Looking back to the late 90s and early 2000s when Moscow had no coffee shops and take-away cappuccinos, no delis where you could grab a quick Reuben and go on with your day, no decent supermarkets, no concept of customer service either, and Russian salad or pelmeni were the main foods served in ubiquitous but dated locales for both tourists and Muscovites, I realize that over the past years the gastronomic scenery has evolved at an ultrasonic pace, making todays Moscow truly one of the top food destinations in the world.
Before getting into delicious details of that new Moscow has to offer, I‘d love to start with something that has a sentimental value to me – Danilovsky market, the old and continuously operating farmers market and food court, a place my mom used to visit every weekend when she was my age, and a place my 12 year old son and I now go to every Saturday or Sunday for a lazy brunch and some fresh tomatoes.
Summing up what I am about to say, the story of Danilovsky is pretty symbolic of recent changes in Moscow. Just as with the market, our city too got revamped, reinvented and reborn in the past 10 years. The difference is even more striking if you were out of town like my friend who lived in Dubai these past 10 years and simply could not believe she came back to the same city she left. It seems that Moscow just like a Sleeping Beauty was awaken with a kiss of a prince charming, and that prince is you and me – everyone who loves this city and who is conscious enough to care.
Danilovsky Market can easily remind you of the Reading Terminal Market of Philadelphia or Lisbon’s Mercado Da Ribeira – a vibrant, magnetic, slightly chaotic urban food paradise that evolves to meet its customers’ needs and is filled with flavors of virtually every type of cuisine. A place that the gastronomic Moscow map really needed to make traditionalists, baby boomers, generation X and Millennials could come together as one, feeling they all belong, and enjoy the best it has to offer: fresh produce, dairy products, exotic meats and seafood, freshly cut flowers, bakeries, coffee shops and expertly prepared foods ranging from eclairs and pies to Michelin-starred chef Peking Duck, organic vegetarian cuisine or Vietnamese pho everyone is suddenly talking about.
On the outside Danilovsky looks like a ginormous spaceship landed at Mytnaya street near Tulskaya metro station. It was built in 1963, but throughout history, it has always been a farmers market square. Before the supermarket culture kicked in, pretty much everyone in Russia went to the markets to get fresh produce. I am really thrilled that this tradition is revived and living.
The Game Plan
When visiting Danilovsky, make sure to stroll through the center of the market to browse meat, fish, dairy, vegetable and fruit sections first. Then you can make a bigger round around the market to eye all the food stalls and their offers. It can be a bit overwhelming on weekends as there’s a lot to take in: the hiss and smell of fried foods, the constant (but fastest I’ve ever seen) line to get the famous pho, the sellers echoing tout, the buzz of people talking, choosing and chewing, the music – but that all makes you miss your weekend trip to Danilovsky because that’s how passion looks and tastes like.
Here are my 12 favorite shops in the entire place.
When I learned this project was soon coming to the Danilovsky market, I was thrilled and drooling. I have tried amazing ducks of Joy Hing and Kam’s in Hong Kong and I can say the Three Ducks guys simply nailed it. It is the best duck out there hands down! And also – when their famous Chinese chef is out of town, the shop is closed. If that isn’t dedication I don’t know what is.
The duck is served by the quarter, half or whole (~ $33\ ~$17 \~$9 accordingly) and comes with a cup of broth, thinly sliced spring onions and cucumbers and Chinese spring pancake. Its crispy skin is so sinfully good you can date it. If you need more sides – you can also have an Asian quick-pickled cucumber salad ( ~3$) and Sichuan cabbage salad ( ~3$) that are both spicy and sweet – and spicy just enough, no one went mental, so all three is my perfect combo, I sometimes have it even for breakfast and I couldn’t recommend it enough.
Another key attraction is a trendy Vietnamese soup pho, cooked daily on the spot in huge pots that could probably fit the entire MIR space station. The place is absolutely picture perfect: baskets full of chilies, limes, mangoes, mint leaves, ginger, cilantro, soya sprouts. A team of cooks who speak Vietnamese, shouting out incoming orders and operating with the speed of light. And of course, the soup, the myth, the legend – a huge steaming bowl of well-balanced flavorful soul healing pho (~6$). On a cold day, this is a perfect way to warm up. Sriracha helps too!
