I really wanted to like Hutor -- it's absolutely adorable, with all kinds of kitschy, traditional Ukrainian craft objects on the walls and a chance to eat my favorite Ukrainian treats. And I was going there for an early dinner with two close friends who served in the Peace Corps in Ukraine with me, so we were already giddy to be reliving our Ukrainian days and were ready to forgive a lot. And at first we had a great time. The restaurant is comfortable and clean, and it was wonderful quiet and private, since, well, we were the only customers in the restaurant the entire time we were there. The menu is quite limited, but does feature classic, traditional Ukrainian dishes, like borscht, vareniki (dumplings), blini (crepes), and meat dishes. I ordered borscht and blini with farmer's cheese, and they were both quite well prepared and tasted exactly as I remembered them from those good ol' days in Ukraine. One of my friends ordered vareniki with potato filling and declared them to be rich, buttery, and delicious.
The prices on the menu don't appear too terrible, considering that this is in the center of Baku, a place notorious for overpriced food. But once we ordered we understood why things weren't more expensive. Portions are tiny (an order of vareniki came with just 4 dumplings), and they don't come with any extras. Our waiter had never asked us if we wanted smetana (Ukrainian cream that is traditionally added to soup and blini), so we'd assumed that it would come with the food. When it didn't, we had to drag him away from the pretty hostess he was preoccupied with talking to. Quite some time later he begrudgingly brought us a tiny, tiny container of smetana, which, to our shock upon seeing the bill, cost an additional $4.50.
The service, however, really put us off to ever going back to Hutor. Despite being the only customers in this tiny restaurant, we always had trouble getting either of the two waiters to notice us or bring us anything. Our main waitered seemed annoyed to be there at all and mostly wanted to hang out behind the bar at the front chatting. We took a chance and tried speaking Ukrainian to him, but he just rolled his eyes and responded in Russian. The final indignity though, was when we paid our bill, we handed him a 50 manat bill for a total check of 41 manat, and then the waiter disappeared and never came back. When we finaly tracked him down, he stated that this extra money was necessary for "a tip." This is absolutely unacceptable in Azerbaijan. Even in more upscale, western restaurants in Baku, a tip would never be this large. One of my friends ended up in a shouting match with the waiter, finally getting a few manat back. Very unpleasant and off-putting, and that certainly has turned me off to ever going back.
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