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Taste of Europe Where small dishes can be made into large meals

This micro-restaurant may well sport the most unusual menu in this part of the state. The specialty is comfort food, European comfort food -- and solid, stick-to-the-ribs fare it is, we're here to tell you.

The place occupies its own little niche.

Where else in this area will you find Smorrebrod -- Danish open-faced sandwiches -- for instance? Or where can you get German Rindsrouladen -- top round stuffed with bacon, onion and pickle, served with spaetzles and Sauerkraut ($11)?

Where else, for that matter, will you find French Cassoulet, the duck, sausage, bean and pork stew that could sustain you for an entire winter at the North Pole if necessary. (Actually, the night we visited, you couldn't find cassoulet at Europa, either, though it was listed. This is not the kind of item that you can dash into the kitchen and rustle up in half an hour or so. And, to our dismay, the restaurant had run out.)

The food may be old-fashioned, but the menu follows contemporary lines in its format. It's divided into two sections: small dishes and large dishes -- for what that's worth.

Because the menu also conveys the information that "most small dishes can be made large and vice versa," you have to think, you see. A restaurant menu in the year 2007 is no longer a simple thing.

The Companion began his meal with Potato Pancakes ($6). He selected the sugar and apple accompaniment, and caramelized onion and sour cream are available, too. And a fine pancake it was, no matter what kind of topping you might order. It was crisp, just about greaseless, a decidedly superior thing.

My Pork Rillettes came as a surprise to me, however, and I've never seen them offered in Western New York, incidentally. I have, however, eaten them in France.

And any time I've seen them, they have been composed of meat, slowly cooked in every kind of fatty substance you can think of, then pulverized into a paste, resembling a rough pate.

This meat was different. It had been cut into strips before cooking; it still held its shape, although if I pressed hard enough, those strips disintegrated. All the better to spread on the exceptional baguette. The flavor was very gentle, despite the fact that mushrooms, truffles and Dijon mustard were mentioned in its description.

I'd order them again anytime. A nice change and pretty darn good.

Then there was the Chicken Paprikash, utterly moist braised chicken in a smooth creamy sauce with liver dumplings -- we've now moved into the big dishes. Said dumplings resembled tiny meatballs, and there were several of them.

This was satisfying food -- not intricately seasoned food, you understand. Rather bland, actually. I added salt, and the taste improved. It was the velvety texture of the chicken that made the dish a success.

The Weisswurst Platter ($12) suffered much more from blandness, although the mild mustard did help bring out the sausage's flavor. And the spaetzles and red cabbage were fine indeed.

Other dishes on the menu included Fondue for Two (small plate, $9). We had a bite or two of our neighbor's order -- it's that kind of place -- and we found it a soothing mix of Emmenthaler and Gruyere with plenty of croutons and vegetables to dip into.

Albondigas de chocos fried squid croquettes with sherry saffron sauce ($6) is another small plate.

Under large dishes, note Risotto, which changes nightly, and a Fried Pork Cutlet served with horseradish cream, potato pancake and sour cream and cukes for $13. How Mittel European is that?

Desserts, sadly, were all gone, which left us bereft but encouraged. Obviously, they are made fresh just about every day.

A word about the premises: This, a former Subway, is a small place, casually decorated with a very warm continental feel to it. There are very few tables, and you can eat at the bar. But on a cold night, there's a problem: The door opens directly into the dining room and sends a cold draft to just about everyone.

Go hungry; dress warm.




3 stars (Out of 4),8

WHERE: 484 Elmwood Ave. (884-1100). A seriously tiny restaurant that specializes in European comfort food. Beer and wine only. Credit Cards: MasterCard, Visa.

FAVORITE DISH: Potato Pancake

NEEDS WORK: Weisswurst Platter

PRICE RANGE: Small dishes from $6. Large dishes from $11 include vegetable.

SERVICE: Very good


HOURS: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday

HEALTHY CHOICES: Risotto (special, changes daily), Chicken Paprikash

WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Yes, but the dining room is very snug.

PARKING: On the street.

KID APPEAL: Older children will like it.

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