Review: Butchery & Wine

12 October 2015

After a wonderful weekend in Prague with some much-missed friends I was back in Warsaw. Sadly the short trip was full of unpleasant surprises, most notably at Okęcie… Nevertheless I got back as it turned to late spring, with temperatures near freezing. Loving it. I was the only person walking around without a coat. I missed this! Hasn’t been this cold since Melbourne a few months ago!

My last meal in Europe on this trip I planned to go to one of the best steak restaurants in Central Europe — Butchery & Wine. You wouldn’t believe it, but it is indeed one of the very best — probably in all of Europe. Usually steakhouses in Central-East Europe are pretty bad — such as the horrific Prime Steak & Wine in Budapest — but this place is pretty awesome.

I got there early without a booking, and they need the table back by 8pm — no prob, that’s more than 2 hours away. I ordered and enjoyed some wine. The only issue was the rather stiff staff…sigh… I tolerated it because the food is so good… I was going to order the duck heart for a starter, but I went for this instead, and my decision was spot on…

1-mangalica belly

Mangalica pork belly — ’nuff said. This was beyond a joy to enjoy… Beautifully cooked, the meat (and fat) are so rich with flavour it almost brought tears to my eyes. Now why don’t they do this better in Hungary, where the bloody things are from?! Awesome starter!

I had a bit more wine before my main arrived, a grass-fed piece of aged Polish beef — a special item on the menu…

2b-dried local ribeye

Wow, and this was indeed special. The aging was perfect, just adding enough to not get to the “funk” level. It really was very complex, alongside an excellent quality grass-fed ribeye. One of the best steaks of the year definitely, loving the aging. I hate it when so many “top” steak places have “aged” beef using bland corn-fed stuff to start. Grass-fed is where it’s at. I always take the grass-fed option if it’s there, and always local cows. The beef in Poland, as it is in Estonia, is just beginning to get really fantastic.

3-forest berry cheesecake

I had a dessert of a forest berries cheesecake and chilled out with a double espresso as I headed back to my airport hotel by train. Back across the Atlantic tomorrow. This has been a wonderful trip, despite some food issues in Paris. But overall it has been terrific, and I can’t wait until my next time back across the Atlantic at the end of the year…

Butchery & Wine
Żurawia 22
Warszawa, Polska

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Review: Krystal Mozaika Bistro

11 October 2015

From Paris I made my way to Prague — another town that I’ve not been for ages. The last time I was here was nearly a decade ago, and I miss it. Such a lovely town, especially when not indundated by tourists… Plus, I get to catch up with several dear friends whom I’ve not seen for many years.

The first two nights in Prague were a bit of a blur that involved great times catching up with the aforementioned friends, laced with far too much booze. It was the weekend, so I tried to take it a bit easy also. It was a good weekend, but it was catching up with me. Sunday I took it easy with a hike up to Vyšehrad. That helped the hangover… What didn’t help was having some burčák and my aching stomach… But visited the graves of many, including the great Bedřich Smetana and Antonín Dvořák.

It was a quiet evening and I had an early flight out back to Warsaw in the morning, so I didn’t feel like venturing too far for dinner. Didn’t feel like going into the Old Town, so stuck around the Karlín area where I was staying and chilled out. I had visited a few of the pubs that were open in the area earlier in the afternoon, but dinner was dinner. I found a place that seemed nice enough, Krystal Mozaika Bistro.

The menu looked interesting and there were a few other diners on a late Sunday evening, so I went in. Ordered and chilled out with some local wine (not burčák, thank you…). Then the first course arrived.

beef noodle soup

A simple beef noodle soup, nothing special, but nice on a night that was touching freezing. I was happily walking around without a coat (didn’t bring one on this trip) as I love the cold, but a soup was nice on such a night. Then the main course, and I smiled when this was served.

braised tongue

Braised tongue. Looked excellent. In fact, cooked well, but way salty. That I blame the braising base-turned-gravy. The tongue itself was tender and beautiful, so by wiping away some of the salty gravy (which worked well with the voluminous potato), it was excellent. So some self re-arranging, this was an excellent dish. I enjoyed it, nice and hearty and simple.

