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

All images property of The Prague Spoon.

1 comment:

R. said...

If you're in the mood for a light dessert, the plum "crumble" here is amazing. The only thing crumbly about it is the addition of walnuts. Otherwise it's a delicious mix of stewed plum halves and raisins in a fantastic, simple sauce.

One of my new favorite desserts in Prague!