Left to right: the founder of Beef Zavod Maxim Torganov, his partner, Diego Rossi and Federico Sisti. A few days ago, the chef from Trippa cooked in this restaurant in Saint Petersburg, as guest of the Gourmet Days
The sun was shining, a few days ago in Saint Petersburg, for the opening of the third edition of Gourmet Days: the festival summons the best restaurants in town and a rich selection of chefs who, from every corner of the globe, gathered here in the second week of June, so as to give a well-deserved visibility to the fermenting culinary scene.
Indeed, there have been many openings in town, and of high standards: it is no coincidence that in the World’s 50Best 2019, between number 51 and 120, we find two young restaurants from Saint Petersburg. The more fine dining one, Cococo (Gabriele Zanatta wrote about it a couple of years ago), at number 108, and the more original one, Harvest, at number 91. We will cover them soon in a separate article.
Diego Rossi and Federico Sisti at work at Beef Zavod
A selection of cured meat produced at Beef Zavod
Scallops with cucumbers, peas, coriander and mint
Lamb tartare with pecorino and bottarga
Once back in Russia, he founded Beef Zavod: a place with a charming design coherent with its name (which means “meat factory”), hence with various aesthetic touches that hint at butchering tools and techniques. With a lab in which cured meat is prepared in the Russian style, but most of all in the Italian and European ones (including an excellent bresaola and a delicious beef-based salami), a large room for the maturation of the cattle, with US-built grills that support the perfect cooking on wood embers, a beautiful wine list in which, as Diego Rossipointed out, natural wines stand out.
There are many affinities between the approaches of the chef from Trippa and the one of Beef Zavod: especially the utmost respect for the animals. Here they slaughter animals only when they’re adult, over 5 years old, and use everything, with the “nose to tail” approach.
Federico Sisti while dishing out the sides for Peposo di guancia
Rossi presented three dishes to the Russian guests – it was a sold out, with people queuing outside, hoping to find a tiny place (it felt like we were in Milan, in front of the Trippa’s entrance…) – while the other two dishes in the menu were prepared by the hosting kitchen. Among them, a truly exquisite scallop stood out, presented in an aromatic and fresh dish with cucumbers, mint, and fresh peas.
The first tasting of Rossi’s cuisine in Saint Petersburg was Lamb tartare (at Trippa the dish is made with sheep, but at Beef Zavod they only had some excellent lamb) with pecorino and bottarga. And though the Russian palate is accustomed to very richly seasoned steak tartares, the essential offer of the Venetian chef charmed them. But his greatest intuition arrived with the following dish.
A small part of the sides served by Diego Rossi
«Before arriving –Diego said – I simply said we’d make Peposo with beef cheek. But I already knew I’d offer a series of vegetal side dishes, which in my mind were in fact the main dish. First, however, I wanted to find out what kind of products I’d be able to use». Here comes the nice surprise: the raw materials used for cooking in Saint Petersburg are often excellent.
«I was really impressed, for instance, by these tomatoes from Azerbaijan, full of flavour and aroma. So I decided to present them in a salad, with some delicious strawberries. Then we went to the market and I tasted the cheese: I chose a local blue cheese, which I used in a fondue with beetroot, and a sort of mascarpone cheese that I used as a sauce for the grilled asparagus».
Selfie and fun after the dinner
And then there was Cream of aubergines with paprika and vinegar, Savoy cabbage salad with melon and smoked sauce, Roasted onions with pomegranate reduction, grapes and toasted pumpkin seeds, Apricot and spinach salad with hazelnut and honey dressing. Dishes meant to be shared, which crowded the tables at Beef Zavod for the amusement and praise of the guests.
Just the time to end with a classic dessert from Trippa - Mousse of yogurt with chestnut honey, pollen and camomile – and then Diego Rossi and Federico Sisti were celebrated by the audience, what with endless selfies, dances and great laughs, a proof of this successful experience away from home.
Translated into English by Slawka G. Scarso
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Journalist, based in Milan. At 8 years old, he received a Springsteen record as a gift, and nothing was the same since. Music and food are his passions. Author and broadcaster at Radio Popolare since 1997, since 2014 he became part of the staff of Identità Golose