Postcard from... Moscow


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The Independent Online

Few globally regard Russian cuisine as among the world's finest but, inside the country itself, the cabbage and beetroot-based dishes are still a source of national pride.

When Benjamin Osher, the American chef at Moscow's Nobu, one of the world's premier restaurant chains, was asked on to a prime-time cookery programme on state-controlled television, he thought he would be showing off the Japanese-inspired cooking for which Nobu is famous to a Russian audience. Instead, he found himself thrown into a bizarre cook-off with the Buranovskiye Babushki, the singing grannies who were Russia's entry at this year's Eurovision Song Contest and have since been promoted as unlikely patriotic heroes.

The babushki said they hated restaurants and nothing was as good as home cooking, and both they and the American chef made three courses, which were judged by "experts" in the studio. Up first was a soup. Osher made a delicate dashi soup with mushrooms, while the grannies made a chicken and cabbage broth sprinkled with dill.

"Home-cooked food is much better than your restaurant food!" one granny reprimanded Osher, who smiled awkwardly – and, on the whole, the audience agreed, right through to the unappetising-looking sour berry dessert that the grannies made, which was up against a Japanese banana dessert.

A "doctor" explained that the grannies are so healthy in their old age because they eat only Russian food, and the jury voted overwhelmingly in favour of the babushki, with the cabbage broth beating the Nobu soup by eight votes to nil.