Monday, January 7, 2008

Restaurant Review: Monarch vinný bar & gril

The people behind Prague's latest installment of the Monarch chain of wine bars couldn't have been trying to open a bad restaurant. The details of their new space on V Kolkovně -- from the long, leather-lined booth seats to the enormous wine glass chandelier hovering above the staircase -- have been selected with obvious care and, presumably, at fairly large expense.

If only they'd been as thoughtful when they hired their chef.

The menu is made up of a hodgepodge of French, Italian, Czech, Japanese, and Mexican cuisines, with some baguette sandwiches tossed in for good measure. I'm always wary of a restaurant that tries to satisfy its guests' every possible craving; it's a wiser move to stick to fewer dishes done well.

Not much is done well at Monarch. Most offensive was the tuna steak with teriyaki sauce and shiitake mushrooms (325 CZK). The fish had been cooked all the way through, its delicate pink flesh hardened into a tough, gray mound. Even worse, the mound gave off a distinctly fishy aroma, suggesting that this catch was well past its best-before date.

The sole Mexican option is a rather pathetic version of jalapeno poppers (169 CZK), which, judging by the sogginess of their deep-fried crusts, had been popped straight out of the freezer and into the microwave. Its accompanying guacamole was of the thin-and-milky-with-no-real-avocados variety that seems to have become an unfortunate Czech mainstay.

Other dishes were just as disappointing. An entree of duck breast with chianti pears and cranberries (345 CZK) was overcooked and uninspired. A bowl of goulash soup (65 CZK) was edible, but bland.

Monarch did manage to redeem themselves with one entree, at least: the roast pork with sauerkraut and potato dumplings (195 CZK). This traditional Czech dish (nicknamed vepřo-knedlo-zelo) is fairly uncommon in local restaurants. It's nice to see on the menu, and especially pleasing to see it prepared well. The homemade dumplings were dense and moist, just as they should be, and the lean slices of pork had been drizzled with a thick, salty gravy that offset the sauerkraut's characteristic sting.

If Monarch let go of all the quasi-international slop and expanded on their local fare, they just might find themselves a niche; really good Czech restaurant food, after all, is rare. But as it exists now, Monarch is just another half-assed attempt to pass off second-rate cooking as sophisticated cuisine.

And Prague certainly doesn't need any more of those.

Monarch vinný bar & gril
V Kolkovně 6
Prague 1 - Old Town
Tel: +420 222 315 545



pan cuketka said...

hi laura ;)

i was checking this address whole year and it was quite dead...

is this new official start?
i'm looking forqward to see some moooore! ;))

mr.zucchini ,)

Laura Baranik said...

Yes, it's the official start!

Welcome, pan Cuketka :-)

pan cuketka said...

good news :) i'll wait for few more posts and then make some short announcement at my site. there is never enough of good reviews and lot of my readers read in eglish too.... ;)

Laura Baranik said...

that would be great; thank you! your site is super, by the way :-)