Milestone spoke to Evgeny Vikentev, who has created a new menu featuring the world’s finest caviar and Russia’s brilliant home produce, at Moscow’s famous Beluga Restaurant.
Milestone: What is the concept behind the restaurant?
Evgeny Vikentev: Beluga is a modern Russian restaurant – we focus on delicacies unique to this country, not only things like crab and black caviar, but special ingredients from farms near Moscow and all parts of our country. We are not just about expensive ingredients; our focus is on distinctive foods from Russia that we present in all their glory to our diners.
Some people say Beluga is the best restaurant in Russia – is this true?
It’s a difficult question because gastronomy is not like sport; take Real Madrid, if they win the Champions League they are the best team in the world, but in the restaurant business it’s hard to work out who is the best and who is the worst. My colleague Vladimir Mukhin owns White Rabbit, which is 13th on The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, so his place is arguably the best in the country but it’s hard to compare because there are so many different styles, menus, foods – it’s subjective.
What is your signature dish?
I use different types of caviar, not just black – I‘ve created two dishes with pike caviar; one with Sakhalin scallops and the other with cloudberry. We’ve designed a new menu, which features a dish with potato baked in red clay, sour cream infused with seaweed, and black caviar sprinkled on top. It’s a very subtle appetiser.
When it comes to caviar, Beluga doesn’t make a profit, we sell it at wholesale price so it’s possible to buy it cheaper here than the shops. We source our caviar from the Caspian Sea and different rivers in Russia, from places like Astrakhan in the south and Vladivostok in the east. Amur caviar from the Far East is also very popular.
What are your favourite ingredients?
I love all the ingredients we use here, especially cloudberry. It grows very well in the north and has a very soft flavour as opposed to other berries from that region.
What is the best lesson you’ve learned in the kitchen?
Precision is religion in the kitchen! Everything has to go according the plan, it’s like a factory. This is the foundation of Beluga’s success. We are super organised.
Which chefs do you look up to for inspiration?
Rene Redzeppi, Alan Passar, Andoni Luis Aduriz, Albert Adria, the guys from Disfrutar – they’re all a huge inspiration.
Can we take a look at the menu?
Sure, check it out here.