Well-known Odesa restaurateur Saveliy Lipkin brings his meaty brainchild to the capital. But does the new Kyiv-based Steakhouse live up to the standards set by its southern elder brother?
Saveliy Lipkin is a household name in Odesa. His Steakhouse and Dacha restaurants in the humour capital of Ukraine are lauded by the well-heeled, while the masses across the country are kept sated by Pan Pizza. He has opened a culinary school, is mentioned in the Michelin guide of 2004, and has published books dedicated to his craft. You might say he is the Jamie Oliver of Ukraine. Which means the bar for his newest endeavour, Steakhouse, is set pretty high.
Alice on the Lookout
Do not try looking for this restaurant by its name – you will not find it, and that would be too simple, and hardly any fun at all. Instead, look for the new butcher shop just up the street from the Opera Theatre – the rabbit hole will be quick to appear. I say rabbit hole, because from the front there is no way to tell the size of this venue, and it is considerable. Once through the unassuming doors of what looks to be a Soviet-style produkty, the first floor features a large round bar with tables all the way back to the open grill kitchen. The prep kitchen is one floor below; yet one more aspect to this three-floor 1 000 m2 pet project. Head up the stairs, and the open concept of the restaurant is made immediately more visible.
Against a backdrop of blackened steel, huge oak beams appear at every corner. The story goes that three centuries-old mansions around Vinnytsia gallantly provided the wood. In addition to the new-age quartz-looking light fixture that illuminates the entire space, the house-shaped design for the wine collection is yet one more focal point, all of it contributing to the hunting lodge meets city slick atmosphere.
We rely on the restaurant’s official/unofficial guide this evening, who is diligent about going through the menu and offering suggestions. She has the barman come up to discuss our tastes for an initial cocktail, while another member of staff delivers a tray of fresh cuts of meat, from which decisions are made. In addition to Lipkin’s prowess as a meat connoisseur and well-known chef himself, a butcher from Israel was flown in to bring the boys in the kitchen up to speed on a good cut, its pre-cook preparation, and the ideal doneness to ensure the perfect outcome for each cut.
It’s decided that the savoury eclairs will start the evening off – a clever selection of four mini pastries each topped with a culinary collection of interesting ingredients – beef brain with green mayo, oven-baked lamb with white bean hummus, baby chicken giblets with sour cream and grated horseradish, and smoked salmon with black aioli. For those a little squeamish at the thought of a couple of these options, the best out of the bunch will surprise you. Not a surprise is the quality and presentation of our cocktails, which come just in time for this first dish. As Kyiv is cocktail central at the moment, they are simplistic style and taste at its best.
We have yet to finish this first course when up the stairs comes a man on a mission. He’s got a tray of perfectly pink cuts – a striploin and rack of veal – right from the oven, which are direct plated as ordered. In addition, a small metal tray of colourful baked autumnal vegetables creates an artistic palette while a small cast-iron pan of garlic sautéed spinach sizzles to my right – both a visual and olfactory feast. Wine is ordered, friends are found, and food is enjoyed slowly…
The Steakhouse on Volodymyrska is buzzing, and not just because it is Kyiv’s newest eatery to hit up on a Saturday night. Lipkin has done his homework. There are still aspects that could be improved upon, but this meaty Wonderland, which opened just less than a month ago, may have a tasty future.