Far more austere than the small, funky Noches de Moscú (see review), Rasputin favours older middle-class couples and small quiet groups of diners. There is something other-worldly about its interior, seemingly lit by sodium lamps and candlelight, creating a rarefied atmosphere. Or maybe that’s just my memory of it. The selianka (Russian salad) is decent and there are four varieties of stroganoff. The golubsky – oven baked rolls of cabbage and meat with a bechamel sauce – has an interesting texture, but that is all that can be said for it.
I won’t be coming back here in a hurry.
Metro La Latina
Russian food is certainly not considered a world cuisine, for many reasons; the years of Stalinism, gulags and post-Yeltsin austerity for the masses projected a two-tier international image of upscale caviar starters – priced at $100 even back in 1998 – against the peasant food of borshch/borscht, smetana and cheap vodka. Even chicken Kiev, that mainstay of the British freezer and one of my childhood favourites, especially the herby-cream and spicy-sauce varieties, was grouped under vaguely ‘Russian food’.
The surprises at this restaurant came thick and fast, from the mixed starter platter to the ‘hanging kebab’ – Shashlik iz Barashka – the stroganoff and the blinis. The Shashlik iz Beluga is also worth trying, though not very filling. Krushon, a ‘sangria blanca rusa’ is great value and refreshing, while the kaipiroshka (a vodka-based caipirinha) is reassuringly fortified.
Las Noches de Moscú is in the heart of Malasaña just off Espiritu Santo, a stone’s throw from Plaza Dos de Mayo. That’s how great its location is. It’s on a quiet street, but there are drinkeries all around, so it can serve as the eatery for the start of your night of bar-crawling. Prices are very reasonable, and service, though brusque, is quick and efficient. I hope this place endures; it deserves to be a malasaña institution.