The Tennis Academy Sport-Café of Buryat Cuisine
Спорт-кафе академии тенниса с бурятской кухней
Leningradskii Prospekt 36, str. 29
Metro Aeroport (See Map)
Traditional Buryat Cuisine
Snacks for $4; Meals for $8-12
For my junior year I spent nine months abroad in Irkutsk, in Eastern Siberia. The indigenous Buryat have a lot in common with their Mongolian neighbors, including a very meat-intensive cuisine. The day I arrived to the area my Russian host father took me to the family dacha, and along the way we stopped at a little shack on the side of the road called a “позная” (poznaya). “Devid, have you ever had pozi?” I had no clue what he was talking about, but found out a few minutes later, when we were brought four giant dumplings on a plate, some mayonnaise, and a little pot of soy sauce.
Pozi are traditionally eaten by hand, but great care must be taken. The dough is filled with a beef filling and “juice,” drippings from the fatty meat, is caught and held by the dough as the pozi are cooked. If you aren’t ready to drink it on the first bite into your poz then you will almost certainly stain your shirt.
This might already sound unappetizing to some of our readers. I was about two months removed from a seven-year period of vegetarianism at that point, but I can tell you that they were delicious. The Buryat were traditionally a cattle-herding people, and the region is known for the excellent quality of its beef. Last week I did some googling and found that there are a handful of позные in Moscow. The one most easily accessible by the metro turned out to be located in a tennis academy next to Dinamo stadium.
The café is located on the second floor, behind an unmarked door. There was no one else in the small café except for our waitress, a Buryat woman who was watching tennis (surprise!) on a flat-screen TV. Menus were handed out, and we saw that this place really did serve authentic Buryat cuisine – presumably to budding Russian tennis stars.
Dear reader – I have a confession to make. I had a wonderful opportunity to sample some of the more exotic ethnic Buryat cuisine. They had толстые кишки (large intestines), кровяные колбасы (blood sausages), and a soup made out of a medley of words that I did not recognize. But I am a coward, and so I just ordered some pozi and a salad. I’m sorry for not having gone the extra mile to make this reading experience that much more exciting for you.
Four pozi with mustard and soy sauce on the side cost 130 rubles. The meat was excellent, but I was actually expecting a little more juice—there was no danger of spillage, just a little dripping. The dough was nice and thin without being too dry. I also ordered a salad named “Baikal,” in honor of the massive Siberian lake that holds so much importance to the Buryat culture and mythology. It was very satisfying if a little overpriced at 130 rubles – a bed of carrots and chicken covered with finely grated cheese and plenty of garlic – original and very tasty. To drink I had some kvass for 40 rubles. My suggestion that we split a pot of Buryat-style tea, which is slightly salty and milky, was met with a firm rejection by my dining partner.
My bill came to 300 rubles – just below budget, but clearly more expensive than the other places I have reviewed so far. If you find yourself at a sporting event in Dinamo stadium and want to try some Asian cuisine that is almost certainly not available in America, then I recommend you try some pozi, or perhaps large intestines, at the “Tennis Academy Sport-Café of Buryat Cuisine.” Who knows—you just might meet the next Sharapova. For diehard pozi fans who would like to find other Buryat-friendly locations in Moscow, Buryatia.org has their own map online.
For groups and faculty-led tours, this sport-café might be a possibility if your group is particularly adventurous or specifically interested in ethnology. The café can only seat about 20, but appears to be empty most of the time, meaning that smaller groups of up 12 or even 15 should be able to enter without much problem. The other thing to consider is that, besides the stadium, there is not much else to do in the area, meaning that the restaurant would have to be an event in itself.