Many chefs buy fish from North Africa. Russian officials have visited India to look at buffalo meat after shunning the country for years over quality concerns.
Argentina also produces brands of mozzarella, pasta and parmesan cheese, while Serbia and Russia's Kaluga and Bryansk regions can offer brands of mozzarella, chefs say.
Bukharov noted that Russian chefs have faced similar tests of their ingenuity in the past, particularly in 1998 when the collapse of the rouble caused import shortages, and again during the financial crisis of 2008.
``Of course it's bad for high-end restaurants. When there was the crisis in 1998 we bought cheaper products of a different quality and we found that those who ate at our restaurants felt the change immediately. We were forced to return to the better, more expensive products to keep our clients,'' he said.
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Back then, he worked the phones for hours to try to find replacement products, and his menus were changed daily. Twenty kilos of mutton he struggled to secure one day stretched to cover only 100 portions of a dish.
``We didn't close down. But it will be a challenge for those restaurants. They have to understand that in '98 we worked for a year without profit.''
The Kremlin hopes the ban will spur Russian agriculture. Some foodies say it should be an opportunity to promote Russian cuisine, not just borshch and pickled herring but also less well known dishes from the country's regions.
``Five years ago we began to talk about the necessity of boosting Russian regional cuisine,'' Bukharov said. ``We must use all the technologies we got from the West on our own products, to market them so our that our gastronomical culture has its own face.''
Still, even in areas where Russia produces quality food for export it may lack the infrastructure to reach domestic consumers across its 11 time zones. Russia's Far East fishing fleet catches sea food off the Pacific coast, but mainly exports it in Asia rather than shipping it across Siberia to European Russia. Meanwhile, Chinese tuna is appearing on Russian shelves.
For restaurants, the biggest problem may not be finding the ingredients but keeping costs down, particularly at a time when economic hardship hurts the spending power of customers.
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One chef said getting Parmesan cheese from Belarus meant a 20 percent mark up. Others said prices had already risen between 5 and 20 percent in a month for some products.
Overall, food prices were 10.3 percent higher in August than a year ago, the Federal Statistics Service said, and while it recorded cheaper levels for fruit and vegetables, chefs say good quality tomatoes, previously sourced largely at the European market hub in the Netherlands, are becoming more expensive.
``Of course some people want to drive up prices at the moment,'' said Bukharov. ``But I think in two, three months time it will all be sorted with new suppliers. I don't doubt it.''
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