Was in Prague from October 21-28. I had some incredible meals. Here are the highlights:
Had lunch at U Zlate Sudne because reviews had mentioned a spectacular view and competent food. The view is incredible - looking out over the clay tile roofs of the Mala Stana towards Stare Mesto. Started off with a terrine de foies gras with apricot coulis, which was ever so slightly spiced with black pepper. The foie gras was silky smooth and luxurious on the tongue. The breast of duck was nicely prepared and for desert a vanilla panna cotta with strawberries. I had a couple glasses of bohemia sekt - overall a well prepared light czech meal.
www.zlatastudna.cz; email: email@example.com
I spent the afternoon wandering around. You do not need the metro - Prague is very compact. Some businesses that were closed due to flooding have reopened while others are still closed. Kampa Island is open. Some streets are being re-cobbled but that did not interfere with my sightseeing. There was light drizzle on and off through out the day. The hills were decked out in autumnal colors - reds, rust orange, yellows. If you love fall I would recommend visiting Prague at the beginning of October. Crowds were minimal - tourism is way down. Go before the crowds return and have Prague to yourself.
For dinner I decided to try U Modre Kachnciky - reviews had praised this place for exceptional Czech cuisine. They have two locations - the Prague Post recommended the one in Stare Mesto. However when I went there the maitre-d insisted on sitting me next to a table of six eyebrow plucked, collagen-botox injected British queens. I was not in the mood to deal with that and went back to the one located in the Mala Strana. The meal, in comparison with the other meals I had in Prague, was mediocre. The first glass of bohemia sekt was flat - I insisted on a fresh glass, which they complied with. The duck liver in red wine sauce was over cooked and tasted like chicken liver. The fallow deer was okay - but once again, in retrospect, I had much better quality and preparation at other restaurants. I would not recommend this restaurant. I may try the one in Stare Mesto for lunch next time Im in Prague.
For lunch I went to U Petrske veze (Peters tower) - located next to one of the remaining towers of the town wall - very easy to locate. Started with a warm appetizer of goose liver with onions and armagnac on toasted points - really well prepared (and I dont like cooked liver - seared foie gras I love). For the main course old-Bohemian style breast of wild duck in black sauce with Carlsbad dumplings - deep, rich and hearty, perfect for a grey drizzly day. Desert was traditional Czech pancakes with bilberries. Once again - I had a couple glasses of Bohemian sect and a terrific glass of Moravian cabernet sauvignon (unfortunately did not write down the name). I will come back to this restaurant for dinner next time Im in Prague.
For dinner I had reservations at the Francouzska restaurace, located in the Obecni dum (The Municipal House). I had the menu de gustation (1750 Kn) - terrine de foie gras with apples and cumberland sauce, sea dog gnocchi with spinach and lobster sauce, chicken coq au van with grapes and couscous, veal with pearl onions and potatoes - all excellently prepared and presented. Finished with dessert, espresso and slivovice - a plum brandy - request the golden style, which is much smoother than the clear. The art nouveau dining room is a real treat - service was attentive and professional. The only thing that could have made the evening better was if it had been snowing outside - get a table next to one of the windows.
Walking back to the hotel stopped off at bar in the Mala Strana for a night cap - absinthe. It actually has a pleasant taste - herbal, like Becherovka. I did not, however, see the green fairy - and I had 3 glasses of it. I found it easy to be single / alone in Prague - the city seems to foster a brooding, contemplative attitude.
I had read that the views from Letna Park are superlative - they were right. From the plateau overlooking the city you can see all the bridges spanning the Vltava - the view is a must do. There is a restaurant located in the park - Hanavsky Pavilion - a impressive structure in luxuriant Dutch pseudo-Baroque style , all made of cast iron complemented with masonry . The food was nothing special. I would recommend getting a table outside, weather permitting, ordering a bottle of moravian white and just sit for a few hours. The longer I sat the more I began to see - Prague really is the city of 100 spires. I was able to pin point various buildings the longer I sat. It was definitely one of the highlights of my trip.
Being that the restaurant Kampa Park was closed due to flooding I went to the Alcron at the Radisson Hotel for dinner. The Alcron specializes in seafood - which I thought might be a nice contrast to all the meat dishes I was consuming. The hotel is near the Fred&Ginger building - not a particularly nice area. I started off with Dublin bay prawns with seared foie gras with carpaccio of mango and brown poultry stock. The foie gras was perfect - the prawns were average, too much work for too little meat ( A crawfish boil is an entirely different matter, as is stone crab claws and lobster, but I digress). Then had lobster soup with shell fish oil, grilled artichokes and lobster meat. The soup was at a perfect temperature - it was velvety on the tongue. It was a chefs speciality which made me decide to try another recommended appetizer: smoke eel with black truffles, scrambled eggs and potatoes. This was an incredible dish - the flavors were amazing - stop me dead in my tracks. Then had grilled scallops with mushrooms, summer truffles, fried cepes and pasta. The scallops were buttery smooth - the pasta was okay - the mushrooms firm. Desert was warmed blinis with strawberries and raspberries and warmed vanilla sauce - a nice ending. Had a very good Czech white - Veltlinske Zelene, Vinne Sklepy Vatice, 2000. My only quibble - the room had F. Scotts Fitzgerald inspired 1920 NYC skyline murals on the walls - I could have been eating anywhere - the one problem with eating in a hotel environment. A very nice change of pace.
