Tasty food with history after

13.02.2012 | By Mykola Polishchuk

Owners of Ukrainian traditional cuisine cafes either open them in old districts of the city or decorate them in old-fashioned national style

ourists visiting Kyiv can find hundreds of restaurants, cafes and bars specializing in all kinds of national cuisines. There are places serving French, Mexican, Chinese and Indian dishes and the list goes on. Over the past several years Japanese cuisine has become very popular in Kyiv: there is a plethora of Japanese restaurants all over the city that opened just 2-3 years ago. Naturally, Ukrainian national cuisine still remains beyond competition in the nations capital


It is worth mentioning that even in Soviet times of common unification there were only a few restaurants with a distinctive Ukrainian ethnographic style in Kyiv. Their main objective was to attract tourists. Among them were such high-class restaurants as Vitryak, Mlyn and Dubky, which have been preserved to this very day. Those places are also a legacy of the Soviet era just as the Rodina Mat (Mother of the Homeland) monument on the hills of the Dnipro River or the building of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine on Hrushevskoho St.

At the same time, small establishments oriented towards a small category of regulars have in recent years given larger restaurants a run for their money. Restaurant owners compete by the interior decor of their establishments trying to make them totally unique.

Not only do they try to recreate traditional Ukrainian households, but they also stylize their establishments according to traditions of particular Ukrainian regions, such as the Carpathians, Polissya or Podillya. Moreover, the diversity of restaurants can transform the dining process into a fascinating ethnographic excursion, which, in its turn, may expand foreigners knowledge of both Ukrainian cuisine and lifestyle in the 19th century, which prevails in most such places.

It is quite easy to see that owners of cafes offering Ukrainian cuisine make an effort to open their establishments in the historical districts of Kyiv so they are harmonious with the architectural images of the citys streets. Seeing as Podil is the oldest district in Kyiv, the number of restaurants serving Ukrainian cuisine there is much higher than in any other district of Kyiv.


Diversity of Ukrainiancuisine in Podil

One such place is Harbuzyk on Khoryva St. near the Kontraktova Ploshcha Metro station. The place is surrounded by authentic buildings of the 19th century and not far from it there is a tourist attraction known as the Frolivskiy Convent with its wells of holy water. Professional designers created a rich and original interior design in Harbuzyk. The place is decorated will all kinds of Ukrainian traditional objects: paintings, jars, colorful ribbons and hand-made embroideries.

The menu consists of exclusively Ukrainian dishes: kulish (thick millet soup with suet), varenyky (dumplings) starting from UAH 29 per helping, fish soup with specially prepared dried bread crusts called potaptsi (from UAH 15) and Ukrainian borshch (from UAH 25).

The pumpkin menu is a house specialty. You can taste pumpkin salad, baked pumpkin, pumpkin soups and pumpkin side dishes accompanied by the sounds of live folk music on weekends and folk records on week days. Perhaps the only drawback of the place is that it closes at 10 pm.

A more exquisite restaurant Shchekavytsya (average bill over UAH 300) is located at the foot of the Shchekavytsya Hill, named in honor of Prince Shchek, one of the founders of Kyiv. The restaurant is situated on Kostyantynivska St. near the Taras Shevchenko Metro station. It stands out even on the background of eccentric street buildings. The restaurant was made of wood and thatch and is decorated with national ornaments and various objects used in rural households. Its luxurious colorful interior features an abundance of greenery, paintings depicting rustic life in Ukrainian villages, beautiful expensive furniture, snow-white tablecloths and dishware, crystal chandeliers and candlesticks. Among exclusive dishes on the menu are borshch with pampushky (garlic buns) and horseradish horilka (Ukrainian vodka from UAH 60), rabbit meat (from UAH 130 per helping), deruny (potato pancakes) for UAH 55, potatoes with pork rinds and varenyky.


