Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Food news: Bohemian Carnevale, restaurant renovations, and more

Those of you in the mood to dress up in masks, dance around the streets of Prague, and gorge on food and drink will be happy to know that the Bohemian Carnevale starts on Thursday and runs until next Tuesday. The activities list is extensive, and includes special menus at 30 different Prague restaurants, bars, and cafés as part of the Cuisine d'Alchimiste feast. To participate, you must purchase a Carnevale Pass, which is good for the duration of the festival and comes with restaurant vouchers, a carnival mask, and free access to the Carnevale Salon on Husova street.

Prague tends to experience a relative lull in tourist traffic during the months of January and February, so now is the most common time for restaurants to renovate. Among those temporarily shuttered are the original Kolkovna restaurant (for at least another month, see renovation pictures here), Terasa U Zlaté Studně (until Feb. 10th), Bellevue (until Feb. 4th), and Alchymist (until whenever they're done, apparently).

Last week brought the news that Vinohrady restaurant Tiger Tiger has been shut permanently. It was a friendly neighborhood place with decent Thai food, and it will be missed.

Finally, a shout-out to Dave Faries at The Prague Post, who featured the Spoon in this week's issue. Thanks for the support, Dave.

images: destination360.com, pragueholiday.cz, prague-navigator.com

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Monday, January 28, 2008

Restaurant Review: Metropol Café





The kitchen is supervised by one of the Czech Republic's most acclaimed chefs, Zdeněk Pohlreich. The staff is quick, friendly, and upbeat. And it's in one of the busiest areas of downtown Prague.

So why does Metropol Café always seem to be empty?
For one thing, the restaurant is in a hotel lobby, which is never the most welcoming setting for patrons who aren't guests of the hotel. The hyper-modern decor, too, could be seen as a little cold. And then there's the complete lack of advertising; Metropol Café doesn't even have its own website.

It seems Metropol is happy enough to be populated by hotel guests and just a few in-the-know regulars, but its relative anonymity strikes me as a bit of a shame.

The menu offers some not-very-exciting standards, among them a cheeseburger and fries, a tomato and mozzarella appetizer, and a chocolate fondant. But there are surprises here, too, unus
ual dishes that you'd be unlikely to find done so well -- or so cheaply -- anywhere else in town.

Take the ho
memade duck sausages (165 CZK), for example. They were lean and peppery, charred just enough to crisp up the skin, and served on a lemony bed of perfectly al dente warm lentils. There's also a hearty entrée of braised veal cheeks (260 CZK). The lightly marbled, ultra-tender cheek chunks were paired with a Madeira sauce as thick and luscious as melted dark chocolate, soaked up easily by a fluffy potato purée.

Metropol's version of chicken tandoori (190 CZK, pictured above) may not be especially authentic, but served with couscous and some fried (but not battered) onion rings, it's a fresh, inexpensive, and satisfying dish.

The kitchen here specializes in putting an upscale twist on traditional Czech cuisine. One example of this, the cabbage soup with giblets (85 CZK) is a definite success. Served with only a very light touch of cream, this isn't your typical zelňáčka, but it's probably better than the one you'd find in your local pub.

A dessert of apricot dumplings with cinnamon, butter, and cottage cheese (95 CZK) didn't survive the upgrade as well as the soup did. Instead of the delicate little dumplings I was expecting, we were presented with a couple of baseball-sized lumps that had been rolled in cinnamon and sprinkled, rather unappetizingly, with shreds of cheese. The overall flavor wasn't bad, but the dough-to-fruit ratio was off: the dessert would have been brighter and lighter if the dumplings had been smaller and less thick.
If you choose to visit Metropol, I'd recommend you do so during the day. The place is a lot friendlier with natural light coming through the huge skylight at the back of the restaurant; at night, the mood can get a little gloomy. In the summertime, Metropol serves food on its rooftop terrace, which boasts a view of the castle. That could be a nice alternative.

And, I hope, one that pulls in a few more customers.

Metropol Café
Metropol Hotel Prague
Národní 33
Prague 1 - New Town
Tel: +420 246 022 100
map

All images property of The Prague Spoon.

