Many years ago I was told by a Russian immigrant that many Russians initially live in West Hollywood, then they move to Canoga Park. I’m not sure if this is truly the case, but I’ve certainly noticed a lot of Russian stores in West Hollywood, and many Russians living in Hollywood itself. I’m surprised there aren’t more Russian restaurants in Hollywood. Anyway, Kavkaz is Russian, with Russian soap operas on the TV, Papa in the back with his friends tending the grill and Mama in the kitchen cooking and preparing the non-meat parts of the dishes. There’s not much English going on, and communication, while friendly, is not a fluid exercise. Thankfully the menu has pictures. Service, too, is gracious, but not exactly what one would expect at a typical American restaurant. If you’re not in a hurry you’ll do just fine.
One thing I like about traditional Russian food is the spicing: Salt and Pepper. That’s it. Often simplicity is exactly the right touch. First up: Hinkali. Fresh dough, stuffed with ground beef and topped with… wait for it… salt and pepper. They were a great way to start the meal.
After a while, out came a platter with grilled lamb kebabs, potatoes and salad. The lamb was tender and had a distinct lamb flavor without a bunch of spicing. The potatoes were a perfect accompaniment, as was the fresh salad which added a nice crunch and vinegar tang.
When the check came, I was a little surprised that the two dumplings, lamb kebab and a diet Coke was $34. The dumplings were $2.50 each, and I was expecting a bill of about $20-$25. In retrospect, though, I got two complete meals out of this, as I could only eat about half the lamb dish. So in fairness, I think it was a reasonable price, despite my initial shock.
The best part of this place is that it’s so different. For sure I’ll be back. I think next time I’ll get a couple of kebabs to go and stop by Jon’s Market for some pita and hummus. Dinner for four.