Best restaurants Moscow: White Rabbit

Time to fall down the rabbit hole

When the most recent list of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants was announced, it copped a fair bit of flak. Some critics were miffed about the lack of transparency in the judging process and the dominance of Europe.

But as a resource when one is travelling somewhere wonderfully far flung, it’s hard to beat. For a number of years, Greedy Girl and gluttonous husband have used it to seek out fine dining experiences and this was again the case in amazing Moscow.

White Rabbit literally bounded up the rankings this year, to reach number 23 having been in the 70s the year before. As such, it was already on Greedy Girl’s radar and she’d tried to get a booking online well in advance of the trip but was informed such reservations were only available two weeks in advance. After the announcement, interest in this extraordinary restaurant sky rocketed. Greedy Girl reached out to her wonderful Russian-speaking friend Czarina Worldwide who, glory of glories, was able to secure us a table – at prime time on a Saturday night no less. Even better, we discovered the restaurant was literally across the road from our hotel. The stars had aligned.

White Rabbit is on the top floor of the Smolenskaya Plaza building and takes full advantage of an imposing atrium. It’s housed over two floors with extraordinary views over Moscow. The decor follows an Alice in Wonderland theme (as you can see from the picture, above left, which greets you as you exit the elevator).

Best restaurants Moscow: White Rabbit

The imposing atrium

It’s quirky but far from kitsch; this is a sumptuous-looking yet very comfortable restaurant. Shown to a large table with a deep sofa on the top floor, we were immediately struck by the ‘reach out and almost touch it’ view of one of the city’s ‘Stalin Skyscrapers’. We were also delighted to find a bottle of champagne we could afford. Make no mistake: drinking champagne in Moscow is not for the faint of budget.

The menu here is extensive and, as we found out later from the delightfully engaging chef Vladimir Mukhin, most patrons still plump for the a la carte. Indeed, our waiter gave us the menu opened to the first a la carte page. We were intent on having the tasting menu, which consisted of 12 courses. Sorted. The champagne (Thienot Brut, from a small independent house in Reims) arrived and we were very happily settled.

Our first course was also our first taste of Beluga caviar in Moscow. These were ‘mini sandwiches’ topped with that delectable roe and accompanied by a small dish of ‘corn milk’. The caviar was utterly sensational and the smoothness of the tepid soup was very happily slurped down. A great start.

best restaurants moscow: white rabbit

Beluga caviar mini sandwiches with corn milk

The affable chef dropped by a couple of times during the evening for a chat and told us he was from Russia’s south and sourced many of his ingredients from there. A helpful list provided with the tasting menu descriptions stated where various items were sourced. Our caviar was from Astrakhan, about 1400km to the south-east of Moscow. Delightful little pops of salty goodness they were too.

Next up was another little wonder; wild strawberries skewered with little orbs of goat’s cheese, dressed with a little lavender honey. This was very nicely presented on a bowl of ice. Again, perfectly delicious; the strawberries were sourced more locally – just 190 km away in the Tver region while the cheese came from Kostroma, around 340 km away.

best restaurants moscow: white rabbit

Wild strawberries and goats’ cheese

The degustation is divided into two parts – the tasting set, consisting of  seven dishes, plus five plates under the heading of ‘compliments’ – these are the additions the chef throws in. We were about to have our third ‘compliment’ – chestnut honey meringue with goose liver terrine and Madeira jelly. It also had the honey (from Sochi) drizzled over the top. OMG. This was good; what the menu didn’t tell you was there were tiny shavings of truffle as well. So delicious.

best restaurants moscow: white rabbit

Chestnut honey meringue

It was time for the first ‘course’ from the tasting set. This was birch bread with vorschmack and Vologda butter. The vorschmack, we were told, was the chef’s grandmother’s recipe and contained herring and rabbit. The butter he said was delivered fresh to the restaurant every day and is never refrigerated. Both elements were again delightful. Greedy Girl wanted to keep some of the birch bread for mopping later but was sorely tempted to scoff the lot.

