Gastro-tourism is new for Kamchatka but tourists are already elated
"The secret of our cuisine is simple — we adore what we do," the first of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky's meat restaurants, Butcher, told us. Their boundless love for meat helps them create delicious dishes — guests can gladly confirm this after a visit to the restaurant. It is worth mentioning that Butcher was initially created for the locals but now tourists frequent it too. Travellers are surprised at some of the dishes: for example, they serve venison that is tender and without the characteristic smell. Marina Kolusheva, the restaurant owner, told us how it was created and how successful the project has been.
– Ms. Kolusheva, let's start with a bit of history. How did you hit on the idea that Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky needed a meat restaurant?
– It started with a hobby: I was studying to become a chef and had always been interested in cooking. I'd participated in various master classes, including those offered by Michelin restaurants. I know the chefs from well-known Moscow restaurants. We had been refining the idea for a long time since opening a restaurant like this is a very energy-intensive project that takes a lot of time but when we found a suitable venue, we had no further doubts. Everything came together in this project: personal passion and professional activity (my family business is linked to food delivery to Kamchatka), so we can bring ingredients at any time and in any amount, since we have proprietary warehouses and the have mastered the logistics over the years.
– Why a meat restaurant and not something else?
– The idea was to have a restaurant just for Kamchatka residents: so that they could come and try the new dishes that were trending in Moscow at the time. There are no other establishments in Kamchatka with a comparable menu or such a varied wine list. Our restaurant offers over a hundred varieties of the best wines from around the world that have no counterparts in Kamchatka. We are very proud of our wine list and bar menu.
Also, the fact is that fish is an ingredient that Kamchatka residents are already well used to: it would be difficult to surprise guests with a new style or taste. It is difficult to experiment with fish, and, in my opinion, it is no longer interesting to the local residents. I longed for something new.
– You're saying that you opened the restaurant for local residents. Do you get tourists visiting you?
– Naturally. We get quite a lot of tourists, we have arranged separate presentations for tour agencies, and have introduced a menu section with dishes made from Kamchatka products as a special tourist offer.
– Your restaurant has a peculiar interior. How was it created?
– It is our own idea. My husband used to be a designer and we had been collecting some small items, ideas we liked. Then an outside designer united everything within a specific project for our venue. The idea was that our restaurant would unite both the cuisine and a real sense of history that could be touched and felt.
There are no items in Kamchatka that have a long history, so we gathered things gradually, one by one. For example, the brick wall near the entrance has a fascinating history: we brought the bricks from St. Petersburg. They used to be a part of a bridge built several centuries ago and part of an old merchant's house: the wall includes bricks with a special seal bearing the merchant's name. The wooden slabs are also remarkable — we used them in the bar and for the chef's table. We found them on the border with Belarus. The age of these trees is 200–300 years. They have a unique energy. All these items were selected very carefully, some were made to order: we worked in close contact with designers and craftsmen.
– Do you plan to introduce local Kamchatka cuisine to your menu?
– It is a tricky question. I have studied the history of Kamchatka cuisine and have not found any real Kamchatka recipes. What is Kamchatka cuisine? It is not Russian, not Soviet, what is it? Can you name a Kamchatka dish? Fish cutlets? You can find them anywhere. For me, Kamchatka cuisine is one that uses local products with a certain individual interpretation. For example, we cooked fish pelmeni with salmon but died them black using cuttlefish ink and called them "Kaldera" — this is our signature treatment. We use venison a lot. We cook it using the French sous-vide method — the technique of low-temperature cooking in a vacuum. Then we grill the meat really quickly, so that the venison becomes very soft and juicy. Tourists love this dish. At first they are hesitant because they believe venison is tough and smells bad but when they try our dish, they are ecstatic. They cannot believe that it can be like this. Even famous Moscow restaurateurs who visited us were shocked by our venison.
– Is your meat restaurant a success?
– The project is quite successful. We expected it to be since we are working hard. People feel our sincerity and willingness, and so they come. This is what our idea was about — to show the locals new techniques, new tastes. We change the menu all the time — our chef Williams Suarez is very creative. He blends all kinds of tastes into unique fusions.
– What are your plans for the future? A fish restaurant, maybe?
– We are now looking for a venue that could host a seafood restaurant. We have both ideas and energy but haven't managed to find a suitable place so far because certain conditions need to be met: we want to cook on coal-fired grills.
– As for gastronomic tourism…
– There is no such thing in Kamchatka but we would really like to develop it as there is great potential. I believe that Kamchatka needs a gastronomic festival because tourism and gastronomy are very closely related concepts. People take away more than just memories of the landscape; they also remember the tastes.