Prior to my trip to Kyiv, the only Ukrainian dish I was remotely familiar with was Chicken Kiev. Or so I thought. As it turns out, Kyiv’s best restaurants offer a delightful mix of regional flavors, from Crimea to the Carpathians, and put their unique spin on a range of classic dishes including crispy potato pancakes, pillowy varenyky (pierogi), stuffed grape leaves, cabbage rolls, salty cheese crepes, and good old apple pie. Trendy spots serve up more modern fare and a surprising array of Ukrainian craft beer. Even better, affordable prices make it possible to sample a variety of delicacies without breaking the bank. Here are my favorite meals of the trip, with addresses and pricing information listed below. Know of any other great restaurants or cafes in Kyiv? Share them in the comments!
Musafir was once the most popular Tatar restaurant in Crimea until Russia annexed the region and forced the owners to relocate to Kyiv. But Crimea’s loss is the capital city’s gain, as Musafir delights locals and tourists alike. Waitresses wear traditional ethnic costumes and the decor hearkens to Turkey or Uzbekistan. All the food at Musafir is halal (Tatars are traditionally Muslim) though Ukrainian beer is available except during Ramadan, because all are welcome here. My favorite dish was yantiki, a baked pouch of thin dough stuffed with meat, cheese, and mushrooms. Served with sour cream and tomato salsa, it reminded me a bit of a Mexican quesadilla. The beef-and-onion manty (dumplings), on the other hand, seemed similar to Tibetan momos. Good food is universal, it seems!
Billed as an “Ethno Gastro Pub,” Kiflik brings the flavors of the Carpathian mountains to downtown Kyiv. There was no English menu at the time of my visit, so I asked the friendly owners to bring me dishes that best represented the region. The first course was a creative take on bruschetta, with thick slices of doughy bread topped with a variety of ingredients including smoked sausage and salty cheese. Next up were dense potato pancakes in a creamy mushroom sauce. The star of the meal was a plate of glazed pork ribs over cabbage noodles which I was very reluctant to share. How I’d love to have another plate of those right now!
I stoked my curiosity about Georgian cuisine at Chachapuri, one of the top rated restaurants in Kyiv. Grilled meats reigned supreme, from well-seasoned lamb kebab with pomegranate seeds to succulent chicken-and-cheese sausage with buttery zucchini. Everything came heaped with dill and crispy onions. The menu was a bit overwhelming and we definitely ordered too much food, but nary a crumb was left behind. We even devoured the free canapes and vodka (or some other potent clear liquor) that was sent to our table with compliments from the chef. I know that I will eat well when I eventually make it to Georgia!
Lviv Handmade Chocolate
Even though I was stuffed after all that yummy Georgian food, I still managed to roll myself next door to Lviv Handmade Chocolate. Originally dating to the Hapsburg era, the confectionery from western Ukraine has become so popular that branches have opened across the country. You can create your own collection of pretty truffles and bon-bons, which have adorable names like nutty whirligig and pistachio whims, or choose from the boxed assortments. My favorite treat was called honey barrel, though I might need to taste a few more to be sure.
Kocatka was packed with locals and it’s easy to see why. This hip, European-style gastro pub impressed me with its relaxed atmosphere, friendly service, and, most importantly, some very tasty food. The stewed chicken with lemon and honey came with a heaping serving of baked apples and I worried it would be too sweet, but the combination was wonderfully savory thanks to the use of fresh herbs. Likewise, the creamy chicken and dumplings benefited from a big bunch of peppery arugula. The servings were a little smallish, but that just left room for dessert. I highly recommend ordering a slice of warm apple pie with hints of caramel and ginger! Kocatka is about a 10-minute walk from St. Michael’s Golden Domed Monastery, making it an ideal spot for lunch on a busy day of sightseeing.
Andrew’s Descent Cafe
I don’t know the name of this little sidewalk cafe on Andrew’s Descent, nor do I know if it’s open year round. But if you see a bunch of umbrellas around the bend from Mikhail Bulgakov’s Museum, pop in for a plate of potato pancakes and a beer. Hungry or not, it’s a great spot for people watching! If I lived in Kyiv, I’d be a regular on weekends.
You didn’t really think I’d go all the way to Kyiv and not try the city’s namesake dish, did you? I actually enjoyed Chicken Kiev my very first night in the city! Tired from a day of travel and touring, I opted for dinner in my hotel’s restaurant. While Matisse is primarily known for Italian cooking, I saw online that the chef also offers a menu of Ukrainian specialties. The waiter seemed momentarily surprised when I asked for that one instead of the Italian one offered, but quickly and politely acquiesced. (Of note, the prices on the “national cuisine” menu were drastically lower.) I’m sure the pasta dishes are great, but HELLO CHICKEN KIEV! Herbed butter oozed out in all the right places and it was more wonderful than I dreamed.
CITYHOTEL’s breakfast buffet, served in Restaurant Matisse, is also worth mentioning. Platters of cold cuts, cheeses, and fresh fruits and vegetables supplemented cooked items, such as potato pancakes with creamy spinach-and-mushroom sauce and perfectly poached eggs. All this was offered alongside warm bread and beautiful pastries which changed daily. Considering breakfast was included in the room rate, I thought CITYHOTEL went above and beyond what was expected. I would definitely stay there again!
Which do YOU think are the best restaurants in Kyiv?
Have any favorite Ukrainian dishes?
Musafir Address: Saksahanskoho St, 57А, Kyiv, Ukraine Pricing: € Кіфлик (Kiflik) Address: 4 Shota Rustaveli St, Kyiv, Ukraine Pricing: €€ Чачапури (Chachapuri) Address: Tarasa Shevchenko Blvd, 36А, Kyiv, Ukraine Pricing: €€ Lviv Handmade Chocolate Address: Tarasa Shevchenko Blvd, 36/16, Kyiv, Ukraine Pricing: €€ Kocatka Address: Velyka Zhytomyrska St, 25/2, Kyiv, Ukraine Pricing: € Andrew's Descent Cafe Address: Andriivs'kyi descent, 13Б, Kyiv, Ukraine Pricing: € Restaurant Matisse @ CITYHOTEL Kyiv Address: Bohdana Khmel'nyts'koho St, 56, Kyiv, Ukraine Pricing: €€