Gentlemen’s Quarterly not just for Gentlemen
Right after opening Dymov No.1 chain of popularly positioned beer restaurants, Arkady Novikov has swung back to the more familiar field of refined dining with the opening of GQ Bar, in partnership with Conde Nast Publishing and Alexander Sorkin.
By John Ortega and Charles W. Borden
Photos by Alexey Gorov
Alexander Sorkin is a partner of Arkady in “Veranda u Dachi” and “Peperoni”. GQ is located in No. 5, Balchug Street. A large space of 1500 square meters, separated into three different areas, in a 17th century building, its facade overlooking Balchug Street. GQ Bar is cavernous and what a location with its long street-side frontage just a few meters south of the entrance to the Baltschug Hotel. It doesn’t matter that it’s about 10 blocks from the metro because no one should be going there by metro. The building is a one-story with enough headroom to tuck two seating balconies above the small dining area to the left and over the large bar to the right of the entrance. The bar area feels woody and warm. The bar counter itself appears to be fashioned from a large block of black glass. As you walk in you cannot help notice the heavy metal sitting out front: Bentleys, Maserati’s, Maybach, and Mercedes with their drivers and guards watching TV.
Two large, clean, and active open kitchens peer from left and right as you walk directly back from the entrance to the dining room at the rear. This is a large open room fixed with the usual Novikov style artifacts and fit-out. The man is a master at creating an environment but as one of our guests, William Reichert commented, “the Novikov restaurants are starting to look like they come out of the same cookie-cutter mold. I suppose there’s no reason to change, since every place he puts his name on seems to print money - GQ was packed full for a Tuesday night.”
After some initial confusion with the management about why we had showed up with 14 bottles of wine, we produced the April issue of Passport with Novikov on the cover which helped settle things. Konstantin Ivlev, Executive Chef GQ Bar showed up at our table, and while he is attributed on the GQ website with saying “A chef does not have the right to say “no” to a client,” he didn’t give us a chance - he offered to prepare his best for us with “don’t bother with the menu.” At that, I knew we were in for another budget and belly busting treat.
Though we were to have no shortage of wine, a couple of bottles Kistler Chardonnay (6,950r) were ordered off the menu. This powerful California Chardonnay is one of our favorites. The staff produced Ivlev’s menu for the evening. This started with Kamchatka Crab (520r per pair of leg sections), and followed with Herring ‘pod shuboi’ (under a fur coat) with Crab Meat (590r), Green Salad with Roast Beef and Radish (700r), King Crab Meat, Spicy Sauce (1300r), and Crab Spicy Chili (1900r) , and topped off with Beef Fillet (990r).
As William Reichert later commented, “Lovely crab, wonderful crab! If you don’t like crab, this was not the meal for you. If on the other hand you’re a crab fan, the meal at GQ Bar was crab heaven!” Kamchatka Crab seems to be the rage at the Novikov creations as evidenced by our meal at Ne Dalny Vostok (Not Far East), which was the subject of our review in March.
Guest Jonathan Russin described the first dish, “crab legs served cold on a bed of ice with garnishes that were hardly necessary, given the simple and superb taste of the crab meat alone.” It was difficult to refrain from grabbing the last pieces – this was the best crab I have had since some Dungeness in Seattle decades ago.
“The Herring under a Fur Coat” was a purely Russian dish. Despite some graceful touches from the chef, for me it was a reminder that I did not come to Russia for the cuisine. William provided some perspective: “the selyodka pod shuboi was somewhat disappointing, although it may be because I’ve gotten too used to the traditional Russian preparation that calls for a lot more mayonnaise.”
Jonathan further described the other courses, “then a spicy Asian version of the crab legs, this time broiled and served hot to the table. The final treat was crab sautéed in a delightful tomato based sauce.”
To complete the commentary with the beef dishes, William stepped in “the sliced beef in the beef salad absolutely melted in your mouth, although it had just a bit too much salt for my taste. Finally, the generous portion of grilled steak was perfectly prepared, and surely rivals any other steak that you can find in Moscow.” He has no argument from me, or anyone else from the table on the fillet.
Despite the implication from the name and the website, GQ is definitely not only for gentlemen judging by the more than ample evidence at the tables around the room. GQ undoubtedly will be a hit for both style and substance. If you are looking for a business entertainment venue in Moscow, GQ has streaked to near the top of the list. The piano in the cafe is no mere ornament: a singing pianist shows up every evening to deliver a collection of the world’s greatest hits, Italian songs of the ‘80s are his specialties. A DJ treats the bar crowd to a mix of house.
Behind the scene
Arkady Novikov is one of the most famous and successful restaurateurs in Russia. Some of the best--known Moscow restaurants from Vogue Café (also in partnership with Code Nast) and the elite Cantinetta Antinori to the lower priced “Kish Mish”, “Malenkaya Yaponiya” and “Yolki-Palki” are all part of the Novikov restaurant empire.
Alexander Sorkin, co-owner, is best known as the owner of the gallery “Dacha”. Today his holdings include several clothing boutiques, restaurants, an art-gallery, Developing Technologies Bank (BRT), a construction company, the night club “Cabaret” and other projects.
Michael Petoukhov, Managing Director GQ Bar, got his start at Aerostar hotel in 1991, later working in the Olympic Penta Hotel, now Renaissance, Santa Fe restaurant before meeting Arkady in 1977. Shortly afterwards Arkady invited Michael to become deputy director of the prominent restaurant “Club T”, now re-named “China Club” Here Michael boldly toiled for four years, with a short break to direct the opening of restaurant “Kumir”. In 2001, he opened Novikov’s “Biscuit” and in 2003 “Vogue Cafe”. Most recently, along with being the Managing Director of those and other restaurants in the Arkady Novikov Restaurant Group, he also headed the development of the GQ Bar.
Irina Glik’s design studio “Geometriya” is very well known among those, who recently redecorated their fashionable Moscow residences. She received an offer from Arkady to independently work out the plan for GQ Bar.
Konstantin Ivlev, Executive Chef GQ Bar, started at steak house at the Sadko Arkada business center in the early 1990’s. Konstantin first became a chef at a restaurant “Reporter” in 1997. Konstantin is working with Arkady Novikov for the first time, although they have known each other for a while. He is the author of the cookbook “My Philosophy of Cuisine”
Ekaterina Klochkova, Pastry Chef GQ Bar, graduated from University of California at Davis, near San Francisco. She worked in San Francisco, London and Paris before returning home in September 2005. Katya transformed most of the dessert menu at the “Tretyakov Lounge” working on the GQ Bar project
Eddy Chua, head chef of GQ’s Asian restaurant, has worked from Vietnam to India. Now, he shares his knowledge of Asian cuisine with Russian cooks, pleasing GQ guests with his modern take on classical dishes
Sergei Piskunov’s, Deputy Director GQ Bar, first real learning experience was the restaurant Le Colon which was located where the even more fashionable Vogue Cafe now stands. While the restaurant was being renovated, Michael Petoukhov, invited Sergei to join his team as a waiter and later invited the young professional to be Deputy Director of GQ Bar
The bar is open 24 hours, restaurant and cafe from noon until their drivers take the last customer home.