You likely won’t ever need to eat again after supper at Shynok
RESTAURANT REVIEW by Aidan Morgan
Shynok Ukrainian Restaurant
2237 Broad Street
Friends, I regret to inform you I cannot eat anymore. During a single supper at Shynok Ukrainian Restaurant, I consumed enough Ukrainian food — from plates of varenyki to yeasty glasses of kvass — to fulfill my nutritional requirements until 2036 or thereabouts. From now on I will be analyzing meals with a gas chromatograph, since I’m too full to actually eat anything.
Years from now, grandchildren will crowd around my feet and ask me to tell them, once more, the tale of my last meal. “Grandchildren,” I will start, “it all began when I gathered up my Knights of Appetite and ventured out on an early March evening on a quest for Ukrainian edibles.”
Anyway: there were five of us: me, plus two Knights from Ukrainian families and one MennoKnight — all of whom I needed to compare Shynok’s offerings to their childhood memories of beets and cabbage.
I also brought The Hungry Friar along, because he’s always going on about his “scholarly interest in foreign carbohydrates.”
We assembled at the door of a converted house on Broad, more or less across the street from Shopper’s Drug Mart, and went in.
Nothing about Shynok’s decor — which looks like a Poltava costume gone mad — suggests the meal will be exceptional. The space is also a bit cramped and you can find yourself surprisingly close to other patrons.
Ignore all that, though, because once the dishes start arriving nothing else matters.
We ordered, and started on a round of appetizers, unaware there was an avalanche of food rumbling for us in the kitchen.
The Sushi po Ukrainski ($7.50) was an oddball little dish: four slices of cold bacon rolled around black bread, pickles and onions. It looked elegant and a little daunting, but they were absolutely delicious. Even the anti-Mikey* of our group — a Knight chiefly known for liking only three foods in the known universe (plus Diet Coke) — tried a tentative bite and then popped the rest into his mouth. “Pretty good,” he said, which from him means “ZOMG AMAZEBALLS NYAN CAT, THAT WAS DELICIOUS.”
I ordered the Kozachok ($8.75), a big yellow bell pepper stuffed with cheese, garlic and eggs and sliced crosswise into sections, to split with the Friar. It might be the most delicious version of egg salad I’d had.
Everything at Shynok seems to come with buns. A cup of coffee is accompanied by a little jam bun dusted with icing sugar. A bowl of borscht (more on that in a second) was graced with two pampushki buns, topped with raw minced garlic and dill. I’m pretty sure that if I ordered a bun it would come with another, smaller bun, which would probably also have a bun on the side.
As for that Borscht: we tried the Ukrainian kind with meat ($7/$9.25) and the traditional vegetarian version ($6.25/$8.50). Thick but not heavy, both were fantastic. One Knight who’d grown up on borscht and cabbage rolls pronounced them some of the best she’d ever had.
Obviously, we also ordered perogies and cabbage rolls. Anti-Mikey, who claims he doesn’t like cabbage rolls, ordered a plate of Holubtsi And Vareniki ($10), consisting of four cabbage rolls and six perogies. Before I could ask him about the quality of the rolls he’d eaten them all. The potato and cheese varenicki, which I did get to sample, were delicious and soft. I ordered a large plate of the meat varenicki ($8.25), which were just as good. Chef and owner Inna Zapisotska makes them from scratch, and her dough — velvety is a good adjective for it — is a revelation. It’s a reason to visit on its own.
A few of the dishes weren’t to my taste. The Vinagret Salad ($6.50) is a chopped salad of beets, pickles and other vegetables; some may enjoy it but a mayo-bound chopped salad is not my thing. I also found the Khortychanka ($17.75) disappointing. It sounded delicious — a home-made pork sausage baked in the oven and accompanied by buckwheat — but the large dry chunks of pork were a bit bland.
The chicken entree Krucheniki ($15) was similarly dry and uninteresting.
Despite those few dishes, Shynok was a delight. It shook up the way I thought about Ukrainian food, which I’d mostly associated with home cooking and weddings (who among us has never spent a wedding reception chewing their way through a pile of butter-soaked perogies?). It’s a great little place and if you like Ukrainian food you’ll be pleased, probably impressed, and definitely stuffed.
As for my grandchildren? I’ll wrap up the story of the last meal I ever ate with a description of my three-day food coma, then send them off to bed.
And then I’ll excuse myself to sniff an orange peel for supper.
*Don’t get the reference? You’re probably under 40. Google “Mikey likes it”.
The Round Table
WHAT IS IT: Shynok Ukrainian Restaurant
WHAT’S IT FOR: Lunch and dinner
WHEN CAN I SHOW UP: Tuesday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m.; Wednesday-Friday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m.; Saturday, 3-9 p.m.; closed Sunday and Monday
CAN I GET A BUN ON THE SIDE: You surely can.