Tag Archives: Food

The New Taste in Town – Closing Down

I’ve got a great idea for a new restaurant. It’s going to be a fusion experiment, a Caribbean-Lebanese-Indian mix. The decor will be flash and luxurious, with wall-to-wall Persian rugs, sitar music piped in and there will be light displays to dazzle even the most world-weary. The cuisine will be fresh, innovative and tasty. And yet… it will probably be out of business within 9 months.

In the three years that I have lived in Poland, I have noticed a theme which is developing when considering restaurants. There seem to be two options when it comes to eat-out cuisine in Poland, option A being Polish-Italian options, either individually or together, while option B covers most other types of food. The pattern I have noticed is that if there are interesting options available with the B grouping, they tend to close quite quickly and go out of business. A few examples I have seen personally are listed below:

Bye-bye Thai

There once was a Thai restaurant quite close to the centre of Kraków. It had great food, cheap prices and a simple style. It even had a clever memorable name – Thaisty, although it could be argued if enough people would be able to ‘get’ the name. With people of Thai nationality working there, there was an authenticity in the menu, while it’s location allowed a steady clientele of students and other passers-by. And then in the blink of an eye, it had closed down leaving an empty shell behind.

Thai-Lite

A friend of mine recommended another Thai restaurant about 6 months ago. All signs were promising – while being located in a small building meaning there were few chairs and tables within, it also gave a cosy feel and allowed for the possibility to be close enough to see the food being prepared. As with the previous Thai restaurant, there were Thai nationals working there, with signs that the Polish owner was married to a Thai woman. During my first visit there, I could see the owner preparing the food behind the counter, while consulting with Thai employees as to how spicy the food should be. However, that seemed to be the high point – since then the depth of the menu has shrunken massively. Originally, there was a huge variety of dishes with various levels of spiciness and ingenuity involved. However, this has since adapted, possibly to meet the demands of Polish taste buds. The menu now is much simpler with less available. It seems like it will be only be a matter of time before pizza, pasta and pierogi are introduced to the menu.

Back to Bombay

Indian cuisine is naturally prevalent in the British Isles and rightly popular as a result. However, once the white cliffs of Dover fade from view, Indian food tends to be a bit more difficult to find. Thus, it was a pleasant surprise to find a newly opened Indian restaurant within one of the underground caverns under Kraków’s streets. My first visit was on New Years Eve a few hours before the clock hit midnight. With a number of Indian waiters serving and offering us their best champagne, the service was excellent. I also found it was a recommendation of sorts to find an Indian family also eating there. The mango lassi drinks were refreshing and the curry I ordered tasted great. The first visit lead to a second and third. Then I returned the recommendation to my friend (mentioned earlier) and he called to make a reservation, only to find that they had closed for refurbishment “for an indefinite period”. It has since not reopened in the 4 months since getting that message.

Warsaw Wah-wah

The final occurrence which summarised my concern of such restaurants closing was during a visit to Warsaw a few months ago. Having seen many words of praise for the Fish and Chips restaurant in Warsaw, including on Wa-wa Jeziorki, I resolved to make a visit myself. However, it was further disappointment, as it turned out that the restaurant had closed, at least to the general public, as there seemed to be some wholesale options available. But it meant that I could not get to sample the best of British.

During this visit, I also had a short trip around town with Ian, and he showed one or two restaurant options, including Butchery & Wine, and some sushi options. It was telling though that he recommended an Asian restaurant called Lemongrass and as we drove by he realised that it too had closed, and even had a letter missing from the wording across the signage.

The End – Closing Down

I have taken it upon myself to work on visiting restaurants which are interesting and new, and as well as trying to make recommendations to friends and acquaintances, also inviting them along. I guess that many restaurants over-stretch and aim too big initially, leading to losses they cannot recover from. Supposedly, 30% of business fail within the first year, with 80% of small and medium businesses folding within 5 years. The restaurant industry can be notoriously difficult to break into (unless your surname is Gessler), so I guess further failure is to be expected. We can only hope further taste options will pop up to replace them.

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The Christmas Clash: Carp vs. Turkey!

Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to the show-down you have all been waiting for. The Christmas Cracker, the face-off between the Polish Christmas special, carp, and the Anglo-phonic favourite, turkey!

In the blue corner. the pride of Poland, the carp. Weighing in at 18 pounds (8 kilos), he doesn’t pack a big punch, but is a slippery customer and can wriggle his way out of trouble more often than not. In the red corner, we have the Western wonder, the turkey. Also weighing in at an of average 18 pounds, this means it’s going to be a closely fought contest. With 5 categories to fight for, we must have a winner today – so let’s get ready to cook up a feast!

