Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Jungle Cat: A taste of Ukraine in the capital



Jungle Cat: A taste of Ukraine in the capital

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Customer get their first moonshine for free at Jungle Cat Ukrainian Restaurant. YOUSOS APDOULRASHIM

Jungle Cat: A taste of Ukraine in the capital

Six years ago, when he first set foot on the Kingdom as a tourist, Vitaliy Popik never thought he was starting a new chapter in his life.

Popik, who had managed a few big restaurants, including Jungle Cat Kiev in Ukraine, had a blast during his stay in Cambodia in 2014 and eventually decided to come back.

“I love this country, the people, culture, nature, and climate,” says the 60-year-old Ukrainian in his native language as a friend translates.

Popik started Jungle Cat, a Ukrainian eatery, in 2015 in Sihanoukville. It later expanded to Phnom Penh’s Bassac Lane. In February, Jungle Cat moved to the riverside, much like the original in Kiev, which is located by the Dnieper River.

The name of the restaurant alludes to his love for felines.

“In the restaurant in Kiev I have 28 cats. In the first restaurant I opened in Ukraine, I had a really big jungle cat, which my friend gave me as a gift about 14 years ago. My restaurant is named after this animal,” he says.

Popik designed the restaurant himself to imbue it with a Ukrainian feel.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post

“It is like you are sitting in the garden of a Ukrainian home,” Popik says about his restaurant in Phnom Penh.

“What makes it unique is the fact that you can eat traditional Ukrainian food in a traditional Ukrainian environment.”

All customers are treated to a drink on the house as soon as they sit down. Cherry Moonshine is the most popular tipple, especially among the ladies. The drink is imported from Ukraine, Popik points out.

Jungle cat serves a wide selection of Eastern European dishes, mainly Ukrainian and Russian.

“I’ve been in the restaurant business for more than 40 years,” says Popik, who is himself a chef.

“I like making tasty food that makes people happy. Seeing people enjoy my food makes me happy. It is my passion,” says Popik, noting that he started learning how to cook as a teenager.

Jungle Cat has an affordable menu, mostly in the $3-$4 range. There is nothing above $7.50.

The menu has 13 different salads, including Eastern European variations, and classics from the West like Caesar or Greek.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post

The Old Kiev salad ($5) – featuring eggs, cheese, mayonnaise, meat, mushrooms, onion, and smoked chicken – comes highly recommended.

For intrepid foodies, the Shooba ($4.50) – with its pickle herring dressing, boiled vegetables and mayonnaise – is a tempting option.

Soup is an essential element of Eastern European cuisines. At Jungle Cat, the star soup is Borscht ($6.50), a bright red soup made of beetroot.

Those seeking to experience traditional Ukrainian fare might try Solyanka ($6.50). Born in the Eastern European nation in the 17th century, this sour soup with meat and pickles comes with a serving of sour cream and fresh dill.

“We use local products but follow traditional Ukrainian recipes,” says Popik.

Main courses are priced $4.50-$7 and come with a side dish and homemade sauce.

One of the most popular entrees is Goulash ($6), a delicious pork stew seasoned with paprika and other spices.

Meat eaters will enjoy the salted pork lard with garlic ($3), and the smoked meat cold cuts ($4.50), among others.

Pickled herring with spicy union ($4.50) is also a popular option. Pointing to the silverfish on his plate, Popik says: “This is Ukrainian herring, a fish that you don’t have in Cambodia.

“We import it from Ukraine every two days. When people from Eastern Europe see that we have this is the menu, they are elated.”

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Assorted pickles and Smoked meat cold cuts at Jungle Cat Ukrainian Restaurant. Cook works the coals to produce an authentic meal thousands of miles from Ukrane. YOUSOS APDOULRASHIM

The restaurant offers grill and BBQ selections of pork, sausages, vegetables and fish with a sauce of your choice ($2-$8).

Dumplings and pancakes ($3.50-$6) are, of course, on the menu. Varenyky are dumplings made by wrapping pockets of unleavened dough around a savoury or sweet filling and cooking them in boiling water, whereas Pelmenis ($5.50), from the Russian and Kazakh cuisines, contain chicken or beef wrapped in thin dough.

“My most popular dishes are Borscht and Solyanka, barbecue pork and dumplings,” he says.

The dessert options ($4 to $5.50) include Napoleon mille-feuille (Russian pastries filled with vanilla and custard cream), apple pie, pancakes and ice-cream with honey.

Jungle Cat serves around 150 customers daily, mostly expatriates and tourists.

“A lot of Europeans come to the restaurant. We see a lot of Ukrainians and Russians because they’re familiar with the Jungle Cat name. We also have many Australians customers and even a few Cambodians.”

Jungle Cat Ukrainian Restaurant is located at No 8, Street 110, Phnom Penh. Opening hours are from 11am to 11pm. For more information, visit their Facebook page @JungleCatPP or call 070 289 644.

Watch video:

MOST VIEWED

  • Kingdom's Covid cluster cases jump to 194

    The Ministry of Health on February 25 confirmed 65 new cases of Covid-19, with 58 linked to the February 20 community transmission. The latest cluster cases include nine Vietnamese nationals, five Cambodians, one each from Korea, Singapore and Japan, with the rest being Chinese. This brings the total number

  • Locations shut, dozens more Covid-19 positive

    The Ministry of Health has closed 23 locations in connection with the February 20 community transmission of Covid-19 and summoned for testing anyone who had direct contact with affected people and places. The number of discovered related infections has risen to 76, including 39 women. In a press release,

  • Preah Sihanouk hit with travel ban

    Preah Sihanouk Provincial Administration has announced a temporary travel ban to and from the province, except for ambulances and trucks transporting goods. The announcement came after prime minister Hun Sen called on people in the province to travel only if necessary, and that people not

  • Cambodia's Covid cluster cases rise to 137

    The Ministry of Health on February 24 recorded 40 more cases of Covid-19, with 38 linked to the February 20 community transmission. Of the 40, two are imported cases involving Chinese passengers. The 38 include two Vietnamese nationals and one Cambodian, with the rest being Chinese. This brings the total cases

  • Covid cluster raises alarm, health bodies urge vigilance

    The Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation (WHO) in Cambodia have expressed great concern over the February 20 cluster transmission of Covid-19 in the community. Both entities appealed for vigilance and cooperation in curbing further spread of the virus. Ministry spokeswoman Or Vandine said

  • AstraZeneca jabs touch down in Phnom Penh airport

    The first shipment of 324,000 doses of the AstraZeneca/SII vaccine which was provided through the Covid-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) Facility was delivered to Phnom Penh International Airport on March 2. The rest of the COVAX provided vaccines will arrive in Cambodia at a later date.