Text Charles W.Borden
The new Black Berry in Moscow is not a smartphone, it’s a trendy, comfortable upscale restaurant on Tsevtnoi Bulvar, evidenced by the blackberry monogram on the door. Black Berry is located about a third of the way up on the right side as you drive from Chisty Prudhy to the Garden Ring. Past the door of the modern glass and polished metal building, the restaurant’s dark earthy tones, subdued design and spacious high ceilings provide a welcome atmosphere, leaving behind the traffic jam out front. However, like many of Moscow’s new generation of restaurants, where one could forget in which of the world’s big cities one is dining, this makes expectations of the food also global.
We were seated in a corner of the third floor across from a small bar and open cooking area surrounded by large hanging legs of Jamon Serrano (Spanish dried ham). A half dozen or so Chinese cooks were busy at work preparing the sushi and sashimi that have long been essential on Russian restaurant menus. A group of Italian “biznesmeny” appear to peer over the room from a huge wall-sized black and white photo on the end wall.
The wine list has an interesting international selection of wines and two Australian’s were quickly selected: an Plantagenet Omrah Chardonnay 2006 (2,530r) and Two Hands Angels Share Syrah 2007 (3,850r). The Angels Share is one of Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines of 2008 with 92 points, a little young to drink now. Note that these two wines are priced at $17 and $29 respectively in the United States (also a long way from Sydney), but here they were $71 and $108 even at the new depreciated ruble exchange rates. Even the table grade Hardy’s Stamp Series Riesling/Gewurztraminer was 290 rubles per glass almost as much as a full bottle costs in a Moscow supermarket.
Black Berry’s menu is international eclectic with the before-mentioned sushi as well as Asian, Russian, Italian and other cuisines represented. A large cheese plate came out first, with several soft cheeses and chunks of Parmigiano Reggiano and a large serving of honey. Around the table orders for starters included Borsch (310r) and Kutabi (370r). The Kutabi is Central Asian specialty, a very thin pastry filled with meat, and these were very tasty. Surprisingly our host recommended the Caesar Salad with Chicken (390r) and this proved to be a good selection and unusual presentation – the chicken pieces were crispy an overlaid with arugula, very thin slices of Parmigiano and croutons – though small the salad was very good. We also tried out the sushi with a standard California Roll (560r), which was expensive and unimpressive.
For a main course, while most guests ordered the Filet Mignon (1260r) or Ribeye (1200r) I ordered that Tortellini with Ricotta Cheese and Cream and Bacon Sauce (530r). There were neither praises nor claims on the steaks but I did enjoy the tortellini, which were perfectly cooked, and well matched with the creamy sauce. But I was disappointed by side order of Shrimp Cutlets with Passion Fruit Sauce (480r), prepared with chopped shrimp
like a Russian cutlet and but also oily like one.
Black Berry scores high on ambiance and service, among the best, but with a few exceptions the food did not match. Also, though we appreciate the selections on the wine list, these are substantially overpriced – but then we are used to this in Moscow.