What is eggs Benedict?
EGGS BENEDICT NEW YORK
Kiev has closed.
117 2nd Ave. (corner of 2nd Ave. and 7th St.) New York, 10003 (East Village). (212)
420-9600. N/R to 8th St., 6 to Astor Pl., F to 2nd Ave., L to 1st Ave. or 3rd Ave.
Kudos to neighboring Veselka for buying and reopening Kiev after the closing of that old East Village favorite. We all missed its tacky paneling, old-man waiters, and kasha varnishkes.
And sort of still do, for the new Kiev is unrecognizable in decor and diet. In the airy new space, Old Worldish chandeliers and lacy wainscot filigree share the room with leaf motifs and shades of green that scream "green tea" even if you have no intention of having tea. Only the stained chair cushions evoke the old diner. Now whiner rock plays on the PA; did the earlier restaurant even have a sound system? A full bar now centers the room, and on my visit, colorful framed photos of oppressed indigenes added a third accent to that of the European and Asian touches.
Much of the heavy eastern European comfort food from the cramped old diner days has been replaced by, or fused with, Asian dishes. The pierogi are still here, as is kasha but without the varnishkes (noodles). Dishes like cabbage rolls and goulash now compete with a "Beijing catfish" sandwich with sweet-potato wontons and steamed mussels with ginger.
Kiev's $9.95 brunch includes bread, coffee or tea, a cocktail or juice, and a brunch entrée. But on my visit "Baltic Eggs Benedict" was not, for some reason, part of that deal, and cost $7.25 alone, a la carte. Either the brunch menu was confused for including it, or the waiter was confused for excluding it. The two brunch waiters -- attractive young Slavs wearing enough eyeshadow to qualify them for Olympic skating -- were otherwise efficient and knowledgeable. Coffee ($1 thanks to the disqualification of eggs Benedict as brunch food) was refilled automatically and quickly.
Cocktails are $7. A waiter-mixed "Bloody Rasputin" with "beet emulsion and ginger" was delicious, but the generous chunks of ginger were pickled enough to be indistinguishable from horseradish, and any sweetening beet flavor was drowned in the robustness of the vodka, tomato juice, black pepper, and that ginger. A mimosa had ordinary pulpless carton juice and champagne.
The old Kiev had fresh orange juice, which was welcome -- but its eggs Benedict wasn't. Although it was accompanied by that delicious mushroom-sauce-topped kasha varnishkes, its hollandaise came from a powder, and the dish used only plain sandwich ham. The new Kiev's entrée fits the new split-personality menu. Instead of English muffins you get two large potato pancakes, tasty and comforting. Instead of Canadian bacon, there's briny smoked salmon, a popular variation on the traditional pork product. Instead of hollandaise, there are small green streaks of dill aioli (garlic mayonnaise).
The poached eggs are nearly well-done, but that's not really overcooking when the chef wants a little verticality for the eggs and doesn't want to drown a unique sauce. But the sauce was so scanty it was just decorative, meant more to match the room's green-tea trim and not meant for flavor. The accompanying healthful mini-salad of salad with julienned carrot and beet, in its greens and orange and red, was a much better balance of edibility and esthetics.
A $2.95 side order of bacon, five slices, was a bit greasy but tasty and was cooked to just the right border of chewiness and crispiness.
I avoid most brunch desserts since (a) fat and sugar calories should be saved for meat and alcohol, and (b) too many brunch desserts are overchilled leftovers from the previous night. But you're at Kiev, so why not get a blintz ($4.25), made fresh just for you.
Ask for lots of extra "dill aioli" and you'll have an excellent alternative eggs Benedict that makes the most of Kiev's selectively multiculti menu.
Rest rooms: Two roomy single-seaters, bright and clean, share an attractive open sink.
Handicapped accessibility: All on one level, but rest rooms can't quite accomodate a wheelchair.