It's been a while since I've been to my favorite Slovak restaurant in the neighborhood, which you guys know to be Koliba. Every time I go, it's an opportunity to introduce someone new to my culture, which I always love doing. This time, the introduction was made by my friend Anne (who often helps contribute to We Heart Astoria), as she introduced me to Jared from the Eat the World NYC blog and his friends.
Jared's mission is to explore international cuisine, right here in our neck of the woods - whether that means Queens, Brooklyn, Manhattan or any other borough that will let him and his comrades sample different things. I love their fearlessness of trying virtually anything, and it was a lot of fun to dine with them last week, as they exemplified a passion for Slovak food. I was flattered!
Although I'm pretty familiar with most things on Koliba's menu, there were a few newbies too which I tried. Here are my highlights:
Dumplings with Eggs and Pickles - It's been years (yes, years) since I've had this dish with my Slovak friends, and it was just as good as I remember. Made up of delicate little bread dumplings that are intermingled with clouds of scrambled eggs, it's like a late night twist on brunch. Paired with a sour/sweet pickle on the side, it provides a fun contrast for the more mild dumplings and eggs. Even though it wasn't a strong enough flavor profile for some of my American friends, I continue to enjoy it.
Fried Cheese - One of my all time faves here, it yet again delivered. My new friends loved the little surprise found in the center, which was the smoky ham. Yeah, it's a ham and cheese in a fried format, so how can you really go wrong with that?! I continue to love their homemade tartar sauce that comes on the side and makes this dish so comforting.
Grilled Kolbasa - I'm not sure that I've ever had this here, but it's an all-time Slovak staple. Koliba's version delivered with a smoky rendition of this pork delicacy. It didn't need much of anything in terms of sauce, since it was as juicy as can be, boasting a blistered exterior. Dan, who just had klobasa at the Bohemian Hall & Beer Garden just a few minutes before commented about how much better this one was.
Schnitzel Vihorlat - An unusual take on the pork schnitzel, this one was covered with a variety of veggies and cheese. It was a very rustic (almost messy dish), which was tasty, but the only bummer was that they skimped out on the schnitzel meat. We brought this to the staff's attention and they graciously fixed the mistake. Despite this little mishap, the veggies and the cheese created a fun combo that got me inspired to make something like this at home.
Marlenka Honey Cake - Seeing this cake as part of Koliba's offering really surprised me, as they usually just a have a standard dessert offering of strudel and crepes. Although this cake isn't baked on premises, it's made in the Czech Republic and ironically comes from an old Armenian recipe. I liked its many beautiful layers that were bound by a creamy honey glaze. The walnut topping was delicious, adding an earthy quality that we all appreciated. My dining companions concurred that this was the most original of desserts.
Service and Cost:
Given that we were a pretty large group of people, the service was on-point. I was happy to order for everyone in Slovak and the waitress was sweet and very accommodating. Although we had a little mishap with our schnizel dish, the staff at Koliba more than made up for it, and we left feeling great and pleasantly full.
Costs continue to be affordable, and for the above-mentioned feast, including 3 more entrees, apps and a round of beers, we paid a total of $31/person with tax and tip.
Koliba - 31-11 23rd Avenue, Astoria, NY 11105
N/Q Train to Ditmars Blvd (last stop)