I looked hard around this Latino house to find a photo of Che Guevara, but instead spotted a nice Soviet fridge Donbas lurking in the corner.
A proud witness of another era, it works really well with a palm tree on top and a large fan above – all generating an atmosphere of a relaxed Cuban backyard.
Restaurant Buena Vista, however, is not just about Cuba, although its menu with Cuban rice and Cuban veal, among other things, may trick you into thinking about Castro’s land.
Luckily, the eatery also stands for all other positive cliches associated with Spanish fiesta and Latin salsa.
Opened half a year ago or so, Buena Vista took over the premises of what had been Etno Tapas Bar, which never really lived up to its name.
To rebrand, the new owners positioned a black piano in front of a large glass pane, introduced salsa nights and cooked up a cozy little menu to woo patrons.
If you order stuffed squid (Hr 78), you will know why it didn’t take them long to find a loyal following.
Ham and cheese make home in a large well-cooked squid in tomato sauce sided by Cuban black bean rice with slices of bacon.
Cuban rice (Hr 53) is another winner in the mains section. It’s a full meal with chicken, bacon, eggs, green peas, chick peas and a shrimp on top.
With a very short menu and its very distinct items, it’s nearly impossible to go wrong. Picadillo a la Cubana, a traditional Cuban dish, is a feast of ground veal, potatoes, onions, garlic, Bulgarian pepper and olives on the side for Hr 57.
I could swear I tasted chick peas – a rare ingredient in Kyiv – but the description of Picadillo did not mention them.
All of this can be enjoyed either upstairs – in a five-table snug lounge with a bar – or downstairs, a spacious dark-wood, pub-like room.
Live music heats up the floor every Wednesday through Sunday. Happy-looking couples and singles flood every inch of the space.
Sadly, heavy smoking may prevent some from joining the dancing crowds. The smog quickly rises into the upstairs lounge (also smoking).
Opening doors to let the fresh air in doesn’t help, so prepare your coat for the dry cleaner’s as soon as you leave the premises.
To help you sacrifice both your coat and the lungs, Cuba Libre, Mojito and other sensational drinks are on offer.
I wouldn’t recommend trying the wines as their tastes don’t seem to match what’s offered on the menu.
Sauvignon blanc once arrived tasting suspiciously sweet; other wines on the list didn’t live up to expectations either.
Desserts are a chapter for you to fill in, because only pancakes with jam and fruit were available until recently, which I never felt compelled to try.
Buena Vista’s Facebook profile tells me now that Lemon Curd tart (Hr 32), looking every bit fabulous, has been added to the menu. Another solution for a sugar craving would be milk, chocolate and coconut flans (Hr 29).
Don’t forget to bring cash to pay for the meals, as they don’t take credit cards.
And prepare for a long wait for service on a Friday night, because it seems like the whole city wants to squeeze in for that elusive feeling of fiesta and sexy salsa rhythms.
8/14 Velyka Zhytomyrska St.
Kyiv Post lifestyle editor Yuliya Popova can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org