Koliba Czech & Slovak Restaurant

3/09/2009 07:31:00 PM

"The only Czech and Slovak restaurant in Melbourne", proclaims the chalkboard outside the restaurant. Yay! I adore the food of Mitteleuropa, and was so happy to find a dedicated Czech/Slovak restaurant in my 'hood.

(For further proof of my unending passion for central European food: Remember my visits to Prague, Croatia and Germany during my trip to Europe in 2006... and of course my trip to Germany on 2007/08.) Driving to Collingwood is a lot faster, and you don't need to pay for the airfare.

Koliba Czech and Slovak Restaurant
11 Johnston St
Collingwood Vic 3066
(03) 9417-3797

I'd driven past Koliba a few times, and was very excited: "They might have goulash...! They might have dumplings...! They might have roast duck with 2 types of cabbage...!"

I wasn't sure how good it would be, as I couldn't find any information online, and whenever we passed the place, it always seemed dark and closed. However, the craving for dumplings is a strong one. So, after verifying the opening times when we drove by one day, (5:00-10:00pm, every day except Monday) we took a chance and rocked up on Sunday night.

It was pleasantly busy, but not too crowded, and we didn't have a problem getting a table. It was full of white people - a good sign? (Joke!) When was the last time you read a blogpost or review about a Chinese restaurant that didn't mention how many Asians were dining there? Hehehe. The space looked very 70's to me, and felt homey and comfortable. After chatting to our friendly and fantastic waiter, we learnt that Koliba has only been open for 3 weeks - a-hah! No wonder it always looked closed before. It probably was!

We started off with some Krušovice beers. Did you know that the Czechs drink more beer per capita than any other country in the world?

When it comes to this type of food, my eyes are invariably bigger than my stomach, and we order way too much. In the interest of avoiding indigestion, (especially the day after the bloggers' banquet!), we shared 2 starters between the 4 of us. I've copied and pasted the descriptions directly from the menus, in what I think are the Czech and Slovak languages. (If you thought German umlauts were cool... wait until you see the amount of accents on these Czech/Slovak words!)

Traditional Potato Pancake ,,BRAMBORAK,, Served with Sweet and Sour Braised Cabbage
Bramborové placky se sladko kyselým zelím
Zemiakové placky so sladko-kyslou kapustou

Beneath the sweet-sour cabbage were 2 crispy potato pancakes - lovely!

Traditional Style ,,Devil,, Toasts with Minced Beef and Cheese
Ïábelské pikantní topinky
Diabolské pikantné topinky

We loved the Devil toasts too. They tasted very homey: toasted bread topped with a spicy mixture of minced beef and chopped vegetables, and cheese.

We were off to a great start. In fact, we liked the starters so much we wished we'd ordered more! The other selections on the menu looked inviting too. Think things like marinated sausages or fried garlic bread with marinated capsicum and cream cheese. Next time, next time.

Onto the mains. I couldn't resist the roast pork with cabbage (more of that tasty sweet-sour cabbage) and bread dumplings.

Czech National Dish - Roast Pork with Braised Cabbage and Home Made Bread Dumplings
Vepøo knedlo zelo

The dish looked quite monotone, but believe me, it didn't taste that way. The pork was so moist and juicy, the cabbage had a perfect balance between sour and sweet, and the dumplings were so superlight and fluffy. Similar in texture, come to think of it, to a char siu pau (roast pork bun from Yum Cha).

2 of our group went for the goulash.

Traditional Beef Goulash with Bread Dumplings
Tradièní hovìzí guláš s houskovým knedlíkem
Tradièný hovädzí guláš s knedl'ami

As you can see, the serving was massive - yet the 2 lovely ladies enjoying their goulashes wiped their plates clean. (And yes, that was one goulash each). Respect.

My dad chose the pork schnitzel.
Crumbed Pork Schnitzel Served with Mashed Potatoes or Boiled Potatoes
Smažený vepøový øízek s bramborovou kaší nebo vaøenými bramborami
Vysmážaný bravèový rezeò so zemiakovou kašou alebo varenými zemiakmi

Verdict: the meat tasted good, but the dish overall was too dry. You'll see from the menu description that the schnitzel is supposed to be served with mashed or boiled potatoes, but Dad asked for dumplings instead because he wanted to try them. (If we'd realised how massive the dumplings would be, we'd have just shared ours with him, rather than substituting). Dad came to the conclusion that it would have been better with mashed potatoes.