Bo also serves pork and shrimp deep fried nem (~2$) and goi cuon spring rolls with mango, papaya, prawn and rice noodles (~3$) – both come with variety of sauces for dipping. Another signature dish is mien xao ga, which is a rice noodle, spinach, shiitake and chicken wok (~6$). It is the busiest food court operator at Danilovsky so make sure you stop by and try some of their amazing food.
Uzbekistan’s (former USSR republic) national culinary masterpiece that has a special place in the heart of every Russian. This meat based rice dish with onion and carrots, plov comes in all types and flavors, and as it is with every traditional dish, every region or even family has their own signature recipe. But the cold facts about plov are – ideally it has to be cooked outdoors with a lot (a lot!) of sheep’s fat in a single cauldron over an open fire. There are thousands of tricks and secrets, so instead of mastering the art of Uzbeki gastronomic heritage in your own kitchen (I swear I tried), it’s easier to sample the real thing.
And Plov.com guys simply rock! They have two varieties of plov – Chaikhansky, with lamb leg (~5$) and festive, with lamb, chickpeas and raisins (~5$), both so delicious you’ll probably take away an extra portion for later.
An incredible pie place with fantastic attention to detail. Lubov Pirogova has sweet and savory pies, spicy lamb, chicken paprika, bacon potato, pecan pies and many more. Raspberry and almond cream are one of my favorites.
And their pear and dark chocolate pie (~3$ a slice) is so good there’s rarely enough of it. It tastes like vacation, or heaven, or like you’re wrapped in the bubble of love, or probably the combination of all three. Kudos to the people behind this project – you can really tell when something is made with passion.
Crabs Are Coming
I don’t know if it’s just me, but their crab fried rice is simply narcotic (~6$) – Period! This place used to be one of the first Moscow Food Market successful startups that grew from street food pop-ups into full fledged restaurants. Their crabs come directly from Russia’s Far East, boiled and shock frozen right after being caught. The chef of Crabs Are Coming is a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu London and you really can tell ‘cause his dishes make you come back for more.
At Danilovsky they have shortened their menu, leaving few star dishes apart my favorite fried rice, such as crab bun (~5$), crab cream soup (~5$) and crab udon with crab leg (~7$). You can add extra crab for just 3$. It’s hard to find food this perfect and this affordable. Totally a must.
Washington Post once wrote: “How did you most recently spend $3? Your morning cup of coffee? A single macaron at Ladurée? A totally unsatisfying vending machine purchase? Here’s something better to consider for next time: the falafel sandwich”. This stands truer than ever for Moscow, though a decent cappuccino is around 6$, same for Ladurée macaron, so the comparison is foolproof and legit.
The Hummus is another incredibly successful project that grew into its current state from a small stall on the one of the early Moscow Food Markets. They specialize in Middle Eastern cuisine, namely humus and falafel. Their sabih – a pita falafel sandwich with egg and eggplant (~5$) is absolutely delicious, as well as humus ( ~5$) served with tahini (~5$), eggs (~5$), mushrooms (~5$), or beef (~6$). If I were to choose, no macaron could ever beat a divine sabih. #Imjustsaying.
This is all about pelmeni. Ravioli. Dumplings. Gedza. Manti. Khinkali. Vareniki. Everything that is a variation of a dumpling (a small piece of dough with a delicious filling wrapped in all kinds of shapes) is here. Everything is handmade and can be either taken away frozen or cooked on the spot. One kilogram of beef pelmeni is around 14$, while a portion of ten starts from 2$. Fillings include mutton, pork, beef, turkey, duck with berries, shrimp, mixed seafood, suluguni cheese, potatoes and mushroom, cottage cheese, cherries, blackcurrant – to name a few. All of it is worth a try to figure which is your favorite.
This place is something special. You cannot call these just desserts because that would be a huge understatement. Intelligent, sexy, mind-blowing masterpieces…that’s much more like it. A slice of the entire universe in your mouth, waking up your palate and yelling “is this for real” kind of desserts.
