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RESTAURANT TRAILS

Slovenská Koliba


FULL, brown, potato pancakes, looking hot and savoury, peek out from a pure white blanket of sour cream topped with diced cucumber and tomato. Even before setting to with a fork and knife, this appa-rition in the subdued light of Žlina's traditional Slovenská Koliba restaurant sparks fantasies of flavour in our stomachs.

RUSTIC style, served in large portions.
photo: Eric Smillie

Where: Dolný val 40, Žilina
When: Monday-Thursday 9:00-22:00, Friday 9:00-23:00, Saturday 8:00-22:00, Sunday 12:00-22:00
English menu: Yes
Reservations: Yes
Tel: 0903/513-086
Rating: 9 out of 10

FULL, brown, potato pancakes, looking hot and savoury, peek out from a pure white blanket of sour cream topped with diced cucumber and tomato. Even before setting to with a fork and knife, this appa-rition in the subdued light of Žlina's traditional Slovenská Koliba restaurant sparks fantasies of flavour in our stomachs.

The eyes are not the only ones feasting. Our noses indulge in the pancakes' salty scent. Indeed, Slovenská Koliba, a disarmingly honest name (it means Slovak shepherd's hut) that you will find in many a town and city across the country, teases the appetite by playing on all the senses.

A SOLID table for a solid meal.
photo: Eric Smillie

This koliba follows in the tradition of upscale Slovak-style restaurants by being warm, wooden, and wildly over-decorated with rustic trimmings. The wooden tables are solid and heavy to the touch and a man is playing the accordion (there is live music every Saturday). The result is a feeling of healthy excess: "Your portions will be large and rich in flavour" the atmosphere seems to sing out to us between the cries of the accordion. Why, just behind me is a large antique crate full of straw and bottles of wine. I get the feeling that if a powerful thirst suddenly came over me, I could reach back, grab a bottle and pop the cork.

Of course I did not do this, but had I asked the waitress politely, I am sure she would have obliged. She was very friendly as she took our order and the casually caring way that she later asked us across the wooden bar if everything was all right suggested that people do not often say no.

So, was everything all right? The pancakes were moist and perfectly complemented by the cream. The fresh veggies, meanwhile, set off moments of cool escape from the onslaught of richness. Three came to Sk68. Broccoli in butter with roasted potatoes was no disappointment either. Neither under- nor overcooked, those little emerald treetops took quite well to the generous butter sauce. A side of pickled hot peppers (another sign of an upscale koliba is that they keep an assortment of intriguing traditional side dishes on hand and do not look at you funny when you ask for them) proved the perfect counterpoint. I expected to eat just one and nearly finished a bowl of a dozen. The broccoli and peppers came to Sk132.

Some might argue that this meal is hardly a representative survey of the work of a restaurant's kitchen. I have written before that when the most basic dishes a restaurant serves display high quality, it is a fair guarantee that the rest of the menu follows suit. In any case, taste is but one of the senses treated by Slovenská Koliba and it is not often that all five are so unanimously satisfied.

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