The new branch of über-restaurateur Arkady Novilkov’s fabulous Aizeri restaurant is even better than the original. Defying ethnic-restaurant style, the room is high-ceilinged and minimalist, decorated with bright jars of lemons. On the menu: saffron-tinted basmati rice-and-meat pilafs, succulent grills and a delicious roster of turnovers and dumplings. Complimentary glasses of palate-cleansing sage tea are a nice touch.
We loved: Juicy Caspian sturgeon kebabs; piti, a brothy lamb-and-vegetable stew cooked all day.
This casual, stylish neo-’70s offshoot of the expensive Bosco Café next door has the same magical view of Red Square, and in good weather, outside tables facing Lenin’s mausoleum. The Italianate menu offers crowd-pleasing pastas and salads and—for tourists fresh from a visit to the Kremlin—a few Russian classics. It also serves fabulous and ice cream in outré flavors, such as tobacco.
We loved: Pappardelle with duck ragù and porcini; cheese blintzes with berries.
A burnished recreation of a 19th-century mansion with a menu to match, this place has become the city’s most beloved classic since its opening in 1999. The best part is the casual downstairs dining room, serving earthy soups, dumplings, and ur-Slavic pies.
We loved: Lamb and wild mushroom piroshki (savory pastries); herring with warm potato salad.
Insider tip: The opulent Konditerskaya (patisserie) Pushkin, a few doors down the street, is great for a coffee-and-petits-fours break.
Another Novilkov hit, this buzzy Asian spot—the name translates to “not-so-far East”—was designed by the white-hot Japanese firm Superpotato. The sprawling, partitioned dining room is dominated by a big open kitchen that turns out spicy stir-fries, tartares, sashimi and maki rolls.
We loved: Crab baked with wasabi and tobiko roe; tandoori duck breast with sake and honey sauce.
Insider tip: Try anything featuring the giant, sweet-fleshed Kamchatka crab.
The adorable Katya Drozdova has earned herself a loyal following among foodie-minded, anti-oligarch Muscovites with her original, democratically priced gastropub (its name translates as Simple Things). Last summer she opened this wine-centric offshoot, with a brick-vaulted ceiling and butcher paper on dark wooden tables. The earthy menu spans the gamut, from her legendary pumpkin soup to Russian meat pie to Spanish churros with chocolate. There are some 50 (mostly European) wines by the glass, and a dozen different wine flights.
We loved: Smoked-duck-breast salad with roasted grapes and arugula.
Insider tip: The breakfast menu offers delicious variations on blini.
Muscovites adore the “back to the USSR” vibe of this retro-socialist, self-service canteen inside the GUM Department Store by Red Square. The nostalgia theme begins with tables covered in Soviet-style oilcloths and walls decorated with communist slogans—“Comrades, clear your dishes yourselves”—and extends to the homey, ’60s-style dishes. For the locals, a mere taste of “herring in a fur coat” (herring under a beet salad) is enough to erase 20 years of capitalist foie gras and carpaccios.
We loved: Jellied chicken and beef tongue; blinchiki (small blini) fried in aromatic Vologda butter; juicy, butter-filled chicken Kiev.
This fun, folkloric spot (with wooden furniture, rustic pottery and doormen in Cossack garb) is part of a chain of cozy Ukrainian taverns and a great place to indulge in hearty Slavic village food. The gorilka (Ukrainian vodka) comes with free pickles and salo (Russian lard).
We loved: Garlicky borscht; cherry dumplings.
One of the world’s most extravagant restaurants, this nearly four-year old gilded replica of an Orientalist rococo palace took restaurant czar Andrei Dellos $50 million and more than seven years to build. While the frescos and tapestries were made in Europe, the imperial Chinese and Japanese menu was masterminded by acclaimed chef Alan Yau.
We loved: Jasmine-smoked pork.
Insider tip: Adjacent to Turandot, the restaurant’s owner recently opened a haute-Italian spot called Casta Diva, with dishes like veal with pecorino cheese crème brûlée.
This Uzbek stalwart with a sumptuous old-Orient look, around since the USSR days and now managed by star restaurateur Arkady Novikov, is the source of the city’s best kebabs and big, steaming manti (Uzbek dumplings).
We loved: Lagman, a lamb-and-homemade-noodle soup.
Anatoly Komm, Russia’s own molecular-gastronomy guru, recently struck out again with his fourth restaurant, with only 32 seats and an over-the-top “modern rococo” look. The premise: classic Russian dishes prepared from strictly domestic ingredients (a big feat in Moscow, where chefs tend to import even onions) but subjected to Spanish-style conceptual treatments. The results are luxurious and expensive nine-course tasting menus that deconstruct everything from pelmeni (meat dumplings) to proletarian beet-and-herring salad.
We loved: Slavic “brown bread” recast as a pillowy gel capsule, infused with coriander and topped with a brittle that explodes with the flavors of unfiltered sunflower oil.