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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Prague opens its first Starbucks (but definitely not its last)

At three o' clock in the afternoon on opening day of the new Starbucks on Malostranské náměstí, the area around the coffee shop's cash registers was crowded with customers. About a third of them had already paid and were waiting for their drinks to be whipped up by the staff behind the bar. As each order was finished, a barista placed the labeled cup on the counter.
"Grande chai latte for Sandra!" A young woman in dreadlocks went to get her tea, but before she could reach it, an older lady muscled her way through the crowd and grabbed the cup.

"That's my coffee!" the lady snapped in Czech as she snatched the drink. "I was here before you!"

"Yes," the younger woman said patiently, "but did you order a grande chai latte? And is your name Sandra?"

"Yes, it is! Well, no it isn't. But my name is Soukupová, and it says Soukupová on the cup."

"No," said the young woman, pointing to where the barista had clearly written 'Sandra' on the cup in pencil. "It says Sandra."

The older woman dug her reading glasses out from her purse. She put them on and squinted at the cup. "It says Soukupová," she confirmed. "I was here first." The lady strode out of the shop, chai latte in hand.
A minute later, the barista called out, "One tall caffè latte for Soukupová!" The dreadlocked girl, a 22-year-old Czech native named Alexandra ("they only understood the Sandra part"), exchanged glances with me.

"I used to live in Washington, D.C.," she said. "I got used to going to Starbucks over there, so I was excited when I heard they were opening here. But what you saw just now -- that's Starbucks in Prague. That's the Čecháčství [loosely translatable as 'Czechism'], you know?" Alexandra rolled her eyes. "Enchanting."

Alexandra may have used the word sarcastically, but more than a few people really did seem enchanted by the official opening of Prague's first Starbucks on Tuesday. One notable customer was a very eager 90-year-old man, who was spotted by Starbucks Czech Republic's marketing manager, Alina Tyszkiewicz, at the 9 a.m. ribbon-cutting ceremony.

"He was jumping up and down. He was so excited that there was a café here again," Tyszkiewicz said, referring to the historical literary
café that once stood in the same location. "For us, it was a kind of confirmation that we were right to bring Starbucks to this spot."

As I sipped my sickly-sweet chai latte (a tall -- small -- chai tea latte contains 32 grams of sugar, about 10% of its total volume), I overheard the man sitting next to me talking on his cell phone. "Hey, come check it out!" he said to his friend half-jokingly. "We're experiencing Starbucks."

I wondered how long the general enthusiasm would last. Lots of locals appeared to be coming by to see what all the fuss was about, but some of them didn't seem too impressed.

"I'm used to Italian espresso joints where you get coffee in a minute," said Jadran Šetlík, a 56-year-old local. "Here I had to wait twenty minutes because all these people were jumping ahead of me. Next time I'll consider whether I want to go through that again. But in the end, the coffee is good."
Šetlík's last point is debatable -- coffee connoisseurs almost unanimously shun Starbucks on account of its low-quality, heavily-roasted beans -- but local management is confident that the American mega-chain will find its share of regular customers in Prague.

"We expect this to be a kind of meeting point, a place where people can hang out and read books and surf the internet," says Tyszkiewicz. Is she and her team planning to provide the city with more such meeting points?

"Definitely," Tyszkiewicz says with a grin, and confirms that Starbucks will be opening another branch in Palladium shopping mall by the end of February. "We're always looking for ways to expand."
Considering Starbucks's enormous global reach of over 15,000 stores, that's no surprise. I have to admit, though, that I was a little rattled when I was asked to shell out 180 CZK for a small chai and a medium caffè latte. That kind of thing seemed okay in New York, but in Prague? For coffee in a paper cup?

At these prices, no wonder people are getting possessive over their drinks. But try not to get too upset if someone snatches your cup away from the pickup counter.

After all, there's plenty more where that frappuccino came from.


All images property of The Prague Spoon.

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Monday, January 21, 2008

Food news: Starbucks and Gordon Ramsay come to town (separately)


Despite half-hearted threats of protest from the Association of Residents and Friends of Malá Strana, Starbucks will be opening its doors to the Czech public on Tuesday. A spokesperson for the mammoth coffee shop chain says it has "carefully and thoughtfully rehabilitated the Palác Grömlingovský retail location and returned it to its historic use as a coffeehouse and gathering place for the local community." More on that later...

