Russian restaurants in Dubai
Time Out Dubai profiles the Russian restaurants in Dubai, including Gurman in Media City, Troyka, Tchaikovsky in Dubai Marina, Nefertiti and Bolshoi
Caviar and a certain kind of drink are what springs to mind when one things of Russian cuisine.
But did you know they actually have plenty to shout about when it comes to some homecooked food. Sure, it's not quite the worldwide sensation of, say, Japanese, Chinese or Italian, but it's certainly an experience worth getting involved in.
And you can do so right here in Dubai.
Created by Russian entrepreneur Arkady Novikov and first launched in Moscow and London, Novikov is now welcoming diners to a brand-new location inside Dubai’s Sheraton Grand Hotel. Unexpectedly, it serves Asian-fusion cuisine.
A sleek, dark space not dissimilar to a nightclub, the stylish Sheikh Zayed Road restaurant is decked out in expensive-looking grainy wood and stone. Centre stage in the luxurious dining room is a market counter for fresh seafood and fish.
At the table, service is friendly, but only to the minimum of what you would expect. Our waiter is terribly slick, but not terribly interested. He offers explanations of dishes when asked, but not a great deal of insight. Although the menu arrives the second we sit at the table, the wait for an initial follow-up (and drinks menu) is almost as long as we eventually wait for the bill.
Scanning the large Asian-inspired selection of sharing plates, prices seem steep. Asian favourites here are laden with truffle and foie gras, and it’s reflected in the price tag. That said, if you choose carefully, you can still eat pretty reasonably (if not “cheaply”).
The baby squid is battered lightly and crisply, and dressed with a vibrant mix of citrus and chilli. The wagyu beef tacos are neat little upgrades on the norm – fatty, rich and dense in flavour. The elegant crab and avocado salad wins this round, though, scattered with colourful flowers, generously crammed with chunks of sweet crab claw and vibrantly doused in yuzu. The tuna avocado maki are well-made, aside from a few sinewy, chewy strands of fat in the fish. The fried beef and foie gras dumplings are stuffed with such a decadent and delicious play of flavour that we’ll forgive the messy explosion on first bite (suffered by everyone at the table, including the guest in a white shirt…). Main courses of black truffle Peking-style roasted duck and miso-glazed roasted baby chicken are both excellent, although both ill-thought-out for eating with chopsticks.
The creativity and quality of food is high, but not overpriced, while the space and atmosphere are fun and appealing.
The bottom line
Refined and fun rather than stuffy or inaccessible, but service could sit up and take more notice.
The Bill (for two)
1x wagyu tacos Dhs105
1x baby squid Dhs80
1x crab and avocado salad Dhs105
1x tuna avocado Dhs75
1x beef and foie gras dumpling Dhs70
1x roast truffle duck Dhs120
1x miso baby chicken Dhs115
2x large water Dhs60
Total (including service) Dhs730
If you can criticise Gurman – an unassuming Russian restaurant in Dubai Media City – for anything, it isn’t lack of authenticity. The interiors are sparse, not unlike the monolithic structures of Soviet suburbia. Small photographs of Moscow hang on plain white walls, a red bookshelf holds a few battered foreign language tomes and when we arrive (on a Tuesday lunchtime) it’s full of Russian chatter. A good sign. So far, so Russian.
The majority of the menu is made up of traditional dishes including herring under the coat, vareniki (dumplings) and borscht soup. The herring under the coat had serious potential. Each individual ingredient – the beetroot, the onion, the slightly rare herring – was beautiful and fresh, and the salad as a whole would have been lovely and light had it not experienced a classic Russian death by mayonnaise. Gurman embraces the nation’s passion for this condiment with vigour. If you share the enthusiasm, dive in. Connoisseurs of Eastern European cuisine will no doubt consider this dish to be nothing less than an expertly made salad, particularly when spread over the chunky slices of warm, crusty brown bread from the basket.
The solyanka soup arrived minutes later, nicely seasoned and hearty; full of finely diced pickles and lovely tender beef, without even the slightest trace of fat. But it was let down by the side of fried potatoes with onion and mushroom – greasy comfort food, chunkily cut and liberally seasoned.
At this point, there was still no sign of our second appetiser and main. But when they did eventually arrive, the vareniki were a stodgy, guilty pleasure worth waiting for. Perfect pastry stuffed with creamy mashed potato in butter sauce and crème fraiche on the side to dollop on top. Our chebureki appetiser – juicy beef (and not much else) encased in buttery, flaky homemade pastry – arrived last, just as we were poised to cancel it. Bigger than both our mains by far, we reccommend ordering this and the vareniki to share, if you’re feeling extra indulgent.
Gurman is perhaps not exciting enough to make a special trip for, and service, while pleasant, is a little haphazard. But if you’re in the area, give it a go. It’s refreshingly true to its roots, and the pastry dishes certainly won’t disappoint.
The bill (for two)
1 x herring under the coat Dhs30
1 x chebureki Dhs24
1 x solyanka Dhs36
1 x vareniki with potato Dhs20
1 x fried potato with onion and mushroom Dhs18
1 x French fries Dhs12
1 x sparkling water Dhs15
Total (excluding service) Dhs155
Tchaikovsky is the epitome of unconventionality in every respect, from the faux-opulent furnishings to the ballet and the doo-wop dancing. Book a table later rather than earlier unless you want to dine in an empty, surreal environment. The thick, leather-bound menu printed in English and Russian features page after page of Russian dishes, from traditional borsch to selyodka pod shuboy (a herring dish) and, of course, caviar. Though the black caviar might be tempting, consider the Dhs545 price tag before ordering.
A more affordable option is the ‘Russian Hunting Snack’ – halved boiled eggs stuffed with avocado and cream-cheese purée, dotted with red caviar, which is reminiscent of fashionable finger food from the ’80s – or the Tchaikovsky special, effectively two huge beef burger patties doused in melted cheese with a side of mash. Nil points for presentation, but the food’s actually not bad. The cabaret (the restaurant’s main draw) begins around 10.45pm – expect ballet, swing and goose-stepping to Russian marching music. Wonderfully bizarre and worth visiting at least once.