Restaurant: Nedalny Vostok (Not Far East)
Address: 15 Tverskoy bulvar, building 2
Phone: 694 0641, 694 0154
Average cost: $50-100
Services: English-language menu
Huge open, modern hall with its large rectangular, stainless and glass kitchen, sous-chefs hard at work on all sides.
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.
Glen Ballis, Executive Chef of ’Nedalny Vostok’
Talks to Annet Kulyagina
Photos by Ruslan Sergeev
When did you start working as a chef?
Oh, I’ve never been asked this question before, they always ask me how did I start cooking!!! Well, I started a long time ago… Actually I have to work it out… Well, about 25 years ago. Yes, quite a long time. I’ve been cooking for 25 years; I’ve been traveling all around the world.
It’s is almost a lifetime; you seem to have your own style?
I think yes, it’s pretty simple. I like simple food, I’m into using quality ingredients, different ingredients. I think what I do is quite creative; it’s a little bit different from what everybody does. I try to do different things, may be other Chefs don’t try them.
I want a person to come and not have a whole meal experience, but have every dish as an experience, whether they enjoy it or they don’t enjoy it. You know it’s like buying a car or buying clothes…some people like this, some people don’t like that…but that is the sort of thing I want to do working for the people. It’s very free form. It’s very natural; it’s not precision cookglen ing. I take tomatoes and just fill them with olive oil, salt and pepper. Or take fish and fry it with roman lettuce with soya oyster sauce – it’s a very simple food but it’s very, very, tasty.
Which country is most reflected in your style?
Well, obviously from my background being Australian, and working in Asia for the past ten years it’s formed that way: Australian cuisine is very natural and free-form, a very simple style food, and I think my food has become a little complex because of the countries that I worked in.
Asia in general: Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Singapore; so I’ve traveled and worked a lot in Asia. Honestly, physically I haven’t been cooking for 10 years, I’ve been running and opening big international hotels.
How do you come to be here in Russia?
I’d been working in London for three years at Harrods as Executive Chef after Asia, and I was just a little bit burnt out, so I was going to take one year off. I surf, so I was going to surf places. I was in France and then I had a call from my agent telling me that they were looking for a Chef in Russia. It took a little while to think, because I‘ve always said that I never wanted to work in Malaysia and Russia. I thought these were the two hardest countries to work in. So in Malaysia I’ve spent the longest time and really enjoyed it, and Russia is getting that way also. I’m enjoying it!
I appreciate the freedom that I can get here. I’m given a certain direction and as long as I keep following the direction and coming up with the constant dishes, you know I have freedom to basically do as I like. As a Chef that’s the most important thing!
How do feel in this restaurant?
I think it’s going very well. It’s a beautiful restaurant. We have the best ingredients, the menu is interesting, the service is developing, we hit an outstanding place and it is getting better every day.
What about the team you work with?
The team is good and very, very young. They are fresh, they are eager to learn, they are interested in what we’re doing! And they are proud of what we do! The hard thing is the language barrier: I don’t speak Russian, so, especially when we were first opened, there were a lot of people coming through the doors it was difficult to communicate with. But as the time goes by we understand each other more because we are working together. The director Marina, she doesn’t speak English, but we think the same way and work good even without the common language. That is what amazes me about this team.
How would you characterize the russian restaurant tradition?
Russia is a new developing market here for food and beverage. I think as time progresses it will progress as well… There are a lot of restaurants now, but I find only a handful of very good restaurants and as time goes on and people gain more experience it will become even better.
Is it bad now?
Oh, no, I didn’t say so! The market is quite demanding here. Russian people obviously have money, they love to travel, they love to eat, drink wine, drink vodka and any other drinks that exist. They enjoy the food as well, and as these people are traveling around the world and coming back here their market expectations are growing…and that’s putting more pressure on us, I think. That’s why you see a lot of foreign chefs here!
What do you think are the expectations of a customer here?
Well, I think there is an extra pressure on our restaurant and any of Arkady’s restaurant, because he has such a good reputation in town. And we all want to be the best in the group. I think the expectations are very high. We are still in the beginning. I think in six month we’ll become more consistent. What amazes me here is that within two weeks people are coming to the restaurant and judging and during that time decide if the restaurant is good. But it takes three month for any restaurant to polish out all the problems and get running properly. And in six months we’ll see exactly what we are doing.
And what do you like to eat?
Well, I enjoy Italian food; I like the simplicity of it. The different salads they make, the different sorts of cheese they use. It is such a big traditional cuisine, but it is very simple; I enjoy it especially when it is kept simple. I also like Russian food, you know my day off is Sunday and I always start it the same, with the pelmeni and pirozhki.
Russian pelmeni and pirozhki?
Yes, I am stuck with the Russian food! And then in the afternoon I try one new restaurant. But if you ask why, I’ll tell you, ‘my frig is empty’. I am never at home and don’t usually cook for myself – I’m working to give our guests a new experience.