Celebrity restaurant fad takes hold in glossy Russia

Tue Nov 22, 2011 11:46am EST
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MOSCOW (Reuters) - Celebrity restaurants, long a fixture of New York and London, are now a confirmed Russian fad with the recent opening of a Moscow venue by a home-grown filmmaker raising the tally of eateries and bars backed by artists, actors, socialites.

Andrei Konchalovsky, a veteran director known in the West for his Hollywood movies, such as "Runaway Train" and "Tango and Cash," opened the art-deco style Yornik restaurant with his wife Yulia Vysotskaya earlier this month.

This followed the September opening of Chemodan, an eatery inspired by Siberia's hearty cooking and owned by Oleg Menshikov, an actor famous for his role in the 1994 Oscar-winning film "Burned by the Sun."

The venues give the celebrity restaurant fad a local flavor and follow a wave of importing famous restaurants that have already made their names elsewhere, such as Nobu.

Vadim Irushkin of Restaurants Rating, a restaurant booking and information company based in Moscow, said the trend is visible, but that celebrities are not always the sole owners.

"Big restaurant companies (also) invite famous people to be the 'first faces'," he said, citing the Russian socialite and reality TV show host Ksenia Sobchak's Byblik (Bagel) and old-time rock-pop singer Grigori Leps's karaoke bar, Leps Bar.

Those ventures are backed by the restaurant company The Ginza Project, which is also behind dozens of so-called "concept" restaurants in Moscow.

"We get a lot of requests to book tables in such places, because many people are interested in the dolce vita lifestyle," Irushkin said. "Sometimes people don't think about the food in these restaurants, it is more about being seen than anything else."