Monday, November 17, 2008

Restaurant Review: Radost FX

This review originally appeared in Czech translation in the 25/10/08 edition of Lidové Noviny.

When winter time comes around, most of us do our best to keep ourselves from getting sick. We wear scarves. We take extra vitamins. We may even go to the doctor's office to get flu vaccinations.

I am just as diligent about avoiding the restaurant at Radost FX. I don't often lie, but when it comes to that particular spot, I am not above fabricating an aunt's 60th birthday party or a sudden attack of the shingles. Believe me, if there was an anti-Radost shot, I'd be the first in line.

But just as some of us will still come down with the flu despite our best efforts, I sometimes end up getting dragged to Radost.

My friends, you see, will not heed the sound advice of the restaurant critic ("That place SUCKS"), because they always have a very special reason to go there. Somebody doesn't eat meat. ("It's not the only vegetarian place in town," I argue.) They serve brunch. ("Are you out of your mind? Have you SEEN the French toast?") It's late and we're hungry. ("Oh… all right." There really isn't anywhere else to have a sit-down meal in this city after midnight.)

The fact that I am something of a food snob is not the only reason I refuse to eat at Radost. I'm also trying to protect my and my friends' health and general well-being.

It could just be hearsay, but Radost's food does have a reputation for making people ill. Besides the various discussions of this topic on the internet, I personally know several people who have gotten sick after eating there. Even just this past week, a friend who accompanied me on one of my visits said she felt not very good at all after eating one of the restaurant's beloved Popeye burgers (the "burger" part is made out of spinach, hazelnuts, garlic, and cheese, in case you were wondering).

Far be it for me to know exactly what's going on. But I would like to point to the eyewitness account of a buddy of mine as a possible (partial) explanation. My friend was at Radost early in the day and saw the chef taking a batch of produce from the delivery man. The chef shook the hand of the delivery dude, brought the veggies into the kitchen (separated from the dining room by only a curtain, so it's possible to glimpse inside), and without washing his hands proceeded to chop up the tomatoes and put them on a plate for a customer's salad. And then, as an afterthought, he grabbed a slice of tomato from the plate and popped it in his mouth.

With standards like these, it's no wonder people are getting sick.

Of course, there are a lot of restaurants in this town with questionable hygiene practices – more, probably, than I'd care to know about. But even if the food at Radost isn't regularly groped by dirty hands, it's still presented as if it was. All of the dishes come out looking carelessly made and sloppy.

Take the Heaven's Garden dish (195 CZK), another supposed favorite of avid Radost-goers. It's basically a plate of mashed potatoes smothered in a dull cream sauce and topped with random vegetables: carrots, zucchini, mushrooms, red and green peppers, parsley, black olives (what?), and sun-dried tomatoes (why?). Some of the carrots were shredded, others were julienned. It's as if they just threw in whatever scraps they had lying around the kitchen.

The ratatouille (190 CZK) may be even worse. When I tried it, the vegetables were inexcusably overcooked, to the point where it was nearly impossible to tell the difference between the eggplant and the zucchini because both were so mushy and brown. The zucchini had been lazily cut into five-centimeter-long cylinders. The couscous that came with the ratatouille was bone dry; it must have been made the day before and stored improperly afterwards. And spooned on top was a nonsensical serving of sour cream. As if that would make this pile of slop worth the money.

I guess laziness rules at Radost. On my first visit, the waitress took a drink order from my friend without asking the rest of us what we wanted, then brought the drink and still didn't ask. On my second visit, my brother, who has a serious peanut allergy, asked a different waitress if there would be peanuts or peanut products in his stir fry. She said she wasn't sure and she would find out. She didn't. My brother got sick.

What more can you expect from a restaurant where my friend (the same unlucky lady who ate the foul Popeye burger) once found a big piece of glass in her salad? That may have been a few years ago, but judging by my recent experiences there, I still wouldn't put that kind of insanity past this place.

What confuses me most is the fact that so many people continue to eat at Radost. Some even swear by it. A Hollywood actor once took me there on a miserable date because he refused to eat anywhere else the whole time he was shooting his movie in Prague. He even had Radost food delivered to the set every day.

