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The home style Ukrainian of Village House Kalina

Enjoy babyshka’s recipes, just don’t order mineral water

Several months back, I wrote enthusiastically about a plate of stuffed cabbage made by a local market vendor and caterer. One reader responded by recommending the same dish, made by La Mesa restaurant, The Village House Kalina. Which is why I recently found myself pulling into the parking lot of a 7-11 just off Fletcher Parkway.

Place

The Village House Kalina

8302 Parkway Dr, La Mesa

The Village House Kalina sits next door to the convenience store, advertising Ukrainian and Russian cuisine. Little from the outside suggests the place would be homey, but that’s what you find when you walk inside. Eastern European folk instruments and kitchen utensils hang around the dining room, and there are window frames on one wall, panes painted to create the illusion there’s a quaint village on the other side, rather than a slurpee machine.

Borscht and bread service, just like back in the U.S.S.R.

There’s a lot more than stuffed cabbage to be found here. A well-rounded menu features many dishes, including recipes handed down or inspired by the owner’s babyshka (grandmother). There’s beef stroganoff, of course, and chicken and vegetarian versions. On weekends, the restaurant offers several types of shashlik, the Russian take on shish kabobs.

Decorated like a house in an Eastern European village

And, any day of the week, you can count on borscht, either vegetarian or beef. I don’t generally adore beets, but the beet-based soup, swimming with vegetables and cubed beef, and topped by a dollop of sour cream, goes down easy. One try, the broth was a little thinner than I’d like, but that aligns with my impression of Soviet-era borscht anyhow.

When it comes to Armenian sparkling mineral water, don’t bother.

As promised, the stuffed cabbage was a highlight. In this Ukrainian version, the tomato sauce poured over the top is chunky with additional cabbage and other finely chopped vegetables. There’s a pleasing sourness to the cabbage, and the combined brightness of the vegetables lifts up the savory beef within.

In terms of direct comparison, I still prefer Taste of Poland by a nose. But The Village House Kalina is open every day, dishing up family-style cooking. If it’s a little inconsistent, that’s only part of its Eastern rustic charm.

However, there’s a distinctly less charming aspect I feel I must point out. When I ordered my customary sparkling mineral water, I was initially delighted when an unfamiliar bottle appeared at my table. I’ve tried many an Italian mineral water, plus French, German, and Mexican, and the subtle differences have been interesting to enjoy.

But this bottle of Sevan, with a label reading, “made in Armenia,” makes a case that going for Eastern European authenticity has its failings. Salty, earthy, and not all that clean tasting, I’m not sure this beverage is babyshka approved.

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Comments
6

I debated whether to comment under this article but in the end decided that as a person of Ukrainian descent I had to in order to correct all the misconceptions and misinformation that Mr. Ian Anderson decided to (or didn't care enough not to) spread via this restaurant review. Food is an integral part of any culture and any food critic worth his salt would not let himself make the types of conjectures that are made in this article without doing proper research. Let me list some of things that I've noticed in this article that are either incorrect or simply tone-deaf in the difficult context of Eastern European politics/culture: The transliteration of the word "бабушка" is not "babyshka" but "babushka". The author seems to adopt a stance where he uses the terms Eastern European, Russian, and Ukrainian interchangeably. There IS a shared history and similarities among all Eastern European cultures, but they are not the same and considering the current political climate I would expect for the author to make the distinction and treat the subject with some respect. Does the author go to a Guatemalan restaurant and call the food Mexican? The author mentions his "impression of Soviet-era borscht", which doesn't make sense. What is a Soviet-era borscht? Borscht was there before the Soviet Union and Soviet Union as a political formation does not get to take credit for the existing aspects of the countries that were forced into it. This makes as little sense as saying things like "Nazi Germany-style bratwurst" or "paella of the Francoist Spain". The author mentions shashlik and discusses it as a "Russian take on shish kabob". A quick Google search will reveal that shashlik is a dish originating in the Caucasian as well as Central Asian countries. It was made popular in the Russian Empire in the 19th century, but it's not originally Russian and it's not a Russian version of anything. This is especially insulting considering how the Russian Empire imposed themselves on these countries, adopted the best aspects of their cultures, and then took credit for them. * Armenian water is mentioned in the last paragraphs as being salty and inferior to all the Italian, French, German, and Mexican mineral waters. It seems that the author has not acquainted himself with the concept of "salty mineral waters", which are a completely different type of drink. Salty mineral waters have a different mineral composition and are often had on their own(and not with food) as a "health drink". They are not supposed to be consumed the way sparkling water or light tasting mineral waters like "Perrier" are. The author failed to do his research basically concluding that Armenians just don't know how to make a proper mineral water. In addition to this, Armenia is mentioned in the "Eastern European" context. Armenia is not part of Eastern Europe as it's entirely within Asia and has its own unique culture and history. Please do your research!

Nov. 19, 2019

It's a restaurant review, not a thesis.

Nov. 20, 2019

Don't get your panties in a bunch. I figure about 25 people in all of the county read these reviews and they probably mean zero new business for the restaurants. The Reader is buying content from amateurs not professionals.

