The genius of twin chefs Ivan and Sergey Berezutsky at Twins Garden, Moscow

side by side

In a clinical room hidden away past a corridor of rare wines at the newly-opened Twins Garden in Moscow is an entire glass wall imprinted with a map of Russia. This is what twin brothers (and twin chefs) Sergey and Ivan Berezutsky calls their ‘experiment room’. The equipment here offers no hints to their usage – there’s a centrifuge, but also an unusual marble depression under a suspended tube – meant to beguile the privileged few that enter this space to watch, and taste, the Berezutsky brothers’ latest culinary experiments. Between the map and the equipment, this tell us two things about chefs Berezutsky – that they cook scientifically and that they source locally.

Chefs Ivan (left) and Sergey Berezutsky

The latter is not accidental. Years of sanctions have prevented some of the most staple ingredients of fine dining from appearing in Russia. Foie gras, for example, is almost impossible to find, outside of a few smuggled slivers. In some cases, there are replacements – Georgian wine is equivalent in quality to those of Western Europe and readily available – but not always. For the fine dining scene in Russia, this ‘imposed locavore’ dictum means that chefs have had to get creative in their own backyard.

That backyard is huge, though. Stretching over 11 time zones and covering more than an eight of the Earth’s inhabited land area, Russia is vast. And so is its larder. There is crab from the remote Kamchatka Peninsula in the far east. There is sturgeon from the Caspian Sea. There are beautiful mushrooms foraged from immense taiga forests. There is Taganrog durum wheat, still the most prized flour for use in Italian pasta making. All these can be found on the ever-changing menu at Twins Garden, and chefs Berezutsky have taken this approach one step further – by starting their own farm to supply the restaurant.

The Twins Garden farm in Kaluga is about 180km southwest of Moscow. The journey there is typically made by road, but is spectacular by helicopter. The maddeningly crowded roads of Moscow give way to a sea of fluffy clouds then an unending carpet of trees in their early winter plumage, punctuated only by occasional fields and wooden houses. Spanning 125 acres, there are still berries clinging on the vines at the farm. Come summer, these rows of soil will be bursting with green and flavour; for next winter, a hothouse is being built. An adorable ‘chicken bus’ provides eggs, while eagerly friendly goats and cows are the source of milk and cheese. There will be no slaughter here; meat at Twins Garden will still be sourced externally, but almost everything else in the kitchen – from a slice of tomato to a dollop of sour cream – will eventually originate from here. Magnificent red crayfish from the pond, freshly caught and scattered with dill, is served for lunch, along with crusty rye bread, a beautifully light borscht, roast mutton and staple pelmeni dumplings. A slice of Russian rustic hospitality, the meal is delicious.

In contrast, the menu at Twin Gardens embraces minimalism and elegance, a triumph of concept that is unapologetically modern. A split photograph of the brothers – Sergey on the right, Ivan on the left – greets diners at the ground floor entrance, where a private elevator whisks them up to the rooftop locale with panoramic views of Moscow. In essence, Twins Garden is a sequel. After stints at El Bulli, El Celler de Can Roca and Alinea, the brothers opened Twins in 2014, garnering a slew of awards and a place on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants List. Twins Garden is the next iteration of that endeavour, focusing specifically on Russian ingredients and the bounty of their farm.

The kitchen at Twins Garden, Moscow

While the a la carte menu sports a range of dishes, including traditional favourites (with a twist), the degustation menu is where the Berezutsky muse shines brightest. Transposing the idea of identical twins to the plate, the 12-course menu pairs two ingredients that look alike but taste different. It is a concept difficult to understand until the first course appears – Sea Urchin/Marinated Carrot. Placed side by side, the fresh uni and finely diced carrots look alike at first, merging together beautifully in a melange of briny creaminess and crunchy freshness. As is said in Thailand – same same, but different.

The duality continues. Northern Prawns/Pineapple Guava didn’t provide the same visual impact, but the hot/cold and crunch/cream duality was lovely. More striking was the Beef/Plum – the plums smoked then diced to resemble and taste like its partnered beef tartare. Sea/Soil was a blindside; a delicious ‘butter’ made of oyster, Kamchatka crab caviar and plankton spread onto an earthy bread designed to smell of freshly-turned soil. Horsehair Crab/Honey Fungus saw the delicate soft crab meat mixed with crunchy fungus strands, given life with a dark, syrupy kvass reduction made from rye bread.

The menu is an education on how duality can be taken to new culinary heights. It certainly isn’t a new notion – sweet and sour, hot and cold, surf and turf – but the Berezutsky gaze and mind has also made it surprising. The next course, called The Ecosystem, departs slightly from the idea – being a collection of ingredients that grow within a one metre radius of a birch tree – but still embraces dualism in its textures; the velvety Buletos mushrooms flamed in birch bark wading in a bubbly pool of birch foam and topped with a crispy birch leaf. Veal Brains/Walnuts take us back on course – two very visually similar ingredients given an Asian twist with the use of kaffir leaf. Veal brains, by the way, taste like a very creamy foie gras.

Celery Stalk/Celeriac is the most representative of the brothers, being two parts of one thing. The celeriac was mixed with barley and baked in a bread shell, creating a risotto-like consistency topped with crunchy celery stalk. The Russian deep dive continues with Sterlet/Vyaziga – a hearty fillet of sterlet fish (a relative of the sturgeon) drizzled with a caviar/cream sauce and served with boiled vyaziga (dried sturgeon spinal cords), which resemble spirelli pasta in taste and texture.

Desserts veered traditional, with Semolina Ice Cream/Cranberry Sauce being a classic Russian combination. A platter of Fresh Cheese/Aged Cheese – from the Twins Garden Farm, of course – proved a lovely distraction of textures, the penultimate course in a menu that culminated in Vegetable Sweets – a potted shrub with leaves of lemon/lime crisps shielding a garden of beetroot/raspberry ganache, eggplant/chocolate truffles and green pea/mint macarons.

The meal may have ended, but the party continued. In the Twins Garden Bar a floor above, that inventive spirit that cloaks the kitchen lives on in apple-vodka cocktails served in a red apple vessel and white chocolate-pine liquor drinks served in pine cones. It is the perfect place to contemplate the duality that is inherent in life and represented so cleverly on a plate by Sergey and Ivan Berezutsky. Chance, circumstance and craft may have contributed to the creation of the new Twins Garden, but it takes a deft pair of hands to execute its unique vision. Or in this case, two.

Twins Garden


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