First fast food restaurant in Chukotka’s capital: what’s on the menu?
MOSCOW. KAZINFORM - A medium-size cafe, dubbed Meatpoint, is in the very heart of Chukotka’s capital, TASS informs. The aroma of brewed coffee and cinnamon fills the room, Roxette’s music is in the background. A charming slim woman, Maya Kuznetsova, and other staff are busy behind the bar. She’s the cafe’s inspiration and manager.
«The idea to open a fast food cafe appeared long ago. From the very beginning I knew it would be popular, as nothing of the kind had been in the city. It would be correct to say Anadyr is the Klondike for catering: the demand for good-quality restaurants is very high, and, on the other hand, there are no places to go out to,» Maya said.
Changing Black Sea to Bering Sea
Maya was born and grew up in the Rostov Region (southern Russia), got used to bright sunny days, juicy watermelons and high poplars. She came to Anadyr eight years ago, after she had travelled across the country in search for the best. Honestly, she said, it took quite a time to get used to the severe Arctic climate, and the choice of Chukotka was because she wanted to earn good money (On Chukotka, everyone receives additional allowances to the wages, plus a double coefficient: all payments to employees are doubled. Annual holidays are almost twice longer than on the mainland. In addition to that, after 15 years of work in the Extreme North people are entitled to pensions, which are almost twice higher than in Central Russia - TASS).
«When my friends invited me to come to Chukotka, I was working in Sochi. I spent free time at the sea and enjoyed the sun. To here, to Anadyr, I came in June, 2009 - in a T-shirt and bridges. How I was surprised to see people around me wearing warm overcoats and hats. During the first year, I could hardly get used to this climate; my daughter and I used to go to the Rostov Region from time to time - to warm up; I was getting mad from this cold. I can remember somebody told me: Wait, summer will come and you’ll see how marvelous the tundra is in summer. So summer comes, we go to the tundra, and what do I see - knee-deep swamps, and mosquitoes of the size - I wouldn’t be shocked if they lifted me and carried away with no problem. But time goes on, and I got used to everything,» Maya said, adding the tundra in summer is truly very picturesque.
For a few years in Anadyr, Maya managed a trade company, opened a few shops across the city. Then, she underwent a surgery on the spine, after which the woman had to learn to live and walk. But anyway, she hasn’t fled Chukotka.
«At some point, I got tired of working at home and wanted to begin something new, and in the long run together with my daughter I decided to open a bistro with an open kitchen, where people could take tasty snacks and be gone,» she continued. «The title, simple and catching, occurred quickly - Meatpoint.»
The cafe shot the moon: in six months, people lined up to get into the fashionable cafe with a grill, burgers and home-made pastries. Anadyr is Chukotka’s capital, but the city is not big, only 15,000 live there. You may cross the city within one hour.
In another six months, the decision was the cafe should move into a bigger building. Instead of 12 seats in the old cafe, the new one served 40 at a time.
Deer meat, cranberries and whale fat
About a dozen cafes and restaurants - from tiny cafes to the only expensive restaurant downtown - work in Anadyr. Thus, a lunch is not a problem, but trying «high Arctic cuisine» is highly unlikely.
Gastronomy tourism is not about Chukotka. Right, here you can see fish, crabs, caviar, deer, cranberries - everything, which could be used in fashionable «Northern» dishes with Chukotka’s flavor, but this direction is not developed in the region.
«The first thing people usually ask when they come here is where to try national dishes. I tell them honestly - nowhere in Anadyr,» Maya said. «First of all, true local dishes could be tasted only in national settlements, and they are not on menus of the city cafes.»
Besides, not everything the Chukchi eat could be eatable for others. Not even for a mega gourmand.
«Take for example kopalkhem. In fact, it is rotten deer or walrus meat with very strong smell. It is wrapped in walrus skin to be stored for a few months in a pit under a layer of peat. For untrained people, this meat could be simply dangerous, as it contains ptomaine. This dish is not what could be on a restaurant menu,» Maya said.
On the other hand, mantak - whale skin and fat - if cooked properly could be popular with gourmand tourists, she continued. The taste resembles regular pork fat with a shade of fish flavor. But there is one «but»: mantak is never on sale, it can be only a treat.
Under an international convention, killing whales in Russia is permitted only to the Chukchi and the Eskimos for personal needs. Whale’s meat must not be sold. Chukotka’s whale producing center is Lorino. About 50 whales a year are produced there. And from there mantak spreads across Chukotka as presents and parcels.
The region’s deputy head of the fund for development of tourism, Sergei Kachanov, told us the region plans to develop and promote gastronomy tourism. The region negotiates it with well-known restaurateurs from the Far East, who will offer the Arctic menu for Chukotka.
«We hope, soon the Chukotka cuisine, including local fish, deer, berries and herbs, will become an Arctic brand,» he said.
Tomatoes and parsley come by air
«Somebody’s told me doing business on Chukotka is like on Mars. It is true only to an extent. It’s a big deal to organize supplies of fresh products. For example, in our dishes we use fresh greens, cucumbers and tomatoes, which do not grow here in the Extreme North. Nor can you bring them during the navigation - time will kill them. Thus we have to bring such products from the mainland by air. Every business organizes such deliveries on its own, as we do not have any wholesale facilities here. If a delivery failed, I have to go to the supermarket to buy fresh vegetables there. If, say, tomatoes there a 680 rubles per a kilo ($10.9), this is the price I have to pay, and nobody will offer any discounts just because I buy a lot,» she said.
And still, Maya says doing business on Chukotka is not more complicated than in any other place in the country. Or even easier, as the purchase power is much higher there.