic award of three Michelin stars, is the highly acclaimed chef of Les Menus, the French inspired restaurant at Lotte Hotel Moscow.
The term Michelin star is the hallmark of fine dining quality and awards zero to three stars based by anonymous reviewers based on the quality, mastery of technique, personality and consistency of the food. Michelin stars are highly coveted as most restaurants receive no stars at all. Three stars is the absolute highest of honors in the culinary world, with Michelin defining a three star restaurant as “Exceptional cuisine and worth a special journey. Often extremely expensive, and with an extensive wine list.”
We were excited to be invited to join Maria from the Lotte Hotel Moscow’s PR and Marketing office for dinner at Les Menus. There are several tasting menus available and since we were literally fresh off the plane and late (it seems Moscow even has traffic jams in the sky!), we opted for the 4-course petite tasting menu. Shortly after our server left with our order, the Parisian-trained sommelier arrived offering champagne to toast our arrival to Moscow. Always wanting to try a local wine, we decided on the Russian Bourjois Muskat, a sparkling rosé.
The server arrived with a trio of amuse bouche. All of the bread is freshly baked each day at the Lotte Hotel and the warm assortment of breads were each different, paired with two kinds of butter. The butter with herbs was divine and almost like a special treat since you’ll never see butter served with bread here in Italy. There were also flat breads, little pastry pillows stuffed with cheese and topped with fresh herbs, and a clever vodka martini that had been made into a gelatin and served on tiny skewers with green olives.
The first course was a treat for the eyes. The salad of fennel, pink grapefruit, raspberries, and Parmesan was like art on the plate. I swirled around the warm roasted duck foie gras in the cream of green peas; a burst of flavors in my mouth.
A highly prized Mediterranean fish called dentex followed on a bed of tomato pulp. It’s a highly flavorful white fish that I’ll definitely be on the lookout for again. (A bit of Google-ing and dentex is mostly found around Corsica.)
A special yellow chicken, which is specially bred to have more meat and less fat, over onions and zucchini was our last course before dessert. Maria, a vegetarian, asked if the yellow chicken tasted any different. I’m not sure, but it was succulent and juicy. Corn soup with a dollop of goat cheese and topped with red caviar (we were in Russia, after all!) and black venere rice were served alongside. We both really liked the corn soup, which was delicious with the caviar. Neither of us were much a fan of the venere rice, which is naturally dark purple or black in color and has a particular taste.
Dessert was a 4-course affair itself! We enjoyed every bite of a coffee mouse topped with banana and toasted hazelnuts, chocolate ice cream with candied rucola and melon, and a red berry sorbet in a martini glass. But there was still more to follow. The server wheeled over a cart with glass jars filled with homemade candies. Truffles and meringue and candies! Oh my! We only selected one or two each at Maria and our server’s urging because we were simply stuffed and feeling a bit lethargic from doing nothing but sitting on a plane all day.
We finished off the evening with tea, as tea is the after-meal beverage of choice in Russia. Dining at Les Menus was a wonderful experience with every detail perfect from the smiling and friendly staff to the custom made plates engraved with the Les Menus logo.
Thank you to Lotte Hotel Moscow for hosting us during our stay and dinner at Les Menus. Though we were guests of Lotte, all opinions are entirely our own.