Sharwin vs the Caucasian

Sharwin Tee: Chef Tales

With the success of the Philippine Week Food Promo at Swissotel in hand, I could now turn my attention to enjoying Moscow. The Philippine Embassy, ever the gracious host, planned a Moscow tour for me. Consul Jeff, who graciously volunteered to give me a tour brought me to Elardji Restaurant. A few blocks away from the embassy and the famed Arbatt Street, Elardji looked like an old home. It had a great cozy feel to it, something I’ve been preferring lately to grandiose or ultra modern looking places. It was described as a “Caucasian” restaurant, something which I later learned generally meant Georgian food.

Georgian food? Me likey. Jeff and I ordered the Georgian “table for two” — a set meal composed of some appetizers and a main course. First, we got a pitcher of lemonada. It was far from the traditional lemonade; from what I could tell, the drink was a mixture of lemon juice, berries, soda water, pomegranate and possibly blood orange. It was very refreshing: not too sweet and not too sour. It was like a vitamin water/fruit soda/fruit punch hybrid but in a great way!

Chef Sharwin Tee in Russia - Lemonada


The food was even better. The appetizers came in a steady stream, served by our waiter directly onto our plates. I’m low on names here, but not on praises. We had a rolled up roasted eggplant which was filled with a mousse of nuts & yoghurt, braised creamy chicken, and fresh white cheese swimming in yogurt, dill and mint. The Eggplant and Mousse, with its rich flavor and soft texture won me over, while the chicken was perfectly cooked. The cheese dish was quite a revelation that I will be doing a version of this in an upcoming Curiosity Got the Chef episode. A cheese flatbread was next and I could swear it was a pizza. It looked like it and the bread was thin but not cracker-thin and there was quite a good amount of cheese.

Chef Sharwin Tee in Russia - Eggplant and Mousse

Eggplant and Mousse

Chef Sharwin Tee in Russia - Cheese Flatbread

Cheese Flatbread

When the main dish was served, I was, admittedly, getting full but one look and I knew I would keep on eating. It was a beautifully served Shashlik, the Georgian version of kebab. We were given veal and lamb, and while both were great, I thought the lamb was dynamite — tender and very flavorful without the dry herb smell that you find in mediocre kebabs. I felt it could use more spiciness but since I devoured it quickly, this was obviously mere nitpicking.

Chef Sharwin Tee in Russia - Shashlik


You’d think a heavy meal like that would leave me stuffed the whole day, but I couldn’t say no to Consuls Trina and Lu who invited me to dinner at Balkon Restaurant. Another short walk from the embassy, the restaurant had a modern feel to it, with seven open kitchens all bustling with food preparation. I got to try another version of the Pelmeni and it was as good as I remembered — light and flavorful broth, al dente ravioli dough and moist meat filling. This version had bit more of a dill flavor in the broth and I do appreciate that. We had yet another winner. Is every Pelmeni in Moscow just awesome?

Chef Sharwin Tee in Russia - Pelmeni at  Balkon Restaurant

Pelmeni at Balkon Restaurant

My main course was a Roast Pork Belly with Berry Sauce. The roast belly was very tender and seasoned well. A surprise was the sauteed fern (pako), served on the side. Another touch of Filipino in a Russian restaurant! It was a pretty good reminder of home. And speaking of home, I was leaving soon but I was determined to eat as much of Russia as I could.

Chef Sharwin Tee in Russia - Roast Pork Belly with a Berry Sauce (at  Balkon Restaurant)

Roast Pork Belly with a Berry Sauce (at Balkon Restaurant)

Sharwin Tee is chef and host of Lifestyle Network's Curiosity Got the Chef, which airs every Wednesday at 930 pm with replays on Saturdays at 6 pm and Sundays at 1030 am. He is also a personal chef and culinary instructor. Find him on Twitter (@chefsharwin) and Facebook (Chef Sharwin Tee).

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