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Sidwell Friends School's Student Newspaper Since 1974


Sidwell Friends School's Student Newspaper Since 1974


Sidwell Friends School's Student Newspaper Since 1974


Ruta Ukrainian Restaurant Opens in Washington

The Washington Post via Getty Im
Ruta is widely acclaimed for its borscht, a Ukrainian beet soup. Photo: Getty Images.

Ruta, the first full-service Ukrainian restaurant in Washington, opened on April 26, 2023 in Capitol Hill’s Eastern Market.

The restaurant’s executive chef, Dima Martseniuk, first discovered his passion for cooking while traveling from Ukraine to work at a summer camp in upstate New York, where he cooked for hundreds of people. Though this was a surprising departure from his master’s degree in International Economics, he was met with great success, and after years of working with a myriad of catering businesses, he became the head chef at Veselka, a long established restaurant in New York City renowned for its “Ukrainian soul food.” 

Nicknamed an ambassador of Ukrainian cuisine, Martseniuk first became interested in establishing Ruta after having dinner with government workers and diplomats in Washington, encounters that immersed him in Washington’s welcoming Ukrainian community.

Stepping into the restaurant, the din of cooking clashes with Ruta’s chic design, featuring champagne-pink seating, floor-to-ceiling windows, white walls punctuated by renaissance-style Ukrainian paintings and dainty salt and pepper shakers painted with blue-and-yellow sunflowers. The restaurant’s namesake and logo featured on its walls pay homage to the Ivan Kupala holiday honoring the Summer Solstice, where a flower named “ruta” is said to ephemerally flourish in a brilliant, reddish hue. 

“The legend also says that the lucky one who finds the flower and plucks it during those few minutes will find true love,” the restaurant’s website states. “We hope our ‘Ruta’ becomes your true love.”

We’re going to promote not only food; we’re going to promote culture.

— Dima Martseniuk

Ruta has already become widely acclaimed for its borscht, a Ukrainian beet-based soup, which Martseniuk has perfected for twelve years at his former restaurant Veselka. One year ago, Martseniuk successfully advocated for borscht to be recognized by UNESCO as an integral component of Ukraine’s intangible cultural heritage in need of “urgent safeguarding.” “I’m here because of borscht,” Martseniuk said in an interview with the Washington Post.

Ruta’s dill-garnished borscht is made with a short rib-based broth lightened by piquant dried porcini mushrooms and served with sweet yeast rolls called pampushka. Customers may also  opt for a vegetarian preparation made with only vegetables. 

Also on the menu are around 20 traditional dishes including varenyky, Ukrainian dumplings stuffed with potatoes, sauerkraut, or the American-inspired buffalo chicken; deruny, grated potato pancakes draped with a creamy mushroom sauce; and chicken Kyiv, a breaded, golden-fried mass of chicken filled with butter. Martsenuik’s innovative deruny recipe has won three first-place awards at New York’s Latke Festival.

Helping to fill a dearth of Ukrainian restaurants and establishments in Washington, Ruta serves as a beacon for cultural exchange. This is made even more important due to the ongoing Russia-Ukraine War. 

“We hope to be a part of restaurant diplomacy. We want to be a place where you can learn about Ukrainian culture and food, and see how beautiful it is,” said a spokesperson for Ruta in an interview with Axios.

The restaurant has catered and hosted events with Washington’s Ukraine House, an institution dedicated to fundraising for the Ukrainian war effort, sharing Ukrainian culture through musical and culinary events and serving as an anchor for other Ukrainian initiatives and organizations. As part of its commitment to Ukraine, Ruta has also invited various Ukrainian organizations to discuss initiatives to aid the Ukrainian war effort.

In an interview with NBC, Head Chef Martseniuk was asked if he intends on making Ruta an institution for others to learn about Ukrainian culture. 

“Of course,” Martseniuk said. “It’s our goal, my goal, our team’s goal . . . we’re going to promote not only food; we’re going to promote culture.”

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