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Having recently read Dead Souls, I’ve had the culture and cuisine of Eastern Europe at least somewhat on my mind. When word of Kalina reached my ears, I knew I had to get out to La Mesa to visit the Ukrainian restaurant. It turns out that it’s the work of former staff from Pomegranate, the Georgian restaurant in North Park that has (confusingly) become one with Petrushka.

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The self-styled “Village House” is an accurate subtitle for Kalina, as the the decor could only be described as cottagey. Artifacts of the rustic life adorned the walls and the server was dressed in a folk costume, which put an amusing spin on her general ineptitude. For whatever reason, I can tolerate clumsy service if the responsible party is cheerful and gives the appearance of sincerely trying.

I would guess that 80% of the menu is either stewed, boiled, or braised in some way. My meal included pelmeni ($6.99), Siberian-style boiled dumplings stuffed with minced meat. Their tender dough belied a skilled hand behind the rolling pin and the simple combination of butter, cracked pepper, and sour cream accompanied them nicely.

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Borscht ($6.99), the iconic Russian soup, lived up to its reputation as complete meal. Chunks of beef and cabbage mingled with cubes of stewed beet. While undeniably earthy to the taste, the savory soup had more delicacy than I expected from a bowl of beets, which are prone to utter domination. Liberal use of herbs is probably the cause of that.

Chakapuli, a dish of braised lamb in plum sauce, was something of a disappointment at almost $20. The solitary scoop of cold, gluey mashed potatoes was a poor player and the meat had no real distinction. True, the portion was enormous (as were all the servings at Kalina) and it was hearty and nutritious fare, but there was little to be excited over.

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Holubsti ($13.50), a stuffed cabbage dish, was an improvement. They had been braised in oil and served with a thick tomato sauce, which made them much more substantial than the Polish style of cabbage with which I’m more familiar.

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Many items had been stricken from the menu by judicious use of a Sharpie marker and I wonder if Kalina is in the process of revision or simply scaling back the kitchen’s efforts out of thrift. TIme will tell, but I intend to follow up.

8302 Parkway Drive
619-461-1100
M-F 11-10
Weekends 12-10

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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