Cheap places in Moscow to try popular dishes of russian cuisine. Russian fast food, cafe and restaurants.

Russian cuisine is salty, rich, hot and simple (farm style). Basic sauce is mayonnaise and sour cream (in a salad, soup, as dressing) and everything is eaten with bread.

There are 3 main cheap restaurant chains in Moscow with wide assortment of Russian Food: Mu Mu, Grabli and Elki Palki. First two are free-flow (when you take a tray and select whatever you like). Elki Palki is a restaurant styled in traditional tavern with home kitchen. They have a business lunch for 239 rub. (12-16 working days, salad, soup, hot dish and drink).

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Mu Mu is very simple and cheapest one. On famous Stariy Arbat there are 3 of those. You can recongnize it by the cow standing at the entrance.

I’d prefer Grabli that looks like farmer’s market place, without long queues (if not during the business lunch), there are seats available and a nice easy atmosphere. 

Russians like to eat a lot, standard lunch menu, grafted from the Soviet times is : first (soup), second (hot dish), third (dessert) and a drink.

Following this formula average check will be ~ 500 rubles per person :

Soup in Russia is eaten almost daily (not only as a medicine),  it should be very hot to warm you up in winter time, with large fat content and different mixed ingredients (meat, vegetables, noodles, groats etc.). In an ordinary fridge wou will definitely find a pot of soup for the whole family for a few days (they even say: soup becomes better on the second day). Soup is usually seasoned with sour cream or mayonnaise.

Everyone knows red soup –  BORSCH (made of beef, potatoes, sugar-beet, tomatoes, cabbage, carrots, garlic, spices). 500 ml 105 rubles in Grabli. It’s a must, probably the most know russian dish. They say each woman should know how to make borsch.

Another one is Solyanka. At first it was considered a peasant food (farmers came up with a recipe of soup, that could be cooked for the whole family from farm ingredients). The recipe was so successful, that passed to the noble cuisine, however, the dish became … saltier (sol – sault) and got its name – Solyanka. Of course, it’s not only because of the sault, but olives, cucumbers, capers, tomato paste also play role in shaping the taste. Due to such additives, Solyanka is brighter, more fragrant and tasty.Ingredients may vary, but usually: beef, chicken, pickled cucumbers, onion, tomato paste, sugar, sunflower oil, olives, capers in salt, beef broth, black pepper, salt, dill, parsley. Price of Solyanka in Mu Mu is 76 rub. (250 gr, 55 kcal). Another popular version with sausages is offered by Elki Palki for 139 rub.

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Other main russian soups are : Shi (like borsch, but  white and sour), Rassolnik (with pickled cucumbers), pea soup, chicken  soup with noodles and kharcho.

The most famous hot dish are Pelmeni. It’s also known as dumplings or ravioli, but russian version is watery: meat wrapped in dough is boiled in broth. Price for pelmeni in Mu Mu is 75 rub. (170 gr,299 kcal). Ususally they are handmade but in each shop you can buy frozen (it’s called the basic food of bachelor or student, because all you need – boil it, till they raise up).

Salads and appetizers.

Russian traditional salads that you should try: vinaigrette (i’d choose this one, because it’s lightest, made out of beet, potatoes, carrots, pickles, canned green peas, green onions, oil). I guess i like it, because i definitely know they will not tuck in mayonnaise. I remeber travelling through russia, stopped by local cafe, they had around 10 salads all with mayonaise, i chose potatoes and marinated mushrooms salad, nothing about mayo was said… ok let’s try… sure small salad with a huge pick of mayo on top – it was assumed by default. Vinaigrette in Mu Mu 45 rub. (102gr, 129 kcal).
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I already told you that herring is the main fish and snack on Russian table (especially with vodka, accompained with boiled potatoes). But there is also one absolutely strange popular complex “salad” out of herring called “seledka pod shuboy” (herring under a fur coat). It’s like a layered cake of herring fillet, potatoes, onions, carrots, mayonnaise. 55,00 rub. in Grabli. I don’t know what makes it so tasty, cooked at home it looks ugly, as a cake covering the whole plate, layer after layer. But trying to take a bite, you end up with empty plate.

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It’s twin brother is new year’s table favourite “mimosa” – same technology fish salad (humpback salmon natural canned, carrots, eggs, cheese, mayonnaise). 80 rub. in Mu Mu (150 gr, 314kcal).
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The most popular side dish are potatoes (boiled, meshed – mmmmm love it, or fried with mushrooms) and buckwheat. Buckwheat can be served as a separate side dish or eaten as porridge for Breakfast (with milk) or as topping for pancakes. It’s the fastes and easiest grain to prepare, that’s why it’s so popular, it allways comes out perfect.

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