Friday, April 20, 2007

"Soup's On" - Borscht Soup at Traktir

As part of a "Soup's On!" dining series, a friend of mine and I put together for my dining group a series of restaurant outings where we got to try different soups around the world. We did everything from chicken mami soup from the Philippines to jade noodle soup from Thailand and ended the series with Russian borscht soup at Traktir in West Hollywood.

On a side note, Santa Monica Boulevard going through WeHo is home to a host of awesome Russian delis. After our lunch at Traktir, we actually did a Russian deli crawl and some of the food we saw in those delis were amazing, from breads and pastries to salads and various cooked meats. Definitely check it out when you get a chance.

Anyway, on to the food. While the primary draw was the Borscht soup, we all started our meal with a compote. When I went home, I did an online search for what a compote was and according to wikipedia, it is a light refreshing drink most often made of dried fruit (raisins, prunes, apricots, etc.) boiled in water with sugar and left to cool and infuse. The compote really was as the description said, light and refreshing. It reminded me of fruit ice tea.

For an appetizer, I ordered feta cheese and kalamata olives. When the dish arrived, I was surprised to see a whole bunch of cilantro on top. It seemed like a lot just for garnish, but then I was told by someone in the know that you actually eat the cilantro with the olives and cheese.

So I ended up doing a Korean BBQ thing, wrapped the leaves around a piece of the cheese and olive and eat them all together. The peppery cilantro really added some great flavor and green freshness to the mild saltiness of the cheese and the olives. What a great combo.

Soon after the borscht arrived. This was my first time having borscht and given that I love beets, I was really looking forward to this soup. While the soup was quite tasty, I was a little disappointed. I expected more of a "beet" flavor to come through, but in some ways, this particular borscht reminded me more of a chunky tomato soup and tomatoes weren't even part of the ingredients. It was still a good soup, but just not what I expected.

From the soup, I shared an order of Russian Vereniki (dumplings) with another diner. Our order consisted of three different verenikis:

Potato Vereniki - Russian style dumplings with potato filling

Meat Vereniki - Russian style dumplings with ground meat and spice filling

Mushroom and Sourkraut Vereniki - Russian style dumpling with mushroom and sourkraut filling

I didn't think any of the three Russian dumplings were anything to write home about. The meat dumpling had some good flavor, but the potato dumpling was bland and I couldn't even tell that there were mushrooms or sauerkraut in the mushroom and sauerkraut dumpling. At least the sauce for the dumplings were good, but without that great sauce, these dumplings would have been a waste of time.

Overall, I'd say that lunch at Traktir was okay. I'd go back to check out some of their other dishes at another time, but be warned. Parking is a pain. There's a small parking lot, but primarily it's metered street parking and you know how much fun that is.

To see pics, go to:

8151 Santa Monica Blvd
West Hollywood, CA 90046
(323) 654-3030

Traktir on Urbanspoon

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