By Charles Borden and John Ortega
Bistrot’s Italian chef, Massimo Ferrari is an imposing figure on the patio of Bistrot, his ample height further enhanced by his towering white chef’s hat. Massimo wanders the patio visiting with his customers, always accompanied by Natalia, his attractive brunette multilingual Russian/English/Italian translator. Massimo came to Bistrot from Ristorante Al Bersagliere (www.albersaglieregoito.it), which has been a family restaurant in Goito, Italy since 1840.
Bistrot is a beautifully well-executed replica of a Tuscan villa, as if transplanted from the Italian coast with every prop in sight from the table to the walls, direct to the Savinskaya Embankment across the river from the Radisson Hotel. Bistrot owes its heritage to the legendary Tuscan Bistrot of Forte dei Marni. In fact, Forte dei Marni Bistrot owner David Valani brought Bistrot to Moscow together with Moscow restauranteurs Kirill Gusev and Ivan Bronov and Russian Director Fedor Bondarchuk.
The main entry to Bistrot crosses a large patio dining area covered with huge, rectangular white umbrellas labeled Gancia Pininfarina. This is the prime people-watching place – if you can score a table – and that may take a few days advance reservation. When I arrived, John Ortega, Passport Editor John Bonar and Passport CEO George Voloshin were already seated inside. Though we had come at 19:00 and only three patio tables were occupied, even the Passport magic couldn’t get us a seat outside. The rest were “reserved” for the glitterati, though even when we left about 22:00 few had yet arrived.
The interior is so well executed that a seat inside is still a treat. And the night we were there, we got to watch a minioligarch work his guests at several tables. The girls came in and out and even his drivers and bodyguards got fed in shifts at a table near us.
This is a “spare no wallet” restaurant, at least where wines are concerned; I didn’t see a red for much less than 4,000 rubles a bottle. The least expensive white, a Guigal Croze-Hermitage from the Rhone valley was 2,600 rubles. A 100-gram serving of Grana Padano cheese, or any cheese for that matter, is 500 rubles, and a selection of Italian prosciutto is 900 rubles.
The food at Bistrot is exquisite and for the first time there were zero complaints. We started with two salads. The Carpaccio Tuna Salad consisted of three slabs of very fresh tuna laid over arugula, and dressed with small pieces of sharp tasting green olives and shreds of intensely flavored candied orange rind. The Warm Potato and Octopus Salad (750r) combined firm, white potato cubes with soft and succulent slices of white octopus leg meat drizzled with olive oil and accompanied by slightly cooked “al dente” tomatoes and red bell pepper. We also tried one of the pizzas. Chef Massimo recommended the Pizza Prosciutto Confidi (650r), a thin crust pizza with mozzarella, thin prosciutto and small islands of minced fig.
John Ortega ordered the “goat” – apparently sourced from the French Pyrenees, and was so pleased to find this Capretto al forno con patate alla fornaia (1350r) on the menu he reported to Chef Massimo that “nobody does goat in Moscow.” John described the meat as buttery soft, and well complemented with the large roasted garlic cloves and sliced potatoes with olive oil and thyme. John Bonar was very satisfied with a rich Risotto ai funghi porcini (850r), a smooth risotto with creamy white mushrooms. I went for Agnolotti con burrata, tartufo e fondata di parmigiano (950r). Burrata is a wonderful Italian delicacy – made of an outer case of fresh mozzarella and a cream and mozzarella combination inside. The small handmade agnolotti bits of pasta, perfectly firm, stuffed with the rich burrata were not at all overpowered by the creamy parmigiano sauce. Small slices of truffle infused the entire plate.
On every count, ambiance, cuisine, design, and eye candy, Bistrot gets three Hummers.