Best restaurants Moscow: White Rabbit

Glam bread and butter

Next up were ‘white swan’ peaches from Balaklava in Crimea with smoked duck (from Rostov-on-Don) and rosemary oil. The duck, in particular, was very good but neither of us felt the peaches had a huge flavour hit. That didn’t stop Greedy Girl from wolfing down her plate. Gluttonous husband, as is his wont, took a little more time, savouring each mouthful.

best restaurants moscow: white rabbit

White swan peaches with smoked duck

Our eager waiter was very keen to get on with proceedings. No sooner had Greedy Girl finished, her plate was whisked away; he also made an attempt to take the plate from gluttonous husband and that’s never a good idea. Very strangely though, the next course arrived without him finishing this dish. Whoa! We explained the food was too good to rush and we needed to slow down. That worked – up to a point. Cutlery for the next course was laid at the table while we were still working our way through the preceding dish. The chef explained that a tasting menu was a relatively rare concept for Russian diners and perhaps it was a little ‘nouvelle’ for the wait staff as well.

The next course was another delight – calf sweetbreads with wood mushrooms and fried onion mousse. The remainder of the bread was pressed into action here, mopping up every last skerrick of the sauce. The mushrooms had a slick texture but paired brilliantly with the sweetbreads and the onion sauce was just to die for. A drizzle of herb oil rounded out the dish.

best restaurants moscow: white rabbit

Sweetbreads, wood mushrooms, fried onion mousse

Next up was the dish at the very top of this post. Rapa whelks from Yalta in Crimea were served ‘stroganoff style’ with baked parsnip, rape seed and pot-bellied pig skin crisps. This was another triumph. Comfort food in a very interesting shaped bowl. Parsnip never tasted so good.

Best restaurants Moscow: White Rabbit

As the sun went down, the lights came on

We’d had a fair amount of food, quite quickly, and yet neither of us were feeling bloated. Even though the cutlery had been set, we had a little reprieve from the flow of dishes to sit and sip our champagne and take in the view. It was sufficiently dark for the restaurant to be very atmospheric and the buildings outside also came to life with a light show. A spectacular spot.

But our next plate once again turned our attention to the food. This was red mullet with fried sorrel and pickled bamboo. You may be able to pick out the bamboo in the photograph – it was cut into small rings. There was also a small quenelle of a red pepper sauce with the fish. This was quite a strong dish and Greedy Girl thought she wouldn’t finish it. Hah. Nothing remained.

best restaurants moscow: white rabbit

Red mullet with pickled bamboo

Our final savoury course was ‘gobbler’. We were very intrigued as to what could be described in such a way. It was, in fact, turkey (’nuff said) from Belgorod, served with cowberry (AKA lingonberry) covered with lard and ‘kartoplyaniki’ (the dumplings you can see here) and dandelion sauce. The meat was light and moist, the flavours very well balanced. A great way to finish.

best restaurants moscow: white rabbit


We’d hoped to finish our champagne before desserts but we just shrugged our shoulders and went with the pace. First up from the tasting set was young sheep milk mousse with honeysuckle ice cream, forest berries meringue and lavender water. It sounds like a tooth-achingly sweet confection but, in reality, it was rather restrained. Further evidence of the light touch throughout the menu.

best restaurants moscow: white rabbit

Sheep milk mousse, honeysuckle ice cream, meringue

From the ‘compliments’ list, our final courses were ‘Monastery kvass entremets’ and liquid strawberry, plus mousse toffee.

best restaurants moscow: white rabbit


best restaurants moscow: white rabbit

Liquid strawberry, moose toffee

Kvass is a fermented drink made traditionally from rye bread and much prized here. This was like a nice palate cleanser. Refreshing. The liquid strawberry was just that – pop the red orb in your mouth and it explodes with a quite intense flavour. The ‘Moose’ toffee was a slightly grainy, not overly sweet chewy toffee. Again, quite delish. We thought we were over and out, but …

best restaurants moscow: white rabbit

A little extra!

The chef very kindly sent over some lovely soft cheese (Greedy Girl thought it was camembert but is by no means an expert on French cheeses) which paired beautifully with a dish of honey. Done.

Even with the champagne, this huge meal came in at just over A$500 plus tip. The Aussie dollar might still be reasonably strong against the ruble but this was sensational value – and a cute way of presenting the bill. The World’s 50 best list might have its detractors, but the judges got it absolutely right here.

Best restaurants Moscow: White Rabbit

Inside the white rabbit matryoshka doll

White Rabbit

Smolenskaya Square, 3, Moscow

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