AIST (The Stork)
Review by John Ortega and Charles Borden
It was a usual overcast winter afternoon when Todd Nalven, COO of Tablogix, joined us to check out Novikov’s new Mediterranean gastronomic creation at the corner of Malaya and Bolshaya Bronnaya. We were hoping to see a restored historic building; the neighboring address #10 was where the romance between American dancer Isadora Duncan and Russian poet Sergei Yesenin began in 1921. Built in 1903 by the owner of the Ducat tobacco factory, #10 had been divided into flats that became studios of the Bubnovy Valet (Jack of Diamonds) artists, known as the Russian Cezannists. Todd told us that the building across the street housed one of the Cambridge spies and pianist Svyatoslav Richter. Alas, this Aist had replaced the previous classic Soviet era, one-story café of the same name in 2004; only the statue of two storks in front survived the regime change.
Aist has now become the latest place to be seen for the Moscow’s rich and beautiful. It was built and is owned by Temuraz Shatashvili and his three brothers from Sukhumi. The first floor is a lounge with deep cushioned armchairs and a giant bar. The second floor is decorated in Imperial style of a 19th century living room, and boasts an open-air, state-of-the-art kitchen. A rooftop patio will open after the weather changes.
The eclectic menu is the creation of Sardinian chef Fabricio Crespi and the pastries of Italian Roberto Fornara. For starters, we were stunned by the presentation of the Fresh Artichoke Salad with Shrimps (980r.) and Burrata with Cherry Tomatoes (880r.) – only a photo can do them justice. The wonderful Burrata cheese appeared to be enough for a meal itself, though it was not accompanied by traditional Puglia bread, only a Borodinsky black and a dry white. We also enjoyed the innovative and delicious Borlotti Bean Salad with Scallops (380r.). Borlotti is a classic Italian bean, medium and tan colored, splashed with red/black to magenta streaks, which is popular in Italian and Portuguese cuisine.
Since the menu included Moscow’s mandatory sushi, we decided to use the California Roll (490 r.) as benchmark. Nothing special here; an Italian chef has much to add to this cuisine. Our main courses included Osso Bucco with Mushroom Risotto (990r.), two good-sized pieces braised veal shank in a reduced beef stock and vegetable sauce made from carrots, celery, and onion, and the Chilean Sea Bass with Broccoli and Anchovies Puree. Both satisfactory.
We also tried the Taglioni with Crabs (750r.) after verifying with the waitress that this was Kamchatka crab, not the smaller, more bothersome sort. Other interestingly named menu items were the Deer Tendor Lion with Bitter Cacao and Garlic Spinach, (big game in Moscow?) and the Fried in Russian Style Potatoes (who made this sacrifice). It’s always a little surprising that those who spend a few million on construction of a restaurant, don’t give a free dinner to a foreign student to edit the menu.
The nine-page wine list has a number of good values at the lower levels including Cono Sur Pinot Noir (Chile) at 1,300 rubles, and Muscadet de Sevre et Maine, Sur Lie. Marc Bredif 2004 (Loire) at 1,200 rubles. The small selection of wines by the glass included a favorite, Millaman Zinfandel (Chile) at 450 rubles and also the white Cusimano Angimbe (Sicily) at 350 rubles.
Open from noon to last diner.