Address: Gogolevsky bulv., 17
Tel: +7 (495) 637-2209
All major credit cards accepted.
By Neil McGowan
Shatush is not a Chinese restaurant - it simply serves stunning Chinese food. No bamboo screens, no ethnic or new-age music, no hokum costumes, and no Kazak girls pretending to be Chinese... Forget wizened straw-hatted toilers in photogenic paddy fields - imagine instead the entertainment world where Shanghai's successful young businessmen socialise with TV and film people, and you're nearer the mark. Oriental lacquer-black dominates the interior, offset with classical red highlights. The lighting-scheme is carefully designed - sky-blue higher up on the walls as a dramatic sweep as you enter, with downlighters on your designer-black tables to keep your meal centre-stage. There's plenty to entertain the eye as you dine - the design is achieved on macro, midi and mini levels, and the more you look, the more you find. There's a second, slightly quieter salon offering hookah-pipes if you wish.
The DJ-Cafe set-up works well here, and a sweetly planned PA system enmeshes the dining environment with a consistently warming and enjoyment-enhancing soundtrack of contemporary sounds. Two welcome elements of Chinese influence remain alongside the cuisine, however - the smiling Asian welcome and hospitality, and the speed of service and preparation. The table staff is almost entirely Russian, and there is no attempt to try to make them look Chinese. However, these guys (it's a largely male personnel, with a charming approach that will keep the female clients coming back) know their stuff, and know the menu inside-out. You want to know more about any dish? They know what's in it, where the ingredients come from, how it's prepared, what will sit well alongside it! Nor do they try and steer you into the pricey stuff - in fact they are keen to recommend the elegant simplicity of the more modest dishes on the menu. However, the line-up of Mercs and BMWs parked outside, in immaculate showroom condition, give the hint that this is not a place to come for a cheap plate of noodles. In reality, the remarkable thing about Shatush is that it's a stunning experience in a top restaurant, yet the prices are still only in the mid-upper range. Flying-in the authentic fresh ingredients from Asia or London, as sparkling GM Nika Loginova explained, is in the interests of top quality, rather than cutting corners. Portions are in the generous, Asian, meal-sharing tradition, however - you might very well opt to take a starter or main course between two? We didn't, and in reality we over-ordered. But the other side of that tradition - they'll cheerfully wrap what's left uneaten in a doggy-bag for you to take home.
Everything comes so quickly from the kitchen that you can enjoy a hot appetiser whilst pondering the rest of your order. The Fried Wasabi Prawns (520Rbs for six gigantic pieces) are stupendously good, in a subtle creamy sauce, served on endive. All of the dishes come inventively and appealingly presented, in fact - cutting-edge contemporary tableware adds to the experience. Spinach in Oyster Sauce (430Rbs) was the waiter's suggestion, and it came lightly stir-fried with fresh bite left in it, making a nice counterbalance to the other dishes. My favourite dish of the evening, in fact, was one of the simplest, and again a recommendation from the restaurant staff -“ Singapore Fried Vermicelli (480Rbs) a combination of vermicelli of different weights (from tiny to medium) warmed by some subtle chilli flavouring and then laden with seafood and vegetables. I would happily have taken this along with the spinach and gone home singing. Instead, though, we pushed the boat out and tried a dish from quite a long way up the pricing spectrum - Thai-style Sterlet, weighing-in at 1400Rbs. The portion is more than enough for two, although the warmth of spicing is authentically Thai, and proved a little hotter than my companion felt comfortable - my asbestos mouth enjoyed every forkful, though. More classically northern-chinese (where they use far fewer spices - it is, after all, on the Siberian border) in inspiration at least was the Ostrich in Yellow-Bean Sauce (780Rbs), and it prompted a rare silent moment of contented munching.
Wines are rarely the best accompaniment to Asian food - neither the wine nor the food gain from the combination. Instead, we strove manfully into the list of House Speciality Cocktails, following-up a pre-arrival tip to try to the Hakka (400Rbs). A cascade of citrus-inspired invention, this quickly doused the chilli flames and had us crying for refills. The Pink Mochito was perhaps less successful for the same price - the raspberry seemed to neutralise the expected minty tang. Voss bottled water brings a refreshing Scandic purity (it's rated as one of the purest bottled waters in the world) from Norway - in a designer-desirable bottle that's a contemporary classic.
How you will possibly find room for desserts after all this, I have no idea! The Strawberry Cheesecake (350Rbs) is pleasantly light, or for those still eager for more substantial pleasures, the Rum Parfait (same price) packs a terrifying number of calories into every cm2 - both of them were at the upper acceptable end of sweetness for me. The more virtuous will instead turn their attention to the extensive list of Chinese gourmet teas on offer.
I really defy you not to like Shatush? It has everything that's really great about Chinese food and service, jettisons all the tired cliches, and conjures up innovative cuisine in a stylish, slick and hedonistic atmosphere that succeeds on every level. Birthday treat, special occasion supper, or just needing to pamper yourself - but book ahead, the word's been out about Shatush for a while now, and you're unlikely to get a table without reserving a few days in advance. Over the summer months, and starting from June 10, Shatush also has a Summer Terrace open - which may ease your chances of getting a table fractionally too.