Haute cuisine in Russia is changing: after decades of silence, a new wave of Russian chefs has risen up, ready to lead the rich culinary heritage of this vast nation into the future. This movement is being spearheaded by Vladimir Mukhin, who serves up an intensely pleasurable dining experience for his guests, in the truest sense of the words, in his Moscow restaurant, White Rabbit.
“Borscht flows through my veins”, says Vladimir Mukhin with a wink, referencing his roots and the Russian national dish. With a wink, because, although the famous beetroot stew is indeed served in his restaurant, it appears in a wholly unfamiliar, modern guise: Mukhin serves the borscht together with beans, fried carp, a sour cream sauce and beetroot crisps.
With almost everything in the White Rabbit, a themed restaurant on the 16th floor of Moscow’s Smolensky passage, named after the rabbit from Alice in Wonderland, things are not always what they seem. The borscht is a symbol of Mukhin’s philosophy: “traditions are lasting, innovations are boundless”. Which, in practice means that Mukhin is bringing the gastronomic history of Russia to the plates of his guests in unusual and surprising dishes.
The charismatic chef draws his inspiration from all the things that make traditional Russian cuisine so unique. He embarks on culinary expeditions all over Russia, seeking out unknown local products and recipes, he combines traditional cooking techniques with state-of-the-art ones and he combines ingredients in the most unconventional ways possible.
“For me, cooking is like trying to solve a puzzle”, says Mukhin. The result is a diverse, strongly seasonal menu in which traditional Russian products – from Borodinsky rye bread to barrel cucumbers – are used alongside luxurious ingredients such as caviar, truffles and foie gras. “I want my dishes to awaken wonderful emotions and sensations. A visit to my restaurant should provoke a wow effect”.
Flavourful surprises are, however, always guaranteed with Vladimir Mukhin’s culinary creations, especially for Western palates. Absolute highlights of Mukhin’s menu are, for example, the slightly salted trout served with lingonberries, cucumber tartare and sorrel, the beef stroganoff made with rapa whelks and served with baked parsnips and savoury pot-bellied pig pork scratchings, or for dessert, Abkhaz persimmon with a creamy sheep’s cheese mousse and a wafer-thin slice of pastirma.
The enjoyment of the unusual dishes served in the White Rabbit is accompanied by surroundings straight out of the fairytale Wonderland created by author Lewis Carroll. Comical drawings of animals, eccentric accessories and Rococo furniture dominate the restaurant – and yet it is still hard to tear your attention away from the breathtaking view of the centre of Russia’s capital city.
The restaurant is the setting for a unique culinary master plan, which was awarded 18th place in San Pellegrino’s The World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2015, and is justifiably treated as one of the hottest properties in international haute cuisine today. Driven by his success, over the last few years, Mukhin has made more and more of his ideas a reality, and is now a brand chef running an entire family of six restaurants, including a pan-Asian bistro in Moscow and two establishments in Russia’s Olympic city, Sochi.
In October 2016, you will be able to marvel at Muhkin’s culinary Wonderland outside of Russia for the first time, as Vladimir Mukhin himself will be taking the helm as guest chef in the kitchen at Restaurant Ikarus in Hangar-7, Salzburg.
Find out more about Vladimir
Photography|Helge Kirchberger Photography |Red Bull Hangar-7
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