Sunday, 21 March 2010

Device Cafe is a hidden gem well worth trip outside center

Kyiv’s restaurant scene never ceases to amaze. You can easily eat at an extremely posh place in the city center, and leave it feeling angry and ripped off. At the same time, you might stumble upon an obscure eatery in some far-off part of Kyiv that instantly becomes one of your favorites.

This time, I am glad to be spreading the word about one of the city’s hidden gems – Device Cafe which is located almost at the very end of the red metro line off Zhytomyrska station. I was lucky to have discovered the place along with other members of the Ukrainian Connoisseur Club (TUCC) on Feb. 24.

When I drove up to the place, it wasn’t easy to spot the restaurant. Its sign blended in with others on a messy-looking building in a typical residential area mall that also houses a supermarket, shops and cafes.

As I pushed open the door to Device Cafe, I was genuinely mystified as to why Connoisseur Club management, known for its refined tastes, chose this spot for the first TUCC meeting this year.

My encounter with a security guard downstairs was not a pleasant one: He claimed there were no free hangers, so I’d have to find another solution for my coat. But I as walked up to the main dining area, I started to thaw in the restaurant’s welcoming ambience. My coat was promptly taken by one of the waiters. Once I sat down, I was offered a drink. It was getting better by the minute!

Overall, Device Cafe has several halls. One boasts a ceiling dotted with Swarovski crystals to imitate a starry sky. Another is a lounge with an arch-like transparent ceiling. The third one is a winter terrace with huge windows, kept warm all year around. The TUCC meeting was taking place in the fourth room – the main hall with a bar, and that’s where I made most of my observations.

Device Cafe's art nouveau interior is pleasantly eclectic. Its furniture is all in retro style: chairs with rounded backs, tables and low sofas with cushions. While the background colors were soft beige and ivory, the contrast was added by red, green, brown and striped patterns on couches and chairs. A chic shiny chandelier hung overhead and the walls were busily decorated with very different types of pictures: large paintings of sunny blue, pink and yellow colors, photographs of restaurant guests, and several black-n-white pictures of Audrey Hepburn, including a still of “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” passionate finale.

As the waiters brought out the bread and butter, it was immediately clear we were dealing with an original chef. There was nothing too strange about bread – though it was absolutely delicious – but instead of regular butter plate, each was served a syringe-like plastic container with several layers of butter of different colors (and different tastes) inside. Indeed, as the chef Victor Tymchyshyn confessed himself, he was fascinated with the latest culinary technologies he learned while training abroad. Clearly, Device Cafe became his field of experiments. From what we saw and tried that night, those experiments were usually perfectly successful.

The first to arrive was a mise en bouche, courtesy of the chef. It was a veal carpaccio stuffed with Parma ham and truffles. It was as good as I, a big carpaccio fan, have ever tried, with thin slices of Parmesan, Parma and truffle adding that special flavorful touch.
Next we were served a cold appetizer dubbed “creme brulee,” but it was actually made of seafood. Basically it was an absolutely delicious mousse of crab meat and salmon, garnished with an airy heap of Italian herbs, and tobiko caviar.

Hot appetizer was likewise a fishy one – a combination of several kinds of seafood including shrimp, mussels and tuna, all cooked to perfection and served bathing in a tender creamy sauce with shrimp and saffron flavor. The garnish was a somewhat odd mixture of mashed potatoes and wasabi.

After a break and some orange sorbet, came the time for main course, veal prepared by a very complex method at low temperature, stuffed with truffles, and sprinkled with a Spanish sauce with morels. The meat was such an extraordinary pleasure to the palate that it makes my mouth water even now as I write these lines. It was aptly combined with mashed potatoes with Mascarpone cheese and poppy seeds and some ratatouille.

“Black Square” chocolate dessert was served as a perfect grand finale for our extraordinary dinner. The look of the dish itself was a food design masterpiece: a cube of chocolate mousse topped with vanilla espumas (foamy sauce-like substance) stood in the neat square of a strawberry coulis (a French sweet sauce), accompanied by a mandarin sorbet stick in velvety glazing and a tiny jar of vanilla sauce laying on its side, with lid open. As for the taste – let me say, it was just as beautiful.

Not only did Device’s chef do a great job – the rest of staff tried to impress the gourmets. While the restaurant has its own sommelier, on the night of our dinner he was assisted by a representative of the Sommeliers of Ukraine Association, who made a full-scale professional presentation for each of the drinks of the night: Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc of 2008 from New Zealand – perfect for the seafood appetizers, Italian Argenina Chianti Cassico, 2006 – a great companion for the meat, and Armagnac Saint-Vivant going fine with the sweets.

Finally as an additional treat that night, we were offered to sample the products of Device Cafe’s very own confectionary, including tiny cheesecakes, macaroons, truffles and much more. In conclusion I can only wish the restaurant to keep up the good work and gain new patrons who can appreciate its extraordinary cuisine, and not be put off by its not-quite-so-central location.

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