I had lunch at the Savoy Hotel, which is located near the castle. I decided to try the menu de gustation, which included wine pairings (2100 Kn): Salmon tartar with fresh blinis, tiger shrimp, creme freche and salmon roe w/ Chateau Radyn brut; foie gras with parma ham, figs and grilled endive w/ bohemia sekt prestige -demi sec; saddle of fallow deer with game farce, stewed white cabbage in champagne and herb-potato noodles w/ cabernet sauvignon, Moravska Nova Ves; mousse meringue with chocolate cream and vanilla sauce; Hennessy XO. All the dishes were excellently prepared. I would love to come back here in the late spring because the roof of the restaurant slides open. The chef also does a four course surprise menu for 1300 Kn using seasonal ingredients. As for the hotel itself- its suppose to be pretty posh.
I had dinner reservations at Cerny Kohout (The Black Rooster) which is located in the 5th district, about a 10 minute cab ride. The Prague Post review: elegant and remote. The perfect place for entertaining hard to impress visitors. The cab ride from the hotel cost 300 Kn - I was a bit concerned when the cab turned down a dirt road. This restaurant specializes in game done in modern preparation - contemporary czech. This was by far the best meal I had while in Prague. I had arranged in advanced an 8 course tasting menu. Started off with a salad of wild duck with strawberries, orange, frisee, cherry tomatoes - bright, beautiful presentation, perfectly balanced. Soup of roasted zander (sweet water fish) with garlic, asparagus and carrot - clean and light. White goose liver roasted with venison foam, served on stewed apple in sweet smelling muscatel, decorated with forest fruits and blackberry sauce - perfectly cooked and beautiful presentation. Roasted quail served on peas compote with dried plums - solid, on the mark. Baked zander with cucumber gnocchi and dill cream sauce - nice counterpoint to the meat dishes. Roasted venison with bacon gnocchi, roasted pear, glazed apricots, raspberry sauce - rich, dense and satisfying. Dessert consisted of home made pie with forest berries on cream foam and smoked czech cheese, camembert and goat cheese baked in puff pastry - both delicious. Add to that 2 bottles of wine. And incredible meal - I recommend this restaurant highly. And the bill, including tip, came to about $80. Also the cab ride back to the hotel only cost 300 Kn.
For lunch I had reservations at Flambee - a czech french restaurant. It is a cellar restaurant and had just reopened 2 weeks prior. Numerous cellar businesses had been flooded even though they were not near the Vltava. If youre looking for a swanky, elegant evening, this is the place. The restaurant is done in 1920 art deco style yet the barrel vaulted ceilings remind you that youre in Prague. The food is international - the service is exceptional. I tried the menu de gustation: mousse of wild duck w/ grilled crepine of duck breast and foie gras with apple orange jam and brioche; roasted fillet of brittany turbot served with truffle jus, potato creme with fave beans; stuffed lamb saddle under pine crust, fricassee of provencal vegetables and polenta croquette stuffed with marscapone; campari blood orange sorbet; chocolate creation using Varlhona chocolate. The only dish that failed to impress was the dessert - everything else was wonderful. The service can be a bit intimidating - at one point I told the waiters to just leave me alone. Had a wonderful czech white wine: Rulandske Bile, 1999.
I had dinner reservations at Belleveu. I had read numerous reviews praising this place - I was looking forward to an exceptional evening. Unfortunately, this restaurant was a let down. While the food was competent nothing stood out as exceptional. I had foie gras, breast of french duck and a dessert. The restaurant struck me as a tourist haunt. The room seem a bit dusty and dowdy. Even the view of the Castle, while nice, didnt really add much to the evening. Dont get me wrong - the food was solid but in comparison to other meals, not unique.
After 5 days of rather intense eating - I was ready for a change. I stopped off at a deli / bodega in the Mala Strana and picked up some czech salamis and cheeses and went down to the edge of the Vltava to eat my lunch - and it only cost 94 Kn.
Dinner reservation was at Davids, located in the Mala Strana, almost around the corner from the Hotel Constans. It is a small, intimate restaurant - probably about 12 tables max. You have to ring a bell to gain access. I had foie gras with wild berries marinated in Port wine, baked quail in armagnac with plums, marinated deer's back in smooth truffle cream sauce with fresh vegetables, served with gratinated bacon flavored potatoes and for desert, home made poppy seed gnocchi with vanilla-mint sauce and fresh fruits. The waiter recommended a Czech cabernet sauvignon 1994 - which was a nice compliment. This meal struck me as what traditional Czech is - each dish was delicious and a work of art. Afterwards, a complimentary glass of slivovice served in a special hand blown glass. My only quibble: I wish the owner would turn the lights down just a tad. I recommend this place highly - a real treat.
I was going to pass on lunch but then decided to go to the Municipal House and eat at the Pilsen restaurant - which is located in the basement. The Pilsen restaurant was originally named Folk Restaurant - its a large brasserie with folk type motifs from the Slavonic countryside - dark blue green tiles, dark woods, ceramic pictures - definitely more peasant tone. Lunch: potato soup with wild mushrooms; prague ham with horseradish, mustard and pickled gerkins; piquant sausage from Davle with mustard and apple horseradish; assorted czech cheeses and a large glass of Pilsner (the only time I drank beer while in Prague). It was a simple, nice meal - just right.
For dinner I had reservations at Sarah Bernhardt, located in the Hotel Pariz. It is an elegant, restrained art nouveau space - dark turquoise mosaic tiles with highlights of gold, a piano player - a staff waiting to please. I started off with a poultry terrine with foie gras served on a honey sauce. Next dish was wild duck salami, marinated plums and balsamic dressing. Main dish was doe medallions with hot cherries and almonds brocollli with creamed potatoes. For wine I had a Svatovar Inecke Barrique, 1999 - competent, nothing extraordinary. Desert was fine. As I sat next to the window I watched couples walk by, the leaves blown about by the wind - very romantic.
Afterwards I stopped off at a bar that I had been visiting frequently during my stay in Prague - Zansi, located in the Mala Strana, Lazenska 6, Praha 1 - an easy going bar, a mixed laid back crowd, lots of local flavor.