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Hearty food and warm welcome on offer at Cossack's Gate
Latest Updated by 2004-10-14 08:51:34

Sometimes, the most pleasant discoveries are in the most unexpected places. One of those such places is the Cossack's Gate restaurant and bar. Once at the heart of Shekou, this well-established Russian restaurant is now hidden away on the second floor of a building at the seedy side of Taizi Road in Shekou, just five minutes' walk from Sea World Plaza.

The restaurant and bar takes its name from the Cossacks - which means "free people" - who centuries back migrated west from Mongolia and settled in the eastern borderlands of Europe. Today, they can be found across Russia and Ukraine and are celebrated for their fine horsemanship and fighting spirit.

Opened five years ago, the restaurant can comfortably seat 80 people and serves not only Russian cuisine such as beef stroganoff - beef cooked with sour cream and mustard - but also East European food such as the Ukrainian dish chicken Kiev - chicken breast wrapped around a piece of seasoned butter, breaded and deep fried, Hungarian goulash - meat stew, Polish/Ukrainian pirogy - boiled or fried dumplings, standard northern European dishes like roast beef and also southern specialities like sultan Ibrahim, which is Mediterranean-style fried fish with lemon and garlic.

Also on offer is a wide selection of salads, appetizers and Russian delicacies, ranging from smoked sprats at 50 yuan through to black caviar at 440 yuan. Expect to pay around 150 yuan for a three-course meal, excluding drinks.

A Russian meal wouldn't be complete without vodka, and there are over 50 kinds on offer here. There are two types of vodka. Vodka made in Western Europe and the United States is made from potatoes, while vodka from Eastern Europe and Russia is made from grain. Starting at 10 yuan for a small shot and 15 yuan for a big shot of vodka, you don't have to spend a lot of time or money here to feel the drink's kick!

Be wary of the antique bell that lies above the bar. Tantalizing though it may be to give it a tug, Alisa, a Russian singer, warned us that it is an invitation to buy everyone at the bar a round of drinks!

The place is warm and friendly and has an authentic feel to it. The entire restaurant is wood paneled and decorated with various antique East European and Russian memorabilia. Adorning the walls you can find Russian paintings, copper-plated engravings of folk designs, a domra - a banjo-like instrument from Ukraine - as well as pictures of acclaimed Cossack leaders Peter Sagaydachy and Bogdan Hmelnitcky. Hellen Woityuk, who helps run the place with her husband, showed me the restaurant's collection of samovars, some of which date back from before the Russian Revolution in 1917.

The restaurant's owner, Serge Woityuk, is a Cossack native of St. Petersburg, and has lived in the area for eight years. In 1985, while studying Oriental studies at St. Petersburg University he became involved in one of the first Sino-Soviet joint ventures, which was a Shanghai-style restaurant in St. Petersburg. Since then, he has helped set up other Russian restaurants in southern China and Hong Kong.

The most popular dish among Serge's Chinese customers is the stewed beef and potatoes. As the story goes, the dish was made popular in China after Chairman Mao enjoyed it while on a state visit to the former Soviet Union.

Russian food also goes down particularly well with northern Chinese customers. "We like the food here because it reminds us of northern China where we come from," said Yang Xiaoxiong, a CCTV 1 soap opera director from Beijing, and Mr. Wang, a native of Northeast China who works locally as an entrepreneur.

The bar and restaurant also holds shows as well as private parties and special events at festivals and holidays, such as Haloween, Christmas, New Year's Eve, and the Russian Orthodox Christmas, which is Jan. 7.

While most of the 100-strong Russian community in the Shenzhen area know about this place, it attracts customers of all nationalities. "I like this place because you can meet people from all over the world," said Oleg Ermakov, a stage and studio engineer. "The atmosphere is very easy-going. It almost feels like home."

The hearty welcome offered by the staff and interesting mix of people and nationalities in this old world East European setting set it apart from most other eating establishments and make it well worth the effort to get there.

Editor: Donald

By:Adrian Smith Source:szdaily
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