April’s entry into Moscow’s extravagant restaurant contest was Indus, which offers high-end, progressive Indian fare from a restored 1845 private residence behind Cantinetta Antinori on Plotinikov Pereulok. The Indus entry is the creation of Stepan Mikhalkov, son of Oscar winning film director Nikita and actress Anastasia. Stepan has apparently tried to put the privileged time he spent with his parents at the Cafe of the Union of Filmmakers, Writers and Actors to good use by opening three restaurants: Vertinksy, Vanil and now Indus. He brought in the renowned London based Indian chef Vineet Bhatia, the first Indian chef to have a restaurant awarded a Michelin star, as consultant for Indus. Mallikarjun Gouda is executive chef.
The first floor of the Indus building houses Chivas, an elitny joint venture of Pernod Ricard and Mikhalkov that serves Chivas Brothers scotches and premium cocktails. “Chivas is one of the most fashionable and status-affirming brands in Russia,” said Mikhalkov, “so the opening of the Chivas Bar and Lounge provides an elite and elegant venue that brings the sophistication of international bar culture to Moscow.” That probably says all we need to know about Chivas, which can be bypassed by the stairway up to the elegant Indus.
However, we first visited Indus at lunchtime and the restaurant proper was closed, so we had to settle for the bar menu in Chivas. We managed to get one of the few real sit-down tables as opposed to the chill-out divans that are popular with the see and be-seen crowd. It takes a real table and chair to enjoy a meal.
That we did, as we ordered practically every item on the bar menu, starting with the Madras Soup with Scallop and Prawn (14)*, a tasty tomato based soup with a carpaccio of scallop and prawn. Most of the items to follow were appetizer type servings. These included Lamb Seekh Kabob (17); Kastoori Murgh (12), a spice marinated chicken; and classic Tandoori Chicken Tikka (12). The best were Tandoori Jinga (15) or prawn, and the Masala Grilled Scallop (22), a spice crusted grilled scallop served with a lentil, carrot and cucumber salad. Small servings of three sauces were provided, though they did not add much; the mint was expected, but the others were a little too 1000-Islandish and Chinese Sweet and Sourish for my taste.
The menu also has several wraps – spicy prawn (14), chicken tikka (9), lamb (14), and spicy vegetable (9) – really small burrito-like sandwiches. A delicious vegetable dish was the Chatpate Aloo (9), a sweet and sour crisp baby potato, onion and tomato mix with fried chickpea vermicelli. One could say we over-ordered, but came away satisfied with a bill of 6,700 rubles for four people (not including alcohol). The food was well prepared and spices well balanced – and we were given a choice on the level of heat at the outset.
We returned again a week later in the evening for our wine tasting (see page 40-41). The dining room is fab, and very comfortable with real, meal-enjoying chairs and tables. During the tasting we helped ourselves to Naan, adequate as a palate cleanser; we avoided spicier food until we finished our rating. After sampling 3 Sauvignon Blanc, 6 Chardonnay, and 9 Pinot Noir wines, my notes on the dinner menu were a little fuzzy. I heard later that everyone enjoyed it, whatever it was. Some from our party have returned and that will have to do for our dinner recommendation. I do know that I did not try Ras Malai (18) dessert, one of my favorites, so I would be happy to return for another chance.
*All prices on the menu in units charged at 30 rubles per unit.