Mukhin plays Moscow’s Mad Hatter at White Rabbit

White Rabbit restaurant in Moscow. (Supplied)
Updated 07 February 2019

Mukhin plays Moscow’s Mad Hatter at White Rabbit

  • White Rabbit restaurant in Moscow has become a worldwide sensation due to Russian chef Vladimir Mukhin
  • Mukhin appeared on Netflix's "Chef's Table"

DUBAI: White Rabbit restaurant in Moscow may have been a name whispered among gourmands in the past, but it has become a worldwide sensation thanks to Russian chef Vladimir Mukhin. On Netflix’s “Chef’s Table,” the enigmatic Mukhin exuded boyish charm and genuine love for food. And he laid out his ambitions for White Rabbit unequivocally when he proclaimed: “I will do whatever it takes to bring the genuine Russian taste back to the people.”

But with great admiration comes great expectations.

Set in the Smolenskaya Passage — a shopping mall in the center of Moscow — White Rabbit’s location offers little to set the scene for what’s to come. But upon arriving at the 16th floor, we enter a giant glass atrium with an Alice in Wonderland (but all grown-up ) theme: Framed portraits of rabbits as royals in full garb, blooming flowers, formally dressed waiters, gold accents, and a hint of the eccentric at every turn. It’s all very dramatic and, frankly, wonderfully twee.

We booked an early dinner seating, which is highly recommended for the views alone. You’ll see the sunlight drape Moscow’s skyline — a combination of New York-esque skyscrapers alongside Soviet era architecture — in brilliant hues of dusky orange and pink, before it transforms into a dreamy, twinkly cityscape.

Our 14-course Russian Evolution tasting menu is an ode to tradition (be warned, not all dishes are suitable for Muslims). We begin with lardo — cured strips of fatback. It sounds wholly unappetizing, but thanks to Mukhin’s exotic twist — a refreshing bite of coconut — we find ourselves enjoying it.

It sets the pace perfectly and subsequent dishes are presented with more than a dash of theatricality. The sea scallops are soft and creamy, elevated thanks to the dusting of ‘eucalyptus snow’ added at the table. The ryazhenka is another highlight — our waitress blowtorching a layer of tangy rhubarb marshmallow into submission, creating a gooey medley of flavors when spooned into the fatty swan liver underneath.

It was a little disappointing that the service didn’t always match the food, with waitstaff alternating between being attentive and distracted — mostly the latter as the evening got busier.

The closing half of the tasting menu builds upon elements of the first — unique flavors, twists on the traditional, and artful presentation — but with renewed focus, like crashing waves upon the shore as opposed to the playful, teasing waters before. Bigger, bolder dishes glide out of the kitchen, led by the cabbage pie — Mukhin’s wood-stove interpretation is served with different varieties of caviar. Then comes a silky stew of cod, roasted crawfish and gooseberries, the latter ingredient also shining in the honey-wine sorbet creation, as well as the meaty beef-and-sorrel barbeque.

Doing away with clichéd chocolate mousse and honey cakes, dessert consists of erofeyich — a sour cream spectacular with fried hazelnuts and polugar; black bread with cream and seawater; and finally, the syta — a small gold chocolate ball served atop the antlers of a colorful moose. Inside, we’re told, are baked potatoes and porcini. It’s earthy yet light, with a slow reveal of cocoa and buttery truffle. It’s so delicate that we’re instructed to eat it directly off the stand without using our hands — an amusing way to end the meal.

Soon after, chef Mukhin casually wanders over and asks us what we thought. A little starstruck, we ramble on about our favorite dishes, visiting Moscow, and how very, very honored we were to learn more about Russian cuisine through his hands, so to speak. He takes it all in with a broad smile.

Yes, the restaurant serves contemporary Russian delights. Yes, its dishes are considered some of the best in the world. But with Mukhin, it’s always going to be playtime at White Rabbit.

Plastic particles in drinking water present ‘low’ risk — World Health Organization

Updated 22 August 2019

Plastic particles in drinking water present ‘low’ risk — World Health Organization

  • WHO issues first report on microplastics in drinking water
  • Reassures consumers that risk is low, but says more study needed

GENEVA: Microplastics contained in drinking water pose a “low” risk to human health at current levels, but more research is needed to reassure consumers, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Thursday.
Studies over the past year on plastic particles detected in tap and bottled water have sparked public concerns but the limited data appears reassuring, the UN agency said its first report on potential health risks associated with ingestion.
Microplastics enter drinking water sources mainly through run-off and wastewater effluent, the WHO said. Evidence shows that microplastics found in some bottled water seem to be at least partly due to the bottling process and/or packaging such as plastic caps, it said.
“The headline message is to reassure drinking water consumers around the world, that based on this assessment, our assessment of the risk is that it is low,” Bruce Gordon of the WHO’s department of public health, environmental and social determinants of health, told a briefing.
The WHO did not recommended routine monitoring for microplastics in drinking water. But research should focus on issues including what happens to chemical additives in the particles once they enter the gastrointestinal tract, it said.
The majority of plastic particles in water are larger than 150 micrometers in diameter and are excreted from the body, while “smaller particles are more likely to cross the gut wall and reach other tissues,” it said.
Health concerns have centered around smaller particles, said Jennifer De France, a WHO technical expert and one of the report’s authors.
“For these smallest size particles, where there is really limited evidence, we need know more about what is being absorbed, the distribution and their impacts,” she said.
More research is needed into risks from microplastics exposure throughout the environment — “in our drinking water, air and food,” she added.
Alice Horton, a microplastics researcher at Britain’s National Oceanography Center, said in a statement on the WHO’s findings: “There are no data available to show that microplastics pose a hazard to human health, however this does not necessarily mean that they are harmless.”
“It is important to put concerns about exposure to microplastics from drinking water into context: we are widely exposed to microplastics in our daily lives via a wide number of sources, of which drinking water is just one.”
Plastic pollution is so widespread in the environment that you may be ingesting five grams a week, the equivalent of eating a credit card, a study commissioned by the environmental charity WWF International said in June. That study said the largest source of plastic ingestion was drinking water, but another major source was shellfish.
The biggest overall health threat in water is from microbial pathogens — including from human and livestock waste entering water sources — that cause deadly diarrheal disease, especially in poor countries lacking water treatment systems, the WHO said.
Some 2 billion people drink water contaminated with faeces, causing nearly 1 million deaths annually, Gordon said, adding: “That has got to be the focus of regulators around the world.”