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A Taste of Russia in Madrid
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The Spanish-Russian connection presented a tasting menu consisting of four courses, a cheese selection and two desserts. Chef Isavok prepared two rather simple recipes. First a “Shahlik Tartaki”, a sort of spiced steak tartare served with crispy wheat chips, which were accompanied by a Russian distillate ressembling grappa or orujo. He was also in charge of the dinner’s main course, a duck served with soil and wood, Gurye gachas and an apricot demi-glace sauce. This was a very simple recipe, presented in a very austere, classical manner that was brightened by delicious pinecone jam, brought from Russia, which embraced the duck with resinous and a roasted coca hue. These are usual elements of Russian cuisine which, just as Nordic cuisine, puts an eye on forest resources.
Grebenshikov brought sea notes to the table with a sea bass served with a horseradish cream and a beet purée, also simple, but balanced with just a slight spicy pinch that added charisma to another delicate, but rather contained proposal, with fish almost served raw. The chef also took charge of one of the desserts, comprised of buckwheat and strawberries.
More refined were the creations of Chef Sandoval who made a perfect concoction of seasonal ingredients, and with few elements as seasonal mushrooms, paced egg yolk and truffle, conceived a round recipe, enhanced by his ability to combine all ingredients in the same bite, with a creamy texture on the palate. Sandoval also created an almond cake he served with thyme cream and cheese ice cream.
Sandoval’s performance made evident the challenges of Russia’s fine cuisine, which has been blocked by an adverse food products embargo that has forced to deal with their own national elements. This is why ingredients as beets or cereal are essential in the Russian diet.
Another challenge of their culinary refinement is the lack of culinary arts schools, which forces chefs to travel to countries as Spain, Italy or the United States to pursue training.
Moscow and St. Petersburg remain the top food destinations of a country where there are few profesional female chefs.
The menu was harmonized with rosé and red wines from Spain, and a White Port. Russia produced wine long ago, a production that has incipiently been recovered recently with labels as Fanagoria, which has a reasonably good brut nature, and also whites, reds, and fortified grapes from various grape varieties.
February 27, 2018. All rights reserved ©
Hotel Orfila is a stylish lodge at Spain’s capital very center, with a well known treasure, its Jardín de Orfila restaurant, a location where delicacy meets elegance in the plate and the place. Its classical decor evoques the glamour and opulence of Russian palaces in St. Petersburg, where some of the most demanding palates found delight.
From St. Petersburg with flavor, Russian Chefs Artem Grebenshikov (Evarta Museum and Restaurant) and Anton Isavok (Syrnik) joined forces with Sandoval in a six-hands dinner that enabled diners to compare two different culinary rhtyhms and interpretations of the sophistication in culinary arts, and also how some simple indigenous ingredients can be transformed into fine cuisine.
Grebenshikov belongs to a new generation of chefs who through their work are helping sustain agricultural crops and their producers all across Russia, in an effort to heigthen the country’s culinary culture. His cuisine is inspired on traditional Russian recipes and majestic art pieces which he creatively transforms into delicious sensorial experiences.
Isavok has a philosophical approach to gastronomy, linking ingredients on the plate to express themselves as logical complements of one another. While Grebenshikov illustrates the most opulent side of Russia, Isavok is a much more down to earth profesional who attempts doing more with less.
Even though this contemporary culinary vision is still far behind from that of other European cuisines, Madrid Fusión 2018’s Gastronomic Summit and its complementary event Gastrofestival were an opportunity to taste and discover the new route of the Russian taste.
Known by the grandeur of its imperial history and the magnificent architectural heritage that still makes metropoles as Moscow or St. Petersburg shine in splendor, it was a natural choice to have sophisticated hotel Orfila as host of two of the most prominent young culinary talents from Russia, blending their savoir faire with that of prestigious Spanish Chef Mario Sandoval, Executive Chef of this Relais & Châteaux property in Madrid.
Even though in recent times the country has made the news for reasons that evoke flashbacks of the Cold War Era, Russia is on track because of the interest it generates as a tourist destination, and also because its citizens have a ferocious appetite for travel. In 2017 alone, outbound travel increased by 20-22% when compared to 2016, with some countries as Cuba or the Dominican Republic witnessing a 100% increase of Russian visitors.
It is therefore undisputable that in spite of its chilling cold winter, Russia is hot, as hot are the stoves of a new generation of Russian chefs who are turning on a heat that pursues the edification of a contemporary Russian cuisine.
With Europe next door, and a gastronomic revolution that spreads worldwide, it came as no suprise that Russian chefs got on the “foodie” wave too. Nevertheless, as European food imports are banned in Russia since 2014, the country’s culinary professionals have been compeled to look within the resources of their own country and maximize Russia’s pantry of ingredients, applying a compulsory self-sufficiency that has driven them to re-discover ingredients that could serve as pillars of a new Russian cuisine.
Rosa Maria Gonzalez Lamas. Fotos: Viajes & Vinos, Madrid Fusion and Hotel Orfila (C)