I finished with a coffee and headed out. I had to go back to pack and do some paperwork and figure out my 36 hours in Warsaw before heading back across the Atlantic, so it was a quiet night. And frankly, I needed the rest — sleep, and no booze. Oh Prague, I missed you. I need to come back again, and soon…

Krystal Mozaika Bistro
Sokolovská 101/99
Praha, Česko

Review: Antoine

8 October 2015

After two evenings of rather disappointing dining in Paris, I was not very optimistic for my third and final dinner. Last night in Akrame was rather disappointing to be sure, but was still far better than the disaster that is Hexagone

I had an even longer day, running through more than half of the arrondissements. I was completely knackered when I got back to my room, but I got myself sorted and pushed off across town once again to have dinner just north of the Seine.

Tonight’s dinner was at Antoine, which boasts a single Michelin star. Not many people rave about this place, but from what I read it’s a safe place. Frankly, I’m sick of places people “rave” about because they tend to be disappointing; so Antoine seems like a good fit for the final meal of this leg of this trip.

I was a few minutes early but unlike the previous two nights, they more than happily seated me and was ready. With an apertif in hand, I looked at the menu and decided to go with the tasting option once again. I asked for a wine pairing and they said they don’t really do one, but will sort something out for me. I’m already relaxing far more than the last two evenings…

Then quickly the amuse bouche train arrived, the first was quite cute…

AB1b-lobster chip

Essentially the claw was a “lobster chip” — nice flavours. It really did not need the huge plate of dip (not pictured — it was such a turn-off…) next to it as it was good. I love how they had to explain for diners NOT to eat the decorative fish bones… 😀

AB2-prawn avocado

The second amuse was a prawn and avocado morsel. Not bad, again an interesting presentation. I think they are exploring more creating presentation here… The third one then followed and it was another of these…

AB3-mackerel sushi

If you can see it, there is a mackerel “sushi” in the middle of those rocks. The mackerel was very nice, but the rice was just absolutely awful. Yech…someone really, really messed up back there in the kitchen! Later in the meal I saw a diners gag on the rice… Not a good sign… But then the fourth and last amuse brought it back to the right track.

AB4-potato salad-herring

Under this foamy appearance was herring, and the foam was actually of a potato salad. So it worked out pretty well. Not too blown away by the amuse but it was on the right track (except for that rice…). The first wine made an appearance and the first dish followed soon.

01-black mullet

We had a tasting of black mullet. The first was the crudo, which was a little bland despite the nice use of bottarga, but was good. The picture of the second part didn’t come out, I apologise, as it was a slightly different way to have raw mullet. It was better, in a tartar format, with citrus. A good start.

So far not bad as we moved into the second wine and the second dish, the so-called crayfish dim-sum.

02-crayfish dimsum

This was delicious, though hard to eat. You have to basically consume the whole thing to not lose the juice, but it was extremely flavourful. Had a lot of wine left for that pairing when they poured the next wine, but left it all for me to enjoy at my own pace. Finally a sommelier who was working well, after two nights of hiccups. I can eat much more of this dish, excellent! Then the next dish…

03-squid

Wow — that was the first thing I said. Visually beautiful, this was actually squid, poached in bacon broth, with egg creme and truffle. Visually alluring, the aroma was also beautiful — bacon and truffle in beautiful harmony. Another excellent dish. I am actually happy dining in Paris, go figure. 🙂

I was relaxed and enjoying myself finally on this final night in Paris. More wine arrived before the next dish, one of my favourite things, John Dory.

04-dory

This blew the Dory from Hexagone away, totally. Preserved, it was a different prep than I am used to for Dory but it was excellent. Very flavourful fish. The roots were a bit sour but worked well with the fish. The fish was cooked perfectly. Really good stuff. Then we moved into the reds with the next dish, veal.

05a-veal

Not the most thrilling piece of veal, but cooked well — although the rub was on the sweet side. A bit lacking in imagination, but a solid dish overall. The healthy amount of mushrooms here made it for me. To be honest a little anti-climactic for this excellent tasting being the final savoury course but it was solid.

