Novikov’s Latest Creation Stimulates
By Charles W.Borden
I arrived late, and our review crew was already at work on double portions of several of Nedalny Vostok’s salads. Over their shoulders was a large Kamchatka crab pondering its fate from the nearby designer aquarium with his lobster playmates. Not Far East is yet another creation of Arkady Novikov, the Sir Terence Conran of Moscow. Not satisfied with just one Asian fusion restaurant for this month’s issue, we were now in this huge open, modern hall with its large rectangular, stainless and glass kitchen, sous-chefs hard at work on all sides. A comfortable bar lies to the left of the entrance and the path to the restrooms to the right leads through a dark, quiet chill-out area.
The design is classy, with pyramids of lemons and limes stacked around the kitchen, and large half barrels at the entrance, each filled with raw foods –ginger root in one, dried red pepper in another, and whole bay leaf in a third. Glass shelves, each stacked with its own object theme – Soviet and Ikea type glass vases on one, bottles of herbed oil on another – serve as partitions.
I managed to snatch the last of the salads. The Beetroot, Semi-dried Tomato, Crumbled Goat Cheese, Peach Salad with Hazelnut Dressing (850r) consisted of small diced beets, Arugula, a marinated pear, a small stewed tomato, cheese that could be mistaken for Philadelphia, and a few hazelnuts. Though very, very tasty, at the equivalent of $33, without a piece of meat or fish, it was clear that the prices at Not Far East are breathtaking even by Moscow standards. The Asian Caesar Salad (650r) was a fusion which appeared good Caesar (though the dressing was not) with very fresh tuna and salmon sashimi. The last salad was a Prawn, Lobster, and Dried Tuna Salad (1350r) with red wine and poached apple vinaigrette.
The first appetizer, Grilled Crab with Wasabi Mayo-Cucumber Salad and Ponzo Sauce (1050r), consisted of several crab leg sections with half the shell peeled away providing easy access to the meat. Next came Sichuan Spiced Scallops (600r) served over a cauliflower puree, with grilled sausage, chili jam and aioli, very nicely done, and Seared Foie Gras, Lamb Tongue and Pickled Persimmon (850r).
Looking over the menu, I found interesting Asian/Russian fusion sections, Pelmini and Kasha, which we did not sample. These include a Pelmini with Sea Scallops (650r) and Buckwheat with Duck Confit (650r).
Already full, we were already hoping that the last dish had been served when the main courses arrived. These were again double portions of Chili Crab (1950r), Black Bean Crab (1950r), Hot Pot of Spiced Mussels with Crispy Russian Sausage (750r), Barbeque Australian Sirloin with Tomato Confit and Salsa Criolla (1100r), Sugar Crusted Black Cod Fillet with Ponzu Sauce (1250r) and Mirin Scorched Salmon with Jalapeno Salsa, Asparagus and Garden Greens (1150r). The sirloin was beautiful, melt-in-your-mouth and the black cod sweet and soft, perfectly prepared. The two crab dishes were large bowls of substantial crab leg sections with apparently traditional sauces.
The table had finished glasses of Tasca d’Amerita Nero d’Avola (600r per glass) before I arrived and also a Napanook Dominus Estate (6200r). However, I did manage to thoroughly enjoy one of our Passport favorites, Dalwhinnie Moonambel Shiraz (5500r), imported to Russia by Australian golf pro Grant Dodd, a regular at the Passport wine tastings. We finished by sharing a taste of two of Not Far East’s designer cocktails.
To compare with Nabi, our other Asian fusion review this month, Nabi is subdued, peaceful and wood; Not Far East is grand, bright and aluminum. The Nabi menu is Spartan, while Not Far East’s is huge; but both have excellent service and prices to match their ambitions to be the newest and best for Moscow’s elitny crowd. I would give Not Far East the edge on the food, and Nabi the edge on atmosphere; Nabi the place for a romantic date or business meeting, and Not Far East for a dinner party.