76 : Odessa Mama (Ukraine)

This entry is otherwise known as the weirdest acid flashback of a restaurant visit I’ve had the fortune (or misfortune) to visit. Initally I was delighted to find a new country so late in the day as I wasn’t feeling particularly enthralled with the idea of visiting the Singaporean restaurant over in Prenzlauerberg I had found that does cheap cocktails (not a sling though!) and creamy identikit curries. Odessa Mama which had previously hidden itself from my Google searches appeared to me as if by a miracle after one more attempt at “Ukranian food berlin.” It wasn’t too far away in Schonberg, so we decided to cycle over one russet coloured autumn evening after Richard had finished work following the sinking sun west across the city.

After 40 minutes of vigourous cycling with some uphill sections and lots of traffic we were hungry and ready to eat and the menu of Odessa Mama promised to feed us well. We decided upon Solyanka soup, and a kind of chicken parcel in chicken skin as starters, and then some pelmeni dumplings and that world renowned classic: the chicken kiev, as main courses. We just chose German beer and fizzy water for drinks as there were no Ukrainian options. After deciding on our food we waited, and waited and waited…

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Pelmeni with homemade mustard and sour cream

At least 20 minutes later our order was finally taken by a camp sailor-suited waitress, and then it was another 10-15 minutes before any drinks arrived. Had this not been a blog mission we would have given up there and then and gone elsewhere but instead we stayed and we waited for what seemed like an eternity in the strange dining room which was decorated as if a cruise ship had collided with a Ukranian farmhouse. In one corner was a giant TV screen showing music videos with the sound turned off but at some point during our wait, two men came in, turned the sound on and put on a DVD of Das Zigeunerlager zieht in den Himmel” (the gypsy camp moves to the sky) but they failed to press ‘start’ so we had 20 minutes of the title page and it’s strange music on loop over and over and over again while we waited and waited and waited. By this point we thought perhaps we might be tripping or someone is playing a cruel trick on us.

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Solyanka soup with meat, and a chicken parcel (topsy turvey starters)

Our descent into madness was aided by the arrival of the food: the main courses! Hurrah! But what about the starters? We asked the waitress who checked the order, nodded nonchalently, shrugged her shoulders and went off to tell the kitchen. Puzzled, we took refuge in the food that had arrived as by this time we were starving. The food seemed tasty and came in good portions but we would have enjoyed anything at this point. After finishing the mains, the waitress told us the starters were ‘on their way’ – cue another 25 minute wait by which time the main event; Das Zigeuner… was playing. A wonderful Ostblock creation from the 1970s with exotic gypsies singing, dancing, fighting and making love against a green-screen background. By this point we agreed we were definitely tripping.

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Run for your lives, don’t look back…

When the starters arrived (again tasty, but who knows?!) we dispatched them quickly and swiftly asked for the bill. No apologies or explanations or free drinks were offered and we paid as soon as it arrived, left a mildly insulting tip and got the hell outta there cycling back to Neukolln, later than expected, quite full and mildly bemused.