Opulent Setting, Traditional Oriental Cuisine
By John Bonar
Photos by Jason Platt
While the bright, airy setting, with a choice between comfortable banquette seating or solid tables and chairs, is as modern as you could wish, there is nothing remotely fusionlike in the menu of Tan, the Chinese-Japanese restaurant a stone’s throw from Triumfalnaya Square. The restaurant’s spacious interior was designed by a leading Beijing creative design agency and incorporate fragments from an imperial palace and carved wooden dragons and bas-reliefs while conveying the spirit of 21st century China.
There is an incredible menu created by the Chinese master-chef Duan Chinbo, who is a ‘chef with attitude’ according to the management. Sticking to traditional Chinese cuisine, he has modified some dishes to suit Russian taste, but many of his choices hark back centuries and draw heavily on Chinese folk medicine traditions in their ingredients.
Nothing is more traditional than the tea served to guests by Yu Yan, the restaurant’s ‘Doctor Tea’, who pours hot water from his ancient copper tea-pots with a one meter long spout into an infusion of petals of chrysanthemum, Chinese dates, barberry, raisin, green tea leaves, jasmine, walnut kernels and the Chinese kuyuar berries. This refreshing tea is imbued with health giving properties.
One of the most expensive selections on the menu is deep water mollusks of the Abalon strain. These invertebrates come either from the Sea of Japan or from the Atlantic Ocean and are recommended by Chinese traditional medicine practitioners for people suffering illness of the liver, kidneys and eyes. It is also said to improve the structure of blood and a portion of six of the largest at Tan will set you back 3,900 rubles.
Ignoring the mollusks, shark fin dishes and a variety of swallow nests, all of which have health improving qualities, I started with a very traditional hot and sour Sichuan soup (210 r), which was exactly as I like it, spicy, filled with succulent chicken and mushrooms, and very filling. Following this with a selection of spinach with peanut under garlic sauce (290 r) and sliced cucumbers with a hot Sichuan style marinade-dip (180 r) I enjoyed the crisp taste of the fresh vegetables and the appetite stimulating sauces. This was followed by Royal shrimp with almonds (710 r), recommended by my hostess and was a plate of flattened giant shrimps coated on both sides with almond flakes. This is truly a signature dish that will live in the memory.
The entrees ended with traditional Peking Duck (650 r). What was surprising was the duck, which came as sliced breast rather than shredded, making it more difficult to construct rolls from the steamed pancakes, finely sliced cucumbers and green onions with Hai-sian sauce.
We ended the meal with rice balls, covered in sesame seeds (200 r) which were succulent, met my sugar-free dietary requirements, but were a pleasant mouth cleanser after the duck.
Although it was a Monday evening, Tan was busy by nine p.m. and many patrons took the opportunity to have a Tarot reading by the resident fortune-teller.
Tan also has an extensive Japanese menu prepared by another Chinese chef, Kao Gushuam, who spent seven years on Japan’s southern Kusu island; however the overall feel of Tan is of China and the numbers of Chinese attendants is impressive. Checking with our Chinese friends in Moscow we find it is popular with them as well, which is a true sign of quality and a guarantee of authenticity in the cuisine.