Munja - non-stereotypical dinner

Anyone who had a chance to dine in Warsaw Balkan restaurants around the beginning of the new millennium, might be partial to a not really justified stereotype, that such establishment are 'butcher shops disguised as restaurants'. It is true that in the first decades after the Poland opened to the world and the culinary novelties, such restaurants were primarily serving various sausages, wursts, grilled meat and not much more. Vegetable side dishes were more often than not limited to aubergines, zucchini, potatoes and peppers fried in animal fat. and for dessert one could get alcoholic drinks and ice cream bought in a nearby store. Thankfully, times change and it feels good to discover new incarnations of the Balkan cuisine, like the one offered by Munja restaurant located in Warsaw Breweries.

To be completely honest, I need to mention that although Munja is owned by native Montenegrins, the dishes from Serbia, Croatia, Montenegro and other parts of Balkans are accompanied by the specialities from all along the Adriatic shore. In other words, one can, and in our humble opinion, even should order something Italian. This is exactly what we have done after we managed to sit at one of the few unoccupied tables in the garden.

Munja is located on the ground floor of Villa Offices the first building on the right on Haberbusch and Schiele Street, looking from Grzybowska Street. It is the last Saturday of May, the day is sunny but somewhat windy. Fortunately, wind cannot be felt in the garden, but after the sun hides behind the buildings in the western part of Warsaw, temperature falls quite substantially. On the other hand, this only happened after 5 pm and we have arrived long before 4 pm and were warmly greeted right at the door.

We are surprised how quickly waiters show interest in our well-being.. Even though 6 of 7 available tables are occupied, and the large number of guests definitely doesn't make waiters' work any easier, we get the menus in less than 2 minutes. Water for our dogs is provided just as quickly. Drinks ordered along the starters and main courses are brought before we even started to wonder when we will get them. Thus, before the food arrives, my better half enjoys aperol spritz and I have an opportunity to try fig lemonade.

In the meantime, I go for a  quick stroll around the restaurant. I realize, that behind potted trees flanking Haberbusch and Schiele Street there are three additional tables in the garden (at that time of day they are already in the shade). I also find another 'garden' located on mezzanine running along the restaurant windows. This part of the establishment is definitely attractive for the people who prefer silence rather than sun rays. Additionally, mezzanine provides pleasant vista of one of the squares near Warsaw Breweries (vaulted passage between the facilities). This part of the restaurant is quieter, more intimate and on a rainy day it might be as comfortable as the interior of the building. But let's get back to food.

Apart from drinks, our first order included:

  • soup called 'khukhuruzna',
  • crunchy calamari
  • pork neck Serbo-Croatian style

and

  • pasta in truffle sauce.

Starters arrive 12 minutes after we place an order. Such a short time is indeed praiseworthy, especially considering that at that moment there are about 20 occupied tables in the entire restaurant, meaning exceptionally fast pace of work in the kitchen. Congratulations. Keep up the good work.

Crunchy calamari are young, crunchy and there are quite a lot of them. Besides classic body of the calamari cut into characteristic rings, restaurant serves paneered and fried tentacles of this funny cephalopod. Among the seafood, one can find something that maybe is not called roasted pepper chips, but this is how my tongue identifies texture of this ingredient. The dish is made complete by a very good garlic aioli and outstanding citrus aioliwhich correlates nicely with the citrus calamari marinade. I can only wish that sauces were a bit more abundant, especially given the amount of calamari and the quality of the sauces themselves.

"Khukhuruzna" soup is made of the sweetcornwith an addition of basil olive oil  and garnished with the handful of popcorn that makes the dish look attractive on the Instagram pictures made by guests. The texture of the soup is perfect. Basil olive seems to be high quality, but it 'collects' all the salt from the stalk celery, especially given that the salt is the only condiment used in the soup. I must admit, that although the clean distinction between sweet and salt parts of the soup was refreshingly amusing at first, salt quickly vanishes completely from the taste spectrum, making the dish somewhat flat in the end. I understand that sweetness of the soup made of sweetcorn is only to be expected, but I also believe many guests feel the urge to add at least some salt.

Now, turn for the local "fire grill". Pork neck Serbo-Croatian style chosen by us for the main course is a grilled piece of pork neck covering at least 80% of the plate surface. It is ideally tenderized, with absolutely no veins or similar imperfections. This impeccable meat is accompanied by a nice corn polenta with prominent tarragon notes adding variety to the corn monotony, and by the corn purée.