On the other end of the culinary spectrum, English chef Gordon Ramsay will be in Prague Tuesday to promote his latest venture, maze. The surrounding festivities are to include a press conference and dinner at the restaurant for invited members of the local media.

The Dejvice location of organic grocery store Country Life has been temporarily shut down in order to make way for a "vegetarian bistro." The shop should re-open within the next couple of weeks.

Around the corner from Country Life, Asian fusion restaurant Monsoon has announced its new Saturday Family Lunch special, which offers a three-course menu at 199 CZK per person. Children under 8 eat for 10 CZK per every year of age (a seven-year-old eats for 70 CZK, etc.), and a surpervised play area is provided.


images: starbucks.com, telegraph.co.uk, monsoon-restaurant.cz

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Restaurant Review: U Emy Destinnové





When it comes to décor, U Emy Destinnové is definitely an original.

There are more than a few distinctly Communist-era elements here -- vestiges, presumably, of the longstanding previous tenant, JB Club. Faded red tablecloths, pleather-padded bathroom doors, hideous grey sofas, and waiters with ties clipped to their dress shirts were once staples of the Czechoslovak restaurant scene. These days, although they are a good deal more rare, such pre-revolutionary relics are no less aesthetically displeasing.

But then there are the quirkier, cozier details that lend U Emy Destinnové its undeniable charm: an upright piano covered in knickknacks and dried flower arrangements, a working fireplace, a chiming grandfather clock, and lots of amateurish paintings on the walls. It feels kind of like your babička's country house, but a little more romantic, perhaps.

Somewhat surprisingly, the food is very un-babička. With U.S. native Steven Trumpfheller helming the kitchen (pictured below right), the menu takes on a tone that's international with an American flavor. The results are a little uneven, but on occasion, the food is wonderful.

The spring rolls (110 CZK), for one, may be the best in Prague. Their fried rice paper wrapper managed to be both crispy and doughy at the same time, while the julienned fresh vegetables and shrimp that make up the stuffing helped keep the dish on the lighter side. A drizzle of peanut sauce and a finger bowl of homemade sweet-and-sour dip rounded off this winning appetizer.

I was equally impressed by the caserecce pasta (145 CZK), which is served with forest mushrooms, caramelized onions, and goat cheese. It's an unusual flavor combination, but the onions' sweetness and the earthy quality of the porcini mushrooms cut through the pungent aroma of the cheese very nicely. It doesn't look nearly as good as it tastes -- a little more could be done for the presentation -- but I found myself craving this dish the following day.

With an American running U Emy Destinnové's kitchen, I was hoping for great things from the Caesar salad (75 CZK small, 110 CZK large). Unfortunately, it only got halfway there. The dressing seemed to be about right, but there was so little of it that I couldn't really tell. The lettuce used was real Romaine, but it had been chopped up too finely, which had the effect of cheapening the salad.

Two of the entrées I sampled weren't quite up to par, either: the grilled chicken with sweet and spicy apricot glaze and oven-roasted walnuts (175 CZK) tasted as if it had been slathered in marmalade, and the meat had been undercooked, rendering it inedible. A black sesame-crusted tuna steak with wasabi pesto and ginger soy vinaigrette (330 CZK), on the other hand, was overcooked and chewy, and the pesto hardly tasted of wasabi at all.

Even with its problems, I'd still recommend U Emy Destinnové. On both of my visits, the service was close to perfect, and the atmosphere is something to remember. It's a nice place to take a date, or to bring friends who are visiting Prague -- for them, the padded doors and wall-to-wall carpets will be a novelty.

Hopefully, the undercooked chicken will be, too.


U Emy Destinnové
Kateřinská 7
Prague 2 - New Town
Tel: +420 224 918 425
map

images: uemydestinnove.cz

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Friday, January 18, 2008

Prague Spoon Star Dish: Tabbouleh @ El Emir

I should probably be featuring a more seasonally appropriate dish when it's this cold outside, but I can't stop thinking about the tabbouleh at El Emir.

