Italian and Russian food, grand old-style Soviet décor, good waiter service, and a live jazz quartet: Ãîðêè (Gorki) is a change from the cold minimalism of many of Moscow’s restaurants.
By Jillian Ong
If you want to take a break from the city’s ubiquitous minimalist interiors, you’ll be glad to know that you can seek refuge in the crushed velvet sofas of the new Gorki restaurant. In Russian the word “gorki” has multiple meanings and historical associations — Tverskaya, where the restaurant is situated, used to be called “Gorki” — , but here it refers most of all to the closed villages outside of Moscow where Stalin’s scientists slaved away in secret — Gorki 9, Gorki 23...
Gorki’s original interior dates from the 1950s, a style known as Soviet Empire. Corinthian-style columns faced in red marble tiling dominate the entrance hall; in place of the traditional capitals there are five-pointed Soviet stars surrounded by laurel wreaths. Elaborate mouldings and burgundy velvet curtains flanking the floor-to-ceiling windows, add to the opulence. Tables set with crisp white linen and stainless steel wine buckets give a contemporary touch, and a live jazz quartet on the stage in the far corner completes the restaurant’s atmosphere of indulgent luxury.
Say the word “gorki” to a Westerner, and it will be associated with Maxim Gorky, the Soviet Russian writer who spent several years in exile on the island of Capri. The restaurant remembers him also; in keeping with the Russian-Italian connection of Gorky himself, the menu has a dual nationality. Hot appetizers travel from eggplant and mushroom tart (310 rubles) to mushroom julienne (290 rubles), while cold starters include beef carpaccio with truffle oil (530 rubles) and blinis with black caviar (950 rubles). The rocket salad with shrimp (590 rubles) came topped with generous shavings of parmesan, its leaves just coated by the vinaigrette, and the warm shrimp was very fresh by Moscow standards. The Caprese salad (570 rubles), with slices of fresh tomato and mozzarella, is also a good option.
For a main course, there is a selection of pastas, fish and meat. The penne arrabiatta (490 rubles) was a disappointment — appropriately garlicky but not very spicy; the squid ink risotto (590 rubles) was similarly bland. Sicilian chef Antonio came out to explain that the food has been adapted to suit local palates, but he’s happy to intensify the flavors of his dishes upon request. Much better is the taglioni Gorki (1190 rubles), with a red caviar, crayfish and rich cream sauce complemented by fresh shavings of lemon rind; the dorado (320 rubles) and the beef stroganoff (510 rubles) were also good.
You should try to save room for a taste of Gorki’s extensive dessert selection (70-620 rubles). From a shortlist that included creme caramel, tiramisu, semifreddo and bird’s milk cake (a classic Russian dish resembling chocolate-covered souffle), my vote went to the Napoleon cake, its layers of fluffy puff pastry topped with an aromatic, sticky vanilla cream.
Gorki’s excellent waiter service and grand décor make it an ideal venue for entertaining business clients or enjoying a romantic dinner. Best of all, if you don’t feel like dressing up, there’s no dress code and no face control — perfect, therefore, for anyone seeking stylish surroundings without any pretension.