How to Eat Healthily in Moscow: RestaurantsPosted: August 4, 2012
Despite what my recipes for scones, chocolate chip cookies and, um, snickers bars may suggest, I try to stay committed to healthy eating. I try to give the sweets to colleagues and guests, aside from the obligatory dough tastings. Those are mine. Most days I like to eat simply, but eating as I was used to in the West can be quite the challenge in Russia. The classic Russkii diet of vodka and cigarettes is definitely going to kill you, but even if you don’t count those most unhealthy of vices, Russian cuisine features a ton of milk fat, meat, mayonnaise, drinking, and pastries. Delicious, sure, but not for every day. I kind of don’t know how all the young Russian devushkas stay so thin…except that I do. It’s the portions: the frustratingly tiny 200-rouble cappuccinos and single scoops of ice cream. It’s quite difficult–sometimes ridiculously so–to get some of the food that I took for granted back home. Not even my raisin-spelt bread or kamut perogies; those, I now understand, are luxuries. No. What I’m talking about are cans of chickpeas, cartons of tofu and fresh greens–kale, chard, bags of spinach. I miss those things (& almond butter) the most; they’re impossible or extremely hard to find and, when you do find them, beware that they’ll likely be imported from Italy or Germany and will cost a fortune.
Fortunately, there are alternatives, and I’ve been experimenting a lot. For protein, I may not be able to procure a lot of tofu or beans, but I’ve been eating herring, wonderful smoked salmon, buckwheat, millet and nuts. I’ve also been eating more dairy products, like milk and the tasty, ubiquitous tvorog. There was a time when I lived on very little dairy, and drank mostly coconut or almond milk when I could. But I’m back to milk, and I feel OK about it. And as far as calcium is concerned, there are sardines and cabbage, a leafy green that is widely available here and is very, very cheap. And otherwise, there is seasonal produce: now’s the time for peaches, cherries and blueberries (maybe they’re bilberries?) from the babushka on the corner.
Photo by Sarah Britton at My New Roots
If you’re looking for actual vegetarian restaurants, sadly there are, like, two places listed on Happy Cow. Pathetic! There are over 10 million people in this city, so I am SURE there are heaps of cash to be made if they opened a Whole Foods or, like, a salad bar. There’s a place near me with a bright green sign that claims to be healthy called Focaccia-somethingorother. I never thought that focaccia would count as…health food, and also, those are tortillas. Not the same thing. I don’t know though, if we got some better places I’d probably start having convulsions. That almost happened when I got my nut butter, as documented below on my friend Stasya’s camera:
I don’t need my home comforts every single day, but it’s nice to have them as an option for when I want to splurge or when I feel homesick. With that in mind, here are some restaurants that provide food that feels healthy and fresh and is, above all else, DELICIOUS:
- Prime Star: Not so much a restaurant, say, as a cafe. They have a location on Arbat, which I frequent a lot when I work in the area. They have a mix of old Russkii favourites like buckwheat with mushrooms, borsch, kefir, and a random array of sushi and wraps. The prices are reasonable, the food is fresh and healthy. On Arbat especially, that’s as good as it gets.
- Dve Palochki: There is probably more Japanese food in Moscow than any other cuisine, so you can pretty much feel free to go wild. But I like this chain, and have fond memories of it from when I was in St. Petersburg. If you’re sharing, their sets for two are to die for. The service is really quite good, too.
- Jagganath: This Indian vegetarian resto has three locations, one of which is near me, thank God. They don’t serve meat and they don’t serve alcohol, but they have a variety of tofu, bean, and paneer-based dishes, as well as lots of yummy-looking desserts. You pay by the quantity, which is reasonable, and they also have a small store where you can pick up fixings for another healthy supper.
- Ludi Kak Ludi: This sweet restaurant serves weekend “brunch” and a good, cheap business lunch. There are vegetarian options and a ton of different smoothies to choose from. On the afternoon we went, it was packed with pretty much 100% of the Moscow hipsters.
- Avocado: This one, on the Chistie Prudi boulevard, also looks promising, especially since it’s about ten minutes from where we now live. (LOVE this area.) They apparently use only fresh, organic produce. I find this incredibly hard to believe, frankly, but I’m going to test it out. Besides, there’s supposed to be a nice patio for use while it’s warm and beautiful.
- Gagan: A friend of a friend here goes to India on business a lot, and when asked what his favourite Indian place in Moscow was, he mentioned Gagan without hesitation. It’s a bit far from me, by Dinamo metro, so I’ve yet to go, but I will soon. (However, I would give them a call before–their website is acting up and won’t tell me any of their information anymore.) I have been to another LOVELY Indian place, though: Maharajah on Maroseika. Not cheap, but super, super delicious.
- Xleb i Moloko: I’ve passed this place about a million times by now on my way to and from work. It’s supposed to serve fresh farmer’s products, homemade bread, etc. It’s sort of in a strange place, right next to the Chistie Prudi metro station and some weird pharmacies, but the interior photos look extremely promising. Can’t wait to go in!
On that note, I’ll talk about Russian farmer’s products very soon, with part TWO of this article!