“Unique Dining in Hell’s Kitchen”
BY HOLLY HAGAN
Tourists, theatergoers and Port Authority characters mingle in the twenty-block radius of Hell’s Kitchen, making it a colorful part of the city. Unfortunately, this energy and uniqueness has yet to hit the restaurants in the area, and Hell’s Kitchen is not lacking in eating establishments. The area is overcrowded with Thai and Italian, interrupted with the occasional Japanese or Greek joint, but the restaurants I’ve tried have been bland and uncreative.
After one of these bland dinners on Saturday at a Thai-French fusion restaurant that played cheesy power love ballads from the 80s and 90s (think “Hello” by Lionel Ritchie and “Everything I Do” by Bryan Adams), I was ecstatic to find a place that served up real cheese just down the street.
Kashkaval looks like a deli when you first walk in. A case lines one wall containing cheese, meat and dips. Opposite are shelves containing European food brands like biscuits, raw honey from Germany, Lebanese ground coffee with cardamom, and glass containers of dried fruit and nuts. Just past the food is a ceramic tile bar and rustic wood tables. I’m a sucker for unassuming restaurants that are unlike anything else in the area. It makes me feel like I’ve “discovered” something, as if it didn’t exist before I found it.
Kashkaval means yellow cheese in Bulgarian, and they are known for their wide variety of cheese, fondue and Mediterranean tapas enjoyed with reasonably priced wine or beer.
The cheese portions were impressive. I’m used to going into a wine bar and getting three dollops of cheese with six slices of bread. At Kashkaval, I was served substantial chunks of Danish blue cheese and a soft drunken goat cheese with a side of berries and an endless basket of baguette.
Instead of 90s love ballads, Kashkaval played Coldplay. Maybe lip-synching to “The Greatest Love” was more entertaining for me, but I could live with Coldplay. The only thing that suffered was the service. The wait staff isn’t unfriendly, but perhaps more preoccupied with checking their text messages and taking frequent breaks than checking in on customers. And forget the check. Twenty minutes will pass by before anyone realizes you’ve licked your cheese plate clean, almost going as far as to suck the flavor out of the fresh dill that garnishes the dish.
It didn’t upset me too much because I went back with friends for the $12.95 brunch and a bottle of wine the next afternoon. That’s what happens when I “discover” a new place. I’ll go there until it loses its charm.