Several years ago, I met Jonathan Roy and Annah Syta randomly at a pub on Poznańska street in Warsaw. We exchanged stories of my homeland, Mexico and they shared theirs about their city, New York. They told me how much they looked forward to opening a New York style bistro here in Warsaw — now Koko & Roy. They wanted to broaden the perception of American cuisine as being more than mediocre.
Fast forward to July 2017 and Jonathan’s and Annah’s restaurant opened its doors on ul. Wilcza 43. Just a block away from where I had first met them! I love the area around Wilcza and Poznańska street – the atmosphere is sophisticated, casual, and very popular with the expat community. You’ll often hear English spoken a lot more than in other areas of the city. The overall decoration at Koko & Roy is well thought-out, starting from the green awning and the font used on all signs and menus gives it that cool, old-school New York vibe.
Jonathan and Annah welcomed me and we sat for a quick chat before the meal. They introduced me to Joshua Portuguese, the chef at Koko & Roy. Josh is from the Bronx in New York and studied at the French Culinary Institute in Manhattan. Before coming to Warsaw, he worked at Canibal and Roebling Tea Room, and most recently for renowned chef April Bloomfield at White Gold.
Vegan Steak and Grilled Octopus
To begin our meal, Annah brought out an off-menu item, the Boquerones — small, crispy fried fish which you eat whole were a nice salty snack to start. They go so well with a cold beer. Their menu changes seasonally, so make sure to ask for any off-menu specialties or seasonal dishes they may have.
I took a chance and asked for the vegan steak — very unlike me. The cauliflower steak was served with Italian kale, mushrooms, and white beans. It surpassed all my expectations! It was a delicious umami flavor bomb. The grill marks do make it taste like steak! You must try it! Hands down one of my favorite vegan dishes in Warsaw.
I also tried their most popular item: grilled octopus that comes with pepper romesco, garlic, young potatoes, parsley, Kalamata olives, pickled red onion. For anyone who has tried to cook octopus, it can be tricky to get it right. The octopus at Koko & Roy was super tender! And of course, my favorite part of the octopus is the burnt tips of the tentacles. Also a very good dish. The portions were so plentiful and the food was so good, I forgot I should have left some room for dessert. I promised Annah and Jonathan I will go back to try their New York style cheesecake next time. I am already looking forward to it and will be back soon!
I have to add a personal note to this article, I went to Koko & Roy for the purpose of writing this piece on June 6th, 2018 — two days before Anthony Bourdain’s death. While chatting with Annah and Johnathan, I told them that I loved that they have a picture of Anthony Bourdain in the restaurant. I said that I’d love to have Anthony Bourdain’s life; traveling and writing about food and culture.
Then we went on about how much we all love his writing, his shows, his personality, and his charisma. What happened two days later had a big impact on my life and I am sure Annah’s and Roy’s as well. One of my role models and favorite storytellers was dead. Bourdain inspired me, and for that I’m grateful. And though he hated clichés, I write about food because of him. Rest in Peace.
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