Monday, February 18, 2008

Restaurant Review: Casa Andina

Over the past few years, Latin American cuisine has shown itself to be quite the crowd-pleaser here in Prague. Argentinian steakhouses, quasi-Mexican restaurants, and cocktail bars specializing in mojitos have popped up all over town, many of them packed nightly with starry-eyed, cigar-wielding patrons.
Now, another South American restaurant aims to capitalize on the trend. This one's a little different, at least: Casa Andina serves Peruvian food, a cuisine not as well-known internationally as those of Argentina or Mexico. Co-proprietors Alejandro Sanders and Martin Štefánek seemed excited to introduce their foreign specialties to local customers, demonstrating an eagerness to please so dogged that the attentive service occasionally bordered on annoying.

It's pretty clear that Casa Andina's heart is in the right place. But that alone, of course, isn't always enough.

Three large flat-screen televisions line the small restaurant's back wall. Their purpose, apparently, is to screen such garbage as the Ricky Martin MTV Unplugged DVD. Watching the Puerto Rican pop star gyrate his hips and flex his muscles in triplicate for his adoring fans was distracting, even with the sound off. Neither the TVs nor the thumping techno soundtrack seemed to mesh well with the rows of books and reproductions of traditional Moche sex pots lining the walls.
I was also a little thrown by the presentation of my shrimp ceviche entrée (360 CZK): the seafood salad arrived in a whiskey glass stamped with the Havana Club rum logo, which wasn't especially appetizing. The ceviche itself was less of a salad than a cold tomato soup, something like a baby shrimp gazpacho. It tasted pleasantly of lime, but the fresh zestiness that is typical of a good ceviche was missing.

A skewer of beef hearts (anticuchos de corazón de res, 260 CZK, above) had been marinated in a tasty red chili pepper sauce, but the meat hadn't been cooked for long enough and ended up tough and chewy. The papas rellenas de carne (potatoes stuffed with pork meat, 195 CZK, below), on the other hand, were truly memorable. To make this dish, a mashed potato patty is filled with heavily seasoned ground pork, raisins, and hardboiled eggs; the patty is then dipped in batter and fried. The end result looks like a whole cooked potato with its skin intact.
Also worth trying are the yuquitas fritas (110 CZK), a sweeter spin on the French fry made with yucas instead of potatoes and served with a red pepper dipping sauce, and the dense, caramel-laced coconut flan (70 CZK).

Casa Andina has its flaws, but with a little more time and a few adjustments, it just might find a niche in the crowded Latin American-themed restaurant scene. The owners will be holding regular salsa-dancing nights in the club space downstairs; that should certainly help put Casa Andina on the map -- even if nothing else does.

Casa Andina
Dušní 15
Prague 1 - Old Town
Tel: +420 224 815 996

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I tried several dishes and all tasted delicious. The service was great and atmosphere was pleasant. No Ricky Martin "garbage" as the author called it but beautiful scenery of Peru. The Flan and the creme is a pleasure. I have absolutely nothing bad to say about this place and only good things and I will recommend the place to everyone I know!