Pure romance is not something most of us are good at, which is why the Valentine’s Day always comes with a certain panic: What do we actually do? Where do we go tonight? And you do have to go out, otherwise there’s definitely something wrong with your relationship, or so they say.
A Dinner on a High Note
On February 14th, the Lovers’ Day, around 50% of the couples are drawn towards elevated places. It’s like you can see the romance better from up there. Nobody cares if their ears pop in the elevator taking them to the 34th floor of Swissôtel Krasnye Holmy, as long as they get to order the Real Love — a hallmark cocktail of the hotel’s City Space bar ($20). A deposit ($250) gets you a table and a 360º panoramic view of the Moscow city.
Another “elevated” establishment is the Ruski restaurant on the 85th floor of the Oko Tower (‘oko’ means ‘eye’ in Russian, and if you just thought of Sauron, so probably did the guys who named the building). There’s also an ice-skating rink next to the restaurant to work up the appetite. An ice bar, a hot Russian stove and a menu of traditional pies, three types of pelmeni (Russian dumplings) – with meat, venison and salmon ($10), the indispensable borscht with pampushki (no point in describing these, you’ll just have to try them for yourself) ($8), and chicken Kiev with mashed potatoes ($13) — all you need for a nice high-altitude night out.
Aphrodisiacs for Dinner
The other 50% of our respondents insist on aphrodisiacs for this day. The smart move in this case is to get a table at one of the three Rico restaurants for a minimalistic yet superb choice of oysters, scallops, and crabs. There is no menu, just pick from the seafood bar of the day. Make sure to get the octopus and heirloom tomato salad, they are exceptional. Rico is fun, noisy, and filled with clinking of glasses — a Mediterranean-style romance.
If you feel like glam and dressing up for the occasion, Erwin restaurant is your place of choice. The menu offers everything that could ever be caught in Russia’s waters, from crayfish and crabs to muksun and Baikal cisco. The hits on the menu are the crab bruschetta ($16), the Arkhangelsk toothfish in miso sauce with Altai honey ($24) and the fettucine with langoustines ($13).
If you don’t care for Champagne and everything it stands for, you could also opt for the Rakovaya (“Crayfish place”) at Tishinskaya square. Pay peanuts and just have beer with crayfish ($37 for a portion to share), don’t mind that everyone’s wearing bibs. It’s crayfish, not lobster, you eat with your fingers. It’s still Valentine’s night out, but you know you’re not trying too hard.
We’ll round it off with a couple of places for those intrepid explorers among you — or megalomaniacs — or both! You can either pick Beluga restaurant at the National Hotel to feed each other black caviar on dessert spoons.
Or, there’s a haute cuisine dinner at celebrity chef Anatoly Komm’s Raff House, with a 9-course tasting set for mere (~$150). Komm offers a full set of aphrodisiacs, too: Start with a light emerald-colored leek soup accompanied by Russian sushi (e.g., watermelon and seaweed), and follow up with pink shrimp carpaccio with chilli and pineapple.
Then, whelk of tenderness itself: and an impressive far-eastern scallop garnished with white fennel, springy spinach, beet mousse, and a truffle cloud. While waiting for the main course (northern fish or a medallion made from the inner part of chicken breast), you will also have to deal with the chef’s signature Luzhayka (“Meadow”) prepared for the Valentine’s Day: a veritable orgy on a plate of chicken and quail eggs and lamb-stones (the pun is lost in translation, unfortunately), with a mischievous injection of white truffle. Bear in mind, however, that an haute cuisine dinner is not something to be taken lightly. You will need a partner to not only share the romance, but to discuss every little detail of what their sophisticated taste buds are experiencing. Found someone who can do just that? Waste no time — fall in love!