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Best of Kyiv

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May 18, 2000, 3 p.m. |
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Best Stolovaya: Domashnya Kukhnya think that this week's topic is kind of like best nuclear power plant. There are none. They would say stolovayas range from bad to terrible. And they've got a point. Stolovayas (Soviet style cafeterias for schools, factories and offices) are best known for pasta boiled several hours too long, kasha with mortar-like consistency, bitochki fashioned out of ground-up horse elbows and other such delicacies. No symbol sums up the Soviet concept of equity (collective suffering) better. Nobody complains about a fly in the soup; at least that means more protein. People don't care when they run out of one type of boiled tendons, because regardless of the name, the dishes taste the same. Choice is dictated to the diners. Stolovayas are about as democratic as a gulag. So what gives? Could the Post's rabidly pro-reform team be bowing to Ukraine's reactionary forces? Are we dropping our famously Western line? Are we corruptible? None of the above. On the contrary, we have turned to a stolovaya to once again prove the inherent superiority of capitalism. Everything, after all, is ideological. In a capitalist society, even a stolovaya can be transformed into a desirable place. Take, for example, Kyiv's best stolovaya: Domashnya Kukhnya (Home Kitchen). It continues to suffer from the common ailment of an idiotic name, but at least it has a name. Most stolovayas are so forgettable they don't even bother. And as far as criticism goes, having a lame name is fairly innocuous. Domashnya Kukhnya, located near Teatralna metro, maintains shockingly high standards, especially considering that it is a stolovaya. An army of kitchen workers churns out classic stolovaya food that differs from the usual fare only in quality and breadth of selection. Items like zrazi, pelmeni, borsht, plov and stewed meats make up the familiar menu, and it is all served cafeteria style. The number of various soups, salads, entrees and desserts are mind numbing. Any Ukrainian food you've ever tried is sold, piping hot, at Domashnya Kukhnya. The high turnover ensures that the food is fresh, and they refrain from the common practice of renaming and reselling yesterday's leftovers. It also preserves the only redeeming feature of stolovayas: the price. While Domashnya Kukhnya's prices are almost twice as high as a typical stolovaya, it is virtually impossible to spend more than Hr 10 on a tasty and filling three-course meal. However, the successful capitalist transformation of a stolovaya has led to an unforeseen Soviet drawback. Anyone attempting to dine between about noon and 2 p.m. is going to face a monstrous line to get to the food. Some things, perhaps, will never change.
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