I relaxed a bit, happy with my dinner so far, before the wine and cheese dish was presented. I went with a diverse selection of cheeses to get the full effect…

06-cheese

There’s a hard cow cheese, a runny goat cheese, and some sliced sheep cheese. The bread was just normal bread, so it was a bit voluminous than having something thinner — not easy after a full meal. But it worked well especially wiht the runny goat cheese. Sorry I didn’t catch all the names, as I am very bad with cheese names. But a good selection (my choice out of a list).

Then we finished with a proper dessert…

07-puff-chocolate-mango

A nice puff pastry featuring chocolate and mango, alongside a dollop of mango sorbet. Worked nicely, so that was a good close. And I relaxed with a wonderful calvados that the sommelier recommended because I said I preferred this evening a harsher but richer calvados. He knows his game much better than his counterparts at Akrame and certainly at Hexagone (which was truly awful the selection).

I settled up afterwards and smiled, as I finally had a good dining experience in Paris. I should trust my instincts, as Antoine was the only place that was not recommended to me — one I found on my own. The cooking is excellent, the service better than the previous evenings, the wine superior to those 2 other places. At least this stay in Paris ended well, as the RER and CDG — and Praha — beckons in the morning…

Antoine*
10 Avenue de New York
Paris, France

Review: Akrame

7 October 2015

I had a very long day in Paris  since 7am and I was beyond knackered when I got back to my hotel room to take a shower, change, and head off to dinner. Tonight is one of the up-and-coming stars of this city, Akrame. It currently boasts 2 Michelin stars and I was certainly hoping for a far better experience than last night’s disaster at the no-star and no-hope Hexagone.

I got to Rue Lauriston at about 7.45pm, a little before my 8pm booking, so wandered around a little. Nothing much in the area, just smelly rubbish left outside, so just waited outside the restaurant. When the clock struck eight, there was a procession of people waiting to go into the restaurant. The first hiccup happened when the staff thought I was with the gentleman in front of me in the queue…sadly wee bit of unpleasant racial profiling there despite the staffer being of a visible minority himself…

In any case I was given a nice table and I relaxed. They recommended a simple glass of white to start so I did that. The menu is a set menu, with the only choice being the meat item and also an extra dish of ceps or not. I made my choices and they were okay with that plus a pairing. Let’s hope it runs smoother than last night

I chilled out before a selection of amuse bouche arrived. They came so quick unfortunately the photos didn’t turn out very well. But they ranged from a cute parmesan “Oreo” cookie to a guacamole cracker. Nothing too mind-bending or memorable, but an interesting set of nibbles before the course menu begins. I see the creativity here.

The first pour of the pairing came and then the first dish, the “vegetable” item.

01-vegetable-tomatoes

We have a tasting of tomatoes, with a small touch of burrata. A very relaxed dish, perhaps too relaxed. I wish there was something closer to a caprese with more green elements. Plus the tomatoes were a bit too similar, not enough contrast by the ones they chose; it seems it was more visual than taste, sadly. Having been through an amazing “tomato tasting dinner” at Il Grano in Los Angeles, I’ve become very picky about dishes that focus on tomatoes…

In any case, we continue into the meal with the so-called “iodine” dish, focusing on the mackerel.

02-iodine-mackerel-spinach

This was actually a serving of mackerel tartar within the spinach leaf. The fish was excellent, balanced by the leaf. That white foam was totally unnecessary. A solid dish, good quality fish — exactly what I was hoping for this evening. I relaxed and smiled.

The place was pretty busy but getting busier every minute as more people come into the small-ish restaurant. I had a pretty clear view of the kitchen, so I can see what was happening. But as the menu was so rigid with little in ways of mixing things up, there is little excuse for the kitchen to not execute well. In any case, the third dish of the night appeared, the so-called “innovative” dish…

03-innovation-crab-avocado

And yes it was indeed. The first part that arrived was actually the glass, where the essence of crab combined with wee bit of tea, was delivering an aroma from the heavens. The dish itself, based on crab and avocado, was very nice, a solid tasting of good crab. The glass itself was better for the nose than tongue, as it was actually seasoned too lightly. So I kept it for my nose most of the time with this dish before drinking it. A nice little experiment, but I still remember better play with crab at the now-shuttered L2O in Chicago (which was also 2-Michelin when I visited, it having lost its 3rd star for some bogus reason).

