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Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Lomzynianka

By most accounts, Lomzynianka is #1 in the hood, Greenpoint's finest, a tiny neighborhood joint praised from here to Asia. At least that's what it seems after reading a few reviews posted on their walls. In weathered local dailies and glossy Japanese features, the verdict is unanimous: the L-word serves delicious Polish food at more-than-reasonable prices.

Lomzynianka (pronounced toh-MAH-toh) means Lomza Girl. Lomza is a town about 80 miles NW of Warsaw, and the “Girl” in question is chef Janina Grzelczak. She opened the place about a decade back with her partner Darek Rudnik.

Ms. Grzelczak is a tad shy. She pretty much sticks to the kitchen, where you can catch her peeking through the small, curtained window, passing dishes to a waiter. The whole setup (fake brick facade, trophy Deer, woodsy motif) is a nod to Lomza, a hunting town and former vacationland for Poland's royalty. But here in Greenpoint, it just feels mellow and homey, as if a Polish “Aunt Bea” decided to open her porch to the neighbors: hot blintzes cooling on a perch, kompote for all the kiddies.
Polish hospitality: Darek Rudnik and Janina Grzelczak bid you welcome

Clearly, Janina let's her cooking do the talking. So we decided to dig in and see what all the fuss was about. We started with a Veal Cutlet ($5.25), because it looked terrific and smelled like bacon. I think the bacon part was just wishful thinking (they fry their cutlets in veggie oil). But it was still satisfying, a giant slice of veal pounded very thin and served with mashed potatoes and brown gravy.
Borscht is one of the most popular dishes here, so we tried a bowl of white Zurek ($2.25). The broth was mild and refined, albeit low on kielbasa. Someone must have been playing 'hide the kielbasa' in the kitchen.No matter how many Polish restaurants we visit, I still get excited over choosing my sides. Even though the selections are standardized (beets, cabbage, kraut, slaw, carrots, pickles, et al), no two ever taste the same. And they say a lot about the kitchen. Soggy salads are a sign to cut your meal short, but crisp veggies, tart sauerkraut, and creamy dill cucumbers hint at a chef who (thankfully) frets over details.

Lomzynianka's shredded, chopped beets were salty, earthy, and ever-so-slightly vinegary. Their sauerkraut was relatively dry, almost chewey, with a nice clean flavor (no musk whatsoever). Try some with a spot of crisp, sweet carrots or red cabbage; they'll help you tackle the carrion that lies in your future.
Speaking of which, try the balls. Veal Balls in Dill Sauce ($5.25), that is. Melt-in-your-mouth 100% Veal (no filler) meatballs, served in a creamy, surprisingly delicate sauce. If you're feeling more stewish, go for the Goulash ($5.50): totally tender and seasoned with restraint, its great beef flavor shines through. Regulars also raved about the boiled beef with horseradish sauce, but, to be honest, we didn't have to girth to see for ourselves.
After all, we had to try the Polish Platter ($6.25). The Platter is an amiable Greenpoint standard, a chance for diners to sample a quartet of Polish faves on one crowded plate. Lomzynianka offers kielbasa, bigos, pierogi, and stuffed cabbage. The sausage (imported from Chicago) was a touch dry, so we occupied ourselves with the hunter's stew. It has that great meaty flavor and deep caramel color that only comes from slow cooking. Their house-made pirogies were also distinguished. Puffy, crisp golden skins cradle sweet farmer's cheese or sauerkraut. If you like double dipping starch, request a few potato dumplings too. They reminded me of an eggroll type thing I had at Chanterelle once (for 1/10th the price). Still, the plate's standout was stuffed cabbage: tender, carmelized leaves wrapped around a delicate meat-and-potato mix. Hooray, cabbage!
We decided to go for broke (pants), and ordered the “Chef's Blintzes” ($4.25) with farmer's cheese and Janina's choice of fruit. Ours arrived stuffed with strawberries and smelling like caramel. The crepe itself was very light and crisp, the filling piping hot and not overly sweet, the dollop of sour cream wonderfully thick. All and all, this was a great way to end our satisfying journey to Lomza. It also clarified this tiny restaurant's appeal: careful cooking and an extremely light hand, served with warmth in a completely unpretentious environment.
After one meal, I got to talking with Darek. The single-parent father of two teenagers, he's an affable, straight-up, hardworking guy. He talked about getting political asylum back in the 80s, learning English and finding home and work, starting a family, moving up to Brooklyn, and opening the restaurant.

As he describes, Greenpoint is changing fast. Folks with disposable income are buying up condos, while longtime residents have begun spreading out to places like Maspeth, Middle Village and Ridgewood. Not to say that Greenpoint is in danger of losing it's Polish flavor; it's just that times are clearly changing.

As for Lomzynianka? They have 3 more years on their lease, so until then... they'll be serving the same solid food at the same amazing prices, to a nice, strangers-in-the-night mix of workers, businessmen, seniors, hipsters, and tourists. After that, it's anyone's guess. But for what it's worth, the Lomza Girl seems like one of those places that will, landlord permitting, age with grace, calmly, peacefully, elegantly insisting upon doing things the good old way.



Lomzynianka
646 Manhattan Avenue
Greenpoint, Brooklyn, NY
(718) 389-9439

Noon - 9pm, 7 days/week
BYOB

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9 Comments:

Blogger Christian said...

hey man- we loved your pix so much that a group of us went to check it out tonight. we really enjoyed the food, and gave the owner the print out of your post... he was intrigued :-)

10:41 PM  
Blogger Dave Lee said...

Wow, I remember this being a regular place when I visited a friend who used to live out near Greenpoint. The food was always excellent, and I loved that they seemed to be playing "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" every time we went. Thanks for the nice post.

11:52 AM  
Blogger theblognut said...

Nice post Porkchop - I may have to get some Polish in me this weekend.

4:16 PM  
Blogger J. Slab said...

tks for checking in...

christian, glad you liked it... tks alot, and also for passing the post to darek - that's peace

dave, they've graduated to canned 80s music. tho it did kinda remind me of being holed up in warsaw one time watching dubbed 'smurfs' reruns.

blognut, lemme know if you ever come across a savory pork donut. kielbasa, ham, whatever's clever... i'd buy one.

1:23 PM  
Blogger W.E. Coyote said...

Nice post. I'm frikkin starving now.

6:30 PM  
Blogger Christian said...

j. slab, some photo documentation:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/dec10/481686722/

3:08 PM  
Blogger Christian said...

one more time for the people:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/dec10/481686722/

3:09 PM  
Blogger J. Slab said...

great pic christian! tks for da link

1:25 AM  
Blogger Tnsetop said...

http://www.co4ol.com
http://www.co4ol.com/vb

I highly recommend it, though I haven't read his other books.

8:29 AM  

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