COOKING for Krishna in the Slovak capital.
photo: Ján Svrček
Where: Obchodná 30
When: Friday to Sunday 11:00-20:30
English menu: Yes and no
Rating: 7 out of 10
THE MENU at Góvinda vegetarian restaurant is not in English, and this is for good reason - the place does not really have one. But do not let that worry you, as you are most likely to get something good to eat anyways.
Your selection, once you find your way through the stately basement catacomb, involves only one central choice: a full portion, for Sk95, or the student version on a smaller plate, for Sk65. Either way, you are served the same meal, and in a full portion you will get everything. This means two kinds of fresh salad, a cup of soup, chutney, white rice, and sabji.
Yes, the choices at Góvinda are few, but that is the trade-off for being able to get a quick meal. So far, this Hare Krishna-inspired vegetarian cafeteria lacks a line trailing down the block (in this case it would be up the stairs). The question is: for how long? On each visit, it is more crowded and the wait in line a little longer.
Sabji, also called sabzi, is Indian for cooked vegetables, and that is exactly what you get. One day it was a soft, chunky potato and beet kasha. On another, light brown beans in a buttery sauce. Still another it was stewed cabbage with a few cheese chunks, which seem to appear in the sabji every once in a while. With the exception of the cabbage, which was overcooked, these dishes had a pleasantly humble flavour.
The soup is not as good as the main course, sometimes tilting to the sour side, as was the case with a vegetable-bean. On other days I had inoffensive, if bland, root vegetable and creamy dill soups.
Two kinds of chutney are usually available, such as tomato, apple, or coconut. All are lightly sweet and help you out if you are looking for some extra flavour. The rice is always cooked with some kind of seasoning, such as poppy seeds or turmeric.
Extras change daily as well, rotating, for example, through different types of the lightly fried vegetable balls called kofta, fried skewered vegetables, or vegetable samosa dumplings. These usually cost between Sk10 and 20 extra.
To negotiate these smaller details, for instance the contents of a mysterious samosa, ask the server - he is easy-going and enjoys the chance to speak in English.
If you need any Indian spices for your own kitchen, they are available in Góvinda's little shop, including some of the hard-to-find ones like cumin, black salt, and mustard seeds.
Just to make the deal a little better, the full menu is all you can eat. This can be hard to keep in mind, though, as the first serving is usually enough to leave one happily satiated. In addition, free pitchers of chilled water with a slice of lemon are kept on the table and frequently refilled. Revolutionary.
Whenever they fill up, diners must all fight the restaurant's great temptation - the desserts. In addition to ice cream, different types of halva, seeded date-fig balls, and other delicacies dance in the display by the counter, tickling the corner of your eye. Each is dense and sweet enough for two, or to send you floating off down the street if you have one all to yourself.