Address: 15 Smolenskiy bulvar
Metro: Park Kultury
Phone: 291 1667, 291 6461
A family restaurant styled in African safari fashion.
Juju (joo’joo) noun: An object used as a fetish, charm or amulet. The supernatural power ascribed to such an object.
By Charles W. Borden
Photographs by Ruslan Sergeev
We heard JuJu was a South African restaurant, on the outer side of the Garden ring, between Smolenskaya and Park Kultury. Another creation of Moscow’s leading restaurateur, Arkady Novikov, it is vaguely reminiscent of colonial style. JuJu actually has some original African art as well as photographs and other trinkets. But that’s as far as the token abeyance to Africa goes. When we picked up the menu, I expected to find at least crocodile or some fried locusts or boiled sheep heads, but no, this is just a plain old grill with Russian touches, good and well-done, but that is the genre. On second thought, maybe that’s just as well.
JuJu features many of the typical Novikov touches, an open grill and prep area, surrounded as if by an open market of produce, meats, fish and spices – in this case fish laid out on ice, burlap bags filled with walnuts, dried beans, red onions, peanuts, sunflower seeds. For dividing walls and wallcover, Novikov typically picks a few pottery or glassware items, in this case several pale green and yellow vases, and lays them out on shelves from floor to ceiling. JuJu’s grill area also has wood-fired stoves. The entire kitchen is overseen by Chef Andrey Tysyachnikov, formerly of Biscuit, one of Moscow’s early elitny establishments.
Cold starters and salads range from 350 to 850 rubles. At our host’s suggestion we started with the Salad with Panfried Shrimps and Scallops (850r). This consisted of an ample serving of arugula, iceberg and other greens served in a deep wooden bowl, topped with two skewers of grilled shrimp and scallops and a touch of sesame oil/peanut sauce. Not bad, but 32 bucks?
For the main course, most ordered the Quarter Lamb (for two at 2450r) and for sides the Spinach with Garlic (150r) and Mashed Potatoes (150r). The lamb is served on a large plate with a broth and stewed tomatoes – this is a signature dish and on our return visit for a wine tasting, the mandatory selection. Meena Mylvanganam- Tay, wife of the Singapore Ambassador, described the lamb as: “grilled to perfection with the meat succulent and soft, falling off the bone. The half is brought to the table where the waiters serve the meat to you on two plates before leaving the rest for you to ’devour’ as you please!”
Room dividers use glass containers
The spinach was very tasty and fresh and not overcooked, but plain old kartofelny puree (mashed potatoes) for the same price, about 6 bucks, PLEASE!! You can also overspend on other Russian delicacies such as Borsh at only 350 rubles and Cheburek at just 270 rubles. Russian guests should also be pleased that bread was readily available, including Borodinsky and two other open market specialties. Don’t get me wrong, Borodinsky is one of my favorites, but I don’t expect it on the table at an elitny Novikov restaurant.
A couple of us ordered other entrees - Crab Gratin with Wasabi (1100r) and Ribeye Steak (850r), and a side of Fried Mushrooms with Vegetables (650r). The crab appeared to be shredded crabmeat mixed with a light whipped sauce of lemon, egg yolk and cheese, attractive on the plate and according to our guest, delicious. The ribeye was large enough and when I asked for medium, it actually arrived somewhat pink in the middle.
The wine list was a little thin, but there were some good values. For red, the Australian D’Arenburg Shiraz The Footbolt 2004 was very good at 1900 rubles. We also ordered the Simonsig Syrah Merindol 2003 (3100 rubles) but there was unanimous preference for the Footbalt.
Overall the atmosphere at JuJu was pleasant and the service excellent. If you are set on trying Ju Ju, do the lamb for two, the spinach side, and a bottle of the Footbolt, a total of just over 4500 rubles or about $175 for two persons. If you want a salad, go for the shrimp and scallop.