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Birthday Bomb

Birthday Bomb

In the past here I looked forward to receiving a gift certificate in the mail from one of the city’s many ubiquitous restaurant groups. The idea of dining out on the occasion of my birthday and getting a 25% discount seemed too good to be true. Perhaps it is. While everyone can appreciate reaping such savings on typically overpriced restaurants, is the hassle really worth it?

In December a friend gathered many of those near and dear to her for a birthday celebration at one such member of a larger restaurant group. My Olga and I recommended she let the waitress know beforehand that she had a gift certificate for use in the restaurant, so she presented it to our server who frowned and, in turn, called over the manager. A discussion ensued. When the discussion ended, we were told the gift certificate was no good despite it specifically naming the restaurant, giving its address and phone number and even its parent restaurant group. We were told they didn’t accept such promotional gift certificates.

This is not the first time I’ve encountered this stance. Several times before in the same or in different restaurant groups the same thing happens, as if on cue: the gift certificate is presented before the meal and the manager (invariably a woman for some reason) says they won’t honor it. In all but one such case in the past my friends and I asked to speak to her superior who, in fact, did honor the gift certificate. Is this a cost-saving measure or something more related to the manager not wanting to deal with extra paperwork?

In any case, other things have sullied my birthday gift experience, too, such as terrible food and bad service. The 25% discount card is an excuse for restaurants to provide terrible food and service to match.

Last week for my birthday I chose a Myrovaya Karta group restaurant for my special evening. I invited out a few friends to make a true evening out of it and off we went. First, the Caesar salads Olga and I ordered were served with virtually no garlic and no parmesan cheese whatsoever. On the menu it clearly states that this is to be “a classic Caesar”. When we mentioned the lack of parmesan she quickly replied, as if rehearsed, that their interpretation of the Caesar doesn’t include parmesan. We had to order a side of parmesan, for which we were later charged. Apparently, patrons are to assume the descriptions on the menu are also rather loose interpretations of what you’d normally expect to find elsewhere, like super-super hot chicken wings. Or char-grilled steaks.

While the steaks we ordered appeared to have been properly cooked (rare, and they were bloody inside), the cut of meat in all was absolutely third-rate – sinew everywhere and the meat was served cold. Not warm; cold. The chicken wings were covered in a thick ketchupy sauce that offered nary a flicker of heat, forcing us to again order a side of Tabasco sauce – another chargeable item on the bill. I won’t even comment on their extremely loose interpretation of grilled vegetables.

Fellow Kyiv citizens, when you see that gift certificate in the mail around your birthday, think long and hard before deciding whether you want to stomach the trouble, food and service that come with it.

Skating at St. Sophia Square

Anyone else notice the rather posh skating rink that’s gone up at St. Sophia Square (thanks to the city and French bank PNB Paribas)? In operation for a month now, this rink rents skates, has little warm-up huts, has port-a-potties and a few other important accoutrements – like location (who honestly wants to go all the way to the Caravan or Aladdin shopping malls just to skate? And forget Pioneer – skating endless circles on that dishpan-sized rink really isn’t worth the trouble. Check out the rink below the Sophiyivsky bell tower while the temperatures still allow.

Chernovetskiy and Lutsenko

Finally, I got it all wrong last week in suggesting that Yuriy Lutsenko, the new interior minister, doesn’t have it in for Kyiv Mayor Leonid Chernovetskiy. The irony and sarcasm of a few tabloid-style newspapers was obviously lost on me when some said that pair was becoming rather chummy with each other. A true odd couple.

As this spat turns into an all-out PR war, with the interior minister’s minions launching full-scale character assaults of the mayor in the local and national press, I shudder to think what the next mayoral race will be like given the list of thugs and oligarchs who’ve started suggesting their interest in stepping into the role.

Kyiv has gone from a dead-beat mayor to one they now quaintly refer to as “the Cosmonaut” due to his rumored public appearances while drunk and his generally clueless nature. Perhaps we can also look forward to a mayor who dresses all in black, takes orders from Moscow or Donetsk and lets nepotism run rampant as it did before under Chernovetskiy’s predecessor, Oleksandr Omelchenko. Welcome to democracy, Ukrainian-style.


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