Wow! I had a delightful meal last night at Warszawa. In fact, I was so enthused, I even remembered to jot some notes on the back of my credit card slip in order to report back more accurately to my 'hound friends.
I should probably preface this review by noting that this was my first meal at the restaurant, and my first real taste of Polish cuisine. So, I have no basis from which to judge the authenticity, or relative quality, of the dishes I enjoyed, but...who cares! They were great.
As I usually do when eating at an unfamiliar restaurant, I called upon the server to help me decide. I picked out a few items that sounded promising, and asked our gal what she herself would order. Happily, she did not dodge the question with the safe and coy reply of "Hmmm, gee..they're all so good..." Instead, she offered her personal opinion on the dishes I had in mind. Specifically, she steered me to the pierogi offerings, recommeding two in particular: 1) the wild mushroom and cabbage variety (fried), and 2) the chicken and herbs in a sorrel sauce offering (steamed). Both types of pierogi are available either steamed or fried, but I asked for whatever preparation was customary.
In addition, as one of the evening's specials, the restaurant was offering a sorrel soup. In my ignorance, I asked if that was a mushroom soup (Duh! No.), but the ever-helpful waitperson, in broken English, explained that it was instead based upon an herb, and helpfully drew a picture of the plant. Sold!
The same waitperson, upon request, also recommended the Zubrowka Bison grass vodka. For better or worse, I'm pretty fussy about my vodkas, and seem to only enjoy the potato-based ones, so I was a bit leery. But happily enough, though our waitperson wasn't aware of it, this particular vodka is indeed made from potatoes, and then flavored with Bison grass.
Every single thing I had at Warszawa was off-the-hook delicious. The sorrel soup was outstanding. Lovely pale-green, creamy in texture, with a nice ever-so-slight bitter tang to it...mmm. ($3.50 for a cup.) And, it definitely cooled my fevered brow. (See notation, below, on sorrel vis-a-vis fever and heat.)
In terms of libations, the vodka was an absolute revelation. Zubrowka Bison grass vodka has a very slight, light-green tint to it, and such a lovely flavor that I asked the server, twice, if anything had been added to it. (Nope!) Whoa. Dang. Nice! ($7.00 a glass.)
And then the pierogis. Awww, yeah. Utterly tasty. Of the two varieties I'd chosen, I much preferred the steamed chicken ones. Melt-in-your-mouth good. Earthy, but delicate. The fried wild mushroom/cabbage pierogis were also delightful, but lacked the subtlety of the chicken ones. (Mix-and-match pierogi plate, $14.00.)
1414 Lincoln Blvd.
Santa Monica, CA
(cross street: Santa Monica Blvd.)
Zubrowka Bison grass vodka:
Sorrel botanical stuff:
Also, the sour cream provided was utterly delectable, and when applied in small dollops to the pierogis, was a fine enhancement. I rarely eat sour cream, but this time, it was just so different, and tasty, I had to do it. (Listen, I'm not a sour cream snob; I'd just never tasted one so fine as theirs.)
The vegetables included on the plate (nicely presented) were good, too. Julienned carrots, and broccoli, with some dill applied.
Some notes on the room and atmosphere:
1. Ambience, Part I: Seating. My one beef with Warszawa is that the tables for two are simply placed too close together along the perimeter of the rooms. My chair was back-to-back with one of the diners at the table behind me. It was pretty tricky trying to squeeze in and out of the table. I suspect a 'hound of considerable girth might find it off-putting.
My recommendation, which I'll pass along to them: I'd like to see them remove a table along each wall to alleviate the crowding.
If you're with a larger group, though, the tables for four-plus in the center of the rooms looked comfortable.
Though normally this type of table-crowding would mean an attendant high-noise level, my date and I were able to converse comfortably. Since I'm hard of hearing, this is a big plus.
2. Ambience, Part II: artwork. Fabulous, kinda-trippy posters from the Eastern bloc are displayed on the walls. Excellent.
3. Ambience, Part III: homey-ness. Lovely. I think the fact that the place is a converted bungalow lent a nice feel to the evening.
3. Parking. Easy: parking on Lincoln, after 6 p.m., is free. I nabbed a spot right in front of the place. Just like on TV, baby!
4. Clientele and dress code. Oh, who cares. But this is a place that seems to be popular with the genteel older set (a point in its favor to me), rather than the black-clad hipsters. I enjoyed *slighty* dressing up for the meal, but saw others in casual t-shirts and jeans. Primarily a more genteel crowd, though, I'd hazard, but I wouldn't let that put you off from dropping in.
5. The Yard: the outdoor area, once open to the masses, has been shut for a while due to city permits and such. However, I was told it will be re-opening "very soon" once waitstaff has been hired. Nice.