In any case, so far so good. Maybe I’m being hyper-critical but I think people need to realise that there’s restaurants as good as (or often, better) in places that are not named New York, London, Paris and Copenhagen…

The next dish soon appeared with another so-so pairing, this one the “shell” dish — langoustine.

04-shell-lobster

An excellent dish, the langoustines were beautiful. Cooked well, and flavourful. The cockles added a nice little touch, the berry flavouring as well. Done very well, very good smoke used for the dish. Just wish there was a little more! Excellent stuff. I was pretty happy so far. Sure, not quite as good as the awesome one at Koks in Tórshavn, but not much is… I digress…

The service has been pretty smooth though one issue — the water glass they use is solid black, so the servers often have no idea if they are full or empty. And with the water bottles out of reach, it’s actually a bit of an annoyance as they frequently do not check. The wine pairing has been so-so also, nothing to write home about…

At this point we have the additional course that I agreed to, the ceps…

05a-ceps

Well, it was far better than yesterday’s meek offering at Hexagone. The aroma was once again beautiful, but we have a bit of the Parisian cooking syndrome here with a creme that took too much out of the ceps. If you are gonna have this dish as an addition, to focus on the beautiful produce, why lob it into something that just fights the natural goodness of the ceps? This is really do not understand. It is not complementary when it overwhelms. A bit of a waste, to be honest.

05b-broth

The “cep water” presented from cooking these things had a wonderful aroma, nearly as good as the crab broth earlier, but even blander. Lack of seasoning once again. I don’t understand. The dish is overwhelmed with foreign substances, but the broth is undertouched and thus watery and bland. Oh well…

We shift back to the “normal” menu at this point with the “sailor” dish that points to seafood…

06-sailor-skate wing

Yep, skate wing is somewhere in this concoction… This was the poor dish of the night. The fish was cooked poorly, dry and way overdone. It was like eating some cafeterial fish that’s been sitting in the hotplate since the morning. Tragically poor, how did they think this was tasty? Maybe that’s why it had a healthy portion of black butter, as the fish was drier than the Sahara. Goodness, this is really poor…

And also, the sommelier screwed up the pairing for this dish as they did not explain that the pour of the same wine for the previous “cep water” was actually too early of a pour of the same (lazy) wine meant for the skate. This is actually pretty poor for a 2-Michelin restaurant. Very poor, and he scowled when he topped off the glass. I find this “blame the diner” attitude piss poor, reminding me of the not-lamented disaster in NYC called Corton

At this point my previous happiness, which had already withered into mere contentment, has now totally sunk into disappointment. Paris is just failing me once again. But this dinner was approaching the later phase, so I just bit my tongue and trudged on. Oh, how disappointing again…

The last savoury dish was next, and it was the “meat” dish that we could choose from a few options — veal, lamb, and sweetbreads. They recommended the sweetbreads, so I went with it. Frankly if Paris can’t do sweetbreads right, then there’s little reason to eat here. And it soon appeared…

07-meat-sweetbreads

A very healthy serving I must say, but that’s half the picture. It was cooked well, but the quality of the sweetbreads were not that great. I’m usually not a big fan of sweetbreads compared to other offal, and this dish actually put sweetbreads further down the totem pole for me. Average at best, nowhere near the awesome-cooking-rubbish-service Álbora in Madrid. Frankly when this was our only choice, the kitchen didn’t do much good. Even more disappointing…

Then after a nice palate cleanser of “mojito ice” we shifted to the “creamy” dish — which in Paris means something cheese…

08-creamy-artichevre

Yep, and it was a nice goat cheese of which I didn’t get the name of, though a goat cheese. But it was pretty good, solid and uncompromising. Aside from the langoustine dish this was the strongest total package of the evening.

