Sunday, December 2, 2012

Polish Villa 2 in Cheektowaga - Reinvented!

As a Buffalo Polish girl, I'm extremely proud of my heritage thanks to Grandparents who immersed me in Polish traditions and shared recipes of traditional Polish food with me. My Grandma Sondel frequently took my cousin Samantha and I to Polish events where we learned how to polka and practiced Polish sayings. Each year, my Grandma Markott and other family members get together for a pierogi making party that produces well over 100 Farmer's cheese pierogi! We celebrate holidays with traditional Polish food items and always start meals with the Polish "cheers", Na zdrowie!

All that being said, I'm a pretty tough critic when it comes to trying out Polish food because, honestly, who can make it better than your Grandma? Not to mention, I make pretty delish pierogi and golabki myself!  So when I received the invitation to attend the meet and greet event for the newly "reinvented" Polish Villa 2, I was pretty sure I'd be among the toughest critics in attendance. 

Polish Villa 2 is located at 1085 Harlem Road in Cheektowaga. It opened in 2005 with husband and wife team Edward and Rosanna Kutas. The inside of the restaurant features a lot of gorgeous wood work and large mural paintings adorn the walls. They recently updated tables, chairs, lighting fixtures and more details to help "reinvent" the location. 

The crowd on an average night is typically on the older side, and while the atmosphere and general ambiance does favor an older generation, I really think it could be a fun hang out for the younger generations too!

We were offered many of the new menu items, so I figured the easiest way to review them was to break each one down. Here we go! 

Shvinky Fingers - Part of the appetizer (Przystawki) menu, the shvinky fingers are breaded pork tenderloin strips fried lightly and served with honey mustard and homemade plum sauce. Think chicken fingers with pork. They were crispy, flavorful and as the waitress walked around the room with samples, my boyfriend and I kept hoping she'd make her way back to us. The plum sauce was a delicious blast of sweetness and the honey mustard, while not as sweet as other honey mustards I've had, tasted well paired together. ($8.00)

Crimson Salad - After the shvinky fingers, we started off with a few different salads. One that really hit the spot was the Crimson Salad (Safatki). The salad combines roasted beets, goat cheese, caramelized leeks and mixed greens tossed in a balsamic dressing. I've had many salads pre-tossed that come out soggy, but this one was very crisp and had the right amount of dressing on it. The beets were roasted perfectly and the leeks were a nice addition to the salad. The goat cheese blended well with the beets and I could have had the salad as a meal in itself! ($8.00)

Barszcz - This traditional red beet soup was the item I knew I'd be most critical of. It has been a staple at holiday meals in my family, and each side of my family (both who have deep roots in Poland) prepare the soup differently. The dark red color of the soup was beautiful and it smelled delicious. The temperature was perfect and the flavor of the beets was absolutely outstanding. The beets in the soup were crisp, and the seasonings complimented the soup well. My boyfriend who hasn't been a fan of my family's version, truly enjoyed this and raved about it on the car ride home! ($3.00 a cup, $4,00 a bowl)

Potato Pancake With Hungarian Goulash - When I saw this item, I was a little skeptical of how it would taste. I wasn't sure if the flavors would meld together, but I was pleasantly surprised. The potato pancake was folded in half and stuffed with a hungarian goulash that combined pork tenderloin a red sauce and spices. It was topped with a tomato and a dollup of sour cream. The pancake was crispy and flavorful and the goulash was really tasty. The pork was cooked and seasoned well and the sauce really complimented the pancake. This item will be featured on their daily specials menu and the "lighter fare" menu! 

Wild Mushroom & Goat Cheese Pierogi - This updated version of the most well known Polish food item was absolutely outstanding. The thin dough was cooked and fried perfectly and the mushroom/goat cheese combination was already one of my favorites. While I thought a few of the ones I sampled could have used a little bit more goat cheese, a few I had were packed with goat cheese. The caramelized onions on top and a dollop of sour cream complete this item perfectly. If you don't have a pierogi as part of your meal when you visit Polish Villa 2, you are really missing out! ($7.00)

Bigos - I was already pretty full by the time I sampled the Bigos dish, but was hoping we'd sample some sauerkraut, so I couldn't pass it up! The dish is Polish hunter's stew that combines smoked and fresh kielbasa, chuck roast, sauerkraut, mushrooms, onions, carrots and spices. It is served in a rye bread bowl. This is the only item at our table that received mixed reviews. The Polish girl in me loves sauerkraut, but my boyfriend (the Italian boy) thought there was too much sauerkraut and not enough meat. The flavor was there, the meat was seasoned well, and it reminded us of a Polish version of "beef on weck."

Cheesecake - To finish off the meal we were treated to the Polish Villa cheesecake, which tasted homemade and was rich and creamy. The crumbly crust was great and as someone who loves a good piece of cheesecake, this one ranked high up in my favorites. It's worth the splurge at the end of your meal! 

We were able to look at the full menu that will go "live" on Wednesday, December 5th. The sizable menu includes a handful of other pork and beef dishes and also has chicken and seafood options. The prices are in the $12 - $15 range for most entrees, while the most expensive items are the prime rib and lobster tail. The lighter fare menu does feature some non-traditional menu items as well. Everything seemed priced very well and the large portions are worth the trip alone! 

Throughout the night, we had the chance to chat with Head Chef and co-owner Eddie Kutas. He sat down at our table and proudly talked through the menu items and how they were prepared. You could just see the pride radiating off of him as he talked about his family, his heritage and his food. The original Polish Villa on Union Road in Cheektowaga was owned by his parents (although it is under new ownership now). The traditional recipes have been a part of his life since he was a little boy, and this new, updated version of these items really shows his growth as a chef, and his ability to change with the times while never forgetting his roots! 

If you are a fan of kielbasa, you will be happy to know that Chef Eddie smokes all his sausage in the restaurant. While it wasn't on the sampling menu, he gave us some from the kitchen to take home and try, and wow! Easily, the best kielbasa I've had. His family has a stand at the Clinton Bailey Farmer's Market, and come Easter time, I think I'll be making a stop there instead of the Broadway Market to pick it up. 

It was hard to find a real flaw on the menu or with the location. The only issue I had with the restaurant was there choice of beers on tap. I wish they had a local beer or two mixed in with some of the options on tap. 

Once our menu wrapped up, Eddie Dobosiewicz, President of Dyngus Day Buffalo said a few words. "It's time to reclaim our heritage. The Poles may have been conquered throughout history, but here in Buffalo we are going to conquer through our food, one bite at a time!"

Sounds delicious to me! 

The restaurant is open Wednesday - Sunday for lunch and dinner, and also offers a great brunch on Sunday mornings starting at 10:00am. If you haven't tried a dish from a "Kuchina Polska" (Polish kitchen), get down to Polish Villa 2 soon and I promise you will have a deeper appreciation for this great cuisine!

For more reviews on Polish Villa 2, check out:  Polish Villa on Urbanspoon

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