Thursday, February 28, 2008

A Winter's Meal

I would never try to tackle a Slovak meal on anything but a cold winter's day. No matter how thin you slice it, this is not warm-weather food. Surely there are warm, even hot summer days in Bratislava, but the cuisine doesn't have an adequate backup plan for those times.

I'd been curious about Milan's, a Slovak restaurant in south Park Slope, for some time, having passed it numerous times on my walks to Sunset Park. I gathered a group for dinner there on a February Thursday. Happily, it was a cold, windy night.

Except for a young woman and her toddler, we had the restaurant to ourselves. We perused the menu and proceeded to stock up on those needed (yeah, right) winter calories.

We started with an order of pirogies, a mix of mushroom-sauerkraut and potato-cheese. The choices of preparation were boiled and baked, but I'll be a monkey's uncle if the baked ones, which we ordered, weren't fried. They were excellent.


Halušky is a kind of Slovak pasta, gnocchi-like, and the bryndzové halušky is served with an artery-clogging sheep cheese sauce that has the consistency of sour cream. A further nail in the coffin is the lardy bacon garnish. Five of us couldn't make it through more than half of the enormous serving. I wonder if anybody eats an entire plate of this stuff. Unless you have a death wish, it's best sampled in small doses.


I liked the stuffed cabbage very much. It had a flavorful, dense meat filling and a not-too-sweet sauce. The roast pork loin was rather dry and unremarkable. We ordered a whole dish of this, and a small piece also came with the meat combination (domáca zabijačka) that included two kinds of sausage. The blood sausage was dry and overcooked, but the garlicy fresh sausage (kolbasa in Slovak, described as kielbasy on the menu, though it isn't cured like the Polish version) was one of the highlights of the meal.

Most of the main courses were served with potatoes or sauerkraut or both. That's about it for vegetables. Take it or leave it.

Blogger Dave Cook, who has Slovak blood (I don't know his cholesterol count, however), had urged me to leave room for the plum dumpling dessert. But his recommendation came with a caveat that I misheard at first. "Be forewarned that it's a Gotbaum dessert," I thought he said. What's he talking about? I wondered. Is this a favorite dessert of Betsy Gotbaum, and if so, why does it require a warning? Then my brain caught up with my ears and I realized that he had called it a "gut-bomb dessert."

My dining companions and I were unaware of how many bombs there would be, and how many megatons they each were, so we ordered two other desserts, the nut roll (a small piece of cream cake) and the raspberry palacinky (crepes). The palacinky, which in other Slavic restaurants are usually dusted with powdered sugar, were smothered in whipped cream and chocolate sauce. Was Milan trying to kill us?

The plum dumplings were good despite their leaden nature, but the favorite part of this dessert for most at the table was the brown sugar and butter topping.


Milan's is a little over a mile from my apartment, and I walked home as my friends headed back to Manhattan by train. I wasn't convinced that the walk was sufficiently therapeutic, and I seriously considered dropping in at Methodist Hospital for an impromptu carotid endarterectomy.


Milan's is at 710 Fifth Avenue, Brooklyn, near 22nd Street. Take the R train to 25th St.


Milan Restaurant on Urbanspoon

1 Comments:

OpenID DaveCook said...

I don't know my cholesterol count, but I hope no halušky went to waste; as Mom sometimes quotes her father, "Musime sporovat" -- "We must be thrifty."

I'd only had a visual on Milan's dumplings (I've enjoyed the same dessert more than once at Zlata Praha), but during my most recent visit, I recall the smiling apprehension at a neighboring table upon the arrival of the dumplings. On my next visit I'll try them myself, with the respect due any gut-bomb.

8:29 PM  

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