Chanoy Honeymoon: Moscow, December 2015

Note – photo gallery at the bottom of this post.

There’s 99.99999% of Russia that I’ve yet to see – as one of our free tour guides said, she’s taken train trips through Russia that have lasted for five days. It’s a very large country and to think that you’ve ‘seen it’ after only visiting two cities in the west of the country is incredibly arrogant. Still, I’m going to be outrageous and pick a favourite – I prefer St Petersburg to Moscow. There, I said it.

As I mentioned earlier, St Petersburg has everything I love in vast, extremely cheap quantities. Tickets to events like the ballet and opera are exceedingly cheap even when compared to similar events in Moscow which were easily three to four times the price. Food seemed a bit cheaper as well, and the whole city is smaller and more manageable with a smaller population. The crush of people in Moscow is truly overwhelming, as you can see from this video I posted on Instagram!

However, Moscow has its own attractions. If you’re particularly interested in the history of the Soviet Union, Moscow is the place to be. We went to see Vladimir Lenin’s embalmed body in his mausoleum, which I thought didn’t quite compare to the embalmed bodies of Mao Zedong and Ho Chi Minh which we’d seen on previous holidays. On a side note, if we ever get to North Korea to see the embalmed bodies of the Kims, we’ll have seen the embalmed bodies of all the dead Communist leaders!

There are other Soviet-era museums and monuments scattered throughout the city. K particularly enjoyed visiting the Cosmonautics museum, showcasing the golden era of Soviet space travel. We also did a self-guided day tour of the extensive Moscow metro system, where stations are lavishly decorated with beautifully coloured mosaics and majestic statues and friezes depicting the glories of the Soviet years. In case you’re not up to navigating the confusing metro system yourself, there are also paid guided tours, but they can be very pricey by Russian standards!

Speaking of guided tours, we joined a free walking tour of Moscow which concentrated primarily on Red Square and the Kremlin. I felt as though there’s a lot outside of the Red Square worth seeing, so to have the tour limited to such a small area as a bit disappointing. That’s Moscow though – it’s not as walkable as St Petersburg and you really have to make the effort to get outside of the tourist area to see other parts of the city.

We stayed a little bit out of the centre at the Novotel, a change from our usual Airbnb apartments. This meant that we ate out a lot more than we normally would, and ended up having meals at Teremok, at a number of Russian cafeterias, at a Vietnamese restaurant, an Italian restaurant, a Georgian restaurant, and a traditional Russian restaurant. There were snacks along the way of course, including some traditional Russian doughnuts as seen in the gallery below.

All in all, I’m not sure if Moscow would be on the top of my list for the next trip we take to Russia. I’d love to do something like the Trans-Siberian Railway to see more of the country, or even a guided tour that takes you through the famous ‘Golden Circle’ route…but Moscow itself? It’s not quite my cup of tea…or shot of vodka!

Review: Dzhon Dzholi, Moscow Russia

Did you know that Georgian cuisine is the next big thing in Russia? Note – I’m not talking about Southern American cuisine, I’m talking about the country that bridges Europe and Asia! On the free walking tours we attended in both St Petersburg and Moscow, there were other travellers asking the guides to recommend a Georgian restaurant for them to visit. Apparently they’d done some reading and found that that Georgian food was the next big thing!


Well we weren’t going to be left out of this new trend, so we did our research and decided to visit Dzhon Dzholi in Moscow. It’s located conveniently close to a metro line, and is also close to the Russian Cosmonautics Museum which made K very happy as he’s a bit of a space geek. Being located a little bit further out from the centre of Moscow also meant that we were the only tourists in the restaurant on the day that we visited, but there were plenty of locals dining there with many office workers ordering the set lunch.


With the set menu written entirely in Cyrillic characters however, I simply didn’t have the energy to decipher it! I resorted to ordering from the main menu, which came conveniently with pictures of each item for non-Russian speakers to refer to. But first some drinks!

K had a Lemonade, and I had an Iced Tea. Unfortunately the lemonade was actually a lime syrup drink which proved to be much too sweet, but my iced tea was very fruity and refreshing which proved to be particularly helpful as some of the dishes we ordered were quite heavy.

Chicken noodle soup (part of a 470 Rubles lunch deal)
Chicken noodle soup (part of a 470 Rubles lunch deal)

K was a bit braver than me and ordered blindly from the set lunch menu rather than relying on pictures. The soup was a lucky choice – a simple Chicken Noodle Soup (for the soul), garnished liberally with fresh dill. This was pretty tasty as far as chicken noodle soups go, but I suspect that there was a bit of help from Maggi Chicken Stock as the soup was a suspiciously bright yellow shade.

Ajapsandal eggplant , paprika, potato, red onion stewed with tomato sauce, 340 Rubles
Ajapsandal eggplant, paprika, potato, red onion stewed with tomato sauce, 340 Rubles

The first dish I ordered was the Ajapsandal eggplant, a delicious tomato-based vegetable stew. It was only a small serve, suitable as a starter, but what there was of it really did pack a flavour punch – rich, savoury, smoky, and intense. The eggplant in particular was cooked to perfection – while it seemed firm to the touch, it almost disintegrated as soon as you put it in your mouth, literally melting on the tongue.

Kutabs with lamb, 260 Rubles
Kutabs with lamb, 260 Rubles

I also ordered the Kutabs with lamb, a flatbread stuffed with minced meat not unlike a Turkish gozleme, which makes sense given Georgia’s geographical location relative to Turkey. The flatbread was a little bit oily, but I loved the taste of the savoury spiced lamb mince which was perfectly complimented by the yoghurt dip.

