I put off writing about this neighborhood restaurant because I knew it would bring back Meal Memories and I would get sad because I can’t just go there anytime I want. This place is in Toronto and I am quite envious of my friends Zuzu, G and Spice for having such a wonderful, family run go-to Polish restaurant so near to them. Not that I don’t – I have Polka, thank goodness – but still. Polonez was just special. It is special.
As soon as Zuz told me there was a significant Polish population in Toronto I made it my goal to go to THE best Polish restaurant. Having recently found out that my maternal family is indeed Polish (don’t ask why I wouldn’t simply know that) I’ve become a bit nutty about eating authentic Polish food. Zuz decided to do the homework for me and found Polonez, just over a mile from her house in Roncesvalles Village. We made plans to dine there on the Friday before my departure.
Everything on their menu sounded tasty, but my first order of business was Kumpot (compote) – a kind of homemade fruit punch made by soft boiling fruit. Sounds easy but I managed to screw it up when I tried to make it a few weeks ago. I wrote the following in my travel journal about kumpot (compote): Exactly what fruit punch should taste like. Chunks of pear and raspberries in the drink. Light, sweet but not sugary or fake tasting, which is the downfall of soda pop.
Zuzu started off her meal with beet root soup with mushroom dumplings. The smell – oh, gods the smell of that soup was unlike any other aroma I have ever smelled before. I will never forget the smell of that soup. It was so rich and inviting. So inviting in fact that directly after Zuzu let me have a taste I said to the waitress, “I need to have this soup in my life.” and ordered a bowl for myself.
Though vegetarian, there is something almost meaty about this consommé. I think it’s the depth of the beet, which I am only starting to appreciate. The soup was brothy and undeniably savory. The mushrooms were hearty with almost a light dough around them. The dill was surprisingly refreshing. This is a dish I must replicate and I expect a lot of trial and error going on in my kitchen this fall.
For her entree, Zuzu ordered the potato pancakes. She enjoyed them immensely, saying they were clean, thin with crisped edges and not at all greasy.
For myself, I decided on the potato dumplings with goulash accompanied by a trio of salad bouquet. I had the option of two styles of potato dumplings: cooked or raw. I did not quite understand, so the waitress suggested getting both. Well, OK, then! The balls were definitely made from the uncooked potato. They were denser while the wedge/chevron shaped dumplings were softer, doughier and, to be honest, my preference. They also reheated well whereas the circular dumplings did not. The goulash was seasoned well with the meat (pork) diced so finely. All three of the salad bouquets – carrots, beets and pickled cabbage – were just the right crunch and bite I needed to juxtapose the texture and taste of the potato dumplings.
Zuzu declared, “This is the best thing that ever happened to me.” and really, at that exact moment of time in our lives, it really was the best thing ever.
Would I return to Cafe Polonez? Oh, yes. I think the next time I go to Toronto I might have to insist on heading straight from the airport to another bowl of beet root soup.
95 Roncesvalles Avenue
Toronto, ON M6R 2L5
Open Daily 11:00am – 10:00pm
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