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The Warsaw Voice » Culture » October 28, 2009
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A Cut Above Common Kiełbasa
October 28, 2009   
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According to an article published recently in The New York Times, the Polish capital is not exactly the kind of place to spark a wild rush among tourists, and definitely not a culinary mecca.

Some would beg to differ. Though in North America, the dishes typically associated with Poland are kiełbasa and pierogi, Poland has much more to offer. Those who doubt that Polish food is worth its salt may find themselves surprised after they discover where the local delicacies are lurking.

In downtown Warsaw, one of the best places to visit is Przek±ski Zak±ski on Krakowskie Przedmie¶cie Street. Located on a corner in a prestigious neighborhood close to the president's palace and the Bristol Hotel, it resembles a tapas restaurant and serves up a range of traditional Polish appetizers, each costing only zl.8. Among the most popular dishes is herring served with onions and crispy bread, spicy curd cheese, called gzik, served with jacket potatoes and peppers, and steak tartare made from ground raw beef with raw egg and onions. Przek±ski Zak±ski is especially crowded on weekend nights when it attracts crowds of clubgoers.

Dom Polski, regarded by Warsaw residents as a perfect place where foreign visitors can get to know Polish cuisine, is at the other end of the price spectrum. The restaurant is in the Saska Kępa neighborhood on the east bank of the Vistula river and far from popular tourist routes. Its decor seems to have been inspired by Polish traditions of the interwar period. Traditional, though elegant, dishes taste great in such an atmosphere-starting with an aromatic żurek, the king of Polish soups made of fermented rye flour, through pierogi and potato cakes, to Old Polish duck with apples or a wide selection of game dishes.

A visit to AleGloria, a restaurant owned by Magda Gessler, one of the most famous restaurateurs in Poland, is a similar culinary experience. In all her restaurants, she pays attention to both the menu and the decor. The same is the case with AleGloria, her cellar restaurant on Trzech Krzyży Square, where folklore is combined with elegance. The main features of the decor are bare bricks and rough hewn wood. There are also lace tablecloths, antlers and crystal chandeliers. The menu is equally eclectic, with modern international cuisine based on well-tried Polish recipes. Apart from the dishes mentioned above, AleGloria also serves delicacies such as broth with veal dumplings or veal ham roasted in butter and spring onions served with Silesian noodles. Many say the prices are too high, but it is still worth visiting the place to see what Polish culinary traditions look like when transferred into the 21st century.

Those ready to take a risk in search of unique sensations should visit Basieńka, a restaurant that has won the approval of Maciej Nowak, a leading Polish food critic, although its location and appearance may be quite discouraging. The restaurant is located in an underpass, has only three tables and mainly caters for the needs of local residents and vendors. But since the dishes are not mass-produced, you can enjoy a first-class meal here, one resembling what average Polish families eat every day. The menu includes sorrel soup with boiled eggs, tomato soup and tripe soup with marjoram for the first course, pork chop and pancake rolls with meat, egg spread or vegetables for the second course, or pancakes stuffed with cheese-an ordinary Polish dinner for no more than zl.10.

Przek±ski Zak±ski-13 Krakowskie Przedmie¶cie St., Warsaw, 022 826-79-36;
Dom Polski-11 Francuska St., Warsaw, 022 616-24-32;
AleGloria-3 Trzech Krzyży Sq., Warsaw, 022 584-70-80;
Basieńka-2a Wyzwolenia Ave. (underpass between Wyzwolenia Avenue and Na Rozdrożu Square), Warsaw, 022 622-33-20.
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