And you'd think there wouldn't be any more room... but there's always room for apple strudel. Just one... to be shared.
Apple Strudel with Walnuts and Whipped Cream
Jableèný závin s vlašskými oøechy a šlehaèkou
Jablkový závin s valašskými orechami a šlahaèkou

It came with ice-cream, not whipped cream as the menu states, but y'all know that hot apple strudel and vanilla ice-cream is a match made in heaven. So, we were happy. The strudel was warm and slightly crispy, with surprise walnuts and sultanas inside.

Koliba was a fabulous find, and I'm so happy we took the chance to try it out. There were some minor problems, but these seem to be teething issues, rather than anything serious. For example, there was a long wait for food to be brought out, and our food almost went to the wrong table. Not a huge drama, especially considering how nice our waiter was and how good the food was. I've encountered worse problems at restaurants that have been around for a lot longer than 3 weeks.

Oh, another small problem was that we weren't told about the specials. Only as we left did I see the specials board. They had "beef tenderloin with creamy vegetables and bread dumplings" - how good does that sound?! Only one thing to do - we'll have to come back.

Koliba Czech&Slovak restaurant on Urbanspoon

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  1. This looks great Sarah. What an excellent find! I love Czech-style food as well, all that rich gravy and dumplings. And Krusovice - one of my fave beers. Have you tried out North Fitzroy Arms? Good Hungarian food.

  2. Mmmmmmmmmm! You had my mouth watering from the first mention of Czech/Slovakian food, but the mention of crispy potato cakes finished me off.

  3. Been waiting for this place to open. The signage has been there for well over a year. Perhaps closer to 18 months.

  4. Thank you for finding this!! Definitely dragging my boy down soon :-D

    PS..have you been to the continental butcher on Chapel St yet?

  5. This place sounds amazing. I am a sucker for a dumpling, especially a huge, bready, deceptively light Czech style one. Also, I love the word "Mitteleuropa", had never heard of it before I read Feast but now want to try and use it as much as possible. Unfortunately not so practical for everyday conversation...

  6. Anonymous4:42 PM

    As Hooktunr says, the signage is confusing. I thought it had been open then closed about 2 years ago... well anyway I can't wait to try it!

    ps a friendly reminder if would you be interested in seeing your work about local places syndicated on local news blogs? See Fitzroy and Brunswick for examples. Many local bloggers are contributing. There's no advertising and no exploitation of your content - just a convenient way for local people to read local news. To contribute please add suburb categories, tags or labels to your posts, such as 'Fitzroy', 'Brunswick', etc and let me know you've done this. RSS feeds for these tags are created and added to the local news sites. You may find that syndication brings more traffic to your blog and more comments from readers!

  7. Anonymous8:29 PM

    Glad you liked Czech & Slovakian food, Sarah! I'm from Slovakia myself, now based in Melb and defo plan to visit Koliba one day! So thanks for the report! BTW, I can imagine how dry the schnitzel with dumplings must be! We would never ever eat it like that! Schnitzel is usually served with potatos, mash potato, potato salad or any other salad. Could add a lil bit of tartare sauce.)

  8. Anonymous2:09 PM

    Read your review very carefully before dining in on 25/09/10. Ordered the same dishes as you did and they were exactly as u described. Loved the ambience, food, beer and service was friendly & attentive. Great venue, great value and we will be returning soon. The food reminded my wife of Qingdao, Shandong cuisine which has many German characteristics i.e the sauerkraut, steamed bread dumplings (Mantou), salted pork, and even the Krusovice beer was reminiscent of the Tsingtao beer.

  9. You're lucky you can got Slovak food! Do they have zlaty bažant and šariš?

  10. Anonymous10:06 PM

    I don't belive it, when I saw picture of schnitzel with duplings. It can not be true! MB



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