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Bona Restaurant --- Polish in Menlo Park?

Melanie Wong Oct 19, 2010 11:00 PM

Has anyone tried the new Polish restaurant, Bona, in Menlo Park? It opened about a month ago in the space that housed Trattoria Buon Gusto, a sweet little Sicilian spot, and some other Italian tenants since then.

The odd thing is that the website, http://www.bonasrestaurant.com/ , gives the address as Maloney Lane. Yes, the entrance is on that side street, but I believe that the postal address (and google mapping) should be 651 Oak Grove Ave., Suite H.

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Bona Restaurant
651 Oak Grove Ave, Menlo Park, CA 94025

  1. p
    PekoePeony Dec 10, 2010 10:49 AM

    I have to agree with the majority here -- four friends and I had dinner at Bona last night and really enjoyed our meal. It's simple home cooking but done very well -- my friend said the flavors were a bit muted / mild compared to her favorite Polish place in Tahoe, but the quality was just as good.

    I started with the pickle fish soup -- it's a bit strange at first but grows on you as you eat it. A friend took a sip and immediately proclaimed: "Filet-o-Fish!" As soon as he said that, it really hit home since the flavors did remind me of the tartar sauce and sandwich combination: salty, sweet, pickly, and creamy. I took a sip of the borscht broth and thought it had the perfect balance of sweetness and acidity. Didn't try the dumplings that came with it but they didn't seem to cause any excitement.

    We shared the entrees; my favorite was the sauerkraut and mushroom pierogis -- really tasty and comforting, and the addition of fried shallots on top was great. The stuffed cabbage with mushroom sauce was also excellent (though I wish I had a bit more cabbage), as was the pounded breaded pork cutlet (just like a wienersnitzel). The cutlet itself wasn't the best I've had, but the sauerkraut and crispy potatoes were perfect accompaniments. The bigo (hunters stew) and the potato/cheese pierogi were both solid, but I didn't think they were special enough to order again.

    The wine list, as previously mentioned, is heavy on Italian wines. We ordered the Monepulciano, which was deliciously fruity though rather thin -- okay for $24. Service was a bit cold, but at the end the owner came by and genuinely seemed interested in our feedback. The restaurant was about 2/3 full for Thursday dinner, mostly with older European-looking families and couples. Bona is a great find and we will definitely return.

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    Bona Restaurant
    651 Oak Grove Ave, Menlo Park, CA 94025

    1. bbulkow Dec 9, 2010 08:50 AM

      Bona is quite good!

      I didn't see any service problems that had been mentioned. I was there on a rainy wednesday night, and the place was about half full (which is very good for that location). The couple that clearly runs it had another staff, and don't have a very slick operation - very much like a homey mom and pop.

      Don't miss the soups. I had the zurek and GF had the mushroom soup. Both were very nice. I don't remember zurek being cream-based in Poznan where I became familiar with it, but the characteristic bite of the sour from the rye was in the house. Very nice soups.

      The beef rolls were nice meat, a decent gravy, but were made by the inclusion of pickle in the roll. I don't know if that's common, but it's darned tasty. The bigos wasn't what I remember from Poznan at all, but as pointed out here, bigos varies from region to region and chef to chef. This one was 90% sourkraut, instead of the 70% white beans I remember.

      Compared to the online menu, what's being served there is less cutting edge. They've dropped the tatare and flaki. Which, frankly, I don't blame them for. Keeping high quality beef fresh, and stocking good tripe, is worth it only when the dishes are popular enough.

      Still - great little place, it'll be on our regular rotation.

      2 Replies
      1. re: bbulkow
        b
        Bigos Dec 10, 2010 09:32 PM

        Polish beef rolls (actually same or very similiar to German rinderrouladen) should absolutely contain a sliced pickle. But bigos being 70% white beans?! I realize it has lots of versions, but the differences are mostly in things thrown into either 100% sauerkraut or sauerkraut mixed with fresh white cabbage in various proportions. Beans, however, are not known to me as part of bigos repertoire. And I fancy myself to be something of an expert on that particular dish ;-)

        1. re: Bigos
          bbulkow Dec 10, 2010 09:39 PM

          That was how I remember it at a couple of places in Poznan when I studied there in the late 80's. I don't actually pretend to be an expert - perhaps what I saw was unusual.

      2. hhc Nov 6, 2010 08:28 AM

        Bona is participating in Silicon Valley Restaurant Week Nov 3-10, 2010. 3-courses for $25 before tip & tax. Menu linked here:
        http://www.siliconvalleyrestaurantwee...

        1. m
          mdg Oct 22, 2010 09:27 PM

          Thanks so much to Melanie for the pointer and to krysia for the review. We tried it tonight and it was wonderful! The borscht was excellent with great sweet/sour balance and depth of flavor. The flaczki (tripe soup) was also excellent. This soup was new to me; it was sort of like a goulash soup with tripe, but with different seasonings. Both were very appetizing.

          For entrees, we had the bigos and the sauerkraut/mushroom pierogi. The pierogi had a nice chewy pasta contrasting with the tasty fillings and brown onion garnish. The bigos is another dish new to me, but the counterpoint of the cabbage, the braising sauce, and the meats was wonderful. The mashed potatos served with it were a little on the cool side and just OK, but everything else we had was fantastic.

          The mushrooms in both our entrees were excellent, so the cabbage rolls with mushroom sauce sound like the next thing I want to try.

          The wine list is mostly Italian - Queen Bona came from Milan and Bari before she married the king of Poland - but also includes three selections from Woodside Vineyard, available by the glass or bottle.

