Saturday, July 13, 2013

Polish Rye Crust Bakery, Dandenong by Big Fil

After a few recent visits down to Dandenong I'm becoming more and more convinced it's under-appreciated as a food hub by those living on ‘the other side’ of the Yarra. Sure it doesn’t have the same concentration of great cafes, swish new restaurants or hipster hangouts as Fitzroy, Carlton or some of the other better regarded parts of town. What it does have though is a high concentration of Indian restaurants in ‘Little India’, a string of Afghani places in the ‘Afghan Bazaar’, and other assorted eateries less common in most of town such as east and west African, Mauritian, Sri Lankan and on this day Polish.

With my temporary injunction on Melbourne cafes in place (we must have visited hundreds in the last three years) we zeroed in on Polish Rye Crust Bakery as somewhere to try. It was kind of funny to watch Snooze’s reaction when I first suggested we go here, almost jumping out of her shoes chanting ‘pierogi, pierogi’. Because while a bakery PRCB also has a number of other Polish treats, including the aforementioned Polish style dumplings, cabbage rolls and Hunter’s stew.

What I was particularly interesting in trying though wasn’t the pierogi but the borscht, the famous Eastern European style soup made with beetroot. I’d seen it on menus many, many times but had rarely tried it, not for any particular reason but just hadn’t. Hmmm, I may've been missing out as I thought it was great, warming and comforting on a cold winter’s morning. In addition to the beetroot it also had other vegetables and legumes added we didn’t bother to identify, providing more bulk and texture. A purple-red in colour and just slightly sweet, I could well imagine this soup as a favourite Polish comfort food. It was also served with bread of our choice from amongst the excellent baked goods, in this case the sour dough rye (one of my favourite breads).

The pierogi themselves I was not so much a fan of. Not because of the dumpling skins, which I thought were good and tasty and nicely cooked. No, it was because of the three varieties on offer I only really liked the meat and cabbage filled pierogi. The two others though, the potato, onion and bacon and the potato, spinach and cheese I found over heavy and a little lacking in flavour. Snooze too was of the same opinion, commenting that at least she thought the potato, onion and bacon would have greatly benefitted from the addition of more bacon. It’s hard to say if the issue was with the dumplings themselves or whether they just weren’t to our taste, but I’d definitely just order the meat and cabbage on a second visit.

What I liked most of all were the cabbage rolls. For someone from Adelaide, a little strangely, I grew up on these, compliments of a European ‘Aunt’ my parents rented a room from when first married. I loved the use of inner and outer cabbage leaves to give a two toned effect, the cabbage was soft without falling apart, the beef mince and rice flavoursome and the sauce just brought it all together. Brilliant winter comfort food.

Unfortunately though, by this time we were too full to indulge in what looked like great cakes. In particular the inability to try the delicious but extremely filling baked cheesecake and the slices left me thinking this was somewhere I should bring Hungry Pete when he next makes a visit to Melbourne.

What I haven’t mentioned so far is the friendly service and cheap prices, which get a big tick, or the cramped seating, the only real negative and caused by the difficulties in squeezing in a few tables into a not overly large space. That being said, it's light and clean which compensates to some extent. I also liked the way one of the customers, when looking to pass me, first addressed me in what I assume was Polish before swapping to English. When the assumption is most of the diners will speak Polish that’s probably a good indication the food is authentic and good.

Food – 8
Ambience – 6.5
Service – 8
Price – 7.5

101-103 Foster Street
Dandenong VIC 3194
Tel: (03) 9706 9194

Polish Rye Crust Bakery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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