But the title of the "main course champion" goes to the tartufi pasta. First, we are genuinely surprised that in a restaurant, where music is dominated by the Balkan 'hip-pop' and folk one can eat an ideal pasta! Second, the cook did not skimp on the fresh truffles. Third, the sauce is mind-bogglingly good (I can recall only one restaurant on Hel peninsula that can match it). Fourth,  the pasta is cooked so perfectly that it simply can't be done bettereven if one is an Italian chef awarded several stars by a certain culinary guide.

All right, time for desserts. I don't see 'flat white' on the menu, so I order cappuccino to accompany my sweet treat. The base for the coffee is a typical 'Cafe Vergnano' Italian blend, very common in hotels and restaurants. So, if one is not partial to allegedly 'medium' but in reality 'quite strongly' roasted mix of robusta and arabica, I would suggest to go for a coffee to one of many cafés in Warsaw Breweries. The restaurant also does not have plant-based milk substitutes.

When it comes to the desserts, it pays to follow waiter's recommendation. According to her personal ranking, the best one is 'Kolac', followed by a 'Djurović's Delicacy', or, according to waiter's words, 'white chocolate cheesecake beloved by the owner's family', with the third place going to 'Montenegrina'. We order the latter, as my better half is partial to sea buckthorn and meringue that are both present in that dessert, and I decide to try the aforementioned Kolac. After the first bite I understand why it has been recommended - it is not only very tasty, but also original in form. Visually, it reminds a cross between a cupcake and a rounded foundant, its structure is reminiscent of a brownie, while the taste seems dominated by figs and dates. The cake is warm on the inside, dessert is topped by a portion of vanilla ice cream and immediately after serving, waiter added hot toffee (Muscovado) sauce that causes the ice cream to slightly melt. The dessert is additionally decorated by strawberry quarters, blueberries, grapes and raspberry mousse.

Montenegrina, on the other hand, was a bit of a disappointment. The dessert seems to be overcomplicated. It is hard to tell the difference between dominant and accompanying elements. Meringue does not compose well with semifreddo that cannot make its mind whether it wants to be sweet or not. There are also seasonal fruits (the same as in my Kolac), an orange crumble topping and fruity icing on the panna cotta styled semifreddo with Baileys liqueur, although the strongest point of this composition is definitely a sea buckthorn sorbet.  All in all, Montenegrina did not delight us as the aforementioned Kolac did.

We would also mention several things that maybe should not be included in a restaurant review, but as they are still not commonplace, it is always nice to find them. What do we mean? First and foremost, the 'waiter's attention' or the focus on the guests' needs. One does not need to look around for a waiter because they are always in the vicinity. What is surprisingly rare, waiters in Munja constantly monitor the cutlery. When my partner left it on a starter plate that was subsequently taken, replacement was provided immediately afterwards, long before we were served the main course. Waiter also used the opportunity to ask whether we need another glass. Things like these made us feel that we're taken care of.

In the end, my utmost respect for the professional service. It is a really great advantage of Munja restaurant. When I got up to ask for a fresh water for our dogs, two waiters at the door immediately asked how they can be of service. While I waited for

the fresh bowl, in the meantime scanning the surroundings, I was asked the same question by a manager or maybe a supervisor. The restaurant is spacious. I didn't want to look into every nook and cranny, but at a glance, Munja has about 30 tables in two parts of the establishment, not counting 16 tables outside. The glassware drinks are served in, as well as the bar itself are very pleasant to the eye.

It was very pleased to see a separate toilet for disabled persons (who might also appreciate large space between the tables).  It was also a surprise to me that each toilet was equipped with a self-cleaning seat covers activated automatically by a light sensor. I could only wish to see such hygienic innovations in every establishment, not only in the times of pandemic madness.

Additional information:

Underground parking is located close to the Munja entrance, down Haberbusch and Schiele Street.

Toilets for men, women and handicapped persons.

Chairs in the garden are draped with blankets that provide additional comfort on colder days.

 

Sample prices:

Khukhuruzna soup – 28 PLN

Crunchy calamari – 48 PLN

Pork neck Serbian style – 54 PLN

Tartufi pasta – 76 PLN

Fig lemonade – 16 PLN

Desserts (all on menu) – 32 PLN