For many years Shynok used to be one of my favourite places in Kyiv to try local cuisine and to dip into the atmosphere of Ukrainian hospitality and manner of life.
While its atmosphere remains fantastic, the chef seems to have totally lost his enthusiasm! My most recent visit was a total disappointment. And though the spot remains quite inviting, its value looks no longer fair.
Unique location in one of the Round Towers of Pechersk Fortress (ukr. “Krugla Bahsta” or “Krugla Vezha”) rests among its certain benefits. Built early in the 19th century as a part of Vasylkiv fortification of Kyiv, the Tower was initially used as soldiers’ barrack and hosted political remand prison later on.
Today nothing reminds of its sombre past. Shynok was designed as a museum of Ukrainian rural life and its folk-style interior is quite relaxing. Some tables are separated by a typical Ukrainian lath fence (ukr. “tyn”) creating a nice hub for romantic or solo dinners. Spacey halls, both smoking and non-smoking, allow to host large parties and banquets. Attractive decoration elements (say, funny cow) and a special children menu make it family-friendly.
English menu is available. Major credit cards are accepted.
Live music is represented by a small folk band and singers that walk around the house and approach each table. You can politely decline it (say, by noting you’re willing to talk). Otherwise you are expected to tip them as they finish singing.
There are two undisputable stars in the restaurant that make its atmosphere warm and hearty. The hostess called Solokha (after a folk character) welcomes you as you enter. The publican called Diad’ko Nalyvajko attends each table and personally recommends his home-made liquors (called “nastoyanka”).
Make sure you don’t miss those! There’s a huge selection of fabulous nastoyanka’s – cranberry (my favourite), cherry, lemon, orange, plum, horse-radish, pepper (another fav) and many others. Just be careful, they are quite strong. Since recently there’s also a home-made beer of several flavors.
Now the worst part. The food turned from delicious to average and even terrible. My favourite zhourek (sour-cream mushroom soup served in the whole bread) [USD 6.6] was absolutely tasteless and couldn’t have been saved even by tons of pepper. New menu entry – grilled rabbit fillet [USD 14.8] – was dry and non-spicy. Vareniki, declared as buckwheat and cabbage [USD 6.9], contained cabbage only and had some water-logged dough.
Prickles [USD 7.1], “salo” (selection of Ukrainian bacons) [USD 8.1] and boiled beef tongue [USD 8.3] were perfect, as usually. As well as “deruny” (potato pancakes) with sour cream [USD 5.9]. Crucian in sour cream [USD 9.5] was decent.
Seems like presently I can recommend this place for traditional Ukrainian snacks and appetizers only. Fortunately, there is a wide and diverse choice of them and they are rich enough to make a substantial meal by themselves.
A very strange and dubious innovation has been introduced recently. The bill contained “Service” entry and charged USD 7.5, or 8.7% of my bill after discount. At the same time, the bill mentioned that tip was not included and suggested the usual hryvnya calculation of 5, 10 and 15% tip. The waitress explained that “Service” was payable to the barmen, hostess etc. This was the first time I heard those should be paid for separately. Sounds scammy to me.
Following Ukrainian tradition to drink “one for the road” (“na konya”) you will be offered a free shot of “nastoyanka” as you leave.
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