втоми і недоїдання 19/05/2011Posted by brendan in Avions, Trains et Voitures.
Tags: cuisine, hotel khreschatyk, khreschatyk club, kiev, kyiv, sushi, ukraine, urban, walks, wandering
Hotel Khreschatyk had become inundated with weekend revelers. Sleazy businessmen sat sweating in suits around drinks next to Russian couples dripping jewelry from their track suits and Bebe slut-chic dresses. Cackling from the corner betrayed a pack of randy Australian girls getting loaded, urging one another along into a state of oblivion capable of quelling anxieties about what the local nightlife held in store.
Cheese and bread occupied our half-sized fridge while we sat through a course of beer and vodka. Fatigue and malnutrition had devised and signed their rendition of the Warsaw Pact, aligning themselves against our collective sanity and urging us to flee the bunker. We’d not seen a cooked dinner since Tarnów, and although Janice had been taking advantage of each morning’s humiliation at the buffet my meals had become reduced to granola and coffee.
Two days prior, staggering through the streets in search of grocery, we had passed what Janice calls a potato house. Common throughout Eastern Europe these fortifications of frugal feasting boasted a menu heavy on starches and boiled vegetables. Through collective memory and a divining rod our steps were retraced, leading us to the restaurant’s welcoming minstrel poster featuring a fat-lipped black woman smoking a cigar and holding a cat. As Ukraine has no legacy of slavery and segregation I assume this sign mirrors Japanese pop-culture’s affection for misunderstanding Americana.
Except the Japanese hate black people. And I’m sure Ukrainians aren’t far behind.
We faltered at the door, then peered through grease coating the window. Happy smiling locals carried trays through a fluorescent lair of linoleum and formica. The menu hanging above the counter did not feature McDonald’s portraits of glistening dishes as expected, just thick block characters of Cyrillic.
A search of surrounding streets revealed nothing beyond a vacant parking lot I used for a bathroom. The sagging metal doors adorned by rust and handwritten signs had closed with twilight’s arrival and there was no telltale cacophony of clanking glasses or clattering flatware escaping from open windows. Up hills, down hills, stomachs growling with the day’s residual heat baking grit into our skin. The return to Maidan Nezalezhnosti was not as triumphant as the Orange Revolution.
Resignation brought us several doors from the hotel, taking a table on the terrace of a Japanese place which sheltered us from the sidewalk with walls of tarping and an astroturf carpet. The waitress squeezed every drop of English from her cranium as we pointed at pictures of sushi and noodles, helpless grins scarring our faces. A car backed into the wall behind Janice, the driver abandoning his vehicle to stumble into our local poker club.
The kitchen’s philosophy dictates that if yakisoba is not drowned in sauce it’s not authentic. I tried my best to shake the noodles free from their briny baptismal font, wondering what the vegetables tasted like before dying. At least the pickled ginger was good, despite the odd inclusion of cilantro. But the sushi was fucking great. Fresh, vibrant, bursting with flavors found a world away. Where did the fish come from? Where did they get wasabi? Some enterprising Asian foods importer must be raking in the tourist hryvnia. While extravagant by locals’ standards we dined, with drinks, for about $15 before tip.
Cackling greeted us again– the Australians still hadn’t gotten the nerve to abandon the cultural security of the lobby. We snuck past a spectacle which showed no promise of abating to drink beers and vodka while watching Russian MTV. Tomorrow promised to be another long day.