Rada can­teen of­fers healthy, cheap fare

Kyiv Post - - Lifestyle - WITH MARIA ROMANENKO MRO@UKR.NET ENKO

Myths abound con­cern­ing the Verkhovna Rada can­teen, one of the cap­i­tal’s most exclusive eater­ies. Only law­mak­ers, parliament work­ers and ac­cred­ited jour­nal­ists are per­mit­ted to en­ter.

The ru­mors in­clude sto­ries of the finest food and cham­pagne be­ing avail­able al­most for free.

So I and a Kyiv Post pho­tog­ra­pher went to search for the facts in the can­teen, lo­cated in the base­ment of Ukraine’s splen­did parliament build­ing. This is un­known ter­ri­tory: the ses­sion hall, lobby and stair­cases of the Verkhovna Rada are fa­mil­iar to most in Ukraine from tele­vi­sion cov­er­age, but the rest of the build­ing is largely un­known to the pub­lic.

First glance

First im­pres­sions: The can­teen is un­der­whelm­ing. Sparkling clean, in white, beige and blue col­ors, and by no means small (about 10 me­ters wide by 20 me­ters long). But the un­der­ground room is win­dow­less and the space is bro­ken up by two rows of square, beige mar­ble col­umns sup­port­ing the three-me­ter-high ceil­ing.

This gives the space a slightly claus­tro­pho­bic, air­less feel­ing that is not dis­pelled by the bright white strip lights on the ceil­ing or the warmer, yel­low in­can­des­cent spot­lights that dot the large square ceil­ing pan­els.

One side of the can­teen is taken up by three large buf­fet coun­ters. Each of­fers the same se­lec­tion of hot food, sal­ads and desserts, so vis­i­tors can skip to an­other counter if the line is long, or if their cho­sen dish has run out. In ef­fect, the Rada can­teen is a self-ser­vice place with rather sim­i­lar prices found in other such es­tab­lish­ments.

Once you have your tray of food, you can sit at one of the ta­bles that line the other walls, which are set with white table­cloths and blue place cov­er­ings. The chairs are sim­ple, chrome tube af­fairs.

In ad­di­tion to these ta­bles, there are round, Soviet-style “stand­ing” ta­bles, about midriff high, where pa­trons can stand to drink or eat.

Apart from that, the parliament can­teen seems slightly more so­phis­ti­cated than the

av­er­age buf­fet, but it’s not fancy enough to be in­tim­i­dat­ing. Sadly, tak­ing pho­tos of the can­teen in­te­rior is for­bid­den for rea­sons of pri­vacy and se­cu­rity.

But no­body ob­jected to me and my col­league pho­tograph­ing our food.

Healthy, hearty meals

I’ve heard from col­leagues and fel­low jour­nal­ists that the Verkhovna Rada has very healthy food, and it didn’t dis­ap­point.

There is a good va­ri­ety of meat and fish, most of which come with rice, pota­toes or boiled buck­wheat. For dessert, there are baked ap­ples, pan­cakes stuffed with pear or “tvorog” curd cheese (“They are to die for,” my friend tells me), muffins, cook­ies, sweet pas­tries and branded choco­late bars such as those that can be found in most lo­cal su­per­mar­kets. Drinks-wise, there are a va­ri­ety of lo­cal tra­di­tional fruit drinks like kom­pot and uz­var, and tea and cof­fee.

The cooked foods in the buf­fet have no de­scrip­tive la­bels or prices next to them, which makes it dif­fi­cult. Luck­ily I am not too picky with my food, but I imag­ine those with al­ler­gies might con­sider this a big­ger is­sue.

We ex­pe­ri­enced some staff haugh­ti­ness when my col­league asked how much the baked sal­mon and as­para­gus was. “All the fish is around Hr 200,” the buf­fet lady said.

Nei­ther I nor my col­league look like we’re of­fi­cials or made of money, so maybe law­mak­ers them­selves get bet­ter treat­ment. In fact, noth­ing on the menu costs more than about Hr 50.

Feast­ing away

Af­ter ask­ing a cou­ple of ques­tions, I de­cided to go for some­thing that looked like fried pota­toes, veg­eta­bles and pork. Later from the re­ceipt I found out it was called “Azu,” a Tatar meat stew (cost­ing Hr 34). It tasted fine but, de­ter­mined to save my ap­petite for other dishes, I aban­doned the plate af­ter a mouth­ful.

The tvorog pan­cakes, which I had yearned for since my friend’s rec­om­men­da­tion, were not avail­able, so I re­sorted to syrnyky cheese pan­cakes with raisins (Hr 24) in­stead. I threw in some jam for an ex­tra Hr 6 too.

I ran­domly pointed at some­thing that had a lot of dou­ble cream and choco­late flakes on top of it. It turned out that un­der­neath all the dou­ble cream there were some prunes stuffed with wal­nuts.

The dessert went by the name “Snow White” and cost Hr 26. I fin­ished and felt con­tent with my Hr 91 meal.

My col­league was mostly sat­is­fied with her even health­ier choices. She or­dered a steamed chicken cut­let, to­mato, moz­zarella and pesto salad, which went by the name “Cap­rese”, a baked ap­ple, and a glass of kom­pot, which was too sweet for her lik­ing.

She paid Hr 83 and couldn’t stop rav­ing about the ap­ple: “It tastes just like the ones from my child­hood!”

Healthy in body, mind

Over­all, the Rada can­teen is a good place to eat. It of­fers big names for eat­ing com­pan­ions and com­fort. The food is sim­ple yet nu­tri­tious. The ser­vice wasn’t the best, but un­der­stand­able given the buf­fet-style set­ting. While the nap­kin holder at our ta­ble was empty when we sat down, one of the clean­ing ladies no­ticed af­ter a few min­utes and re­plen­ished it.

It’s good to know my coun­try’s rep­re­sen­ta­tives ap­pear to be get­ting the right amounts of car­bo­hy­drates, pro­tein and healthy fats. And if they end up pass­ing some lousy laws, at least we know it’s not for the want of a nu­tri­tious, healthy meal in the work­place.

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