We decided to take a detour to Shinok because we wanted to take the piss out of it. This, we heard, was a “fake” farm restaurant where you could pet animals.
Not clear enough?
While it’s not extraordinary that Russians do love theming their restaurant, they – the restaurateurs behind Cafe Pushkin and Turandot – have gone extra miles in simulating a typical Ukrainian peasant farmhouse. We arrived at this dungeon-like tower, walked up the stairs to a dimly lit dining room which looked positively medieval (Do Ukrainians still live in the Middle Ages, who knows?), and there were windows, many of them, and a wall seemingly made of mud enclosing this little farm. The sun gleamed through the barely polished glass. I looked out. There was an old lady in a dress – unbeknownst to contemporary fashionistas – knitting hiding herself from the sun ray in a little thatched terrace. Around her I saw a chicken pecking for corn, a peacock perching on the wooden gate and a cow – yes A COW!!! – mooing and wagging its tail perhaps unhappily at its negligent tender. I was thrilled.. all the animals (and the only human being) seemed undisturbed by us the diners.
On a second glance.. ermmm was that really sun light? No. Were they really trees and wood? No. The “natural” farm-like surrounding was thoroughly – how shall I put it? – PLASTIC!!??!! The animals were real and cohabitating with these fakeries… my comment ended here as this staring peacock did not like me making judgments on her “home”…
Despite Shinok’s ludicrously gimmicky peasantry, our meal there turned out rustic-fantastic. My other bib’s eyes jumped right into the dish billed as “Finest Selection of Lard” while I settled for a less spectacular Herrings in Fur Coat. The lard turned out a lavish orchestra of cured pork, bacon and fat. Served with a garnish of herbs, chilli, garlic, rye bread and piquant mustard. My clothed herring was sensational and the best of its kind. The pungent pickled flavours of the herring swam through layers of velvety sweet mayo and beetroot. The yolky cream on top smelled as fresh as a (real) farm yard. We also had a Borsch to share. Intensely beefy stock with a universe of rustic trimmings – beans, beetroot, etc. It’s also the BEST borsch both of us had ever eaten. And we ordered a dish called “Vareniki” which were traditional dumplings stuffed with beef and baked in cheese. Looked meh but tasted gorgeous.
For mains.. there was this Chicken Kiev. Whole chicken breast remade to appear a gigantic drumstick as big as a 5-year-old’s arm (in case you misread this I never eat a toddler). Lightest ever batter and when I cut it was like a dam of liquid butter had been broken. The pork meatballs were also good. Came with mildly acidic tomato sauce and sauteed wild mushrooms and nestled in silky mash. It lacked the wow factor the other dishes had though.
And.. the dessert of what-I-didn’t-take-note-what-it’s-called (perhaps Caviar Girl can help?). Basically it was a paper-thin pancake deep filled with ground poppy seed and drizzled with what I made out to be condensed milk. A pleasantly gummy skin with a lot of grainy nuttiness inside. We liked it but couldn’t finish. My other bib also ordered a sorbet..
The meal concluded with the bill that as we recalled wasn’t shocking (considering how much we had ordered). Around £80. Food-wise, there was no bad dish and many bordered on being paired down but sensational. I love Shinok. It’s gimmicky – the setting, the waiter’s costume, everything – but it paid off so well at the end of the meal. Interestingly I seem to have made an acquaintace with a colourful bird who looked bemused at what I was eating. I love Shinok and if I return to Moscow it will also be the place I go back to. On leaving I tried to wave at the old peasant lady who had moved on to tending the cow but she did not take note of me and us. Into her character? Maybe just in a universe of her own…
PS The restaurant next to Shinok called Manon looked quite mental, too. But there is no farm animal there so we’ll give it a miss.
My head rating says, “10 out of 10″.
My heart rating says, “9 out of 10″.
1905 Goda Ulitsa 2/1905 Года ул., 2
Tel. +7495 651 8101