Favorite restaurants came up in a conversation this week. It was strange because I used to keep a ruthlessly landscaped mental list of my top 3-5 meals ever eaten. It had to be a such a short list. Terrible memory aside, the point was to restrict it to those meals which made me want to crawl inside my mouth and die with pleasure. (That’s really saying something for a girl who generally finds food so boring that eating three times a day is a chore she often fails at.)
It’s been a long time since I cultivated that list and sadly now I can only remember that the very start of The List was at a restaurant of Wolfgang Puck’s in LA (ages ago, at the start of the famous-chef-branded restaurant craze) and another was a random little nothing restaurant in Catania, Sicily with shattered pieces of mirror on the wall. That is quite sad as the ruins of such a special list. Stupid memory.
Point being, a restaurant has recently revived The List…and with such unexpected fare as my first foray into the world of steak tartar. It just never seemed that interesting to me. But then I was lucky enough to be in Warsaw with a chef friend of mine, and he led us to Michelin-starred U Kucharzy. Just a stone’s throw away from the Sofitel Warsaw Victoria (an outrageous value if you book in advance online, btw) in one of those atmospheric buildings with a four-foot net protruding all around the exterior in order to save pedestrians from falling masonry (!), U Kucharzy’s name says a lot. Simply meaning “the chefs”, it indicates the informal, down-home feeling of the place. Built in the old kitchens of a former hotel, they run with that. You feel like you’re eating in the kitchen, complete with white wall tiles and open view of the chefs at work (from our table anyhow).
Here your tartar rolls out a butcher’s cart, still in the form of a solid hunk of beautiful, raw filet. You would not believe a thing could be so perfectly minced by hand…until 20 minutes later when the patient chef is still fluttering away with this knife. The wait flies by quickly with so many skills being preformed around you. It was a great first tartar, though I fear to be forever ruined by starting so close to (food) heaven.
If tartar isn’t for you, the rest of the food won’t disappoint. Bought out of the kitchen in the plain old pots it was prepared in, served directly onto your plate just like a family meal at home (“Who wants gravy/duck fat drizzled over their meat?”), the lack of pretension feels like “food honesty”. And honestly, I
would will go back to Warsaw just to have some more. I think that deserves to go on The List!