Freshness

Ding, ding, and the bell goes for round one. The two competitors are swinging hard, but the carp looks to have the upper hand (surely ‘fin’–ed.) early on. This round focuses on the freshness of the competitors. The carp traditionally has been kept fresh for as long as possible, with the fishy fighter being given the chance to maintain that ‘just-caught’ look. Thus pride of place in the bathroom is afforded to it, with it’s own private pool given in the bath. Meanwhile, the turkey tends to require freezing, and in reverse thawing takes most of Christmas Eve in order to be ready to cook for the Christmas meal. This round goes to the carp, as the turkey waddles back to his corner already battle weary.

“It looks fresh, but will I really want to eat it?”

Carp:1

Turkey:0

Presentation

However, it looks like the break has done wonders for the turkey and he’s back out ready to take on the carp again. The turkey has got his friends the chicken and the goose in his corner and they have been psyching him up for the second round, with presentation being the battle-ground. The carp is looking somewhat nervous, and rightly so. The turkey has come out with an all over golden brown colour and and strong shine. On the opposing side, the carp has entered in a batter covering. But wait… what’s this? Oh, bad news for the carp – there are some fish-bones sticking out of the side, and the judges are not going to look favourably on that. The turkey has taken the second round easily.

“Salivating yet?”

Carp:1

Turkey:1

Taste

The taste test follows rapidly, and the carp looks like the setback in the last round is still preying on his mind. He is first to be tasted, but the fish is flat and a bit lifeless. The turkey meanwhile, has laid on quite a feast, with a number of options to tickle any palate. There’s white meat, dark meat, breast, leg and thigh and with the final accompanying touch of gravy over the top, the turkey is on a roll and has won two rounds in a row.

“Are you a leg or a breast man?”

Carp:1

Turkey:2

Religious Adherence

With the possibility of winning the clash here, the turkey is understandably confident and is walking with quiet a swagger. However, all can change, as we approach the carp’s speciality round – religious adherence. In a country such as Poland, this was always going to be a decisive round, as any food involved in celebrating a religious holiday should naturally fall in line with the guidelines for most holy reckoning. Even as a ‘white meat’, the turkey was never going to have much opportunity here, and he retires early in order to prepare for the final, decisive round of the competition.

Jesus was a fish, as well as Lamb of God. Meat is devil food… on Fridays, and religious holidays at least.

Carp:2

Turkey:2

Adaptability

And so we move onto the final round and with the scores tied at 2 rounds apiece. This makes for an exciting finale. This round will consider the adaptability of the two competitors to see how they can fit into the Christmas celebration as a whole. As food tends to play such an important part in the holiday season, you want your best cuisine to represent itself well. Carp has made a good showing here, it can be used as part of the main meal of Christmas, and can be considered to even feature as part of a fish starter or as an ingredient in a chowder or similar fish soup. However, the turkey comes out strong, and starts swinging. First off is the main Christmas meal, then it follows up with the possibility of re-use with the meal on the second day of Christmas, should a big enough turkey be used. And finally with the knockout blow, it launches it’s special weapon – leftovers! With potential for over 180 leftover recipes, including sandwiches, soups and stews, the turkey has won this round, and the clash overall. The level of adaptability shown has made it a winner overall, but only after a hard-fought battle.

December 25th, 8.00pm: “Anyone fancy a turkey sandwich?”

Carp:2

Turkey:3

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Eating Off the Beaten Track: Krakow #1

This is the first in a series of four articles on eating off the beaten track in Krakow.

There are many decent places in Krakow to eat and everyone knows it.  However, not everyone knows where to go for a quiet meal, a smoke-free atmosphere, a place with good or even great service, thoughtful décor, “unusual” food or, last but not least, very well-prepared food.  I personally prefer a combination of all six points.

Most of the places highlighted in this series are reasonably quiet or only moderately noisy and patrons are not served by people who do not immediately appear to hate their clients, their jobs or life in general. Most of these places are non-smoking or have a separate section for smokers that is well-ventilated.  The interiors are usually well-lit or don’t look like they were decorated by rummaging around in the basement/attic for stuff to put on the walls and… last but not least… the food is either unusual for Krakow or if it is usual (Polish, Italian) it’s well-prepared.

Ex-Pat Necessities Part 1:  Burgers, Bagels and Burritos

Bagelmama, Dajwór 10 – Bagels, sandwiches, wraps (American cuisine), desserts and good coffee. The food is so lovingly prepared that it’s almost wrong to eat it but you won’t be able to stop yourself – it looks great and tastes even better.  Ran by an American who loves what he does and enjoys a chat with his customers. Also, one of the few places in town to get excellent hummus. The menu is mid-priced. Their new (current) place offers ample seating with excellent atmosphere. Fairly quiet in the evenings even with other patrons around. Non-smoking.  Bagelmama will also do parties – they have a nice, big table that can probably comfortably seat 10 or 12 with elbow room.  The interior is spacious (high ceilings), softly but amply lit.  As far as I know this is the one and only place to get a bagel in Krakow.

