Euro-paean

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I have a secret to tell you, one that might shake up everything you think you know. We did not invent good food. The concept of interesting flavors and combinations of ingredients did not appear full blown with our generation, or the one before us.

We have become so accustomed to "the next great thing", so enamored of trends, that we overlook cuisines that have stayed the same for hundreds of years. Often they are the products of hardship and necessity, but they've survived – and this is a pretty radical notion – because they are good.

Shame on those monolithic tourist-trap facades claiming to be restaurants, with blazing microwaves and lowered opinions of their guests, able to provide neither the steak nor the sizzle. I would challenge any nouveau-cuisine kitchen Wunderkind who slaps a truffle on a shrimp and calls it "fusion" to dine at Chef Henry's Café and say afterwards that they can prepare a more satisfying dinner.

The Café itself is unpretentious, harbored in a strip mall just past the point where you figure you must have passed it, there's nothing out here, when there it is next to the 7-11. A storefront establishment, the simple decor done up in sherbet colors of salmon and green does nothing to distract from the quality of the food. This is Henrich Brestowski's other place, a scant 2-1/2 miles down Howell Branch Road from the Tip-Top Bistro, where he updates classic European dishes with great results. Here Brestowksi barely swerves from tradition, making flour spaetzel dumplings by hand and slow-simmering split pea soup.

Hungarian and Bohemian specialties like golubky – cabbage rolls stuffed with beef and pork and served with sauerkraut – or veal bratwurst cooked in mustard sauce (both $9.95) are prepared faithfully to tradition. This is a restaurant that is proud of the food it makes; nobody would stew dark chicken meat for the chicken paprikash ($11.95) until it falls apart at the touch of a fork unless they truly wanted people to enjoy it. The Café focuses on schnitzel, either pork or veal pounded thin and quickly sautéed, by serving it several different ways. Depending on the accompaniment, cream or wine sauce, simply breaded or topped with cheese, the meat takes on totally different flavors (the dishes range from $10.95 to $13.95).

If you enjoy fine cooking, you will be pleased enormously by these dishes. If you have any Slavic blood deep in your heritage, this food will nourish your psyche like mothers milk. The tang of sour cream and the mellow taste of paprika will stir some genetic memory of evenings in Prague or Lubin, places you've barely heard of. Your great-grandmother's voice from the Vast Beyond will resonate in your brain and ask if Estera Brestowski's apple strudel is better than hers, and with regrets but deep satisfaction, you will have to answer yes.

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