Saying no more, I’ll just name some of my favorites. Lime tart with cayenne pepper and cottage cheese cream on pistachio shortcrust pastry; spicy pumpkin with goat cheese on thyme shortcrust pastry, mango cheesecake with passionfruit cream on ginger, pecan and organic cocoa shortcrust pastry; chocolate truffle with blue cheese; strawberry cheesecake with coconut custard cream, basil and balsamic on sugar almond shortcrust; saffron carrot cheesecake with pecan and nori seaweed shortcrust. Sold individually at ~5$ or as a whole tart at ~43$ If you are not fantasizing by now about getting few of them, you are officially a cyborg :).
It wouldn’t be fair if I didn’t mention the pioneers of Danilovsky. A team who were the first to open their bakery, when there was no food court and Danilovsky was still another ordinary farmers market. Baton made people drive by before work to try their delicious croissants (~1$), rum babas to die for (~3$), creamy hot chocolate or cappuccinos. But giving credit where it’s due – this place is about bread. Baguette, ciabatta, brioche, rye loaves, barley loaves, sourdough loaves, whole grain, onion bread, cheese bread, with seaweed, salt, flax seed, walnut – there is an entire world of Baton, their pride, joy, sleepless nights and biggest achievement. Make sure you check if they still have micro Borodinsky breads, literally one perfect bite rye babies sold at 0.2$ that drove everyone crazy. You’ll thank me later.
A smokehouse and shop where you can get all kinds of smoked meats, poultry and fish. Everything gets marinated, prepared sous-vide and then smoked in a Canadian smoker right there in the shop. It is perfect for an assorted meat platter choice if you are planning a fancy dinner at home and it is an ideal solution for a picnic. Some of my favorites are smoked marble beef flank (`7$ 100 gr), smoked brisket (~7$ 100 gr), smoked tuna (~8$ 100 gr), and smoked cow’s tongue (~4$). Shepka also sells aged meat, chops, steaks and you can even order a juicy burger or steak to have on the premises.
On a separate note: this is the only place in Moscow that sells AW and MUG root beer (my guilty pleasure), as well as many other rare soft drinks that never got imported to Russia.
Chelovek I Parokhod or CHIP coffee
One awesome coffee spot with soul, heart and amazing coffee. The best coffee shop in Danilovsky. Their beans are roasted locally with one of the top city roasters. There are espressos (~2$), Americanos (~2$), flat white (~3$), cappuccinos (~3$) or soy cappuccinos (~4$) and quite interesting filter coffee suggestions – filter with curry and lemon ( ~3$) that is definitely worth a try.
Incredibly fresh fish, crustaceans and oysters, fish stews and soups, grilled seafood – a true heaven for seafood lovers. There’s a seasonal menu with a lot of catch of the day offers on things like turbot, monkfish steaks, sea urchins, octopi, crabs and lobsters, all cooked with passion. Some of the menu quotes: seabass and dorado (~6 $ portion of 300gr), salmon (~6 portion of 150gr), calamari (~4 $ 150 gr), tiger prawns (~6$ for 3 pcs). All can be grilled, steamed, fried, served as sashimi or ceviche; oysters ( ~5$ apiece), octopus salad pulpo a la gallega ( ~13$). For more details you’ll just have to come and see.
PS and a little bit of love that always comes extra:
A flower atelier that stole my heart from day one. If you walk past them, do yourself a favor: Stop. Smell. Get inspired. Fall in love! An Incredible and very instagrammable variety of flowers that are different from your everyday choice…in Russia at least – wild, forest, field, tropic flowers – sold individually or assembled in gorgeous bouquets. Dushisty Goroshek flower fairies always work their magic, they pick something that speaks directly to your heart.
Important note — this article is in no way sponsored or paid by any of the places I reviewed. I listed the best and the ones I would swear by. I hope this honest and passionate list will make someone’s first visit to Danilovsky simply rock.
Address: 74 Mytnaya street
Hours: 8 AM–9 PM
by Natasha Bezrukova aka The Super Mom