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Friday, November 04, 2005

 

Review: Traktir Na Malakansky

Traktir Na Malakansky

If your idea of “comfort food” is brown bread, mushroom blini and “classic” stroganoff, try out Traktir na Molokansky for a homey Russian meal. In a convenient location, Traktir’s rustic but warm interior suggests dark winter nights in the village, illuminated by music, good friends and clear liquor.

Traktir offers familiar Russian dishes such as borscht, herring shuba salad and an assortment cold and hot platters. Some of the main dishes are outstanding, particularly the sweet and tender duck stuffed with apple or apricot. Rabbit in wine sauce is another winning combination (provided its duck and wabbit season). In a nod to the Caspian kitchen, Traktir offers three different sturgeon options – boiled, Volga or Monastic.

Wrap up your meal with an assortment of sweet or savory blini. Sweet “flour” plates are accompanied by fruit compote or smetana (sweet, heavy cream), which is possibly Russia’s greatest contribution to the world’s array of condiments.

In addition to Georgian wines, Traktir has an impressive list of vodkas to animate dinner table debate. Order a plate of pickles to ease the conversational transition from the plight of the peasant to the vulgarity of the oligarchs.

With its dark wood walls, exposed beams and dim lights, Traktir is moody and slightly melancholic. A talented gray-haired man plays both piano and accordion, alternating maudlin Russian favorites with western elevator tunes. Sometimes staff and patrons burst into song, while the passive nudes hanging on the walls look on without passing judgment.

Traktir’s attentive and polite service makes it more enjoyable than the average Russian dining experience. Rather than impeding the ordering process, the wait staff usually facilitates it by being cooperative and helpful, even with foreigners who are unfamiliar with the dishes or mispronounce words. Traktir provides a menu in English, the contents of which are almost always available.

Traktir Na Molokansky is at 6 Hajibeyov, facing Molokan Garden.

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