By Suzanne Parker
There’s a lot of attention being given to seasonal ingredients nowadays, and that’s a good thing, but when we think seasonal, we also think of whole cuisines.
When temperatures begin to drop, we are drawn to Eastern European cuisines that feature hearty soups and stews chock full of meat and root vegetables. Polish food fits that bill, so off we went to Ridgewood for a dose of Królewskie Jadlo’s rib-sticking fare.
A knightless suit of shining armor guards the way to a dimly lit restaurant/bar that looks like they used Dracula’s decorator. Dark wood, wrought iron and medieval weaponry are combined to evoke an early dungeon ambiance. Mace doesn’t only mean a kind of spice here.
Our first look at the menu was disappointing. There are two Królewskie Jadlos, one in Ridgewood, the other in Greenpoint, Brooklyn and they share a website.
The website trumpets how owner/chef Krzysztof Drzewiecki, formerly the chef at Robert De Niro and Drew Nieporent’s Nobu wants to introduce New Yorkers to the less well known side of Polish cuisine, especially dishes made with game meats. The menu on the website tempted us with many sophisticated dishes that we discovered are not offered at the Queens location. That being said, there is plenty of solid traditional Polish food here to enjoy.
Borscht isn’t just the red stuff. There are four different kinds at Królewskie Jadlo (KJ). We sampled two of them. Ukranian borscht was a lovely rosy vegetable soup, redolent of beets and cabbage. The white borscht, a dish traditionally served around Easter, is both rich and tart, probably from the addition of sour cream. It was served with a side dish of mashed potatoes that you can either mix into the borscht or scoop onto your spoon before filling it with soup. Either way, it’s a richly satisfying dish. Either borscht, with a slice of bread, would have made a filling meal on its own.
Grilled blood sausage may be one of those things you need to be raised on to properly appreciate. We tried it because we’re on intimate terms with its Irish equivalent, black pudding. The portion served was massive, and the texture was mealier than its Irish cousin. We prefer the Irish version, although accompanying sauerkraut and fried onions added to its appeal.
Whether you’re a Polish food lover or newbie, ordering KJ’s Polish plate makes good sense. It’s a sampler of Polish crowd pleasers, including a potato pancake, stuffed cabbage, one each of the various pirogies, a sausage, and red cabbage slaw. It all tastes like it’s from the kitchen of your own Polish babcia. Our faves were the sauerkraut and mushroom pirogue and the stuffed cabbage.
Grilled hanger steak, not a dish we would have associated with Polish cuisine, was an unexpected pleasure. The steak was served rare as requested. Sliced, and arranged atop of a hillock of mashed potatoes, it was tender and deliciously juicy. The steak was sauced with a sweet dark beer sauce.
Our dessert, so-called apple pie, was, in reality, more like an apple cake. It had a crumb topping, a layer of apples, and a bottom layer of cake, so what’s in a name? What it was, with its accompanying squirt of whipped cream, was delicious.
The Bottom Line
Krolewskie Jadlo serves generous portions of tasty, authentic Polish fare for modest prices. It’s no Nobu, but just right for warming your insides on a frosty winter night.
Suzanne Parker is the TimesLedger’s restaurant critic and author of “Eating Like Queens: A Guide to Ethnic Dining in America’s Melting Pot, Queens, N.Y.” She can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
66-21 Fresh Pond Road
Price Range: Appetizers: $2.75-$8, Mains: $9.50-$14.50
Cuisine: Traditional Polish
Setting: Small, dark wood, wrought iron, weaponry.
Service: Friendly and professional
Hours: Sunday – Thursday: noon to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday: noon to 10 p.m.
Alcohol: Full Bar
Noise level: Acceptable
Handicap accessible: Yes