Those of you who’ve been there will know that Teatro consists of two rooms, one very internal which is quite classic in style, and the other with large windows and skylights with a much more modern feel. Strangely perhaps, everyone sits in the latter, which has a really pleasant feel to it: even in the depths of winter it kinda makes you feel like you’re sitting on a summer terrace on a warm day.
A Warm Welcome
Teatro also has two entrances – one from the hotel and one from the street. Having parked the car in the hotel car park (which is free for patrons) we use the street entrance, which seems to throw the staff a little who are obviously more used to people entering from the hotel. This would suggest to me that the restaurant is used mostly by clients of the hotel, which, depending on how the evening goes, could be a real pity.
The staff muster quickly, welcome us warmly and show us to a table. We’re brought menus and asked if we’d like anything to drink – just water at this stage. Left to make our decisions, we sit back and relax.
It’s pleasant here. Teatro has a feel of tranquility about it, which makes the place an excellent choice for a romantic dinner, a quiet evening with friends, or even a business meeting.
We’re already enjoying ourselves so much that when our waiter comes back to ask for our order we’ve not even picked up the menus, so we ask him for five minutes and take a look.
Before departing, our waiter points out that the menu begins with steaks and other grilled meats, before moving on to starters etc, and sure enough at the very top page is a 550 gram T-Bone steak, which I immediately realise is going to cause me problems when making my choice.
Following the steaks are hot and cold starters, soups and salads, pasta and risotto dishes, fish and meat, and there’s also a section of Ukrainian dishes. Interestingly, every section has a chef’s suggestion, some of which look very appealing.
The choices per section are few, but every one of them tantalises. For example, for a starter should I have the buffalo mozzarella with tomato, cucumber, basil cream cheese, Parma ham chips and saffron jelly (I am sure I see a plate of this float past on its way to another table, and it looks divine), or the chef’s special of smoked salmon stuffed with goats’ cheese, mint basil jelly, orange comfit, cream sauce and fennel chips, or the langoustine tartar with homemade citrus powder, crispy vegetables and “vanilla potatoes foam”. And while there are even more main courses that appear worth a try, I can’t get the idea of a 550 gram T-bone steak out of my head.
Katya is equally torn between the tuna salad and marinated lobster (another chef’s special), and is slowly narrowing down her possible main course choices. Eventually, she calls the waiter, asks for his advice and the two of them, in Russian, decide she’s going to start with the tuna salad followed by the meat section’s chef’s special, which is a US Tournedos Rossini with rustic bread, foie gras, sautéed spinach, black truffle shavings and Madera sauce.
At least her main course selection narrows it down for me, because it had been at the top of my list. I just can’t make up my mind whether to have the steak, which I know I’m going to enjoy, or should I select something perhaps a little more interesting from this review’s point of view. In the end, my hunger wins out and I opt for the T-bone steak with a side of fries and Béarnaise sauce on the side. For starters I end up with the none-of-the-above choice of gratin New Zealand mussels, herb butter and romaine salad.
And I realise I haven’t mentioned the wines: the wine list at Teatro begins with a selection of rare and vintage wines, which we skip by, followed by a list of wines from around the world.
I’d heard that the Ukrainian Pinot Noir Reserve from the Trubezkoy Kniaz winery was perfectly palatable, so we opt for this along with a litre of Vittell.
Warm, fresh bread baked on the premises is brought to the table, and the meal begins.
Now, I’m not one for nouveau cuisine – I’m a big man with a big appetite, and quantity comes above presentation for me. That said, I can appreciate a well-presented dish as long as quality and quantity don’t suffer. Here at Teatro, the presentation of our starters is top class, and neither quality nor quantity is compromised for it.
The presentation of Katya’s salad is particularly beautiful with the salad formed in a tower in the centre of the plate with the tuna, potatoes and other accoutrement laid around it. It’s a work of art on a plate.
My herb-crusted mussels are equally well presented, laid around a tall slender glass containing a lemon vinaigrette. It all looks excellent, portion sizes satisfy, and the quality of the products and flavour combinations are excellent.
Top marks all round for the starters, and what happens next is equally as pleasing – when the waiter comes to collect our empty plates, he asks if we’d like our main courses to be brought immediately, or if we’d like a break. “Why doesn’t every place show this courtesy?” I ask myself. I mean, sometimes time is a consideration and you want to move things along, while at other times (like now for us), we’re simply wanting to enjoy the experience. A nice touch, if I may say.
“We’re in no rush,” we say, and sit back to converse while occasionally sipping at the wine. I must say, the Ukrainian Pinot Noir Reserve is surprisingly good. I don’t want to be disparaging of Ukrainian wines, but you wouldn’t know this was one. It’s perfectly palatable and really rather pleasant.
When our main courses arrive, the pleasantness continues. My steak fills the plate, and with a knob of herb butter slowly melting on top, it looks and smells divine. Katya’s dish, however, is high on the Richter scale of food presentation, in fact, I’m sure I feel a little earth tremor as it’s laid in front of her – sitting atop the rustic bread at the base topped with the sautéed spinach, sits the fillet steak, on top of which sits the foie gras which is in turn topped with the shaving of black truffle. It just looks great. And Katya says it tastes great too. The steak itself is perfectly cooked and beautifully tender, and when combined with the delicate flavour and texture of the foie gras and black truffle – well... Tis a consummation devoutly to be wished.
And what can be said about my T-bone? You’d certainly expect a restaurant that begins its menus with steaks to do it steaks well. And our experience so far of the cuisine at Teatro heightens that expectation. For once, the reality exceeds the very high expectation.
The steak hails from the US, so it’s tender, it’s also perfectly cooked, perfectly seasoned, and for me has the right amount of fat still attached (I know it’s not healthy, but it’s tasty, and I shed a tear every time I see a place trim all the fat from a steak).
After all that, and another break, we’ve still got room for dessert. The menus are delivered back to our table, and this time round there will be no difficulty in choosing as there’s only five to choose from. Katya opts once again for the chef’s special, which is pink almond biscuit, strawberry mango jelly and raspberry sorbet (85hrv) while I opt for the apple pie tatin with sour cream and vanilla ice cream.
And I can’t fault either of them – top marks once again for presentation (they both look great), and the flavours are thoroughly pleasing.
I have to say, I can’t fault the Teatro in any area – it has a pleasant and appealing atmosphere and décor, the service is excellent, and most importantly the food is first class. And the prices aren’t too bad at all either. I strongly suggest you give it a try.
Tuna Salad - 165hrv
Mussels - 125hrv
Tournedos Rossini - 320hrv
T-bone steak - 490hrv
Fries - 45hrv
Béarnaise Sauce - 30hrv
Apple Pie Tatin - 75hrv
Pink Almond Biscuit - 85hrv
Pinot Noir Reserve - 375hrv
Vittell - 105hrv
Grand Total: 1,815hrv
Teatro Restaurant (Opera Hotel, B Khmelnytskoho 53)
Hours: 06.30 –23.00, 581-7070
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by Neil Campbell