KIEV, RED CALVARY (long)
Just got back from celebrating the 4th of July in Kiev and Odessa. I ate @ as many Georgian places as possible, as good Georgian food is kind of hard to find. The first was Khinkali @ 4 shota Rustavelli. My starter was a plate of mixed cold meats, batsurma (which rocked my world), a horse sausage (nothing special) and a garlic sauage (ok, not great). Then I had their version of chicken Tabaka. Flattened garlic chicken. This was one of the more scrawny chickens I've seen. I've had better versions of this dish elsewhere. Khinkali is part of some restaurant group in Kiev, so they'll give you a form and you get a plastic card that gives you a 10% discount @ all their restaurants.
The Bessarabian market is a must when in Kiev. First of all, it's NOT like any market in France, no dainty foods, nothing so refined or beautiful but..... this time of year there are great berries, raspberries,strawberries, ocassionally black berries and my fave, wild strawberries. The wild strawberries set me back $3.00US for a 16 ounce plastic cup. I know I overpaid but so what. I also got some batsurma that was delish, the vendor had 3 types but I couldn't tell the difference. A nice size chunk also cost me $3.00 US. In this market there is also a line of vendors seling what looks like Foot high cheese cake studed w/cherries as well as some cottage cheese typr products. Also spotted @ the market were, jars of pickeled vegetables,(garlic, eggplant, tomatos, smoked fish, caviar and the Ukrainian national dish, Salo (thick chunks of pig fat).
Next I ate @ Kozak Mami, a Cossack themed restaurant. The main was pork rib stew. The base was mustard seeds and this was a revelation, very tasty. I also had the great local brown bread studded w/coriander seeds. The starter was a mixed sliced vegetable salad w/dill.
Dill is widley used there, at least in my limited exposure. I've fallen in love with Dill.
One day I went out to the folk architecture museum. While there are kiosks selling candy and beer, there are also some ladies selling homemade food. Pickels, salo sandwiches(!?), breads and homemade hooch (samgon) and some purple beverage that was pretty nice.
Pervak restaurant is supposed to be the best Ukrainian place in town. From the outside it looks somewhat formal but it's not. Just below the main level, there is a bar space and the night I was there they had a Ukrainian country western band play. So, to accopmany my meal I had country western covers sung in the local tongue. The decor is somewhat kitschy and the food eh. I had a Bessarabian stew. Since my family is Bessarabian and no one ever mentioned a Bessarabian stew I had to try this. This was beef, & a lot of liver in a tomato based sauce w/onions, some dill and peppers. The only thing was, this so called spicy tomato sauce was bbq sauce from a jar! Hmm, wonder what my Bubbe would say about that!
I also ate @ Mimio, a restaurant in the Podil neighborhood that is named after a famed Soviet comedy about a Georgian + an Armenian. Needless to say this palce specialized in those cuisines. The waitresses are dressed in old Aeroflot uniforms, but their service is a bit better than Aeroflot was. I had 3 starters, sliced chicken in a cold garlic walnut sauce. This sauce looked like a yellow curry and was mildy pungent. Next was Adjapsandal, my new fave dish. A cold mixed eggplant dish. This is mainly stewed eggplant w/garlic, potato, coriander, basil, dill, & onions in a tomato sauce. This was a delight, especially in the heat. Then I had giant meat dumplings, that were similar to the soup dumplings @ Joe's Shangai. Except they are 10 times the size, no fooling. The meat is studded w/parsley and or dill and ground balck pepper costs the outside of the dumpling.
One more Georgian place awaited me, Goretz @ Vorovskoho 9 (basement), not far from the Golden gate. The doorman is a tall fellow done up in trad Georgian clothes, very impressive. I almost felt as if I'd be a prisioner of the mountains. The room is designed to resemble a typical Georgian tavern, cool in summer, warm in winter. There version of Adjapsandal didn't have potato but had larger chunks of garlic in in. Very tasty. The main was sliced beef on a ratatouille style melange of veggies (mainbly musrooms, peppers and onions) over a lavash and sides of sliced white onions coated in a dry red chilli powder along w/sliced cucumbers.
Some notes: Many bars are in courtyards or basements. The courtyards are the norm in Kiev as many if nor most buildings seemed to have them. They look dark and deadly but i had no problem whatsoever. No reservations were needed anywhere. All of thes eplaces I mentioned too kcredit cards, though not many took amex. You won't always ee a sign showing hte credit cards an dif you show Amex first, they tell you they don't take plastic, but they take Visa. Menus were in English at all of these places but the level of English is'nt that high, yet. Give 'em time.
If you want a great picnic go to the Bessarabian market as I did and load up on Batsurma, berries and whatever you want. Then go to Podil, Metro stop Kontrasktova-Ploscha and then take the #12 trolley (or street car, I think the electric buses are called trams) for .10 cents US to the end of the line. This is about a 75 minute trip that will show you things you'll never see on any tour. 45 minutes in, #12 runs through some woods (no buildings, just trees) for about 20 minutes. When it dead ends, get some beer from the Kiosk ladies (Staropramen Czech beer for .60 us, 22 ounce size) or mineral water, or berries from the Babuskas and then walk back from the direction you came. Then hand a right, walk down a dirt road for maybe 5-10 minutes and you're in a forest where many people go to picnic. There's also a lake where you can go swimming. This area is Pusha Voditsa. There are many "weekend" type houses here.