This traditional Lebanese mezze composed of parsley, bulgur wheat, tomatoes, mint, scallion, and lemon is clean, refreshing, and reassuringly healthy. Now, thanks to the opening of the colossal Palladium shopping mall on Náměstí Republiky, Prague has at least one restaurant that does tabbouleh right.

El Emir's version is made with plenty of lemon juice, just a dash of bulgur and, crucially, flat Italian parsley, which is more flavorful than the curly strain most often found in Prague markets. It's so delicious you might even forget you're eating it in a food court.

If you'd like to try it at home, here's a good recipe.

El Emir
Palladium Shopping Center (Gourmet Floor)
Náměstí Republiky 1
Prague 1 - New Town
Tel: +420 225 770 250


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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Oyster Weekend @ Oliva

Prague 2's popular Mediterranean restaurant Oliva is having a special oyster event this weekend. Oliva is one of my personal favorites, and I'm pretty sure these oysters will be great. Here's what you can expect (for those who don't like oysters, the traditional menu will also be available):

  • oysters with traditional cold dip à la marché Les Halles
  • gratinated oysters in Sabayon cream
  • gratinated oysters with pancetta, mango, parmesan, and herbs
  • creamy lettuce soup with oyster cappuccino
  • oysters in cream sauce with cider and fresh spinach
  • monkfish in fine oyster butter sauce served with leek fond and bacon chips
  • fillet of seabass with oyster and mussel Palourde sauce on squid ink spaghetti

I'm going to be away this weekend, so I'll be missing this one. Let me know how you liked it!


Oyster Special Event @ Oliva
January 17 & 18 (dinner)
January 19 (lunch and dinner)

Plavecká 4
Prague 2 - New Town

Tel: +420 222 520 288



image: olivarestaurant.cz

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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Black Truffle Days @ CzecHouse

Feeling fancy? Head over to the Hilton during their annual Black Truffle Days. The highly-prized fungi are at their most fragrant in January, and the staff at CzecHouse will be whipping up a feast to celebrate. Here's a sampler of what you can expect:

  • marble of foie gras and pheasant with black truffles, crispy brioche, and fig chutney
  • Perigord truffle risotto with oysters, roasted tomato and fava beans
  • braised veal cheek with burgundy wine glaze on black truffle oil mashed potatoes
  • fig tatin with truffle ice cream


You can check out the full menu here.



Black Truffle Days
18 - 27 January
CzecHouse Grill & Rotisserie
Prague Hilton




image: hiltonprague.cz

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Monday, January 14, 2008

Restaurant Review: Maze Prague by Gordon Ramsay (CLOSED)





There's been a lot of twittering over Michelin stars in Prague lately. Will we see one in the next year? And if so, which restaurant will be the first to receive the famous French accolade?

Much of the hype can be attributed to the recent arrival of Gordon Ramsay's Maze, which boasts sister locations in London and New York. Ramsay may be best-known to the masses as a hot-tempered TV celebrity chef, but he is a culinary master in his own right, having earned no fewer than twelve Michelin stars over the course of his career.

Do Ramsay's world-class standards hold up even in Prague? Well, kind of.

It's hard to find much fault with the kitchen; the food is every bit as good as you'd expect. A frothy Jerusalem artichoke velouté (250 CZK) is paired with a luscious duck ragout so supple that the meat almost seemed to dissolve upon contact with the tongue. A side of buttery cep (porcini) brioche that had been cleverly molded into little mushrooms was just right for absorbing this very rich and wintry appetizer.

No less filling was a hearty entrée of braised beef short rib with bacon, mushrooms, and baby onion (700 CZK). There isn't much ingenuity on display here -- this is more or less a classic beef Bourguignon. But it's beef Bourguignon at its very best: incredibly tender cubes of meat in a velvety red wine reduction, enlivened by the sweet pop of pearl onions and a few satisfyingly smoky chunks of bacon. Unfortunately, the mashed potatoes served on the side were overwhelmed by too much heavy cream and butter, resulting in a drippy, sauce-like concoction that didn't taste or feel like potatoes and would have been better off eaten with a soup spoon.
The sea bass (650 CZK), on the other hand, was a joy to eat. The flaky hunk of fish was lightly seasoned and perfectly cooked, topped with a layer of skin so crisp and salty that it reminded me of dried seaweed. Dotting one side of the plate were one-inch squares of sweet and sour infused bell pepper as bright and juicy as red Jolly Ranchers. And the ever-so-slightly-spicy couscous was just moist enough when tossed with a smattering of fresh tomatoes.

