I was going to kick off my Moscow Eats posts with an entirely different restaurant. Then I ate at Druzhba, a Chinese restaurant in the Novoslobodskaya area of Moscow, and it was just begging to be written about.
One of the things I miss most about living in New York City is the diversity of international dining. To be fair, Moscow is enjoying a surge of truly world-class cuisine, with local and imported up-and-coming chefs getting creative with ingredients and dishes. Traditional reimagined Russian artisanal locavore fusion is all the rage now. Yet proper international cuisine is still hard to come by. Like I first wrote on this blog two years ago, most restaurants’ idea of ethnic cuisine – whether it’s a chain eatery or a more upscale establishment – isn’t to specialize in authentic Italian, Turkish or Japanese. It’s to throw pizza, kebab and sushi rolls on the same menu as a chicken Caesar salad and a burger.
Which is why I loved everything about Druzhba. It totally took me back to the best, noisy, greasy, spicy, sweet, efficient and delicious experiences of Chines restaurants stateside. There was no General Tso’s chicken on the enormous, seafood-heavy menu, but there were plenty of other expat-safe options. True to the reviews that I read, there seem to be quite a number of Chinese people eating there – always a good sign. One area to which the reviews didn’t do justice was the portion sizes. Sure, they said “giant” – but I thought that was by American, not European standards. So I was in shock when I saw the next table served with a single-portion entrée the size of what my mother would cook for a 4-person family dinner.
That neighboring table, by the way, had a very friendly couple who have been coming to Druzhba for 9 years, and they actually shared their dishes with me so that I could sample more stuff! (They were intrigued by why I was taking photos of food – nobody would have blinked an eye at a standard trendy place in Moscow). Thanks to the couple, I got to try AMAZING spicy pickled cabbage and chicken stew and crispy lemon chicken, plus I had my own humungous salad of cucumbers, cellophane noodles, cold smoked pork, peppers and greens, and fried pineapple pork entrée. After eating to the point when I could barely breathe, I took two thirds of each dish home with me.
Druzhba is located on Novoslobodskaya ulitsa, 4. Cash-only. Pre-ruble-crash prices aren’t low, but it’s cheaper than in London’s Chinatown, and the portions make it worth it. Come with a HUGE crowd of friends and order no more than one item per person, if you want to finish it all.