Burrito Buffet, Warszawska 20 – Take-away or delivered Mexican food. Patrons are strongly advised to call ahead at 12 633 04 09 and place their orders in advance. Let me be clear: this is the best and hottest Mexican food in Krakow, full stop.  To answer the question of “how hot is hot?” I can assure readers that Burrito Buffet will make your food hot (or spicy, to be clear) enough that you can barely eat it. This is hot on the Mexican scale NOT the Polish scale – many lovely pieces of jalapeño liberally sprinkled throughout the food if you ask for it to be hot. Perfect! Their delivery service (with a 4 km delivery radius) isn’t the fastest but if you get your food delivered you will see that they really care – all the food is expertly wrapped, packed or boxed.  Absolutely no squished or broken stuff. The best part is that this is cheap food – 13 PLN for a burrito but a single one will likely fill you.

Love Krove's logoLove Krove, Józefa 8 – Burgers. These are your upscale burgers with rucola instead of plain ol’ lettuce but are very well prepared. An honest-to-God beef patty – THICK! – that’s by default brown on the outside and just a touch pink on the inside.  Perfect.  Not much seating here but the interior is fun to look at and the service is ok. No vinegar for your chips; this is an American-style place. A burger, plate of fries and a beer will fill you nicely and is reasonably priced (mid-priced) for what you get.  It’s not what I’d call a quiet place but the noise is kept at reasonable levels – enough to hold a conversation at reasonable levels.  There are many places to get a burger in Krakow but this is the only place that you won’t regret it.

Next time:  Steaks, ‘cakes and Sushi

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When is a kanapka not a sandwich?

Look in any Polish-English dictionary and you will find the following entry:

kanapka sandwich

Lies, deception, subterfuge, trickery! Flagrant misdirection and fibbing! It must stop and I’m the man who’s going to stop it. Polish food is generally pretty tasty. I’m not convinced it’s as great as a lot of people seem to think it is, you can please a lot of simpletons with meat, cream, and salt, but there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with it. The one thing the Poles can’t do, however, is make a sandwich. They know how to start making a sandwich but always fall down at the last hurdle. Two pieces of bread. You need two pieces of bread to make a sandwich, not one. I’m sorry, but I refuse to be dissuaded on this point.

sandwich

A sandwich. Count the pieces of bread. If the total is divisible by two you’ve got a sandwich, if not it’s just some food near bread.

I’m willing to allow a kanapka may be formed using just one measly piece of bread. If that’s the way you want to do it go ahead, it’s your funeral, but I will not stand for such an object being translated as a sandwich. It isn’t one. It’s flagrant bread theft. What’s the problem here anyway—national bread shortage? Bread phobia? A morbid fetish for the insides of sandwiches? Sandwich-related Attention Deficit Disorder? How are you supposed to eat those ridiculous semi-formed things? Tomato slices are tricky enough to manage when you’ve got the advantage of a top layer of bread for gripping purposes, without it you’re doomed to sticky-shirt syndrome. I’ve seen people eating kanapkas with knives and forks, it’s just wrong I tell you. The clue is in the verb “to sandwich” meaning to put something between two other things as in the sentence “I spent a happy few hours sandwiched between Halle Berry and Megan Fox before waking up in jail.”

kanapka

The beginnings of a damn good sandwich,
sadly never to be finished.

I felt so strongly about this that I decided to write an earnest letter to International Sandwich and Snack News, the journal of the British Sandwich Association:

Dear Sirs,

It has come to my attention that the otherwise blameless and upstanding citizens of Poland are bringing the good name of the sandwich into ill repute. I don’t know how to put this delicately so I’m just going to go ahead and say it: they only use one piece of bread. The insides of their “sandwiches” are naked and open to the public gaze. Children see them every day with untold risks to their future mental health. I’m sure you will be as shocked by this as I am and can only hope the British sandwich industry will bring every possible pressure to bear on the government to have Something Done About It.

This was their, lightly edited, reply:

Dear Island1

If you don’t stop sending us these disturbing emails we’re calling the police. Get a grip on yourself you sad insane man.

We agree completely and you are absolutely right. As usual.

british-sandwich-association

International Sandwich and Snack News.
The voice of reason in a world gone mad.

I think we’ve cleared that one up. Would I be right in thinking, by the way, that “kanapka” is derived from the French “canapé?” In which case it’s just another example of the evil and pernicious influence of the French on yet another innocent nation.

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Concerns over sanitary standards in Kraków’s oriental bars

Sanepid, the institution protecting sanitary conditions, informed yesterday about results of an inspection that was carried in 40 Kraków’s oriental fast-food bars. Half of the establishments have failed to fulfill basic standards: inspectors encountered general mess and filth, serious malpractices in food storage, and bad waste management.

One of the bars was found to constitute an immediate public health hazard, and has been closed. It will be able to reopen, after having complied with inspectors demands.

Inquired by the journalists about the gossip: Sanepid officials assure the public, however, that no pigeon, dog or cat meat was found in any of the establishments.

Having learned that, every dog and cat in Kraków may now feel relieved and resume with their everyday business.

Meow, said a local cat

'Meow,' said a local cat

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