Okay, so I guess the interior is kind of cool, with the brightly patterned couches and funky wallpaper and quasi-trendy dance music provided by live DJs on the weekends. The restaurant feels like an extension of the club downstairs – all the more so because of the cigarette smoke and the fact that customers have to use the dank and dirty club toilets.

But even if you're enticed by the shabby chic décor and the promising-looking menu, even if you're a vegetarian and you want brunch or it's late and you're hungry, don't do it. I, for one, plan on never getting dragged to Radost again.

And after this review is published, I won't even have to come up with an excuse.

Radost FX
Bělehradská 120
Praha 2 - Vinohrady
Tel: +420 224 254 776

images 1, 4, 5: Tomáš Krist for Lidové Noviny; 3, 7:; all others: Prague Spoon


Rory said...

A group of friends I know all got sick from eating here. It was a party of at least 8 people and everyone got food poisoning. This seems to be common place at Radost FX. The place should be shut down.

Anonymous said...

My husband and I totally got sick there and haven't been back since and my other friend also got sick there. I called the owner and complained and she tried to blame it on the time of year. Vomitting sick is not because of the time of year hon.

ali said...

hhahaaaaa:-)) lets be specific here which season of the year is "barf season"? i guess i was not made aware of this...:-)

Anonymous said...

The cleanliness of the kitchen (and the accounting) is on par with the cleanliness of the toilets.

Kacenka said...

Thank god you wrote this review! I feel EXACTLY the same way and no one ever agrees with me. Service sucks, food is lackluster, but people STILL have this desire to go there! (I've never been sick there, but I wouldn't be surprised if I was) My boyfriend used to work there and said the same thing about hygiene standards and that the cooks were barely trained and perennially surly to EVERYONE.
For late night eats (not perfect, but still another option) there's Kozicka, Zlaty Strom, Solidni Nejistota, Akropolis, Vysmaty Zajic, Metropol, Vejvodu...Radost is NOT the only one!!

Danger said...

If it's late night eats you're after, look no further than Pizza Roma on Jagelonska in Zizkov. Hey, we're talking about late night eats, not gourmet, right? And the 'za ain't bad, that's for damn sure!

Laura Baranik said...

Thank you, Kacenka and Danger, for the late-night alternatives. It's always good to know something else is out there...

Mark said...

Yes .. I feel exactly the same way too. I have always felt that Radost was terribly overrated, that the service is awful, the mandatory tip is just a tip to rip off more money, and that the food is just plain mediocre. They haven't changed their menu, their attitude, or cleaned their toilets since 1994 ...

Anonymous said...


I thinks it's memory, which drags people there. Radost used to be quite a good place some 10 or even 12 years ago. Particulary Fetucchini Alfredo was fantastic back then. But these times are long gone.

As for late-night eateries, there are other places to go. Besides the aforementioned, there was, for instance, Ultramrine near Narodni metro or U Sadu near the TV tower.

Reno said...

It seems that I am the only one who will post a good comment here. I really like Radost, I find the food excellent AND I have never been sick!
I go there very often and I used to live for 2 years just next door, it was kind of a second home and I have never had even the least stomach problem.
Could you tell me why?? If the hygiene is so bad I would have been caught up during this intense frequenting?
The music is fine (I'm still talking about the lounge) and the interior deco is awesome and very relaxing!
Ok, I have to admit that the cocktails are not the best and that the service is really bad. That's why I am not going so often now... big black spot on my review. Plethora of waiters, kindly chatting at the bar's corner while we are trying to catch their attention. Not very professional.
But Radost is a fine place to spend a relaxing moment.

Anonymous said...

The ambiance is nice and somewhat unusual for Prague but that does not justify the terrible service and mediocre food that Radost FX offers.
It's audaciously rude that they charge you 10% for service, which is illegal by the way (someone call the authorities on the bastards).
I have never had food poisoning but maybe that is because I stuck to drinks only during my past rare visits which have been triggered by nostalgia and friends with smaller demands/taste buds.
My take is that Radost FX is still open because Prague does not have that much to offer in terms of competition; it would be closed for many years in cities such as London or New York.