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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 13 November 2018

From Russia, with love: Vesna to serve slavic cuisine at the Conrad Dubai

At Vesna, which will open in The Conrad Dubai this October, the aim is to serve modern, upscale Slavic food and change opinion about the cuisine, says head chef Maksim Tvorogov.
Maksim Tvorogov, head chef of Vesna restaurant at The Conrad Dubai, is on a mission to show that Slavic cuisine is unique and delicious. Victor Besa for The National
Maksim Tvorogov, head chef of Vesna restaurant at The Conrad Dubai, is on a mission to show that Slavic cuisine is unique and delicious. Victor Besa for The National

A new restaurant called Vesna is set to debut at the Conrad Dubai this autumn, adding a much-needed dining option to the high-end hotel following the closure of Marco Pierre White Grill this year.

The menu suggests the new restaurant will be an anomaly among Dubai’s five-star hotels. The focus? Slavic cuisine.

Vesna means “spring” in Russian and the team behind the concept are aiming to breathe fresh life into Dubai’s fine-­dining scene with their dishes.

The space previously occupied by Marco Pierre White Grill can seat 105 guests in the dining area and an additional 50 in the lounge bar. The chefs will serve an array of Slavic dishes, as well as signature tasting menus for guests new to the cuisine.

Chef Maksim Tvorogov will take the lead in the kitchen. At just 28, he already has plenty of experience – he has cooked his way across Russia and is regularly featured on the Russian cookery shows Tasty Tips and Lunchtime. He has also taught at the Chef’s Club of St ­Petersburg.

“I’ve always been in the kitchen, learning the art of good food from my grandmother in a village in Russia” he says. “Those initial years gave birth to the chef in me.”

Since those early years, he’s trained under Russian chef Ilya Lazerson, French chef Michel Lentz, Italian chef Fabrizio Fattuci and Italian chef Andrea ­Dolcetti.

“My speciality is Slavic cuisine made out of the best-quality products,” Tvorogov says. “I want to make it a pleasant experience for guests and give a piece of our homeland in Vesna.”

He says he can’t wait to show diners his modern take on a ­lesser-known type of cuisine.

“Vesna will serve contemporary Slavic cuisine,” he says. “The menu will present the best and classic hits of Russian, Ukrainian, Belarusian and Georgian cuisine, made on the latest trends. It will be minimalist cooking, not over the top.”

When asked what people need to know about Slavic cuisine, he jokes: “That it exists.”

He then explains: “Dubai is the centre of all the best cuisines. My mission is to try to show the diners of this beautiful city that Eastern European cuisine is not just ‘herring under a fur coat’. It is unique and delicious just like the rest.”

Herring under a fur coat, a popular dish in Russia, is a salad with pieces of salted herring, covered in boiled vegetables, onions and mayonnaise.

Tvorogov says signature dishes on Vesna’s menu will include borscht (beetroot soup); homestyle potatoes (a speciality – and he’s not sharing the recipe); chicken Kiev cutlet; beef Stroganoff; and a salad of seasonal organic vegetables with homemade butter. He also says to expect a few surprises, including smoked croutons.

The chef is ready – and excited – to give diners in Dubai a taste of his modern, upscale Slavic food. “Our vision is to make contemporary Slavic cuisine popular,” he says.

“A lot of people may have a negative opinion about Slavic cuisine. I look forward to changing this opinion. Only the best of our culture will be portrayed on the plates.”

But, he says, to fall in love with it, first you have to come in and try it.

“As they say in Russia,” he says, “A happy face is a letter of ­recommendation.”

You can get your first taste when Vesna opens at the five-star hotel, on Sheikh Zayed Road, in October.

• Follow the restaurant on Twitter @vesnadubai

sjohnson@thenational.ae