Walter Mencken 11 a.m., May 24
Contrary to "Wolfie," Pomegranate lives on
The UT's Food/Entertainment Advertising Manager, Wolfgang Verkaiik, writes little "reviews" of restaurants that take out ads. (They're all raves, of course. But some people actually believe he's a real food critic.)
This past Thursday, "reviewing" a new Russian-Ukrainian restaurant in La Mesa, Wolfie noted that the chef there had previously worked at Pomegranate Russian-Georgian Restaurant (in University Heights) and that former Pom partner Jon Skorepa was now helping out at the new place in La Mesa -- and that Pomegranate had closed.
How could that be? The last time I ate there, the place was packed! Had something dire happened to Marko Zhukov, the other partner? So I did what Wolfie should have done, and phoned Marko. Neither he nor Pom has become a "former parrot" - both are perfectly alive (but I'm kicking harder than Marko at this misreport.)
It's true that Marko and Jon came to a parting of the ways: Jon developed a health problem that had ill effects on his cooking. (He was the guy sitting out on the street, tending a charcoal grill. Actually, I have to vouch for Marko's account here: At my last visit, grill items did tend to be overcooked, which was certainly not true eight years ago, and even the smoked fish seemed dryer than it used to be. I meant to re-review the restaurant since it had moved to a much larger space next door to its previous address -- but I put off writing that, thinking I could hold my notes in reserve for a rainy week.)
Replacing Jon, Marko says he's hired two professional Georgian chefs.
Pomegranate had also changed from accepting credit cards to installing an ATM machine and requiring "cash only." "With credit cards, Americans spend more than they can afford," Marko said. "With cash only payment, they might restrain themselves more. I didn't want to be responsible for people spending too much on a meal here." Well, this idea went over with customers like a mobile home in a hurricane. The credit card machine will be back very shortly.
I encouraged Marko to call Wolfie and demand a correction, but he was thoroughly unwilling to do so. "If Wolfgang is a journalist, he should already know that you must check facts," he said. But of course Wolfie isn't a journalist, he only gets to play one in the UT. So I phoned his answering machine and scorched it. Yet to be seen if he'll run a correction after the potential damage he may have caused to this vibrant restaurant.