Partners Nazar Hrab, Travis Odegard, Matt Sylvester and Josh Spiezle—who also own the East Village’s Pineapple Club and Bee’s Knees Cocktail Bar in Williamsburg—have come together to create Slava: Ukrainian cuisine not only for Ukrainians but for the New York dining scene, complemented by an extensive wine list built on a foundation of rare, allocated wine selections and a high-end cocktail bar that pays homage to the former Pegu Club.
Nazar Hrab is from Lviv, Ukraine and worked as a doctor, delivering over 50 babies before coming to America in 2013. Starting over in New York and yet to learn any English, he eventually landed at Jean Georges’ Mercer Kitchen, where he met his future business partners Matt Sylvester, a former chef and bartender, and Travis Odegard, a manager. Their relationship flourished over after-work cocktails at the Pegu Club, never dreaming that the space would one day be theirs. They opened their first venture, Pineapple Club in 2020 to great success, where they met and joined forces with tech entrepreneur and designer from Seattle Josh Spiezle, together opening Bee’s Knees and Slava in November 2022.
Slava was conceptualized in 2021 to be a restaurant that celebrates Ukrainian cuisine and culture. It is named after Nazar’s mother Yaroslava and has taken on a second meaning as a reference to the phrase “Slava Ukraini,” which means “Glory to Ukraine.”
Chef Pavlo “Pasha” Servetnyk joined the team in January 2023 after he was introduced to Nazarby a reporter, Artem Baybuz, for the “Voices of America” at a fundraiser for Ukraine in the East Village. Nazar hired Chef Pasha after discovering his impressive resume: he won Ukraine’s MasterChef, The Professionals in 2019, and held internships at world-renowned, three Michelin-starred El Celler de Can Roca in Girona, Spain and two-Michelin-starred Gaggan Anand in Bangkok, Thailand.
He went on to open five Breadman pizzerias in his native Ukraine and when war broke out, he transformed his largest pizzeria into a bakery and distributed 500,000 loaves of bread to the starved residents of Kherson for free. For this, he was forced to flee first through Crimea to Georgia, then Spain and finally landing in New York, where he began working at Michelin-recognized La Mercerie.
His goal for Slava is to modernize and elevate Ukrainian classic dishes for a New York audience by exploring authentic recipes and employing modern gastronomic techniques. His kitchen staff is entirely made up of recent Ukrainian emigres, which helps him to maintain the authenticity of the dishes.
Starters begin with a play on the Caprese salad using Ukrainian Brinza cheese in place of mozzarella, substituting olive oil for roasted sunflower oil and adding identifiable herbs that are commonly found in the Ukrainian countryside—chervil and dill—finishing the dish with his own creation of a chive sorbet. For Ceviche, he uses flounder, which is abundant in the Black Sea, with thinly sliced fermented garlic, in a sauce made of blended dill sprouts, garlic and tomato.
A nod to Chef Pasha’s baking background is his house-made sourdough bread with porcini mushroom butter.
The house specialties are Varenyky, Ukrainian potato dumplings stuffed with a variety of ingredients including pork fat and fermented cabbage. Also available is Lazy Varenyky deconstructed to resemble a Ukrainian gnocchi tossed with cottage cheese, sour cream, dill butter, Brinza cheese, porcini mushroom and oyster mushroom.
Main dishes are: Duck Leg, duck leg confit served in duck jus with potato gratin that is spiralized on a mandoline slicer and fried until crisp; Fried Chicken Kyiv Sandwich, an Americanized version of the Ukrainian classic which the chef prepares by stuffing a chicken breast with dill and butter, tossing it in egg and flour and pan frying it, served on a fresh bread made in house daily with aioli, pickled carrots, lettuce and hot sauce, with roasted potatoes lathered in porcini mushroom mousse on the side; and, of course, Borscht, with a dollop of sour cream and two large pork ribs protruding from the bowl.
Chef Pasha has transformed a popular Ukrainian school snack into his signature dessert, Raspberry and Sour Cherry Meringue Tart, a crème brûlée tart layered with candied raspberries and sour cherries, topped with a large dollop of meringue that resembles an ice cream cone.
The restaurant also recently launched brunch and offers Cheese Pancakes, sour cheesecakes topped with caramel, sour cream and raspberry sauce; Salmon Crepe with spinach, poached egg, hollandaise sauce and cream cheese; and Potato Pancake, a thin potato pancake with porcini mushroom mousse, topped with crispy onions and scallions.
Owner and Beverage Director Nazar has curated a global wine list with a selection of rare, allocated wines that are available at just a few auctions each year as its base, including Domaine de la Romanee-Conti Corton Grand Cru 2017 and Antinori Tignanello 2019. The comprehensive program includes well-known wines from legacy producers, as well as more uncommon, upcoming varietals and producers.
Cocktails are Nazar’s specialty; he has been lauded by the press for his ingenious creations and meticulous attention to detail, often going through several iterations of a recipe to ensure each drink is perfectly balanced. He uses Aquafaba extracted from chickpeas to give the cocktails a foamy head rather than egg white, as seen in the Slava Appletini, vodka, melon liqueur, apple and lime; and Raspberry Martini, vodka, raspberry and lemon. His other signatures include the Espresso Martini that helped Pineapple Club gain its popularity and a Clarified Borscht Cocktail, made using a borscht base substituting chicken stock for vegetable broth, blended with cream and clarified, fortified with vodka which sees 20% of its proceeds donated to Revived Soldiers Ukraine, which has beenproviding medical treatment to wounded Ukrainian soldiers, as well as delivering medical equipment, supplies and humanitarian aid to Ukraine since 2014.
There is also a series of vodka infusions, ingredients like horseradish and honey, beets and cherry infused in vodka for up to 20 days, available as individual shots, flights of three and 20-ounce bottles for the table.
Slava is tucked away on the second floor of a landmark building, bearing no signage which adds to its allure. The interior was designed by Nazar’s wife Roseanna Kegeyan; its blue-green walls are accented by burgundy velvet banquettes and dark wooden tables. Towards the rear of the long, slender space is a beautiful wooden bar. Slava is meant to be a fun, playful environment, with a high-end sound system and a well-curated playlist to create a fun, lively dining experience. On the walls are paintings by Ukrainian artist Kateryna Lisova that are available for sale with proceeds going to benefit Revived Soldiers Ukraine.
The restaurant is available for private events as well as off-premises catering. For more information, visit slavanyc.com.