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NEW RUSSIAN AT OLD KIEV.

Byline: LARRY LIPSON>

RESTAURANT CRITIC

At a location in Encino that has served continental, Greek, American barbecue, Middle Eastern cuisine, a Russian-flavored restaurant named Old Kiev has made its debut.

A lot of work and expense has gone into its interior, transforming the spacious bar and dining areas into somewhat of a hodgepodge d(hrt)cor, obviously directed at illuminating the rural aspects of old Eastern Europe generally, and old Kiev in particular.

Faux rocks embedded in walls, a windmill, a bucket and well, rough wood doors, a faux sky ceiling, elaborate lace curtains, even a cabin-in-the-woods effect complete with thatched roof, greet diners as they're seated at rich wood tables surrounded by heavy, comfortable, red-upholstered chairs.

The Old Kiev kitchen serves four different soups, a Ukrainian version of borscht ($6.99), a spicy rice and meat soup called kharcho ($6.99), a meat and sausage potage named solyanka ($5.99) and a changing soup du jour ($5.99).

The borscht, a bowl of rich tomato-red soup, very tasty, a mini-meal by itself, arrives with plenty of beef pieces in it and sour cream on the side.

Kharcho is also beefy and has a distinctive spicy character.

The soups make a much better impression than the pierogi ($1.99 each), looking like puffy rolls and being doughy on the palate rather than a delicate pastry.

Not much butter spurts from Old Kiev's Chicken Kiev ($20.99) when cut open, supposedly the true test of this famous dish. But there's a crusty exterior, reasonably good flavor and enough moisture to give it respectability.

An interesting entr(hrt)e, rabbit in sour cream sauce ($24.99), comes forth with slightly oily, somewhat wimpy fries and a small container of passable cabbage slaw. The individuality of the rabbit, however, is overwhelmed by the sauce, in which the on-bone pieces are actually saturated.

The rabbit meat, when separated to a degree from this white sea of creamy sauce, offers suggestions of good flavor and texture.

It might be a good idea to order the sauce on the side with this dish, if possible.

At its best: Old Kiev brings a comprehensive menu of homey, Russian and American fare that includes steaks, duck, quail, lamb, rabbit, pork, chicken, salmon, sturgeon, halibut, bass, lobster, crab and oysters to the mid-San Fernando Valley.

Could be better: Service is below par, especially the timing. Only one waitress was on duty one evening. She forgot to put in the soup order. It was hurriedly delivered after a 20-minute wait for another appetizer course. Then the entrees were brought before the soup was half finished.

OLD KIEV

>Rating: Two stars

>Details: 17337 Ventura Blvd., Encino. Open for lunch from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily and for dinner from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. nightly. (818) 788-1222. www.oldkievrestaurant.net

>Cost: Starters from $2 to $30, entrees from $18 to $28, desserts: $2 to $5. Corkage: $10.

>Noteworthy: Evidently entertainment is important here, as it is at many Russian restaurants. Live music and show from 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Live music only from 8 p.m. Sunday.

CAPTION(S):

photo

Photo:

Marinated lamb chops are delicious at the Old Kiev in Encino, where Russian fare is the specialty.

EVAN YEE>LA.COM
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Title Annotation:LA.COM
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Nov 2, 2007
Words:548
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