I could write an entire post about maze's desserts. I still might, one day; pastry, after all, is head chef Philip Carmichael's specialty, and it shows. A super-moist sticky toffee pudding (250 CZK) drowns in a bath of hot caramel and roasted nuts, a dollop of crème fraîche spooned over the cake to dilute its sweetness. A warm, vanilla-specked rice pudding (250 CZK) is served atop cooked raspberries in a picturesque, heat-resistant glass jar. A hot chocolate fondant with honey and milk ice cream (250 CZK) is an exemplary version of what is now a very common dessert. And don't be put off by the idea of the peanut butter and cherry jam sandwich (250 CZK, pictured below). It's wonderful, and probably different from what you might expect.
I wish I could say that the service at Maze is just as good as the dishes I've described above. Sadly, it's not even close.

The food always arrived promptly, there were no mix-ups, and the staff was courteous enough. But there are some serious gaps here:

1) On one visit, our party of five had two large bottles of water on our table, one still and one sparkling. Although our initial server had marked the labels with numbers to keep track of who was drinking which, he and his colleagues repeatedly doled out the wrong type of water to each person. They seemed to have a knack for swooping in to our table and dumping water in our glasses so quickly and confidently that we didn't have enough time to tell them that they were, once again, giving us still instead of sparkling and vice versa. "Oh, I'm sorry," the server would say. A couple of minutes later, the same mistake would happen again.
2) During the same dinner, a server leaned over one of us to fill another's glass, thus bringing his armpit intrusively close to my companion's face.

3) The servers appear to have a system of whisking away bottles that still have a centimeter or two of wine left in them, as if they were empty. Presumably, there's a staff leftovers bar somewhere in back lined with the remnants of our Sauvignons.

4) I don't like to use other people's anecdotes in my reviews, but I feel obliged to mention the experience of a dear friend of mine who, incidentally, is very knowledgeable about food and wine and has made a successful career for herself in the culinary world. She recently dined at maze with a large table made up mostly of other women. The sommelier, assuming that my friend didn't know what she was doing, hovered over her shoulder invasively as she scanned the wine list, despite the fact that she was clearly unnerved by his presence.

When my friend told the sommelier that she'd opted for a Russian River Valley Cabernet to accompany their meal, the wine waiter promptly informed her that she had chosen badly. "That," he sneered, "is not a good wine for women."

Um. What?
Is that really what we're dealing with here -- service that is capable of being not only amateurish and dishonest, but also condescending and sexist? How very embarrassing for Maze. And how unappetizing for the rest of us.

Michelin and its stars would be well-advised to keep a safe distance from this particular branch of Maze, or they run the risk of soiling their hard-earned reputation. If Mr. Ramsay were to have consulted me while he was considering opening a restaurant here, I'd probably have given him a similar warning about the city of Prague. Many foreigners running a business here will tell you that, for whatever reason, it's very, very difficult to train local staff, especially in the area of service.

But it's certainly not impossible, as a handful of establishments has shown. Until Maze figures out how to fix its weak service standards, the delectable accomplishments of the kitchen will be soured by a nasty flavor that's put on the table far too often around here. And that, as they say, would be a damn škoda.


Maze by Gordon Ramsay
V Celnici 7 (in the Hilton Prague Old Town)
Prague 1 - New Town
Tel: +420 221 822 300
map

images: gordonramsay.com

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Friday, January 11, 2008

Prague's best hot chocolate

It's dark and freezing outside, and everyone you know is miserable. Welcome to winter in Prague. Wouldn't you feel better if you were nursing a cup of delicious hot chocolate? It's not going to make the sun come out, but it'll sure as hell fatten you up for the long months ahead. Here are the Spoon's picks for the best in town.


Café Louvre
Národní 22, Prague 1
42 CZK (regular) / 26 CZK (small)

For those of you who like your hot chocolate to have the consistency and sweetness of melted Cadbury bars, Louvre's the place to go. This bustling upstairs café has been a Prague institution since the turn of the last century and is well-loved by students, businesspeople, and grandmothers alike. The billiard tables in the back are an added bonus.



