Monday, May 09, 2005

Restaurant 14: Veselka

LOCATION: 144 2nd Ave.
DATE: May 6, 2005
FOOD: Bigos with mashed potatoes, beet and horseradish salad. Apple crumb cake with vanilla ice cream
BEVERAGE: Decaf coffee
PRICE: $24.00

Excuse me the bloat gloat, but I can put away. My wiry, 160 pound frame and chicken legs (as labeled by my mother and Libby) have never been able to stop me from eating tremendous amounts of foods. Whether it was the seven slices of sausage and mushroom pie I devoured at Di Fara’s or the nickname “Fat American Bastard” Danny so thoughtfully gave me after an all you can eat sushi binge at Bay Ridge, I’ve never had a problem with eating too little. I’ve frequently compared myself to the rat in psychology textbooks that keeps eating because doctors have given him drugs that suppress the hormone indicating fullness. He just eats and eats, fatter and fatter, until he dies. If only the same would happen to the mice in my apartment.

So it’s a rare and seldom moment that a restaurant portion bests my appetite. Veselka’s bigos, however, beat me. I should have been more prepared, as any selection that a menu describes as “A Meal Fit For A Hunter” won’t be Mary Kate Olsen-esque fair (I hope that’s the right one, I can never keep those two talented actresses straight).

I love Veselka and it’s my favorite late night food spot in the city. Danny and I had been obsessed with the bigos dish since seeing it on the menu in July during our first post-drinking visit. What could a meal fit for a hunter invovle, we asked ourselves? We finally decided to try it after our Vintage Bar Crawl. Everything I’ve ordered at Veselka in the past, from the blueberry pancakes, to the pierogies, to the meatless Ukranian special, has been excellent. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same about the bigos.

Perhaps it’s because I’ve fired a gun once in my life and so really have no idea what it takes to be a hunter, but I can’t imagine why even a Boston Marathon runner would need as much sodium as bigos provides. I imagined bigos would be a Brunswick stew like concoction, but instead the kielbasa, roast pork, sauerkraut, and onions arrived stewed solely in their own juices, with almost no sauce whatsoever. Unless, of course, you count salt as a sauce, which after eating the bigos, I just might have to consider doing. The bigos had all the elements to be a really tasty dish, as Veselka’s kielbasa on its own is a wonderful relative to the brats I grew up on. But this was like a Kelly Clarkson song that hadn’t been mixed right (though I’m not sure if any are). Even the delicious beet salad and mashed potatoes of almost purely spuds failed to make the bigos anything better than alright. The bigos wasn't awful, in fact the meat by itself would have been a dish of hearty heaven. But taken together, I won’t be ordering the bigos the next time I’m at Veselka at 3 a.m, that is for sure.

I woke up with a stomachache and an extreme thirst the morning a.b. (after bigos). Neither Danny nor I wanted to criticize the dish too severely, as it maybe the best bigos this side of the Ukraine, but just not something either of our palates quite comprehend and Veselka has been like the dog I was never allowed to have, consistently faithful.

To avoid complete disappointment, I ordered the apple crumb cake for dessert, which I’d had before and knew I liked. It had stayed the same. Flaky and buttery at once, like a Sunday coffee cake, with pieces of apples layered on the top and when served a la mode, downright sinfully good. My taste buds might have been desensitized by the bigos, but perhaps the best quality of the crumb cake was that, as far as I could tell, it contained little, if any salt.

RATING: 5.2/10

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