Lamb Kebab (part of a 470 Rubles lunch deal)
Lamb Kebab (part of a 470 Rubles lunch deal)

K’s set lunch menu was a Lamb Kebab, served a little bit differently than a lamb kebab in Australia! For one thing, it’s served with a thin piece of dry crispy flatbread which means that you can’t really roll up your kebab in bread – you have to awkwardly try to spear a bit of lamb, a bit of flatbread, a bit of tomato and a bit of onion to have in a single bite. It’s a task easier said than done, especially considering how crisp the flatbread is! It’s a messy meal, but well worth the effort – the lamb is delicious. It’s not as savoury or strong as my lamb kutabs, which makes it much more edible in this larger quantity. The slightly spicy dipping sauce was a delight as well.

Khinkali (large Georgian dumplings, 90 Rubles each
Khinkali (large Georgian dumplings, 90 Rubles each

To finish our meal, we decided to share some Khinkali, large Georgian dumplings that resemble Shanghainese xiao long bao, but at four times the size! These are very difficult to eat – too large for a single mouthful but as soon as you cut into the dumpling, its soup juices spill out onto the plate. It’s a pity as the filling (three varieties – pork, beef or lamb) is delicious, but it’s let down by the clumsy dumpling wrapping.


I thought our meal at Dzhon Dzholi was a bit hit and miss – I wasn’t a fan of the dumplings, some of the drinks seem a bit average, and oil is used quite liberally which may be off-putting for those who prefer to maintain a cleaner and healthier palate. Yet there were some standout dishes – the stewed vegetables were delicious, and I’d love to go back to try some different fillings in the kutab flatbreads. I think this is the type of restaurant where you have to pick and choose your meal carefully – take note of what locals around you are eating and follow their lead!

Dzhon Dzholi is located at 20 Tverskaya Ulitsa, Moscow.

Review: Il Patio, Moscow Russia

We spent one day in Moscow completely underground on a self-guided tour of the metro system. We had looked at potentially joining a guided tour but found them to be quite expensive by Russian standards, so armed with a few recommendations saved onto our phones, we headed off to do a tour ourselves. The downside of this plan is that we didn’t know how long it would take to move between different metro lines and different stations, leaving us bereft of a plan for lunch.


By the time we found ourselves getting hungry, we found ourselves near a suburban shopping mall that offered a handful of less inspiring options for a meal – Dunkin Donuts, Subway, McDonalds, and a non-descript bakery. The best option if we wanted something resembling a meal rather than fast food was Il Patio, a chain of Italian restaurants that you can find in most malls across Moscow.


Il Patio offer a lunch special across all their restaurants, where you can get a soup, salad, a main and a drink for 395 Rubles ($8 AUD), a real bargain. The only downside is that they don’t offer English on their menus, so you have to try and match up the Cyrillic characters of the dishes in the lunch special with pictures on the main menu!

Alternatively, if you can teach yourself the basics of the Cyrillic alphabet, you can sound out each menu item to yourself as the name of each item is simply the Italian word written in Cyrillic – words like ‘minestrone’ and ‘mozzarella’ are pretty easy to sound out!


K ordered a chicken and vegetable soup which proved to be quite rich and a little oily. With a strong tomato base, the highlight of this full-bodied soup was the generous serving of chicken thigh meat which made this a very satisfying starter.


My minestrone soup wasn’t quite as satisfying unfortunately – it was more like a thin vegetable soup rather than a soup thickened with pasta starch. That’s what happens when you don’t put pasta in your minestrone!


K chose what I presume is a seafood garden salad, with the ‘seafood’ being limited to a few shrivelled and crumbly mussels that looked as though they had come straight out of a tin. Mind you, the salad itself was very nicely dressed – just pick out the mussels and it would be a tasty if simple salad.


I chose a classic Italian combination – tomato, mozzarella and basil, or a Caprese salad. I generally prefer my Caprese salads to use whole basil leaves with a drizzle of olive oil rather than pesto as it has a fresher and cleaner mouth-feel. Still, this was quite a tasty salad – simple is often best when it comes to Italian food!


K’s main was spaghetti in a creamy chicken and mushroom sauce – a simple and classic combination. It was done surprisingly well with a light and subtle touch. The pasta was cooked just right, and they didn’t overdo the sauce either. Mushrooms were plump and the chicken was tender and juicy. This is definitely not a dish that belongs in a $8 lunch deal – it stands alone quite well as a $20 dish!


I randomly chose a pizza for my main, and it turned out to be a salami and gherkin pizza. Unfortunately, this pizza wasn’t quite up to scratch as the base wasn’t as crispy as it should be, and the toppings were few and far between. Seven slices of salami and five slices of gherkin do not make a pizza especially when the base and sauce leaves a lot to be desired! Pizza definitely wouldn’t be my first choice at Il Patio.

If you find yourself doing a spot of shopping in a Russian mall, I’d recommend searching for Il Patio as your lunch destination within the mall. Their lunch deal is an absolute bargain, being on par with the cost of a fast food meal, and offers you greater choice and healthier options as well! If you’re only after a smaller feed, they also offer other lunch deal combinations, like a soup and a salad for 225 Rubles ($4.50 AUD). Not bad for an Italian joint in Russia – just make sure you order pasta rather than pizza!

There are branches of Il Patio located all over Moscow, see locations on their website.