It’s not often that I go to a restaurant where not only can I not remember its name, but I also have no idea how to pronounce it! That said, when the name contains not only a ‘Z’ and ‘d’, but also a ‘r’ and ‘w’ I’m not really all that surprised… In an effort to break our out of our never-ending Thai/Japanese eating out streak, squishies, Marek and myself venture out towards Glebe to Na Zdrowie, a polish restaurant in Glebe.
Marek is our resident Polish man in the group and only a few years back went back to Poland for a a semi-extended stay where much Vodka and food was consumed, despite all this we’re trusting in him tonight to recommend what he considers an ‘authentic’ dish to taste like. Squishies is running a little late so Marek and I catch up for a while contemplating our surroundings. The decorations in the restaurant are almost kitschy, with a large faux wooden door set in the wall, wooden tables and bird cage lighting casting a warm glow in the restaurant.
We opt for the Polish Tea to start off the night, the drink itself is served cold and upon our first sip my immediate thought is that it tastes exactly like Chinese Haw Flakes (kudos to Billy for helping me find the name!). I pass the glass over to squishies who immediately lights up and agrees with me, much to the confusion of Marek who has never had the opportunity to taste the sweet before. Whatever the case, the taste is too similar for my tastebuds and I can’t seem to enjoy it in liquid form, the others have no such reservations and enjoy the sweet almost tart taste.
For a try of something a little out of the norm we opt for the Lard option with our bread, rather than the traditional bread and butter. The lard comes out quaintly plated in a ceramic jar which I secretly adore. The texture of the lard is a little harder than I had anticipated, but spreads relatively smoothly and gives a richer taste and texture to the bread.
There’s no way we were going to bypass a Fried Cheese dish! Upon coming out the plate resembles a Croquette more than anything else, it’s only once the shell has been cracked open that the cheese starts oozing out. The Cranberry sauce is an interesting counterpoint giving a sweet and savoury counterpoint.
I’m sensing a bit of a theme for the night when yet another fried dish comes out towards the table! The very homey polka dot pattern on the plates makes me smile and feel almost as though I’m using part of the family cutlery set. The batter while crispy isn’t so thick as to consume the mouthful and the mushroom taste comes through cleanly.
One of the dishes that Marek tells us that we have to try are the Polish dumplings, looking at the menu 3 different variations are listed and upon seeing our indecision the waitress advices us to try the Mix set which includes all of the above in a creamy tomato & roasted capsicum sauce. We are also given the choice of having the dumplings boiled or fried ($1 extra), of course there was no hesitation in ordering the batch fried!
I think it’s an asian hangover that I’m always a little surprised when I eat dumplings made by different cultures, of course there’s more than one variation of how to make dumplings but it’s always the similarities between the techniques that surprises me the most. The various fillings for the dumplings are generous and strong on flavouring with an appearance more like gyoza than anything else. My personal favourite is the Meat with stewed onion, the onion flavouring going particularly well with the tomato sauce.
It’s with a little bit of surprise when I looked over the menu at this dish to see it described as a stew, what stands out in my memory about this dish is the strong flavours of the smoked meat which went particularly well with the tart sauerkraut accompanying. Despite the description of ‘stew’ the dish felt more like a main of meat and potatoes, with enough of the sauce maintained during cooking that the dish wasn’t dried out in the least. The night’s meal is an exercise in Carbs and we don’t hesitate in eating mouthful after mouthful of wonderfully flaky potato.
Yet more potatoes! Also teamed with a sausage and various types of pickles in this round, the sauce itself is nicely char grilled without going over the line of black bitterness and is a welcome change to all of the starch we’ve been consuming. The photo of the serving size is a little misleading as the actual sausages and plate is rather large and its at this point that we all start looking at one another wondering just what we’ve gotten ourselves into!
By the time our pancake arrives at the table we’re reaching the point of no return, I know it seems a little weak considering that there’s three of us at the table but the starch in all the dishes is taking its toll and filling our stomaches quite adequately. It’s with a little bit of relief that I note that the only potato on the plate is in the pancakes themselves, the texture is quite similar to the Korean style potato pancake and pairs well with the mushroom sauce.
We take a well needed breather after our mains have been taken away and begin to browse through the menu for dessert options, despite our best intentions we decide to limit our choices to only two as squishies and I are faltering badly.
I’ll admit it. I chose this dessert based solely on the name and the fact that it came with a flaming dressing! There are a few ooohs and aahs at the table when the cup comes towards our table and it’s a bit of a frenzy for a minute as I struggle to get as many photos in as possible before the flame goes out. The dessert itself is best described as a polish sundae, and is served with chocolates, berries and even a biscuit perched on the side.
The chopin cake is our last choice of the night, again chosen primarily for its name, for some reason I’m thinking of a layered ice-cream cake but what comes out brings to mind a semifreddo. In spite of its rather fetching melted chocolate look, the cake itself is rather frozen and its a bit of a battle for us to take this cake down, 10 or so minutes later the cake softens on its own and we devour the majority of it. Squishies goes a little OCD with all the chocolate swirls and seems determined to destroy each line as it hardens on the plate, kudos to her I suppose, less work for the cleaners in the end I say.
It’s with a sigh of satisfaction that we stand up at the end of the meal and roll back out onto the streets. My impressions of Eastern European food have been mainly shaped by TV and I’d walked into the night expecting large bowls of sauerkraut and poorly cooked meat and instead am pleasantly surprised with strong contrasting flavours and robust servings of potatoes. It’s surprising that despite the amount of starch and fried foods we’ve consumed, none of the dishes have felt overly heavy and I would have no hesitation ordering any of the dishes again.
The wait staff have been attentive and polite through the night and show no signs of rushing us, despite the that fact that we are easily the last group to leave the restaurant. Throughout the night the tables have been relatively full with a mix of locals and small groups of friends, similar to ourselves even though it is a Tuesday. I think I’ll have to drag Marek out to this place again, if only to have a few more of those fried mushrooms!
Shop 161, Glebe Point Rd
Glebe, NSW, 2037
Phone: (02) 9660 1242