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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

gourmet notebook

Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov must love Traktir Yolki Palki. It has just the right combination of pure Russianness and kitsch (these are distinct concepts) that marks all of the projects that he has thrown his support behind. In fact, Yolki Palki is a lot like a slightly upscale version of the mayor's favorite fast food chain, Russkoye Bistro. The food is better and there's room to sit down and enjoy your meal, but the selection is roughly the same and the staff never lets you forget you're in Moscow.

But all this makes it sound like I didn't like the place. The kitsch -- stuffed roosters, traditional wood carvings -- is charming, in its way. Likewise, the food is good, occasionally very good.

The other aspect of Yolki Palki that impresses is its structural design and physical construction. Everything looks solid. This is a welcome change from the shoddy false fronts and general air of impermanence you so often find in this city's restaurants, even in some of the very nice ones.

Yolki Palki offers little for the vegetarian. If, on the other hand, you are the kind of person who can very easily go through whole meals without even thinking about a vegetable, this is the place for you. They do offer something that might be called a Russian salad bar (at 50,000 rubles, or about $8.50, one of the most expensive food items on the menu), but the pickin's that are not marinated or slathered in mayo are slim. I only say this as a warning to you Californians out there. For those others of you who have gotten used to the Russian conception of a salad, Yolki Palki's are very good. I would recommend in particular the marinated mushrooms, which were delicious. The lobio was also very good.

One other caveat about the salad bar: They are very strict about the "one trip, one plate, one ingester" rule. A well-known Moscow Times reporter told me that he and his date got no end of hassle when they tried to share a plate.

The menu, which is of the variety that always stays on the table, does not overwhelm you with choices. In all there are probably 20 or so items, including coffee, tea, kvas. For her first course, the Dining Companion couldn't resist the Ukrainian Borshch (25,000 rubles), which turned out to be a fine choice. For her second course, she had another first course, the Pelmeni in Mushroom Broth (28,000 rubles). These I can't really comment on as I have never really developed a taste for pelmeni in broth. In vinegar or sour cream, no problem. In broth, don't like 'em. Judging from the DC's reaction, however, if this is your kind of thing then these were perfectly acceptable.

For my main course I went with the Pork, Roasted on an Open Fire (a steal at 33,000 rubles). What I got on my plate was pork, sauce, a lemon and a sprig of parsley. I guess the feeling was that the customer wouldn't want any vegetables interfering with his enjoyment of the meat. The pork was good, if fatty.

Dessert options basically come down to the choice between an apple pie (15,000 rubles) and a fruit or honey cake (15,000 rubles). The only one we didn't try of these was the fruit cake. The apple pie was surprisingly tasty, but far sweeter than it needed to be. The honey cake was also good, but tasted more of chocolate than of honey.

Traktir Yolki Palki, 23 Bolshaya Dmitrovka, M. Chekhovskaya, tel: 200-0965.