May 19, 2012
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Photo: Eddie Jim
WHERE AND WHAT
The mere sight of Kluska, a cute, stand-alone old house with a bullnose verandah and burgundy corrugated-iron roof, is enough to make you smile. Set incongruously on a busy Dandenong street, next to a dry cleaner, it looks like the house that refused to budge. Open for a little more than a year, Kluska is run by the lively, Polish-born Barbara Szwed, a passionate home cook and accountant by trade, who saw a gap in the market for traditional Polish food. Kluska means ''dumpling'' in Polish and there's a polka of them on the menu, from pierogi (dough dumplings) to pyzy (mashed potato), all house-made. It's a carb-lover's paradise and the servings are Polish-style: huge.
WHERE TO SIT
Your house-proud great-aunt from the old country would be right at home here. Floating wood floors and a colonial-style chandelier grace the long and narrow main room where you're likely to find groups of boisterously brusque Poles. Tables are set with folksy, fruit-printed tablecloths and pots of cyclamen, and there's a nostalgic little cove in the front window where gauzy white curtains buffer you from the street. A second smaller dining room is more private and there's also a large courtyard out back, with blankets for chilly days and nights.
WHEN TO GO
Tuesday to Thursday from 11am-3pm and 5.30-11pm; Friday to Sunday from 11am-3pm and 5.30pm-midnight.
Vodka, of course! And Polish beer. A handful of wines are on offer, but really, why bother? The Zywiec beer is fabulously crisp and caramelly, and the Zubrowka vodka so smooth and light you're left incredulous when it finally kicks in. You can also BYO: corkage is $3 a bottle.
Szwed is an artisan when it comes to potatoes, from roasting them to golden perfection and serving with terrific duck baked in apple sauce, to sculpting them into the glistening, gravity-defying domes known as pyzy, or Silesian dumplings, that arrive steaming. Made from mashed potatoes bound with potato flour and eggs (thus gluten free), pyzy have the silken texture of marshmallow and are served with beef, pork or mushroom stew as mains. Cabbage-leaf rolls, pork schnitzel, tripe soup, smoked Polish sausage and capsicum-rich beef goulash on Polish-style gnocchi and pancakes complete the theme, and sauerkraut is a ubiquitous side. If your love of dumplings runs deep, there are more for dessert - otherwise Szwed's poppy-seed cake is a lovely, not-too-sweet finish.
Forthright Poles encouraging you to down your vodka.
Live dangerously, diet tomorrow, escape your po-faced inner-city enclaves and discover a cosmology of dumplings in Dandenong.
Kluska Restaurant - 161 Foster Street, Dandenong, phone 9793 2154
- 9793 2154
161 Foster St,
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- Tuesday to Thursday from 11am-3pm and 5.30-11pm; Friday to Sunday from 11am-3pm and 5.30pm-midnight.