Nov. 20, 2019
This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.
Nov. 27, 2019

Sign in to comment

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A chunky sauce over Ukrainian-style stuffed cabbage
A chunky sauce over Ukrainian-style stuffed cabbage

Several months back, I wrote enthusiastically about a plate of stuffed cabbage made by a local market vendor and caterer. One reader responded by recommending the same dish, made by La Mesa restaurant, The Village House Kalina. Which is why I recently found myself pulling into the parking lot of a 7-11 just off Fletcher Parkway.

Place

The Village House Kalina

8302 Parkway Dr, La Mesa

The Village House Kalina sits next door to the convenience store, advertising Ukrainian and Russian cuisine. Little from the outside suggests the place would be homey, but that’s what you find when you walk inside. Eastern European folk instruments and kitchen utensils hang around the dining room, and there are window frames on one wall, panes painted to create the illusion there’s a quaint village on the other side, rather than a slurpee machine.

Borscht and bread service, just like back in the U.S.S.R.

There’s a lot more than stuffed cabbage to be found here. A well-rounded menu features many dishes, including recipes handed down or inspired by the owner’s babyshka (grandmother). There’s beef stroganoff, of course, and chicken and vegetarian versions. On weekends, the restaurant offers several types of shashlik, the Russian take on shish kabobs.

Decorated like a house in an Eastern European village

And, any day of the week, you can count on borscht, either vegetarian or beef. I don’t generally adore beets, but the beet-based soup, swimming with vegetables and cubed beef, and topped by a dollop of sour cream, goes down easy. One try, the broth was a little thinner than I’d like, but that aligns with my impression of Soviet-era borscht anyhow.

When it comes to Armenian sparkling mineral water, don’t bother.

As promised, the stuffed cabbage was a highlight. In this Ukrainian version, the tomato sauce poured over the top is chunky with additional cabbage and other finely chopped vegetables. There’s a pleasing sourness to the cabbage, and the combined brightness of the vegetables lifts up the savory beef within.

In terms of direct comparison, I still prefer Taste of Poland by a nose. But The Village House Kalina is open every day, dishing up family-style cooking. If it’s a little inconsistent, that’s only part of its Eastern rustic charm.

However, there’s a distinctly less charming aspect I feel I must point out. When I ordered my customary sparkling mineral water, I was initially delighted when an unfamiliar bottle appeared at my table. I’ve tried many an Italian mineral water, plus French, German, and Mexican, and the subtle differences have been interesting to enjoy.

But this bottle of Sevan, with a label reading, “made in Armenia,” makes a case that going for Eastern European authenticity has its failings. Salty, earthy, and not all that clean tasting, I’m not sure this beverage is babyshka approved.

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Comments
6

I debated whether to comment under this article but in the end decided that as a person of Ukrainian descent I had to in order to correct all the misconceptions and misinformation that Mr. Ian Anderson decided to (or didn't care enough not to) spread via this restaurant review. Food is an integral part of any culture and any food critic worth his salt would not let himself make the types of conjectures that are made in this article without doing proper research. Let me list some of things that I've noticed in this article that are either incorrect or simply tone-deaf in the difficult context of Eastern European politics/culture: The transliteration of the word "бабушка" is not "babyshka" but "babushka". The author seems to adopt a stance where he uses the terms Eastern European, Russian, and Ukrainian interchangeably. There IS a shared history and similarities among all Eastern European cultures, but they are not the same and considering the current political climate I would expect for the author to make the distinction and treat the subject with some respect. Does the author go to a Guatemalan restaurant and call the food Mexican? The author mentions his "impression of Soviet-era borscht", which doesn't make sense. What is a Soviet-era borscht? Borscht was there before the Soviet Union and Soviet Union as a political formation does not get to take credit for the existing aspects of the countries that were forced into it. This makes as little sense as saying things like "Nazi Germany-style bratwurst" or "paella of the Francoist Spain". The author mentions shashlik and discusses it as a "Russian take on shish kabob". A quick Google search will reveal that shashlik is a dish originating in the Caucasian as well as Central Asian countries. It was made popular in the Russian Empire in the 19th century, but it's not originally Russian and it's not a Russian version of anything. This is especially insulting considering how the Russian Empire imposed themselves on these countries, adopted the best aspects of their cultures, and then took credit for them. * Armenian water is mentioned in the last paragraphs as being salty and inferior to all the Italian, French, German, and Mexican mineral waters. It seems that the author has not acquainted himself with the concept of "salty mineral waters", which are a completely different type of drink. Salty mineral waters have a different mineral composition and are often had on their own(and not with food) as a "health drink". They are not supposed to be consumed the way sparkling water or light tasting mineral waters like "Perrier" are. The author failed to do his research basically concluding that Armenians just don't know how to make a proper mineral water. In addition to this, Armenia is mentioned in the "Eastern European" context. Armenia is not part of Eastern Europe as it's entirely within Asia and has its own unique culture and history. Please do your research!

Nov. 19, 2019

It's a restaurant review, not a thesis.

Nov. 20, 2019

Don't get your panties in a bunch. I figure about 25 people in all of the county read these reviews and they probably mean zero new business for the restaurants. The Reader is buying content from amateurs not professionals.

Nov. 20, 2019
This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.
Nov. 27, 2019

Sign in to comment

Sign in

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