Of borscht and beef stroganoff

Moscow, Russia

We had always planned this day to be one of rest so slept in late before treating ourselves to an elaborate brunch buffet spread in the Savoy’s dining room. This is a particularly spectacular space with marbled floors, gold chandeliers and hand-painted frescoed ceilings.

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There were lots of strange fish pates and spreads. We stuck with the safer bet of freshly baked bread, scrambled eggs, some smoked salmon, sausage, hash browns and a few slices of cheese. Funny thing is, we could have been anywhere in the world.

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We took a quick walk after the meal but the streets were deserted and we returned to the Savoy’s sauna to escape the cold. After calling nearly 10 restaurants, the concierge was able to locate us one that was open for the holidays. “Just a 15-minute walk,” she said, as we bundled up and prepared to face off with Moscow again. Nearly an hour later, trudging through the snow and skating along the icy sidewalks, and having followed directions like, “Make a left on the street that starts with the backward 3, the Delta and the square,” we somehow came upon the place.

Inside, there was not a single person in the restaurant. The two waitresses looked up from one of the tables. We motioned for three people. They glanced over and replied with a curt “Nyet.” “You’re closed?” we asked. They looked at us blankly. “Nyet,” they said. Then they pointed to the door.

We silently cried. And then walked out.

We managed to find a gypsy cab who brought us back to our favorite (and only) restaurant that we’ve managed to eat at — the one from our first night here whose name we could neither spell, say or remember. But we knew the location. And that’s all that mattered.

We took our seats in the library area and ordered up some delicious dishes: a Georgian tomato salad with fresh herbs and cheeses; a bowl of borscht, a hearty beet-based soup with apple, tender shredded beef served with a dollop of sour cream; and a plate of beef stroganoff, a thick mushroom and beef stew with roasted potatoes and sweet and crunchy pickles.

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Over the meal, we decided that in order to successfully see this city, we had to take matters into our own hands. No more relying on our Rock Star Concierge at the Savoy. From now on, we would have to do it all on our own.

Tomorrow, our plan would be put to the test.

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