Tetiana Mytrofanova, owner of the "Derrière Deux Hares" inn in the historic center of the Ukrainian capital, has no doubts: ten months after the invasion by the Russian army, these dishes are doomed.

"We have to turn the page", sums up this 58-year-old woman, sitting on a bench in her restaurant, where she is organizing a New Year's party with a concert until the end of the night.

“It will be my first year without the Olivier and Shuba salads,” adds the restaurateur, who plans to serve traditional Kievan dishes, such as stuffed perch, instead.

"I know that the people who come to spend the night (of the New Year) with us will remember it forever", continues Tetiana, who sees the evening to come as the opportunity for a "psychological reboot".

Restaurateur Tetiana Mytrofanova, owner of "Behind Two Hares", December 26, 2022 in kyiv © Sergei SUPINSKY / AFP

She is also not worried about the fact that customers will not be able to leave her restaurant between 11:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m., due to the curfew: "When people come to us, they enter a new dimension (...) where time passes imperceptibly".

"Borsch War"

In Ukraine, culinary civics have particularly developed since 2014 and the annexation of Crimea by Moscow, then the outbreak, with Russian support, of an armed rebellion in Donbass, eastern Ukraine.

The Russian invasion ordered by Vladimir Putin on February 24th then gave a boost to Ukrainian gastronomic patriotism, culminating in July when Ukraine obtained that UNESCO include in its list of intangible cultural heritage in danger the " culture of borsch", a soup of which Russia also claimed paternity.

A Ukrainian victory in what was dubbed "the borscht war".

The "Derrière Deux Hares" restaurant, named after a 1961 Soviet comedy, isn't just changing its New Year's menu to help the war effort.

Like other kitchens in the city, when the first bombs fell on kyiv in February, the one in Tetiana fed hundreds of people who lacked food.

Then, it sent food to soldiers resisting Russian forces who were trying to take the town of Gostomel, the scene of a fierce battle for a strategic airfield on the outskirts of kyiv.

Eventually, the Kremlin army will be forced to withdraw in the spring, abandoning its attempt to conquer kyiv to concentrate on the east and south of the country.

"I didn't see the commander (of the Gostomel unit) until five months later," says Tetiana.

"I haven't seen any other of our guys, but I love them, every one of them," the restaurateur continues, tears in her eyes as three of these men died in battle recently.

The interior of the restaurant "Behind Two Hares", December 26, 2022 in kyiv © Sergei SUPINSKY / AFP

Its kitchen staff has meanwhile prepared lamb-shaped cakes for the troops deployed on the front in recent days.

Especially since one of the cooks has just been called up and left for training camp.

"So many other salads"

Changing the menu to remove dishes associated with Russia is the least of things for chef Natalia Khomenko: "It's possible and it's the right thing to do," she says.

"Derrière Deux Hares" is not alone in this logic, far from it.

The Avtostantsia restaurant, for example, in the Podil district, is also revamping its menu.

Here too, exit the Chouba and the Olivier, replaced in particular by a hummus of beets and forchmak, a mixture of mackerel, potatoes, sour cream of onions and peppers.

But to the chagrin of the restaurant manager, Anna Selezen, this menu could not be served on New Year's Eve, as Russian bombings and repeated power cuts did not allow her team to learn how to prepare these dishes on time.

Never mind, now that the restaurant has a generator, these dishes will be served on the occasion of Orthodox Christmas, on January 7th.

"We have plenty of traditional Ukrainian dishes, no need for Russians," asserts Ms. Selezen.

"We can live without them, and we should have done it earlier."

Admittedly, she confides, she will miss Chouba, but "there are so many other salads to prepare".

© 2022 AFP