U Ziyada Review
Updated: Feb 2, 2020
Open daily 10.00-22.00
Address: Jodłowa 13, 30-251 Kraków, Phone: +48 12 429 7105. @ http://www.uziyada.pl/
As the good citizens of Kraków shiver through the coldest and darkest of the winter months, I have decided this week to feature a restaurant on the fringes of town but which should figure highly on anyone’s itinerary if they happen to be going for a brisk walk to clear away the cobwebs and stretch their legs in the vicinity of Kopiec Piłsudski or Las Wolski. U Ziyada ('At Ziyad's') commands what may be the best view of any restaurant in Krakow, sitting atop a hill above the village of Przegorzały in a handsome palace, a building originally built by the Germans during the time of occupation in WWII - and as such, comes into its own in the spring and summer months, when you can take advantage of those superb views by sitting outside. Owned by Kurdish Iraqi Ziyad Raoof, an entrepreneur who has been living in the city since 1993 and is involved with various cultural organizations, the restaurant boasts a fine terrace which, on a sunny spring day, is just the place to enjoy fine Polish, Kurdish and international cuisine in sumptuous surrounds, and with a vista to die for over the Vistula floodplains and out toward the Tatra foothills. This is a restaurant for special occasions - prices are aimed at the higher end of the market, so it's the perfect location for that special date or a family dinner or birthday. It's not a new restaurant, indeed it's been here for over a decade now, but it's recently had a refit and completely new menu, so I felt it was time to re-evaluate and see if it's still at the top of its game.
Inconveniently located it may be, but a taxi from Salwator will get you here in ten minutes, and bus 209 runs right to the door. The restaurant’s interior, clearly aimed at attracting large groups (it would make a perfect wedding venue) is on two levels. The main restaurant is downstairs, and the interior is a pleasingly low-lit, bare-brick affair with vaulted arches. Two rooms, one with a large bar area and a second, smaller, cosier one just off it. Music is relaxing. We were there on a Saturday evening, and there were just a few guests, plenty of nooks and crannies to sit.
With a wine list containing over 20 varieties from Spain, Argentina, France, Italy and Chile, you can certainly have your pick for a decent tipple here, though they are somewhat steeply priced, with the cheapest bottle weighing in at 72zł. I settled for a beer instead (Tyskie Prszeniczna, 10zł)) and perused the lengthy and varied menu. Starters and soups alone will have you scratching your head, with some tempting and unusual dishes on offer. I went for one of the few Kurdish dishes that remain on the menu*: a cream of baked aubergine soup with 'wheat chips'; better translated, I think something similar to pita bread. (17zł). Full of flavour, it was quite heavily seasoned but for my money spot on, and the taste of the baked aubergine really came out. The crispy pita worked well too. For a second starter, I went for grilled goat's cheese with compressed beetroot, walnuts and honey (29zł). Served with very thinly sliced ogórek kiszony (pickled gherkin) on the side, this dish was very delicately flavoured and extremely well-presented. The beetroot was bursting with flavour, and the honey also matched well the aromatic cheese which melted in the mouth. Two very good entrées, but at a combined price of 47zł not the cheapest start to a meal I've ever had.
The main course caused me a serious headache: I had, on a previous visit, enjoyed a Kurdish lamb goulash (42zł) which was still available, though in the past the Kurdish influence on the menu was more pronounced with several other lamb options. Now, there are just the two, with a lamb kebab also on offer. The menu has a more European flavour now, than when I last visited, and is more aimed at meat-eaters than vegetarians. Pork sirloin, guinea-fowl and veal are all part of the meat feast. I felt it would be wise to see which direction this was going. Therefore, I decided on a braised duck fillet (55zł) with braised cherries, cauliflower mousse and 'gingerbread soil' which seemed to be crushed biscuit. I enjoyed the duck immensely, seared to perfection and very succulent, as I did the cauliflower mousse, artfully presented to one side. A demi-glace sauce worked well too. However, I'd question the lack of vegetables here, especially at this price. a few beans, carrots, or dare I say it some asparagus (okay, it's not the right season but..) would have worked wonders, and I found myself stealing some from my partner's plate, which is not a very good sign. Still, you can order different sides as extras: potatoes, barley groats, pickles or black lentils. In this case, I must say none of the above would have done the trick. Which is a shame, as it was otherwise a perfectly good dish. Kasia's cod fillet with gnocchi, broad bean pureé and green beans worked very well, and she was more than happy. With such an array of meat on offer, you’d expect vegetarians to be disappointed, but there are four dishes including the above-mentioned cod: salmon fillet (49zł), zucchini pancakes (38zł), and artichoke and smoked pepper dumplings (35zł).
The size of the dishes so far had not been overwhelming - although I wasn't complaining - so a dessert was definitely within my remit. There were seven tempting sugary coquettes available and ready to increase my waist size, including panacotta, apple cake and mango ice cream. However, I decided on a Polish favourite: cheesecake. Served with chocolate sauce and freeze-dried raspberries. (18zł). I'm a bit of a sucker for a good slice of cheesecake, and this definitely did it for me. The portion was ample, the taste creamy and more-ish, the presentation gorgeous; a great conclusion to a very good meal.