A note about my restaurant reviews: New York City counts many Eastern European restaurants scattered across the five boroughs, most of them ignored by restaurant critics and diners alike. I intend to visit as many as I can and report!
Recently, I reviewed Café Glechik of Sheepshead Bay, a mostly Ukrainian restaurant. Try as I might, it’s impossible to taste every dish on such a lengthy menu, and I only sampled a small but hopefully representative fraction of what they have to offer. To refine my review, I decided to pay a visit to the other (and orginal) Café Glechik, in Brighton Beach.
As you approach the restaurant, the glechik — “a clay jar with something VERY DELICIOUS inside”, as the web site claims — is hard to miss. I don’t know if Sandy’s to blame, but the poor pot’s also in need of some serious repair:
Inside, the decor definitely feels older and darker than in the Sheepshead Bay branch (the restaurant opened in 1998). The menu is more or less (if not exactly) the same, but the place is BYOB. I’ll let you browse through all the salads, pelmeni, varenyky, kebabs, cutlets and other stews on their web site.
The eggplant caviar “Odessa style” tasted fresh but contained a lot of tomatoes that were watery and not very flavorful — it’s not exactly peak tomato season. To compensate, the cook added a liberal amount of garlic, a favorite ingredient of people who don’t know how to cook. Not surprisingly, it didn’t work.
The smoked sausage “Christian style” (or, sans translation error, “peasant style”), served cold with hot mustard, was very good without being too fatty:
The varenyky come with nine different fillings, and we tried the ones with salted farmer cheese. While the mixture tasted good, I found the dough a bit thick, which made them… doughy. This may be common for varenyky, but doesn’t make it less of a problem. Some butter on top would have been nice, too. The dish was fine, but it certainly didn’t justify making the place famous for its varenyky.
The golubtsy, stuffed cabbage leaves in broth, were filled with an airy mixture of meat and though under-salted, it boasted unmistakable vegetable flavor (carrot, tomato and cabbage). Nicely done.
The rabbit stew in a pot arrived without the pot, in a sauce made with white wine, cream, mushrooms and celery. The stew in itself was good: the rabbit was very tender and the sauce just a little too acidic. The coleslaw-esque side was OK if you like that kind of thing. The boiled Uncle Ben’s rice (or commercial 50 lb bag equivalent) doesn’t deserve any comment. My advice, for the next time the management buys new dinnerware: yellow plates, niet!
The beef Stroganoff definitely disappointed us most of all. The meat, cooked well done, was somewhat tough even though it was cut into thin strips. The overabundant mushroom sauce had the gooey texture of something made with a store-bought mix, and was very mono-dimensional. The fries that came on the side were just as mediocre: soggy, with a ton of garlic to make them “taste better”.
We washed down our meal with a pitcher of kompot that was a tad overly sweet but had a very good berry flavor. As for the liquor, plan ahead: the closest liquor store, without being far, isn’t just next door or across the street.
Overall, and it’s no surprise, Café Glechik in Brighton Beach is very close to Café Glechik of Sheepshead Bay. I give my preference to the latter, not just for the fresher, brighter, kitscher decor, but mainly because the dishes were slightly better executed. The cuisine is traditional Ukrainian, a slight departure from the usual Brighton Beach Russian menu. Unlike what the owners claim on their web site, fusion it is not, whether they’re using the word in its American or Russian meaning. I also have to question the name of the restaurant itself: the food was served to us in rather ugly vessels and never in a glechik, and few of the dishes could be called “VERY DELICIOUS”.
Picks: sausage “Christian Style”, golubtsy
Avoid: beef Stroganoff
See also my review of Café Glechik of Sheepshead Bay.