We went to Café Polonez, considered one of the best places in Toronto to get authentic Polish food, to see if we would like its food.
It’s a very simple place, but we saw people speaking in a language that seems to be Polish to me. And when we come to an ethnic place and there are people of that ethnicity in that place, I considere it to be a good sign.
About Polish cuisine
After the Second World War Poland as well as other Eastern European countries suffered greatly from food shortages. And it was during that period that it had to practically reinvent its cuisine, giving rise to dishes that today can be considered traditional.
One of the hallmarks of Polish cuisine is that it can be quite heavy. It has a lot of potatoes, fat meat, gravy… They also eat a lot of pickled ingredients because of their climate.
We ordered soup to start because normally a Polish meal starts with soup. And nothing better than two tradicional ones to dive into it, right?
One of their typical dishes, not only from Poland, but from that region of Eastern Europe is borscht, which is a beetroot soup.
We didn’t order the traditional one because the borscht they were serving was the cold version of it and I’m not a fan of cold soups. So I ordered another beetroot soup which is the base of the borscht and comes with mushroom dumplings.
It was very tasty because of the sweet from te beetroot in contrast with a more acid ending. Let’s say it had a bittersweet taste, which I love it . And the pierogi dough balanced all the flavour pretty well.
Cris – my husband – ordered the white borscht.
It comes with two boiled eggs and sausage. And speaking of sausage… the soup actually tastes like sausage! In a good way! It’s kind of salty, bringing all the sausage flavour.
The main course
For the main dish, I ordered the paprikash. In a nutshell It’s a beef stew seasoned with paprika.
After trying it, the first thing that comes to my mind is that it’s homemade. It tastes like home, you know?
There’s the paprika, then you get the meat flavour, everything reminds me of home (and no, I’m not from Poland, I’m from Brazil if you’re asking).
The sauce was also delicious. I was afraid it would be too spicy but it’s not spicy at all and even so, if you add the beetroot that comes with the dish you taste a well balanced flavour.
Cris ordered a goulash, which is a traditional dish not only in Poland but in Eastern Europe.
It’s also a stew. In fact, if you go through the entire menu, everything is good, as I can say, but it’s very heavy, fat meats, creamy sauces and heavy potatoes… I’d say it’s the ultimate comfort food.
I tasted it and it was a creamy, well-seasoned goulash. And just like on my plate, it tasted like a home-cooked meal.
For dessert I ordered an apple pie.
When I saw that it was an apple pie I thought it was a more tradicional one, with the same dough we’re use to it, a more crumbly pie with the apple filling.
Although the filling is very similar to the apple pie I know, with a lot of cinnamon, sweet apple with some acid as well…the consistency were more like a cake.
And Cris ordered a pawlowa but it was very different from what I imagined.
In Brazil, pawlowa usually looks more like a giant portion of merengue. And here it comes in a cake shape with cream on the side. I’ll be honest, I liked his dessert more than mine!
The Polish cuisine, despite its limited ingredients – because of the post-war period -, proves that it can be rich in flavours if you’re creative enough to overcome difficulties.
And although their names are almost impossible to me to pronounce, those dishes really made me fell like eating at home. I guess I now have a go-to place for comfort food in Toronto.