Ten Chowhounds and assorted friends joined 'Mad Russian' for dinner at Traktir Restaurant out in the Avenues...Despite some discussion/disagreement as to the exact nature of the food, (see link below) we did discover Georgian speciaties on the menu, along with one or two dishes from Azerbadzhan and a number of more traditional Russian selections....
Before listing the dishes and commenting on the food, I have to say that, while I am sure my senses were partially influenced by the wonderfully smooth Russian vodka that Cynthia brought along (Traktir will provide shot glasses if you descretely keep the bottle under the table), in terms of the overall experience, this really was one of the more memorable Chowdowns I have attended!
For a few hours, I felt transported to another place, thanks to the unfamiliar (to me) dishes, Russian being spoken everywhere but at our table (including service all in Russian, although the menu has English translations, so I am sure you could point if need be), to the Russian videos on the various TV screens (with volume turned down fortunately), to the drinking and toasts...
Anyway, toss in the usual fascinating Chowhound conversations and great company, and I had a wonderful time!
I am also more than a little hung over this morning, and my handwriting is pretty blury, so the other 'Hounds will have to come out of their hazes to help me out if I misspell anything or missed any of the dishes on the long list we tried (with ten of us, we were able to try many of the appetizers, and virtually all of the mains on the menu).
Oh yeah, and despite Mad Russian's warnings about lack of atmosphere and poor service, both surroundings (table cloths and red cloth napkins, actual china, mirror lined walls, gold rimmed wine glasses) and service (efficient, mains served family style to accomodate the large group) were quite nice!
Ok, so here is the list:
Vodka: Youri Doljoruki, grain vodka
Wines: several bottles each of a semi-dry Georgian wine, Sagreravi (2002) and a semi-sweet Georgian wine, Khvanekzara
Lobo (Georgian red kidney beans in a stew or paste, good spread on bread)
Satisvi (cold chicken in a garlic, walnut and curry sauce)
Boiled beef tongue with sour cream and red horseradish (Russian not Georgian)
Basterma (cured sliced meat, probably lamb)
Potatos with garlic and parsley
Fried eggplant with walnuts
Salad of feta cheese, cucumbers, tomatoes, olives
dolma (stuffed grape leaves) with yoghurt
Kharcho (peppery lamb soup with rice, dill and other herbs)
Pasta (called 'dough dishes' on the menu):
Vareneli (? trouble with my handwriting here, guess the vodka was kicking in), which is a type of dumpling stuffed with sour cherries.
grilled cornish game hen
at least one other dish, I think (help, Mad Russian :-))
We skipped desert, though we all tried some mineral water from Georgia as a palate clearer, and a few folks had strong expresso...
Cost for all of this, with at least four, but I am pretty sure it was six (? I lost track...) bottles of wine, including tax and tip...was $42 per person. Most mains are less than $12 each, apps range from $3 to $5. Certainly a good deal!
Ok hounds, chime in with your thoughts on the food...
and a thank you to Cynthia for the vodka and a huge thank you to Mad Russian/David for organizing, ordering in Russian, teaching many of us a thing or three about the food and history of the area, and for an evening to remember (if only I could!)
4036 Balboa St (b/w 41st and 42nd Av)
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