Then finally we drifted to the finale, the “sweetness” portion that had several components…

09-sweetness-beet-chocolate

The beet gelato wasn’t bad, the chocolate-filled dumpling was also pretty good. But at this point I was tired and had enough. And I was thirsty, as I was lacking water all night — plus the pairing pours were rather skimpy. The Michelin disease… Anyway, I had coffee and settled up when the petits were presented.

I headed out a touch less than satisfied with this dinner. Supposedly one of the rising stars of the Paris kitchens, this dinner did not convince me of anything except the future of Parisian cooking will be as unexciting as it is now. Frankly the huge influx of Japanese chefs may be the saving grace of Paris — to convince Paris that the joy of excellent cooking is in the main ingredients, not from the sauces and adulterations that has come to define Parisian haute cuisine.

We’re not in the 19th century anymore, the ingredients are not rotting en route needing that sauce-y masque…

Anyway, a disappointment. I just want to get some sleep now…one more dinner left in Paris. Sigh…

Akrame**
19 Rue Lauriston
Paris, France

Review: Hexagone

6 October 2015

After a short stay in London, which was focused on attending the wedding of two of my dearest friends (I’m kinda responsible for getting them together, so…), I was ironically the one who was running across the Channel to Paris. I chose to fly, due to the uncertainties of rail travel through the Tunnel these days. So after a trying afternoon of dealing with both Deathrow and CDG, I needed a good dinner.

I have never been fond of Paris restaurants, but I am really hoping this trip will change that impression. I was very optimistic having been given a lot of good recommendations for this trip. For the first night I decided to go with one of them, Hexagone.

I got my way to Trocadéro by Metro and walked to where the restaurant was. I was a few minutes early for my 7pm booking, so I waited outside until time. I went in and they asked me to wait at the bar. I stood for a few minutes and then the bar, which doubles almost as a lounge, started blasting really, really loud eurotrash. Geez, it feels almost like Eastern Europe in the early 1990s…

I went down towards the restaurant area and was asked to go back to the bar…they were not ready despite now running 15 minutes late for my reservation. Someone suggested I go to the bar for a drink, but when I got there no one seemed to want to serve me. And my head was absolutely pounding from the ridiculously loud music. So after 5 minutes I walked back down and just stood there until I was seated — more than half hour late.

I was fuming by now. It took all my patience to not cancel and walk out of this place.

I was seated and I tried to calm down, and went with the full tasting and pairing. Let’s see if they can redeem themselves. I didn’t want a cocktail or an apertif (I really, really don’t like champagne…) so just went into the meal.

It didn’t help that the music was still very loud, carrying all the way from the bar/lounge. And to make it worse, the restaurant had their own soft adult contemporary on the PA, messing very badly with the lounge beats. Then if it couldn’t get worse, when the back door to the hotel opened, you had very loud piano music. So 3 musical sources causing a horrible cacophony of a sonic slurry pit nearly killed me as I waited for this meal to start…

I think at some point the staff got annoyed too so closed off the main door — which was somewhat sound-proofed. But sadly, the bass from the bar/lounge rocked the walls and I could feel it all night… How utterly, bloody annoying

I took many deep breaths and now wishes I had a few stiff cocktails to get this going, but the food started arriving. It began with a pair of amuse bouche.

AB

The anchovy puff pastry wasn’t bad, but the cucumber and crab morsel was quite bland despite the large dollop of unnecessary glob. For an amuse? Sigh, Parisian cooking (read: I need so much sauce and dips because my main ingredient ain’t fresh or taste boring) strikes again… But I tried to chill and the first wine showed up and then the first dish, sea bass carpaccio.

01-bass carpaccio

Looks beautiful certainly, but it was relatively bland. A large portion for a first dish. Not bad. Then they poured the same wine for the second dish…huh? Really lacking in imagination…

02-ceps

The second dish is focused on ceps, with a fluttering of gimmicky eggy stuff all over the dish. The ceps were too thinly sliced but were nice, especially with wee bit of yolk and broth hidden below. The use of the white was way, way too 2004 gimmicky… A so-so dish, but the main ingredient seems a bit wasted here… Again, Parisian cooking strikes.