National menu compiled by the laws of science

Another place associated with traditional Ukrainian lifestyle is the Outdoor Museum of Folk Architecture and Life of Ukraine in the village of Pyrohovo not far from the Okruzhna beltway. You can get there by trolleybus No. 11 from Lybidska Metro station, route bus No. 172 from Druzhby Narodiv Metro or route bus No. 576 from Akademmistechko Metro.

The museum is a diorama in which dozens of houses, windmills and other architectural memorials from all over Ukraine are located on picturesque landscape. While it is a beautiful and affordable place of interest for tourists (admission fee UAH 15), at the same time it serves as a research center for social anthropologists. The museum belongs to the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine and restaurants in it are located in old Ukrainian shynoks and korchmas (roadside drinking establishments) recreated by experts the way they existed 100 200 years ago.

Noteworthy is that the most experienced and talented Ukrainian restorers worked not only on the buildings, but also on preparation of Ukrainian national dishes, which were recreated according to the recommendations of historians.

There are a few restaurants in the Ukrainian national style in Pyrohovo all of them offer fairly reasonable prices (the average bill is UAH 80 - 150). Among them are Budmo, Shynok and Yarivtsi. Kulishna, with its 19th century interior with wooden chairs and tables, hand-made embroidered curtains on windows, is the most popular place. It has a wide selection of dishes representing cuisine from different regions of Ukraine. The average price on the menu is UAH 160. The specialty of the house is carp baked in sour cream and herbal liqueurs. By the way, there is a unique exhibit in the cafe a 200-year-old moonshine still the oldes in Ukraine. While the staff assures that the still remains functional, distilling moonshine is illegal in Ukraine.

Restaurants in Pyrohova are a wonderful place to spend time outdoors not far from the city, though they do have certain drawbacks. First of all, it is quite difficult to get there if you do not have your own car. Secondly, these places are closed when the museum visiting hours are over at 7 pm. Moreover, Pyrohovo is extremely popular on bank holidays, when thousands of people visit the place so do not be surprised if you find yourself in teh midst of a religious of folklore festival.


Why varenyky are not pelmeni?

Many foreigners that come to visit Kyiv ask locals about the difference between Russian pelmeni and Ukrainian varenyky. To know the difference you should go to Varenychna No. 1 in Esplanadna St. near the Palats Sportu Metro station. Varenyky are known for the variety of their fillings, while pelmeni are strictly filled with minced meat (pork, lamb, beef or any other kind of meat), fish, or mushrooms. Varenyky can be made with the same fillings, but they can also be sweet filled with berries or cottage cheese. Ask anyone who is about to visit Ukraine what they would like to taste in our country and they will say: borshch, salo, varenyky. But as soon as you open a menu in Varenychna No. 1 you understand that you will have to choose between 4 kinds of borshch, salo could immediately become your favorite dish and in order to try all 30 kinds of varenyky it will take at least a week. The place serves ordinary varenyky filled with meat, cottage cheese or cherries and some rare varieties, such as varenyky with blackberry, currant, poppy seeds, apples and cinnamon. A helping of varenyky costs UAH 55 60.

Traditional Ukrainian pork rinds cost UAH 10 12. The interior at Varenychna No. 1 was decorated like an urban mansion of a wealthy Ukrainian. The lace curtains, porcelain figurines and bottomless well offering snacks combine to create a cozy atmosphere. It has one slight drawback the hall is too small and is obviously not intended for large banquets. However, another much more spacious Varenychna was recently opened at Khreshchatyk 14.

In closing, it is worth mentioning that many Kyiv residents are not fond of the downtown area of the city as it is way too overcrowded with state institutions, expensive boutiques and has only a few restaurants serving food for reasonable prices. Well, that was indeed the case until recently. But now establishments offering Ukrainian national cuisine on their menu can be found right in the heart of the city. Besides the aforementioned Varenychna there is Pervak on Rohnedynska St., Ukrainska Kukhnya on Khreshchatyk and Opanas in the Shevchenko Park. Though there are also a number of public catering restaurants chains with a slight ethnic coloring, true yellow and blue connoisseurs of Ukrainian cuisine cannot be fooled by such counterfeits.

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