Thursday, March 21, 2013

Buyan, Duxton Hill (Restaurant Week)

With restaurant week coming and going again, we decided to check out a place we've always wanted to - Buyan, Russian Haute Cuisine & Caviar Bar. It's located at the snug Duxton Hill, semi-atas and expat / pubber-friendly.

  Hanging around outside the restaurant it would seem like only rich people dine here - judging by people with fancy clothes loitering around, and that no staff paid us any mind. We mentioned we had a reservation and were finally seated.

  The interior decor had a very "forest cabin" feel to it, what with the log walls, wooden tables and an almost fireplace lighting to it. No clue whether this was authentically Russian or not but it was pretty cool.

A very helpful Russian lady took our order - we ordered one each of the restaurant week menu (2 choices per course) and figured we wanted some vodka before the night was over. She walked us through the restaurant week menu explaining some of their origins and how they were really authentic.

  Bread was served. The bread was a little bit like Russia itself - cold and hard. Well ok it was slightly warm, but it was hard and chewy, some kind of dark rye? Not bad though, and the butter was at room temp. Would have asked for more but we were afraid there was a charge so we didn't.

{ Pirozhki }
Russian Pastry with Meat, Cabbage and Potato Assorted Fillings

  Ah pirozhki / piroshki ... one of the few Russian foods I've heard of. Was it everything we expected? Well the pastry itself was thick and still doughy, as though slightly undercooked. Would have been nice if there was more filling in each, and the flavour of the filling was quite mild.

{ Bakliki }
Grilled Aubergines & Tomato with Garlic-Mayo sauce

  We had little expectations for this plate, but this was surprisingly awesome. The tomato was slightly unripe (almost like green tomatoes) so it was still crunchy and slightly sour. Paired well with the soft grilled herbed aubergine and the garlic mayo gave it a nice kick as well (it was more garlic than mayo which was great!). Party in thy mouth.

{ Beef Stroganov Pie }
All the Goodness of Creamy Beef Stroganov [sic] Wrapped in a Thin Pastry

  Puff pastry wrapped minced beef, I felt the pastry was again undercooked - doughy inside - and the beef was rather bland and dry, not creamy at the slightest. Overall it was just alright. I've read beforehand that this is actually a 'bar bites' menu item (though at a staggering $25+ IIRC) and they're serving it as a main course. Hmm.

{ Kulebyaka }
Traditional Russian Pie with layers of Salmon, Rice & Mushroom Fillings Seperated with Home-made Blinis

  We began to see a recurring theme here - pastry! Do Russians use pastry dough for everything? Re-assured by our kind Russian lady that this was a very traditional Russian dish, we (once) again found the pastry slightly thick and undercooked, and with rice and blinis (pancake) inside as well this was really carb-heavy and filling. The salmon layer was a little thin, and overall we found it rather starchy and bland.

{ Sladka Troika }
A Trio of Buyan's Favourite Desserts - Honey Cake, Berry Jelly & Napolean Cake

  And ... pastry for dessert too! This time it was stacked phyllo pastry with cream custard - Napolean Cake (left). Was pretty nice though it wasn't as easy to cut as I expected as the pastry has gone soggy from the cream, it became very similar to a Mille-Crepe. Berry Jelly (middle) was really nice - soury and sweet and the consistency of almond jelly. Honey cake was really sweet and was a multistack cake with honey.

{ Bird's Milk }
Tender Soufflé covered with Dark Chocolate

  And would you have known - this was really great! Wasn't really a soufflĂ© but more like a sweet custard with dark chocolate and almond and some berry jam I believe.

Have to say we weren't really blown away but any of their restaurant week menu though we felt like we knew Russian cuisine just a little better now (if anything, they use a lot of pastries). We decided we just had to have some vodka before we left, and man their vodka menu is EXTENSIVE. More than 60 brands of vodka (IIRC). We were a little cost conscious but in the end the nice Russian lady got the better of us - we opted for the Vodka Flight which was a set of 6 home-made flavoured vodka shots.

{ Vodka Flight ($60) }
Clockwise from the white one
Horseradish (white one), Vanilla Peppercorn, Strawberry, Sour Plum, Chocolate Tea, Krupnik

  And ... wow. I'll be damned. These were really, really, really, good. Good in the sense that the flavour themselves (like sour plum etc.) were really strong and obvious, and yet the massive kick you get from vodka is still there. These weren't some vodka fruit juice blend, or vodka with flavour and colouring added - these were full on home-infused vodka.

We asked for a recommended sequence, thank god we did. The Horseradish and Peppercorn were alarming. Imagine drinking liquid pepper or liquid wasabi, with the alcoholic kick of vodka ... we had fire coming out our ears. The sour plum tasted like Choya with 40% alcohol, Chocolate Tea had a surprising bitter tinge and Krupnik had a mild honey sweetness. The Strawberry was by far the most unbelievably delicious shot of alcohol we've had, ever. Strong, sharp and yet so sweet, with bits of blended strawberry in it. Have to say we couldn't walk straight after.

I would not recommend eating here unless you really want to know what Russian food is like. I'm sure if you ordered a Shashlik or some Beef Stroganov you'd have a good time, but those aren't cheap (high 30s if I recall). But the home-infused vodka is the shit. Just have some roti prata nearby before or after.

9/10 Duxton Hill

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