What to do in Kyiv
Velyka Vasylkivska is one of the busiest dining streets in Kyiv, with coffee shops and Georgian, Persian, Peruvian, Italian, Indian, Crimean Tatar and Vietnamese restaurants. This diverse gastronomic assemblage recently welcomed a new addition called 17.804 Indonesian Social Kitchen.
Although some Indonesian dishes can be found in panAsian restaurants around the city, Indonesia’s rich cuisine remains little known in Ukraine.
But Ukrainians are open to new things, says one of 17.804’s two founders, Oleksiy Kykot. He and his business partner, Eko Koesprananto, a Jakarta native in charge of the kitchen, met at work at the Hyatt Regency Kyiv a year ago.
By that time, Chef Koesprananto, 38, had spent more than a decade working at hotels in Kyiv, Beijing and Istanbul. And Kykot, 31, had just moved back to Ukraine after nine years of honing his restaurant management skills in China.
Both wanted to start their own business and finally opted for an Indonesian restaurant. Until April there had not been one.
The Indonesian community in Ukraine is tiny: 98 nationals, mostly in Kyiv, including the embassy staff and their families.
So far 17.804 has attracted a clientele of expats and locals acquainted with the Indonesian food but the owners want to introduce it to a new, wider audience.
With this idea in mind, Koesprananto picked the signature dishes that “every Indonesian knows and eats in a daily life.”
Nasi goreng is a handful of fried rice topped with an oval of a fried egg and served with chicken skewers in peanut sauce. Prawn crackers and a little bowl of pickled vegetables go on the side. “What makes it different from any other fried rice is a combination of sambal, a spicy chili sauce, and kecap, sweet soy sauce,” explains the chef. You can also get a noodle version of the dish called mie goreng.
Pastes and sauces are at the
core of the Indonesian cuisine turning a plate of staples — meat, rice, noodles, fish— into a sapid complete dish.
At 17.804, chef Koesprananto makes almost all seasonings himself mixing fresh herbs and spices. Eight essential condiments can be combined to create a variety of new flavors.
Koesprananto’s wife, Dewi, helps with cooking. To hesitant customers, she recommends spicy grilled fish -pepes ikan of western Java. First, the fish is steamed with a mix of tomatoes, spring onions, basil, and chili; then grilled and served on a banana leaf with a tangle of thin vegetable strips and some rice to balance out the heat.
In the dessert section, the chef makes bubur ketan hitam, a black rice pudding with coconut milk, to satisfy a sweet tooth.
The dining room seats up to 48 people. Additionally, there are a few tables outside. But noise from cars speeding down the cobblestoned street makes it hard to enjoy a conversation.
Inside, the design remains unchanged from the Rambutan fruit shop and bar which closed at the start of the year. Koesprananto and Kykot, however, included some ethnic elements that add national color but keep the place cosmopolitan.
One of the largest walls is covered with a flower ornament — a kawung motif seen on a traditional Indonesian fabric called batik. On another wall hangs an eagle — garuda — the national emblem of Indonesia.
A number of black-and-white photographs above the bar counter depict everyday life in different parts of Indonesia, a country made up of thousands of volcanic islands. Sources vary on the exact number of the islands, but the founders claim it is 17,804 — hence the inspiration for the restaurant's name.
Just two months after opening, 17.804 Indonesian Social Kitchen was nominated for Ukraine’s national restaurant award Salt in the best ethnic cuisine category.
The list of nominees reflects the preferences of Kyivans: two Vietnamese restaurants Tin-Tin and Chang; two Chinese ones, Bao and Kitayskiy Privet; Japanese Fujiwara Yoshi; Georgian Shoti as well as Italian and French restaurants in Odesa and Lviv, respectively.
“Our rivals are well-established and known restaurants," Koesprananto said. "We don’t expect to win but being nominated is already a success for us.”
Indonesian chef Eko Koesprananto (L) shows off a dragon-shaped board for congkak, a traditional Indonesian game, which he uses for various spices. He and his business partner Oleksiy Kykot opened their first restaurant, 17.804 Indonesian Social Kitchen, in Kyiv in April.
Soto ayam is an Indonesian chicken soup with noodles.