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Photo: B.A. Nilsson

Satisfaction in Polish

By B.A. Nilsson

Jan Siemiginowski has big plans for his restaurant. Muza has been open for a year and a half at the corner of 15th and Congress streets in Troy, building up a devoted following for its low-priced and very tasty Polish food.

It’s family run—Siemiginowski’s mother, Genowefa, runs the floor, while his wife, Alicja, is in the kitchen—and a sense of family informs the place, welcoming first-time visitors as if they’ve been showing up all their lives. So why shouldn’t they come more often and hang out longer?

There’s a vacant storefront on the corner, sharing a wall with the restaurant. Siemiginowski would like to see that become a market, reviving one of the building’s past lives. There’s a hillside behind the buildings, and it’s already in the process of being walled and terraced for outdoor dining, with plans for entertainment.

Don’t doubt his ability to make this happen. Unless you examine old photos, you won’t realize that the three small buildings comprising the restaurant were once only two. He built the one in the middle. For now, pay a visit to content yourself with a cuisine that should have long since gained a Capital Region foothold. If you’re lucky, you’ll sample the borscht.

I’ve sampled many varieties of this very varied soup, and tried my hand at it in my own kitchen. Nothing has come close to the Muza version. The regulation beets populate a broth that’s thin but flavorful, lightly vinegared, and also sports kidney beans, carrots, onions and allspice berries.

This I enjoyed with a $7 lunch special that included a trio of pierogi, potato-filled dumplings topped with caramelized onion bits. It goes beyond being merely traditional; it’s also homemade, as the dumplings are pinched by hand. Should you have mental charts of carbs and calories in mind, you may well ask, “Why would I want to stuff potatoes in what’s essentially thick ravioli?” You would thus be revealing yourself as shamefully innocent of the satisfaction these hearty morsels deliver.

But let me tell you of an earlier meal, a dinner I enjoyed with my family. We too often end up in two cars, which proved even more problematic when I got the last parking spot in front of the restaurant and my wife had to search around a corner. With this act I may have killed chivalry once and for all.

Tension vanished, though, as we studied the menu, which offers a page headed “Polish Style” along with an even broader range of continental items. For the fan of Polish food, golombki are offered for $8, potato pancakes for $7. Kielbasa with sautéed cabbage is $10.50; add potato pancakes for another 50 cents.

How about pierogi and golombki? It’s $8.50. Add potato pancakes and it’s $10.50. But why not go all the way? The Polish Feast is only $12.50 and gets you all of the above with an order of mashed potatoes. The golombki are thin cabbage leaves wrapped around a savory blend of pork and beef with rice; the potato pancakes are crisp as a knish. And, while I’m not fussy about kielbasa, being a great fan of any flavorful sausage, I was especially impressed with this variety.

The menu variety is reflected in such items as chicken Marsala ($11.50), a creamy Tuscan chicken ($10.50), even the pineapple-crested Hawaiian chicken ($11). While the beef section boasts a Muza Specialty ($11.50) of potato pancakes stuffed with goulash and served with a side of sauerkraut, we opted for the beef Stroganoff (how often do you find that on a menu?), which leaned more toward vinegar and mustard than the sour cream-enhanced style to which I’m accustomed ($11.50). It was all the more delightful for being unexpected.

A breaded pork cutlet is a wonderful thing, and it’s $9.50. But the Vienna Schnitzel we sampled ($11) adds a fried egg and sautéed cabbage.

Four preparations of fish are available. The fish itself is tilapia or flounder, and you can get it prepared with sauces like lemon-dill, white wine and mushrooms, or tomato for $12. Get a simpler fish fry for $10.

In the vegetarian section there are crepes and croquettes. The spinach crepes ($7) are nicely seasoned with garlic and come as a small, satisfying portion.

Some of the plates arrive a little empty, so check to see what sides you’re getting and order more if you expect to be hungry. Coleslaw, sauerkraut, carrots, sautéed cabbage, steamed vegetables, potatoes, rice and noodles are offered for $1.50 to $2 apiece.

Muza is an easygoing place, and the service is appropriately casual. We always had the comfortable sense of being looked after, and everyone involved in the place was very eager to please us. I look forward to keeping up with the changes and improvements that are in the works; I think this Polish restaurant is a keeper.

Click here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.


TABLE SCRAPS

Celebrate the fourth anniversary of Troy’s Flavour Café (228 4th St.) from Feb. 27 to 29, when you’ll be able to sample brews and baked goods, sandwiches and frozen drinks, soups and other munchies as you enjoy live music all day. Owner Charlie Staats has scheduled a day of events to tie in with Troy Night Out, an ongoing last-Friday-of-the-month event, and extending through the weekend as part of the Little Italy Winter Festival. Drawing from area schools, the entertainment will include the Rusty Pipes from RPI, Russell Sage’s Sagettes, and the Bookdrop Bees, dorm parents from Emma Willard. General manager Joe Mancino says that four new menu items will be introduced, along with coupons and other deals on coffee and food through the month of March. . . . Remember to pass your scraps to Metroland.



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