I was glad to see another wine being introduced for the third course as we shift to the fish course, and one of my favourite things — John Dory.

03-dory

Sadly, this was not a good version. It was rather overcooked, thus ruining the texture and the flavour of the usually wonderful fish itself. Perhaps this is why it needed all the saucing and other stuff on the plate like cockles… The sauce was nice, but I’m paying for the flavour of the fish, not for the sauce to mask poor execution.

At this point I was getting very disappointed. The poor service continued, and I was starting to lose my patience. The next dish arrived and my heart sank.

04-pigeon

Now this pigeon was nowhere near what I had at Senses in Warsaw the previous week. In fact, this was the worst pigeon — or any game bird — dish I’ve had all year, if not longer. The meat, of poor quality, was cooked terribly and was breaking up badly. Either it was sourced bad or they sliced off very poor piece of breast meat for me. Really, really poor.

I should have just quit at this point but I trudged on. After a nice lemon sorbet for a palate cleanser — frankly the best thing I’ve had all night — the first dessert arrived.

05-wild strawberries

Under that ridiculous and non-complementary serving of creme on top, I happily ate the wild strawberries beneath the disc. The best part of tonight’s dinner. I abandoned most of the other stuff — the small bits of bland vanilla gelator under that ridiculous cloud of creme…

Then surprisingly the last item arrived…without a pairing. They obviously cocked up the service so bad I just sat there staring at them until they brought the pairing…

06-chocolate

I frankly didn’t even want to eat this chocolate creation. I nibbled at it and the gelato and basically abandoned it. I’ve had enough of this place.

I almost never do this, but I actually complained about the poor service, from the ridiculous half-hour wait to the total confusion over the pairings (including just not bringing one). I didn’t mention the crap cooking. To their credit, they took the pairing off the price. But I would have gladly paid full for even competent service. This was just a terrible night overall.

I got out of there happily. They chased after me to give me a copy of the menu, but I politely declined. Once this review is published, I really, really do not want to remember this evening ever again. One of the worst nights of fine dining in my life.

Avoid this place like the plague.

Hexagone
85 Avenue Kléber
Paris, France

Review: San Miguel’s

4 October 2015

We all have some places that we feel like we’re home, even when we are on the other side of the globe. For me in London, that’s San Miguel’s. Ever since I walked in one day after a Tube breakdown at Edgware Road over 15 years ago, I’ve found it to be my sanctuary in this otherwise crazy city.

San Miguel’s is a simple, down-home restaurant that chooses to be comfortable rather than trendy, the menu not changed since the day I came in. It’s the old school Galician wonders that I’ve come to love — much like the other place that has become my home, another Galician-run place, the venerable El Pote in NYC. Simple and delicious, what more can you ask for?

I had just arrived from Warsaw and had a very long morning and was hungry, so I dropped into my comfort spot. With Liverpool playing (poorly) in reflection (I’ve been here long enough to learn to watch the TV using the mirrors), I enjoyed a wonderful afternoon of tapas that I miss so much. I ordered a trio and awaited its arrival with some nice rioja in hand.

It was an off-hour in the middle of the afternoon so the dishes emerged quickly. First was boquerónes fritas, fried anchovies…

0boquerones fritos

Then a set of excellent albóndigas (meatballs)…

0albóndigas

Then finally my favourite dish of this place, riñones

0riñones

The anchovies were excellent, full of flavour. I prefer them fried when fresh than marinated, so this was a nice treat. The albóndigas were as solid as ever, the base perfect for the bread to mop up. And finally, those excellent riñones (kidneys) — I’ve never had a bad dish of this here, ever. It seems they changed the sauce a little bit, and it’s still as delicious as ever.

I love this place and just feel so relaxed. With the footie still going, I ordered one more item — pulpo a la gallega.

0pulpo a la gallega - 01

I’ve been eating this dish here since 1997, and it’s been excellent since that day. Never once bad, or even mediocre. Lovely.

