стук радіатора гастрономічних пригод 14/09/2011Posted by brendan in Avions, Trains et Voitures.
Tags: cuisine, kiev, kyiv, puzata hata, tourism, travel, ukraine
Put on a dress– we’re going dancing! No, that’s not true at all, but we are going to step out into the bright lights of Kyiv’s night and succeed where we’d once failed.There will be no blunt knife scraping at a tired brick of cheese. No glasses of vodka, bottles of beer, a plastic jug of water and Russian TV tonight. The four walls of Hotel Khreschatyk shall quake and crumble into dust, leaving us free to waltz the streets and dine like royalty.
Earlier fits of desperation had driven us to the depths of dissonance. Although the fare provided by our friendly neighborhood sushi emporium had been surprisingly exquisite, by enjoying delights of The Orient we had succumbed to the despised tactics of tourists. Yes, pictures on the menu afforded us the simple pleasure of ordering food. Yes, expensive sports cars crashing through shantytown walls next to a poker club had lent an authentic air to the meal. Yes, we drank domestic beers instead of Japanese imports. But we are in Kyiv and we must dine as the locals do.
Had I the foresight to hire an attractive, young, potentially licentious guide at her hourly rate Janice and I would have gorged nightly. Too little, too late, Ivan breezed into our lives and brought about winds of change, sweeping away the fog which had blinded us. Retraced steps, half-remembered instructions, salivary glands pumping in anticipation– a beaming acorn-house welcomed guests to Пузата Хата, and tiled-steps descended into the clattering heat-sink of gastronomic adventure.
By the landing we realized Heaven was looking a little hellish. Carelessly placed potted-plants decorated an otherwise barren confluence of doorways. Glass walls imbued the experience with 80’s reality television menace. One small chamber, severed from the rest of the restaurant, imprisoned plastic furniture waiting for the missing children of Kyiv to splatter their dinner all around. Through what was perceived as the main entrance we found a long room filled by an unbroken counter, affectations of traditional arts dripping like PVC garland choking the banisters of Macy’s a week after Christmas.
Each tray wore the senseless sheet of ad-copy which fills the trash cans of a billion fast-food vomitoriums the world over. My panicked whining forced Janice forward, and she deftly guided her platter along the slop line. Sections of the counter cut away to reveal a particular food grouping which defied nutritional logic. World-weary paupers wrapped in their corporate colors, hair suffocating beneath cloth headdresses, dragged themselves forth.
And here was the true beauty of this experience. No one pretended to be happy to see you. No one pretended they were happy to serve you. No one was pleased that you had chosen this restaurant over any other. The servant girls merely asked what you wanted, you pointed, they shoveled an amount into a bowl or onto a plate and handed it over. Treating workers like a series of poorly maintained automatons wasn’t an act of ruthlessness or even the shameful retreat of the unprepared traveler. Humanizing the help would only serve to create something that could feel the pain of its own existence.
But dietary restrictions monkeywrenched the machine. Confronted with dumplings Janice was forced to contort her Polish into a pan-Slavic query. No meat? Our gluttony guide, her face weathered by long hours above boiling vats of grease, slid glistening globules of starch onto a plate.
Flagons of beer were poured, the sizzling sounds of meats avoided, and a place in the cashier’s line taken. After a precursory glance across the sprawling dining room sparsely populated by teenagers on dates and clusters of giggling we sought seats above the fray with hopes of recreating a proper food-court experience. Occupancy and lax work standards rendered a railing table impossible so we sought refuge under one of the ubiquitous flat-screened TVs playing pop videos to keep your mind off the food.
Windows to nowhere were cut into the walls. We cut into our potato dumplings and watched cooking oil spray across the table. Each bite led us down a darkening path of nausea unimpressed by alternating mouthfuls of tasteless rice or limp coleslaw. Heat from the deep fryers mixed with the heat of a hundred people breathing wrapped around our heads. The potato oil couldn’t even congeal, it just continued to ebb and flow across the plate.
You are not thanked to bus your own table. Back downstairs, through the dining hall, out a second door into the potted jungle. No children had taken refuge in the fun-zone. The residual grease of dinner was kept moist by the sultry night air as we sat holding our stomachs in Maidan Nezalezhnosti.