New Russian kitchen
The new age of borscht
When Russian chefs went out to catch new winds, they amassed strength from their roots and their past. Dusty recipes were dug up from old chests and were turned into top-class gastronomy.
What raw materials is the new Russian cuisine based on?
"Certainly not on Russian-style interiors, traditional clothing, and balalaikas", notes Igor Grishechkin, the chef at the KoKoKo restaurant. He says that local products, the use of modern technology, and inventive presentation form the three basic pillars of the new Russian cuisine.
The restaurants of St. Petersburg are eagerly taking part in overhauling the traditions of Russian food preparation, and KoKoKo is one of the pioneers in this. The owner of the restaurant, Sergei Shnurov, is a soloist in a legendary Russian rock group, and he has chosen Igor Grishechkin as his chef for good reasons.
Bursting with ideas, Grishechkin is passionate about his work. New masterpieces emerge, inspired by Russian gastronomic traditions. There are countless examples of Grishechkin's inventive creations: a spongy guriev porridge with hints of crème brûlée, a fondant dessert which looks like a large piece of candy, oak tiramisu and a sorbet made out of kvass home-brewed beer, a pudding made out of sour Borodinski bread, and smelt ceviche marinated in apple juice and served with onion tartar.
"I can get the idea for a new dish in the morning, which I complete at the end of the day. Some foods I might refine for a long time until it is perfect. One of these is the Russian borscht soup. Now we are serving version number 3.0, but I'm sure that there will be more to come, Grishechkin laughs.
KoKoKo uses only local seasonal products in its food. Every Thursday the restaurant gets fresh fish from Lake Ladoga, and on Saturdays, geese and turkeys from nearby farmers. The menu is updated frequently, so that the best offerings of each season might be included.
"In the spring, when green vegetables are only on their way, we start to use nettles, ribwort plantain, burdock, and other plants that can be found in forests surrounding St. Petersburg. Ox carpaccio and dandelion leaves go perfectly together, as do clover pannacotta and hazelnut. Salads mixed from various grasses, bird cherry pesto, and creamy sheep's sorrel soup are real vitamin bombs", Grishechkin discloses.
Experiments in the kitchen
Grishechkin likes to speak on behalf of considered use of modern technology, as it makes it possible to achieve new heights in the art of food preparation.
"I use methods of molecular gastronomy, low temperatures, and many modern devices get a certain taste or structure into the food. The result can be a sauce with a flavour of smoke, pike served with unmelted fennel jelly, mousse made of Cherkessian cheese with beetroot, or Baltic seaweed mousse", the maestro explains.
One of the specialities of KoKoKo is the "tourist breakfast", which includes some of Grishechkin's personal favourites. The renowned meal contains barley and buckwheat porridge served in a can that is dark with soot from an open fire, smoked beef tartar, crisp chips roasted out of tiny branches, and coal-black pieces of bread. All of this evokes memories from childhood, the forest in the early morning, and camp fires.
The star of the new Russian kitchen has only recently started to shine, but if the representatives of all orientations were as enthusiastic as Grishechkin, the new Russian delicacies will soon be a topic of conversation everywhere.
Ul. Nekrasova 8.
At the moment we are serving version 3.0 of borscht.
- Igor Grišetškin -