And as usual, I stayed around for some espresso and brandy, and they brought out a second (and third) on the house. Like it has been for years.

There is something very special about these old school Galician places for me, and San Miguel’s is indeed one of the places in this world closest to my heart — and stomach.

San Miguel’s
256 Edgware Road
London, England

Review: Tamka 43

3 October 2015

Was still dreaming about last night’s beautiful tasting at Senses…still think it’s one of the world’s best restaurants. Again, if no Michelin love next guide, then the process is completely corrupt. Should be on the San Pellegrini 50 Best list too.

But I had a busy afternoon after catching up on some much-needed, post-flight sleep. Then ran off to my dinner at a place I’ve read some good buzz about, Tamka 43 — named after its address, which is located at the foot of the Chopin Museum. Excellent double, if you visit the museum and looking for a meal. I was seated and decided against having a cocktail, choosing to just go into the tasting menu and pairing.

Looks like a nice, chic place, but service was already rather stiff — clearly nowhere near last night. The menu looked good, though I opted for 6 courses instead of the 7, cutting out the first dessert (surprised?). I chilled out until the amuse arrived.

AB-salmon

A nice little smoked salmon, not bad. A solid start, though the service seemed to get even more stiff and awkward. But the sommelier is working very hard and he’s got his game down. I noticed that about Warsaw — the best trained person in the FoH is clearly the sommelier, not just on excellent wines but also service — which is not being passed on to the rest of the service staff tonight… Then dish number one.

01-chanterelle

A plate of chanterelles, which I love, graced by a healthy egg. But looks can be deceiving, as this was poorly seasoned. Chunks of poorly-ground rocksalt made parts bland and parts salty. Then the nasty surprise, which you may be able to just see in the pix — a long, unpleasant hair meshed into the dish. YUCK. Too bad I already finished most of it when I noticed it…

Now they offered to bring another out, but frankly I won’t be able to eat another of this dish digging for more hair. Most of the staff seemed nonchalant about it, except the horrified sommelier who kept apologising (not his hair, clearly). Again, shows attitude of different FoH members. This place is far, far away from its Michelin dreams…

I tried to blur that out of my mind as the next pairing and dish arrived, the pike-perch.

02-pike-perch

Not bad, this is a fish that this region should do well as it’s a very popular fish (also called “zander” from the German). The fish was excellent but the pickled saffron sauce over the broccoli was very sour and didn’t help the dish. Someone didn’t check their station well. This is the inconsistency that would plague this dinner… Next up, venison tartar.

03-venison_tartar

Once again the pickled accompaniment on the dish was too overwhelming, there was little venison flavour left after that. Brushing some of it away helped, bringing out a nice mild venison. I like my pickled goods as much as anyone, but there’s an issue of nuance versus domination. This is elementary, and this kitchen is not doing well with basics.

I was getting more disappointed as this meal went along, though the sommelier did an excellent job of keeping me in the game with good wine and service. Next up, boletus.

04-boletus

Once again, one of my favourite things in the world, but ruined by poor execution. There’s no harmony with other ingredients; rather, the other items just ate into the delicate beauty of boletus. Good ingredients ruined by bad ideas and poor execution. Sad. Plus it was actually soaked with clarified butter at the bottom with some burnt (looks accidental) corn. Very poor.

I was pretty much ready to call it a night when the last savoury arrived, the duck.

05-duck

Now every Polish kitchen should be able to do duck right, and finally the kitchen shined. Beautiful meat selection and cooking, and the small smoked chunk on top was just brilliant. Finally, what took so long? This dish saved the meal, frankly. Very nice.

By now, however, I was just thinking of whether to walk part of the way back or to go by Metro when the dessert, a chocolate parfair, arrived.

06-chocolate_parfait

Not bad, but by now I had no real interest in much more than a quick coffee and exit. I headed out disappointed, from the poor execution to that disgusting long strand of hair. Tamka 43 is what I did not want to see in a restaurant in Warsaw, poor and looking like few (aside from the excellent sommelier) were interested in improving.

The last 2 nights could not be more contradictory…

Tamka 43
Tamka 43
Warszawa, Polska