Monday, May 7, 2012

Вареничная Победа (Kiev)

Looking for a blast from the past? Try Вареничная Победа. This USSR themed restaurant has it all- the decor, old Soviet cartoons, and food like your grandmother would make if she lived here.

What's in a name? A вареничная is a restaurant that makes вареники (vareniki), a dumpling filled with something hearty (cabbage, mushrooms, potato, meat) or sweet (cheese, cherry, poppyseed). Победа translates to victory and was a model of car produced in the Soviet Union during the 1940s and 50s. There's a story floating around that the original name for this car was going to be Родина (Motherland) but upon hearing this Stalin was furious, spitting out "How can you put a price tag on the Motherland!!" and thus the car was renamed Victory. The logo of this restaurant features a sketch of a Победа.
These vareniki were filled with potato and cabbage and topped with fried onion ($ = 26 gr)
I thought the interior of the restaurant was really cool. We only got a quick walk-through of the main floor en route to downstairs, but the main floor looked like an American dinner from the 1950s. D disagrees and thinks it looked like a kitchen, so perhaps we should have slowed down! But at least I can show you the downstairs:
That's right, it was modeled after a library. There were books everywhere. Old books by the look of it, all in Russian of course. And the ceiling was covered in prints of Soviet newspapers. Several TVs played disco hits and Eralash. Eralash means muddle or jumble in Russian and is a kids' comedy TV show that's been around since the 1970s. By the way, if you're interested in learning Russian, check out Cornell University's Beginning Russian Through Film website. Several episodes of Eralash are on there, along with a translation of the dialog.

The menu was luscious and glossy and had pictures of everything:

There was also a paper version of the menu that served as a place mat. This menu was designed to look like Pravda, the famous Soviet newspaper. It even said ПРАВДА in big letters.

Mike ordered свекольник, a cold soup made with beets.
 (26 griven)
D ordered this:
The words "asparagus" and "green beans" are apparently  interchangeable in Ukraine. Every time I see the word спаржа and get all excited, expecting asparagus, well...what should turn up instead but plain old green beans? Hmmm...
I laughed at D because this looks exactly like the food his mom prepares. I guess he misses her cooking!
The guys also ordered this drink. D later admitted that he didn't actually like the taste of it, but "it's the taste of childhood."
Beware of any green drinks in Ukraine- they taste like grass. Meanwhile, all my Russian & Ukrainian friends in the US who have tried root beer claim that it tastes like toothpaste. Who would guess that soda could be so culture specific!
And the grand finale, this- something D's relatives in Crimea introduced me to. The sweet sausage.
Would you try this?
The first time I ever saw this it was being offered as a dessert and looked just like a real sausage. I thought "no way, this has gone too far!!" until D's 8-year-old niece explained that it wasn't meat. It's kind of like cookie dough. Which I can never eat enough of, so yes, I pretty much consumed this dessert before the guys even had a chance.

And then it was time to pay up. This is what the bill came in.
Reason #512 why I love my brother: the first time he met D, he said "So, you were born in the CCCP?" CCCP is pronounced SSSR in the Russian language (and USSR in English), so it was really funny to hear my brother assume the CCCP was pronounced like the Latin letters.
The night held one final treat for us:

And that's all for stories from the capital of Ukraine.
Goodbye Kiev, until the next trip!

(PS: The restaurant Вареничная Победа has 8 locations in Kiev and 1 in Sevastopol.)

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