It’s Friday night, it’s time to either pump up the jam and head out for a night on the town, or slow it down to a snail’s pace and enjoy a quiet evening out. We opt for the latter, and pull up to this unassuming little eatery tucked into Kyiv’s city centre scenery. The parking out front is all taken, which is a good sign, so we take the last spot once occupied by an orange traffic pylon, now occupied by our car. The parking attendant has been trained well – not only has he directed us into the space, he comes round to open my door, and then opens the door to the restaurant. Full marks for service and we haven’t even taken our coats off.
Not Your Average Chto Vam Venue
Greeted by a very pleasant administrator, in what we will later learn is the glass-enclosed (for winter) terrace, we are shown to the coat check where another gentleman awaits to help us disrobe. More smiles from the hostess, and “an enjoy your evening” is uttered before we are shown to our seats – a table not far from the goings-on of the wood-fired oven. As with the parking attendant, the staff here are extremely well mannered, which is a refreshing change from the rudimentary “chto vam” (what do you want) you are treated to in some places in town.
Someone has to drive, so I opt for the recommended mandarin lemonade while my partner in crime has his usual Jameson and Coke to start, and we turn to the menus. It’s a great – in all senses of the word – choice: salads, bruschettas, carpaccios, soups, pastas, risottos, pizzas, grills with options of meat, fish and seafood, as well as signature dishes and desserts. I’m having trouble, so I take a break from lists of superb-sounding options and take in the décor as I sip on my toothsome neon-orange aperitivo.
I’m loving the exposed brick – anyone that sees the beauty in the simplicity of architecture is already a step ahead of the crowd. I also like how the three halls – terrace, first and second dining spaces, are connected by open shelving within the walls displaying all manner of old school ornamentation: lanterns, old glass water bottles, large keys, and greenery. Mirrors line the walls, and stacks of wood, though functional, also add an atmosphere of homespun décor, and wait patiently to be used. And then there’s the seating, which includes both plush armchairs as well as country-style wooden options, all done in shades of beige and pale pastels.
Vova “the world’s best waiter”, or at least according to his apron, makes his approach. All smiles, he makes a few recommendations: “the vitello tonato is good, as is the creamy risotto with white mushrooms, and there is non-stop talk about our osso buco.” While I’m sure all of those things are very tasty, they don’t speak to me. That said, there are a lot of other things that do: the warm octopus salad sounds wonderful, a crème of broccoli soup with shrimp could be the perfect option for a cool evening like tonight, not unlike the ricotta and spinach ravioli in crème sauce. There’s a four season pizza as well I have my eye on, and the grilled squid could make a great dish, among the any number of other selections I could choose from.
My husband doesn’t seem to be having such difficulty: not unlike this publication’s publisher, who loves a good steak, it is looking more and more as though that might be in order tonight. One thing stands in the way – what sauces have they got on offer? After posing the question, Vova smiles and rushes off to return with a couple of bottles: one is not recognised by either of us, while the other will be appreciated and estimated highly in the minds of many American steak connoisseurs – A1. And so it’s decided.
Made In Italy
The ordering takes all of a few minutes, and we are left to chat amongst ourselves, and take a peek around. The venue positions itself as a family restaurant, and though there are a few families enjoying a TGIF evening (in fact a large family has gathered and is enjoying the privacy of one of the VIP rooms found here – of which there are a few), there are also a couple of businessmen getting in last minute chats before the official close of the week, as well as a few couples who seem enamoured by nothing other than themselves.
Some of the nuances of Quanto Costa include Made In Italy products available for sale – such as pesto, olives, pasta and a variety of sauces; a wine boutique in the back, which includes a cork fee of 100-150hrv should you opt for one of the offered varietals from France, Spain, Chile, Australia, New Zealand and of course Italy; and thanks to a little chat with another of the administrators, Yana, we learn that all ingredients where and when possible are brought in from Italy, including flour to make the homemade focaccia brought to every table.
Our starters have made an appearance: bruschetta with mozzarella, which has been melted onto five little baguette-style pieces of toasted bread, with chopped tomatoes and topped with soft and oh-so-silky Parma ham – it’s delicious. As are the large, tender mussels in white wine sauce accompanied with two pieces of garlic toast for dipping. Every now and then I have dab at a bit of the sauce that finds its way down my chin – yes they are that good.
With high marks for service and atmosphere, Quanto Costa is a triple threat thanks to the wonderful things coming out of their kitchen. The only thing I can fault them for on this visit however is their timing. Halfway into our starters, a tray is set up beside the table for serving – which is actually a nice touch. But I am thoroughly disappointed when our second courses are promptly placed on it. Vova goes about cutting – with white gloves, the ribeye in the midsection to demonstrate it has been prepared properly, and then sets it on the table. He returns shortly with young potatoes baked with sage and rosemary and my selection.
Because I couldn’t decide, I had requested that he make the decision for me out of three different options, and what appears on the table, though far too quickly, looks fabulous: three little bacon-wrapped filets of salmon sitting on three fried potato slices all over a thick and delicious cream sauce.
I have to give credit where credit is due: Chef Riccardo Bioni is doing wonderful things with his staff, and though our mains cool slightly before we were ready for them, the steak is “very well-seasoned, wonderfully tender, with delicious striations of fat adding to the flavour. My salmon too is precisely and petitely placed on the plate, with a heavenly sauce, making for a wonderful combination of flavours on a cold winter’s night.
The real test, however, is whether we would return, and, in the venue’s inherent question: how much do you love Quanto Costa? The answer is yes, and a buono amount. There are a few things that need ironing out, but they’ve got a fabulous foundation, and that’s what counts.
Homemade Mandarin Lemonade (400ml) - 39hrv
Jameson (50ml) - 60hrv
Coca-Cola (250ml) - 22hrv
Bruschetta with Tomato, Mozzarella, Parma ham (150g) - 81hrv
Mussels in White Wine Sauce (400g) - 107hrv
Ribeye Steak (500g at 135hrv/100g) - 675hrv
Young Potatoes w/ Sage and Rosemary (200g) - 26hrv
Salmon Fillet w/ Speck and Cream Sauce (300/100g) - 162hrv
Cotes du Rhones (btl) - 350hrv
Grand Total 1,522hrv
Quanto Costa (Zhylyanska 87/30, M Vokzalna)
Hours: 12.00 –24.00, 237-0128
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by Lana Nicole