There are a lot of Polish restaurants in Greenpoint, but, to the best of our knowledge, only one has knights on the outside and doilies on the inside: Królewskie Jadło. The silver sculptures guard thick doors, which open into a narrow dining room filled with glowering portraits, tarnished swords, and solid tables decorated with the aforementioned lace accouterments. Decor-wise, it's medieval meets crafty grandma. Food-wise, it's Polish staples done deliciously.
We started with a big bowl of red borscht with dumplings ($3.25). Each dumpling had been stuffed with ground beef, then carefully folded and folded again such that the dough formed a chewy casing. Better was the broth, the color and consistency of balsamic vinegar, with the lightest, slightest hint of pepper. We didn't love the lard served with the bread, but we did love saturating the bread to a dark pink in this soup.
For our second appetizer, we tried little bags full of pheasant ($6), a straightforward name for a fatty, fried dish. Alone, the little bags crunched almost to the point of dryness. Thankfully, the black currant sauce echoed candy, and plenty of it meant plenty of careful forkfuls consisting of a bite of crust, a nibble of shredded fowl, a smear of sauce, and one or two currants.
"Holy [unprintable]," we said as the Polish plate ($10) arrived at our table. Among its treasures were potato pancakes, sausage, stuffed cabbage doused in tomato sauce, braised red cabbage, sauerkraut, and three pierogies. This option works particularly well for people on a budget, people interested in sampling Poland's most famous foods, or people curious about what a heart attack feels like. The potato pancakes tasted as if some brilliant soul had dumped mashed potatoes into the fryer. Somehow the cheese pierogi exuded delicacy on a plate that didn't, a ballerina pirouetting among the stars of the World Wrestling Federation. And the much-maligned stuffed cabbage, butt of so many jokes, here gets a deserved reprieve: there will be no bashing of this salty, satisfying fare on our watch.
Chef Krzysztof Drzewiecki opened Królewskie Jadło to elevate Polish food, and specialties like the stuffed wild boar ($13) demonstrate the ways in which he's achieved that goal over the past five years. The game is rolled around spinach and peppers, picketed around a barrow of horseradish mashed potatoes, and surrounded by a moat of pepper cognac sauce. It would go too far to suggest that it's a deliberate visual continuation of the medieval military theme, but its layers of flavors certainly reflect Drzewiecki's ambitions.
Food like this won't put a spring in your step. You'll have to rely on your dining companion for that. Instead, dishes at Królewskie Jadło will help you survive a long winter or just another week, giving you enough calories to coast for a while. After a meal here, you might not want to do much more with your date than curl up beneath a warm blanket. With its hearty, comforting fare, Królewskie Jadło is best for: a date you won't mind seeing in sweatpants afterward.
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