If you’re like most New Yorkers, you not only came here from somewhere else, but your grandparents came to that somewhere else from somewhere farther still. And if you’re like most New Yorkers, though you longed to leave where you came from, you long to return somehow to the land of your grandparents, or at least to the feeling you had when you sat at your Babi’s kitchen table, wide-eyed, mouth-watering, as she spooned out something impossibly delicious just for you, and the very steam rising from it spelled out love.
Doma na rohu owners (and husband and wife) Michael and Evie Polesny, acted upon precisely the same feeling, recreating the food of their Czech, German, Austrian and Croatian grandmothers and great-grandmothers in a space that is at once Old World and True Village, physically just a block west of now all-American Bleecker, but figuratively – mystically – worlds and years away.
In the past year and a half since they opened the homey dark-wood lined space at the corner of Morton Street and Seventh Avenue, a slow stream of Czechs and Slovaks, Germans, Hungarians, and all the generations once or twice removed, have been doing food-based double-takes over rich, mildly-spicy Gulash with homemade spaetzel (a German egg noodle), Czech-style Roast Duck with light, fluffy knedlicky (Czech bread dumplings boiled as a giant loaf, then sliced with a thread), platters of grilled German and Polish sausages with heaping side servings of sauerkraut and red cabbage (delicately flecked with apples) or a German potato salad whose vinegary tang is perfectly poised between a slight sweetness and crunchingly salty bits of bacon.
This fall, they up the Eastern ante, continuing their monthly pig roasts, but now offering anytime roasts of a variety of traditional meats, and a series of traditionally prepared, extremely reasonably- priced weekly specials that politely say, Nein, danke, to fusion food.
On Wednesdays, try the Myslivecké Hody, or Wild Game Hunter’s Feast – just thirty dollars, this prix-fixe includes a wild game sausage, a traditionally-prepared game main dish, and a glass of wine or beer. Last week saw a venison sausage starter followed by roast venison in hunter’s gravy (with wild mushrooms, of course), mashed potatoes and some of the best roasted Brussels sprouts we’ve ever had. On Thursdays, experience the favorite dish of most German childhoods, Königsberger Klopse, light and tangy meatballs in a white caper sauce with little peeled German potatoes, just $22 for entrée and a glass of wine and beer. Friday and Saturday, Czechs without the means to visit their grandmothers can enjoy
23 with wine or beer. On Saturday nights, the festivities and food include live Gyspy Swing Jazz and sometimes, bebop, by New York City jazz musicians notable enough to attract jazz tours.
Svíčková with Knedlicky and lingonberries. This very special sirloin dish is marinated for two days and thenroasted with vegetables that melt into the gravy, made tangy at the final moment by sour cream, served
Ten to fifteen friends can have their own pig roast feast with just 4 days notice. The slow-roasted suckling pig is brought whole to the table, head and all, with overflowing plates of potato pancakes or spaetzle or Czech dumplings, applesauce and red cabbage served family-style – and of course, big glasses of Pilsner Urquell from the traditional Czech tap, imported specially to beam out over the bar of this Village restaurant. This fall, the roast offerings expand with Hudson Valley chickens, ducks, goose and venison on offer for parties of four to fifteen people. Prices range from $25 to $30 for these roasts, and the dinner always includes a round of wine or beer; strudel can be added for $5 a plate.
Thanksgiving will provide another showcase opportunity for traditional fare with a $50 prix –fixe option alongside an $80 wine and $70 beer-pairing option – and, true to Doma na rohu’s family- friendly rep, a $40-child-prix-fixe will be available for the first seating. The spread will include roasted free-range, organic turkey and plenty of traditional American favorites, alongside some of the Old World dishes that graced so many Thanksgiving tables in the last century. Something to be thankful for then, remembering how those Omas and those Babis gave a sigh at those first Thanksgiving tables, like all of us New Yorkers – a sigh for all they left behind, and another as they thanked God and lucky stars for bringing them here, to a well-spread table in a city full of promise.
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