Not learning our lesson at Cafe Pushkin about the questionable quality-to-price ratio of high-end Russian restaurants, Jon and I ate at Molokhovets Dream in St. Petersburg, too. We liked the description of the restaurant in this 2007 New York Times travel article. According to the NYT blurb, the place has six tables, good food, and a good backstory. (Elena Molokhovets was the Julia Child of 18th-century Russia, writing a cookbook (“Gift to Young Housewives”) that was the cookbook for bourgeois women in pre-revolutionary Russia. And this restaurant pays homage to her recipes).
So on a Saturday night in St. Petersburg, we hailed a cab (a real cab – the Moscow practice of just hailing a private car just isn’t done in St. P) and popped on down to Molokhovets Dream, which is not far from Moskovski train station.
As was the case throughout our time in Russia, Jon and I ate dinner at an hour that seemed much later than is normal for Russians. We arrived at 9 pm, and there were two tables finishing up their meals and four empty tables.
I liked the comfortable, simple, discreet look of the dining room, and Jon and I were happy and relieved to see that there were at least two wines for under 2400 rubles ($100) on the wine list. So we ordered one of them — an OK rioja (Celeste?) for 2100 rubles. Bottled water was 150 rubles ($6), which was also a nice improvement over the Cafe Pushkin offerings.
My starter of seared scallops was tasty and generous. The scallops were hot and still sweet and raw inside, but I think there was a little too much going on, overall. The presentation and combinations of my dish showed a weird insecurity, including such an overload of styles and flavors that it screamed “look at me, I’m a trained gourmet chef!” Case in point: in addition to scallops, my dish came with a salmon-and-avocado salad topped with pineapple, and there was also lots of minced onion and cucumber mixed in with spears of lemongrass and salty spheres of salmon caviar. Good, but not worth 990 rubles ($40).
Jon chose a more typical Russian option for his starter, a “chef-salted salmon.” It was like eating slabs of salmon nigiri with a lot of salt thrown on. Simple and tasty, and 550 rubles ($23).
For my main course, I was dithering between the roasted duck breast and the “baked duck with berries,” and then our waiter very confidently recommended the baked duck.
Well, how sad was I to see that my dish was basically a casserole of cheap, duck drumstick meat with a bunch of semi-ripe berries. The meat was stringy and tough and there was none of that rich, juicy gaminess that I love about duck breast. Duck drumstick meat for 1170 rubles ($48). Not impressive.
Jon’s rack of lamb with potatoes dauphinois and shoestring potatoes was huge, filling and good, but not super memorable. 1370 rubles ($56) seemed a bit much for a pretty run-of-the-mill dish.
Overall, our appetizers were much better than our mains, and I wish we’d skipped on the rioja. It wasn’t worth the money. The one thing that represented excellent value at Molokhovets Dream was the mors, a traditional Russian raspberry-juice-based drink. The restaurants’ version mixed in some banana, to cut the cranberry sourness and add some thickness. A steal for 100 rubles ($4).
By 11 pm, we were the last diners in the restaurant, and when our main courses arrived at our table, our waiters asked if we would like to order dessert (and showed relief when we declined). We probably should have booked our table for 7:30 pm for a truly leisurely meal.
Our total tab for two starters, two mains, some water and a bottle of wine was 7300 rubles ($295).
I’d go back to try more appetizers and to drink more mors. Not sure those are strong enough reasons to blow another $300. Maybe if I were an oligarch . . . .
Molokhovets Dream, 10 Radishcheva Street, St. Petersburg; +7-812-579-0073