Peachy Syrup

In central Kiev it’s cheaper to get a prostitute than it is to get a decent quality meal. With the former it’s almost guaranteed that they’ll “make good times for you”, with the latter you’ll end up crying into a bitter grapefruit juice, while wretching down jellied eels – after your toga wearing waitress takes your order incorrectly.

Why the hell would your waitress be wearing a toga? Because you’re in a Roman themed restaurant. Why the fuck are you in a Roman themed restaurant? Well it was either that or the pirate themed one. In Kiev the cream of the restaurant crop are all themed. If you want good food, be prepared to talk to somebody dressed in a loin-cloth and if you want a bit of variety there’s always the Jewish-themed restaurant.

That’s Jewish-THEMED, not Jewish. A restaurant where the theme is Judaism. Where small dreidels adorn shelves and random phrases like “bar mitzvah” and “mazal tov” are painted onto the walls. Where the waitresses wear prosthetic noses and cackle loudly, just like, er, Jews?

Now, this restaurant could be a little hard to find, it’s in a basement. But don’t worry, the owners have thought this through. They’ve sat there and wondered “how can we let people know about our
Jew-themed restaurant” and somebody has piped up “I know! Let’s make a massive wooden Jew! Nobody objected, who would have the balls? So the a stereotypical wooden Jew now stands outside of the restaurant with his massive Jew-nose above a massive Jew-beard.

But wait a second, that’s not enough, people other than Jews have big noses! Somebody might think this is an Arab-themed restaurant! Oh, here’s an idea, he could be counting money! Because that’s what all Jews do, right? They’re all a bunch of tight bastards after all! Bravo.

Once you get into any ridiculous themed restaurant, don’t expect a good meal. Tasty dishes are available, but you’re a tourist so it is your job to order the most outlandish thing possible, all in the name of culture. Can you really say you’ve visited Ukraine if you haven’t bought and choked down some chicken necks? Hell no.

If the waiter suggests a dish in his broken English you must accept his challenge. He’s recommended it so it must be popular in his home country – not something he’s forcing on you for his own sadistic pleasure. “It’s good to eat this meal with beer” he says, so you expect a luxurious version of pork scratchings.

When he comes back he’s holding a bowl of grey mush and a slab of Ryvita so big that it could be used to put the fattest of women on a diet for a month. You smell the mush and hide a wretch behind your hand. The waiter smiles encouragingly as you force yourself to snap off a piece of the Ryvita, dunk it in the mush and struggle it down your throat. A tiny bit of the mush touches your tongue. You wish it hadn’t because it tastes like rotten fish. Not any specific fish. Not salmon, or trout. Just fish. Nameless, anonymous fish.

The waiter nods his head questioningly. You like it? Right? Obviously not, but you pretend it’s lovely because you don’t want to hurt his feelings. In badly spoken Russian you say one of the few phrases you know “oi-chun v-cous-nah”, “very tasty.” His little eyes light up so much that you know you’ll have to eat at least half of the mush to spare his feelings. He walks away with a skip in his step and you wonder why the hell you’re paying five pounds for rotten fish mush, and why you have to eat it in a restaurant shaped like a pirate ship.

After a few more mouthfuls of mush you know you can’t take any more so you take a fork and start to mix up the mush, hoping it makes it seem as though you’ve ate more of it and really enjoyed it. When the waiter comes back his face drops. He looks at the messy mush – although I’m not sure how mush can get messy – and he says “you not like?” You feel like a dick. Why didn’t you just put some into a napkin and sneak it to the toilet? That would have been the polite thing to do. Or you could have just ate the damn thing! The waiter is upset now, and you’re upset because you know you’ll have to pay him a massive tip. This is the last time you’ll eat at Captain Vlad’s.

In another, 80s-Russia themed restaurant the waiter speaks so little English that you end up pointing at your menu to order your food. This wouldn’t be a problem, if the menu was translated into English correctly, but instead it’s mistranslated. The ice cream has “peachy syrup” not peach flavoured syrup you understand, “peachy syrup”, something a lot like peach I suppose. One meal has an “unusually delicious sauce.” Why is it unusual? I don’t know, maybe it contains eye-balls and they don’t want to mention it on the menu? That would definitely be unusual.

The most disappointing thing about these restaurants is that when you go inyo them, you look around, and you don’t see families. You don’t see any children at all. You see young couples on romantic dates, you see business men in thousand dollar suits – all enjoying their railway themed dinner. I asked an English speaking, Ukrainian guide how she would feel if a guy took her to a pirate themed restaurant on their first date. Her eyes lit up “Captain Vlads?! I would very much like!” I asked her if he’d get a second date. She nodded enthusiastically. At least Ukrainian women are easy to please I guess.

But still, this takes me back to my first point. In a world where it costs you less to get a prostitute than to take a girl on a date to a themed restaurant, why bother with the date at all? Love? Pah! I could never love a girl who enjoys themed restaurants, and at least with the prostitute I wouldn’t be force fed any grey mush. I hope.

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