In early December, Bisos opened up in Prague 3, and the first I heard was that it was a tapas bar. But if you expect a Spanish theme with pinchos and patatas bravas, you’ll be in for a surprise.
It turns out that this little place halfway up the steep U Rajské zahrady street is a Sardinian restaurant connected to Sardinian favourite Ichnusa, in Mala Strana. Bisos, meaning ‘dreams’ in Sardinian, serves the island’s specialties and its own version of tapas.
The small space is light, bright and modern without being stark and uninviting. The furnishings and decor feature a lot of clean lines and most things in white, black or light wood, and there’s a hint of old-fashioned charm in the preserved decorative white stucco ceiling. I know this isn’t a style that everyone likes, but personally I can’t get enough of it.
I was told that the design had been based around a woven black and white cloth traditionally made in Sardinia, called orbace, from which placemats and menu covers have been made. The most striking feature in the space is the far wall, covered entirely by a black and white landscape photo, and a poem written in (I think) the Sardinian language.
Our first visit was around lunchtime on a Sunday, and the kitchen were nice enough to let us order from the breakfast menu – I’m not exactly an early riser. They’ve since started doing a Sunday brunch menu, so maybe we weren’t the only ones asking for breakfast in the afternoon. For morning people, Bisos opens bright and early at 7am and the breakfast menu, though a lot cheaper than the dinner menu, seems equally well thought-out.
The buckwheat pancakes with goats cheese, maple syrup and pistachio were something really special. It was a small pancake, but it had big flavour and a comforting, creamy filling. The strawberry compote on the side I half expected to make everything overpoweringly sweet, but it was balanced by the savoury flavours. I could’ve eaten two or three more of these, and only just managed to restrain myself.
Together with a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice it was divine.
There were also omelettes, croissants, and “traditonal” French and English-style breakfasts on the menu. I’m always excited to see a full English on a menu, though I rarely actually order them. This was not your ordinary fry-up however – and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
There was some delicious salsiccia – I could’ve had a plate of that on its own – with fried mushrooms, crispy pancetta, sugar snap peas, a fried egg and… a Yorkshire pudding. I wasn’t sure whether to be amused or horrified at the unexpected inclusion of this muffin-shaped misfit, which perched awkwardly on the edge of the plate, almost as if it knew it didn’t belong there. I love a roast dinner as much as the next British person, but I’ve never wanted part of one in my breakfast.
Unfortunately, not only was it odd, and not really a Yorkshire pudding, it was something bland, chewy and tasteless. I’d have preferred a piece of toast. Everything else on the plate made up for it though.
I went back for dinner a couple of weeks later, thinking it probably unnecessary to book – but I was wrong. The whole place had been reserved for a party. I’m also told it’s becoming difficult to get a table at weekends without a reservation, but next time we booked, and the place was half full on a Friday night.
After that impressive breakfast we wanted to try as much as possible. To start with, we ordered a few different things from their tapas selection. This proved quite an effort for the poor waitress, who had to recite everything in English as apparently there was no menu, since the tapas changes daily.
We went for the salmon ‘mojito’ dressed with lime, mint and brown sugar, sauteed prawns in butter and garlic, roasted pork with fennel, duck terrine and some of that salsiccia I liked so much – a tiny mouthful of each, most served on a morsel of fresh bread, but again with a lot of flavour. Each piece was 35kc.
We were also given a basket of traditional Sardinian bread, with a drizzling of olive oil and sea salt, and some sheep’s cheese which I didn’t get the name of, but it resembled a mild parmesan.
Next, I had the pan-fried swordfish steak with braised Mediterranean vegetables and rice croquettes, and Vernaccia di Oristano sauce. The emphasis was on quality over quantity, and though there were only two rice croquettes it was filling enough.
The fish, like all of their fish and vegetables, we were told, was imported fresh from Italy, while my companion’s venison backstrap steak (served with a pureé of baked potato and pumpkin from Mantova and glazed brussel sprouts, in a Cannonau di Sardegna sauce) was sourced here in the Czech Republic.
The venison was succulent and almost melted in the mouth, arriving on the slightly rare side (requested medium rare.) I’m assured that the Brussels sprouts were delicious, too, though this is one of very few foods that I’ll just never like, no matter how well-cooked, so I can’t say myself if they were any good.
I have to mention that the staff were extremely polite, efficient and friendly, and very happy to talk about the food and to give wine recommendations. We asked the waitress to recommend a glass of wine to go with our main courses, which she did, after listening carefully to what we wanted.
When I tasted mine, the Alghero Torbato, I cringed a little – it was so delicious, light and fruity with a slightly bitter note at the end, and went so perfectly with the fish – and I stupidly hadn’t looked at the price before agreeing to it. My friend’s red, Arcanos Cannonau, was also exactly what he had hoped for. The prices on the wine list vary quite dramatically, and I envisioned the bill for the wine coming to more than the food. Too busy enjoying the taste, I decided to worry about that later.
For dessert we tried a slice of the lemon cheesecake and a slice of the chestnut cake, chosen from the display at the counter. The cheesecake was reassuringly Italian-style, made with ricotta or mascarpone rather than heavy cream, so rougher in texture than the very smooth, creamy ones we’re used to in the UK and US, and with a thick crust.
The chestnut cake had a very similar, slightly more moist texture. Both came with pistachio ice-cream, making a quite refreshing and not overly sweet finish to the meal, and went very well with a glass of Murales, a Sardinian port-style dessert wine.
Though prices are a little higher than in most places in the area (our mains were 355kc each) I thought it was worth every crown. And the imagined astronomical bill for the wine never materialised, either. Unlike in so many places, our waitress sold us what she thought was the best wine to go with our food, not the most expensive – actually mine turned out to be one of the cheapest they had by the glass at 118kc for 0.2l. The red was not much more at 148.00 for 0.2l.
Bisos seems to be one of very few places around that puts the emphasis on taste and enjoyment before turning a big profit. I can’t say how “authentic” this Sardinian food was, but if you want quality food and wine without pretension, then like me, you’ll probably want to return to Bisos again and again.
U Rajské zahrady 16, just down the hill from Riegrovy Sady.