          Please support this place! Most of the other parties there included some Polish speakers, but this place deserves to draw from a wider audience. What's really nice is that unlike some other central or eastern European restaurants in the area, this is not just meat meat meat. The local wines and the root vegetable specialties (cabbage, potato, and beets) offer more variety than some previous attempts at this cuisine.

          As bbulkow mentioned, it's a family place. It's nice but it's not fancy.

          Highly recommended! We'll be back to try more of this menu.

          Michael

          6 Replies
          1. re: mdg
            Melanie Wong Oct 24, 2010 07:39 PM

            I'm waiting for a table now. Place is packed, nearly all the customers are speaking Polish. The waitress says it's always busy on Sundays, so make a res. The lady waiting next to me said her kids ate here last week for the first time and told her, "This is grandma's cooking!" Sauerkraut pierogi already sold out.

            1. re: Melanie Wong
              Melanie Wong Oct 26, 2010 07:52 PM

              Since I left this post here pre-dinner, I wanted to add a quick note post-dinner, as there were some significant service and food problems. Keep your wits about you when ordering, make sure your server understands you, speak up early and often when things are going downhill.

              1. re: Melanie Wong
                y
                YSZ Oct 27, 2010 11:13 AM

                Could you elaborate? I was looking forward to trying it soon. I can deal with service issues,but don't want to bother if the food isn't tasty.

                1. re: YSZ
                  bbulkow Oct 27, 2010 01:32 PM

                  They speak polish, right?

                  1. re: YSZ
                    m
                    mdg Oct 27, 2010 02:30 PM

                    The food we had was very tasty. Our Friday evening had no service issues, and was a lot less crowded than what Melanie described on Sunday. Try it out and see what you think, then please report back!

                    Michael

                    1. re: YSZ
                      Melanie Wong Oct 27, 2010 08:26 PM

                      Sorry, typing w thumbs on my phone.

                      Highlights: flaczki tripe soup, while not as complex and concentrated as the Czech version at DJ's Bistro in Concord, this was delicious. Also liked the beet salad served alongside the beef goulash (sunday special) with dumplings. Wish this salad was available to order ala carte as this plus the soup would be a nice lunch. Won't be ordering the goulash again.

                      ETA: nor reordering the bigos, mushroom soup (the most awful glop), apple cake. maybe the pierogi, but not the potato-cheese ones we got by mistake.

              2. k
                krysia Oct 20, 2010 11:00 AM

                We've had Sunday dinner there for the past 2 weeks. The soups we tried, barszcz (clear red beet soup with meat dumplings) and the pickle soup, were excellent. Soups are an important part of the Polish cuisine, these pass my test as they taste like those I grew up on. We also tried two types of pierogi, meat filled and mushroom/sauerkraut. Good tasting fillings, nice pasta casing. These are boiled and served with deeply browned onions. We've also had the stuffed cabbage, both with the tomato sauce (a simple, fresh tasting tomato puree) and with the mushroom sauce, which was fantastic. The room is small, the wines were all Italian (I think they were going to serve Italian food as well as Polish but have gone to an all Polish menu).
                I'm looking forward to sampling more of the menu. It does taste like the food in my home, growing up and it's nice to have that available without my having to do the labor intensive bit.

                3 Replies
                1. re: krysia
                  Melanie Wong Oct 20, 2010 11:29 AM

                  Thank you for telling us about it. The bigos and pierogi are calling my name.

                  1. re: krysia
                    j
                    jmarek Oct 21, 2010 11:10 AM

                    Looks great! What is the atmosphere like? Is it the type of place we could bring small kids?

                    1. re: jmarek
                      bbulkow Oct 21, 2010 11:36 AM

                      I drove by and the atmosphere looks pretty relaxed. The place isn't packed and is pretty casual so I think kids would be fine.

                  2. bbulkow Oct 19, 2010 11:59 PM

                    Ah, that's where they are! And thanks for digging up the menu. The fact that they have bigos, flaki, and zurek ... all the classics, not upscale duck and similar. A real down-home place. I will get over there and report post-haste.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: bbulkow
                      Melanie Wong Oct 20, 2010 12:44 AM

                      And the prices are so low, when rent in Menlo Park can't be cheap. Maybe the lunch biz helps.

                      I look forward to your report (post-haste!). The one thing that I did like at Old Warsaw was the pickle soup, and i've since made it a few times for myself. Chopin in Walnut Creek is another Polish restaurant you should check out, quite special.

                      1. re: Melanie Wong
                        The Librarian Oct 20, 2010 07:00 AM

                        Would you give us your pickle soup recipe? Sounds delicious!

                        1. re: The Librarian
                          Melanie Wong Oct 20, 2010 11:23 AM

                          To give you an idea of what this soup might be (since recipes are off-topic for this board), here's a link to a blog showing a child making the soup.
                          http://www.classychaos.com/links-topmenu-20/484-pickle
                          I cut the potatoes into a small dice, use half the amount of flour and add some grated onion for a less hearty and more delicate style. It's a great way to use your dill pickle juice and the rest of the jar of old pickles that have gone soft. I've added a quarter-head of cabbage, grated, leftover from making something else, grated a limp carrot buried in the bottom of the vegetable bin, you get the idea. Super easy.

                          Pickle soup thread on Home Cooking Board
                          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/574928

                          1. re: Melanie Wong
                            The Librarian Oct 21, 2010 01:45 PM

                            Thanks!

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