Café Savoy
Vítězná 5, Prague 1
55 CZK (regular) / 75 CZK (double)



The "Chocolate Savoy" is one of the most popular hot chocolates in Prague, and no wonder: it arrives on a silver platter, you get to pour it into your cup from a small pitcher, and it's undeniably delicious. The regular Savoy hot chocolate is fairly light; if you prefer a thicker, more chocolatey cup, order the "Double."


Cremeria Milano

Pařížská 20, Prague 1
80 CZK



Death by hot chocolate: it takes a true chocolate lover to be able to stomach a whole cup of hot chocolate at Cremeria Milano. The unabashedly rich cocoa here is as dark as black coffee and as thick as pudding. Drink it plain, or spoon in some sugar and whipped cream to dilute the intensity.



Kabinet
Terronská 25, Prague 6
30 CZK (regular) / 35 CZK (flavored)



This quirky neighborhood hideaway is best-known for its decorative use of stuffed birds and antique teaching tools -- but they make a pretty mean hot chocolate, too. Try the hazelnut flavor with real crushed hazelnuts or, if you feel like experimenting, the Mon Cheri variety. Non-smokers beware: Kabinet has a tendency to get eye-wateringly fumy.



Out Café Chocolate
Korunní 104 (Korunní Dvůr), Prague 2
75 CZK



Out Café's cups are a little on the small side, but the tiny serving should be more than enough. The chocolate is gooey and sweet, with an almost nougat-like aftertaste. Out Café is one of only a handful of establishments in Prague to import Tuscany's renowned Amedei chocolate; the snappy chili version almost makes up for Out's miserably sterile interior design.



Passion Chocolat
Italská 212/5, Prague 2
80 CZK



A milky, easy-on-the-sugar hot chocolate may be just the thing if you're planning on indulging in a rich pastry along with your cup of cocoa; you'll find both at Passion Chocolat, the authentic French patisserie just off of Náměstí Míru. The hot chocolate maybe not be to everyone's taste -- its consistency is slightly chalky -- but the daily array of homemade tarts, cakes, and bonbons are sure to satisfy even the most discerning of sweet tooths.

Did we miss your favorite cup? Let us know!

images: cafelouvre.cz, ambi.cz, cremeriamilano.com,
techie.devnull.cz, outcafe.cz, musso-praha.com

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Wednesday, January 9, 2008

I'll have a grande skim peppermint white chocolate mocha with whipped cream, prosím

It's official: after countless pages of web forum gossip and years of anticipation, the big green mermaid is making her way to Prague.


Starbucks -- that small-business-usurping, mass-litter-generating, cookie-cutter comfort zone for coffee drinkers who don't like coffee -- will soon be opening its doors in the Czech Republic.

The first location is set to open at the end of January in the Grömlingovský palác on Malostranské náměstí, formerly the home of Kampa Group's Square restaurant. More stores are to follow, including at least one in the Palladium shopping center (MF Dnes has speculated that the coffee chain will replace Palladium's two Iceland cafés, which are owned by Starbucks franchisee AmRest).

Good news? Bad news? Who cares? Leave us a comment below.

Image: Starbucks.com

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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
map

images: monarch.cz

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The Prague Spoon

Looking for a decent place to eat your next meal? Whether you're a first-time tourist or a lifelong local, finding high-quality restaurants in Prague can be tough. Food and service standards tend to be low, and even when they aren't, restaurants here seem to open, close, or change ownership constantly.

Most guidebooks and websites can't keep up with Prague's rapidly evolving restaurant scene, and some even take advertising money and freebies from mediocre locales in exchange for positive reviews. It's time to expose the crap for what it really is, and to support those who deserve to be praised.

The Prague Spoon tells it like it is: no pretension, no timidity, no pandering to advertisers. And, above all, no secrets. If the sommelier at a certain four-star restaurant smells like he hasn't showered in a week, we'll let you know. And if we discover a tiny hole in the wall that serves the Czech Republic's best pad thai, you'll be hearing about that, too.

Thank you for reading... and welcome to the Spoon.

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