Think of a mythical island, or a sacred land that is an ever-elusive dream… this is Buyan. In traditional Russian folklore, children are told of its mystical nature by the introduction “In the sea, on the ocean, in the island of Buyan”. In Singapore, those who have a passion for exotic culinary adventures and unfulfilled longings to experience the luxury of a bygone era of Czars and Czarinas, may find in Buyan Russian Haute Cuisine & Caviar Bar, heaven at last.
Now finally manifested in a physical setting, the famous Russian island finds its home on the sunny shores of Singapore. Inspired by the legendary concept of the Russian buyan, “also known as the vivifying emphalos of the world, the epicentre of all forces of life”, this namesake restaurant shares the same philosophy in the richness of its menu offerings, the decadence of its interior atmosphere and the detailed authenticity of its food philosophy. Buyan champions a lifestyle: its guests will come seeking more than just sustenance but also refinement, knowledge and the pursuit of passion.
Situated in the premier Duxton district and occupying two original shophouses over three floors, the Buyan experience is to be had in a setting reminiscent of a period Russian banquet hall. The restaurant is divided into three areas of distinction: the downstairs area showcases the gem of a Vodka & Caviar Bar, serving over 50 styles of premium vodkas (most of the labels are not available elsewhere in Singapore); a private dining room with a 7.5 metre Chef’s Table is overlooked by the main kitchen where the culinary magic takes place; whilst the second floor houses two decadent dining areas and a terrace in a courtyard setting with it’s own bar no less, all of which can be closed to accommodate more intimate gatherings.
In addition to fine foods in a luxurious setting, Buyan Russian Haute Cuisine & Caviar Bar also holds the cache of being an establishment with a conscience. From the use of farmed meats to humane methods of extracting caviar, gourmet dining here is done with a difference.
Begin your historical food experience at the Vodka & Caviar bar for an aperitif or three, and whet your appetite with some premium caviar. Hailed as the “black treasure of the sea”, caviar reigns supreme in the Russian cuisine and stands for luxury and gastronomic subtlety. Ironically, it began as a staple food of the people: fishermen had it for breakfast, soldiers were fed it in the trenches and in the 1960’s large quantities of black and red caviar were on sale in ordinary food markets. From oscetra to beluga variations, you will find the widest selection here and without the associated guilt, as all caviar served at Buyan is harvested using the ecoconscious milking technique.
Accompany it perhaps with some blini. These deliciously light disc-sized pancakes originated in pre-Christian Russia where they were baked in honour of Wolos, a heathen god of cattle, wealth and the arts, symbolising the sun, rich harvests and harmonious marriage. Blinis must be eaten hot and can be served with caviar or meat filing, or as a dessert, when taken with honey, jam, sour cream or condensed milk.
For authentic Russian dining at its best, start with a course of the well-loved beef stroganoff. Although not traditionally part of Russian cuisine, it became globally known as one through the years. Derived from the surname of Count Alexander Stroganov (1795-1891), the dish was invented by his French cook as finely shredded meat, typical of French cuisine, and made it easier to serve in portions. Count Alexander who was also the General Governor of Southern Russia based in Odessa, was a philanthropist famous for his open house dinners, and anyone was welcome to walk in for a hearty meal. From these dinners the beef stroganoff became a Russian standard.
Alternatively, enjoy some solyanka, a thick, spicy-sour stew. Some regions in Russia make it with fish or salted mushrooms as a main ingredient, but more popular are the ones made with meat. For meat solyanka, ingredients like beef, ham, sausages, chicken breasts, cucumber pickles, tomatoes, onions, capers and olives are finely chopped and then some homemade broth is added and gently simmered. A serving of cream on the side completes the dish. For your beverage, enjoy some mors, a thirst quencher made from mashed and strained berries and fruits diluted with water and sweetened with sugar. Made from the wild berries native to Russian forests (lingonberry, cranberry, blueberry and cloudberry) or those cultivated in Russian orchards (red and blackcurrants, raspberries, strawberries and blackberries), this drink dates back to the 11th century during the time of Russia’s greatest ruler, Yaroslav the Wise.
Still thirsty? Sip from a choice of one hundred different beers available at the restaurant including one made especially for Buyan, and inspired by the traditional Russian thirst quencher kvas, made from cereals and dried rye bread. If you prefer wine, let Sommelier Indra Kumar guide you. In collaboration with Buyan’s wine connoisseur owner, Singapore Best Sommelier (2009) has put together the restaurant’s stunning cellar, worth a staggering S$3.5 million. The rarely common vertical vintage collection includes French, Russian and Georgian wines dating all the way back to 1877. The listed champagnes include one of the oldest known ones, a Piper Heidseick dated 1907 from the private collection of Tsar Nicholas II, salvaged from a shipwreck. Yet another first for a restaurant in Singapore would be the fact that all wines are available by the glass, a universal appeal to both amateurs and aficionados alike.
Finally cap off the evening with some Cohibas, Partagas or Montecristos; whichever suits your fancy from Buyan’s selection of regular, prestige or rare-collection cigars. Another aperitif perhaps and scintillating conversations on art, culture and history with the Buyan ambassadors who are ever-willing to engage in cerebral as much as culinary exchanges.
Perhaps it is no mistake that the restaurant Buyan found its way to Singapore. Well-known as an island-city-state of foodies who would travel to the ends of the island (if not the earth) for the best of a dish or cuisine, Buyan Russian Haute Cuisine restaurant is likely to make gigantic waves among our discerning diners.
With Buyan, owner Julia Sherstyuk hopes to win over the local palate to an appreciation of Russian fine dining at its best. By using only the finest ingredients and using history and folklore to accompany the traditional menu, Singaporeans will be exposed to a never-seen or heard-of before experience in Russian food and arts. In addition to authentic dishes, guests at Buyan will be able to choose from classic or modern presentation styles, visually showcased on not-so-traditional iPad menus.
The food will be served in hearty portions but with the elegance and appeal of any fine dining establishment. There will also be a value-for-money set lunch served on weekdays, generously allowing guests to choose from the a la carte menu to make up the set.