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Warsaw Restaurant Reviews
While even Poland's most ardent fans will admit that it does not have one of the world's great cuisines, the old traditions of Polish cooking are being revived, and the finer city restaurants are bringing a nouvelle flair to the tried-and-true favorites.
One of the joys of Polish cuisine is the soup, a fundamental part of the daily meal and potentially a meal in itself. Soups are invariably excellent, often thick and nourishing, with lots of peas and beans. Clear beet soup, barszcz, is the most traditional, but soured barley soup, zurek, should be sampled at least once. Pickled or soused herring is also a favorite Polish entrée.
The Polish chef's greatest love is pork in all its varieties, including suckling pig and wild boar. Traditional sausages, kabanos, usually dried and smoked, are delicious, as are the different kinds of kielbasa. A popular hunter's dish, bigos, is made from soured and fresh cabbage, cooked (for several days or weeks) together with many different kinds of meat and sausage. Kompot (stewed fruit) is customarily served at an early stage in the meal, and you sip the juice rather than eat the fruit.
The traditional sit-down restaurant is still the main feature of the dining scene in Poland, across all price ranges. But if you are in a hurry there is more variety than ever. The old low-cost, self-service bar mleczny (milk bars) and cheap cafeterias are disappearing, replaced by fast-food outlets. If you are really pressed for time, you will nearly always be able to find a street stall (usually housed in a small white caravan) that serves zapiekanki: French bread toasted with cheese and mushrooms. Street stalls selling spicy Vietnamese dishes are ubiquitous.
Restaurants usually have French, German, and Eastern European wines; the last often represent the best value for the money, especially the Hungarian reds such as Egri Bikavér (Bull's Blood of Eger) or one of the Bulgarian Sofia varieties. Note that quality imported wines and spirits are highly taxed as luxury items, and the prices charged for them in restaurants can be astronomical.
Although upscale city restaurants have adapted to Western mealtimes, and some offer lunch starting at noon, Poles traditionally eat their main meal of the day, obiad (dinner), between 3 and 5. Many restaurants therefore open at 1 and do not get into full swing until mid-afternoon. Although in cities there is a growing trend to stay open later ("to the last customer" is a popular new slogan), many restaurants still close relatively early, and it may be difficult to order a meal after 9. A few restaurants offer fixed-price meals between about 1 and 5; these do not always represent a savings over à la carte prices.
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