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NEW YORK — Andrey Dellos may not be famous for his subtlety, but he might have the Midas touch.
The creator of more than 50 restaurants worldwide, Dellos’ Moscow-based Turandot raised eyebrows in 2008 for its complete re-creation of the 18th-century Imperial dining experience — right down to servers dressed in full silk livery and gilded everything. His re-creation of a Ukrainian peasant farmhouse, Shinok, incorporates grazing live animals. Then there’s Café Pushkin, the only Russian restaurant to make the Financial Times’ list of the top 25 restaurants in Europe.
On a sunny afternoon a week before the soft opening of his latest endeavor here, Dellos introduces his interpreter in perfect English (“I fear my English is not sophisticated enough”). Between pulls on an electronic cigarette, the restaurant magnate describes his educational background as being both “art and academic,” and touches on his training as a Franco-Russian language interpreter before introducing his vision: a slice of modern Mother Russia in Midtown.
Dellos’ first American outpost, Brasserie Pushkin, is situated just a Fabergé-egg toss from Fifth Avenue, at 41 West 57th Street. He is unworried about his restaurant’s proximity to that other Imperial dining experience, the Russian Tea Room, farther down 57th street. “Russian people have a strong bond with Russia — regardless of where they live. But we’re trying to create the new wave in the Russian culinary world. We’re acting as the rule-setters and not the followers.”
The space seats about 120 people, including a garden-level private dining room. It is all exposed brick and chocolate leather banquettes, taupe tufted-velvet armchairs and hand-carved wood paneling. The ceiling is occupied by a fresco mimicking that of the Hall of Hercules in Versailles, “where Louis XIV dined. I’m half French,” Dellos explains. The painted cherubs beam.
The menu, helmed by “the crowned King of Russian cuisine,” chef Andrey Makhov, offers Imperial-influenced fare: an osetra and blini splurge cozies up to Cornish hen, a burger “Pojarski” and Colorado rack of lamb. “There is no such thing as ‘Russian cuisine,’” Dellos explains. “Geographically, Russia absorbs both Eastern and Western cultures….We’ve pulled things from everywhere.” He leans in conspiratorially, “The culinary world of Russia is mostly French. Since the early 19th century, there has been a demand for French cooks — technically, of the cuisine that exists in Russia today, probably 60 percent was created by French chefs.”
Brasserie Pushkin’s other highlight is Emmanuel Ryon, who received the Meilleur Ouvrier de France title for ice cream and won the Pastry World Championship in 1999. Ryon’s desserts include a hazelnut meringue globe containing cinnamon ice cream and caramel-apple coulis accompanied by a trio of small golden cubes of saffron-apple marmalade, and underneath a layer of paper-thin slices of crunchy apple lightly bent down the middle, almost as if they are flower petals or landed butterflies. The plate is lightly touched with edible gold.
Dellos has strong feelings for New York. “There are not too many cities in the world that I’ve fallen in love with,” he said, “Paris, New York, Moscow, Florence. Twenty-five years ago, I was here in New York for two months with an exhibition of my paintings, at some galleries in SoHo, and I fell in love.”
Dellos later named his first Moscow restaurant Soho, inspired by those two months. “So you can see how this place fascinates me,” he smiles broadly. The inception of Soho and Dellos’ career in the culinary industry was at once fate and a seemingly terrible turn of events: The 41-year-old Dellos had been living in France as a painter and was pickpocketed while visiting a few Moscow-based collectors. The loss of his travel documents made leaving the city an impossibility.
“I’d always been torn between being an artist and the culinary world and [in Moscow] everything was just beginning again, so I decided to take advantage of this opportunity,” Dellos shrugs. “At that time, Moscow was one of the most inedible, gastronomically horrible cities — all the restaurants were from the Soviet era. I opened the first private restaurant.”
That first week, people waited for more than two hours in below-zero temperatures to get in. “Not even because the food was so good,” Dellos says. “It was just because there were no others.”
In 2000 he opened a chain of environmentally aware self-service casual-dining restaurants called Mu-Mu. There are now 35 different Mu-Mu locations across Moscow. Dellos notes with an impish grin that at all of his eateries, there is still usually a line.
41 West 57th St. (between Fifth and Sixth Avenues), 212-465-2400. Open for dinner only Tuesday and Wednesday from 6 p.m. to 12 a.m. Lunch and dinner available from Thursday on, Monday to Sunday, from 11:30 a.m. to 12 a.m. The pastry counter is open from 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.