Ah, January, the traditional month of salad and sobriety. Or not. Maybe we can just agree that this was a ‘practice month’ and didn’t count.
The first major sabotage of our good intentions came in the form of the Grand Restaurant Festival. If you don’t know about it, it’s an unusual sort of festival in which tickets are sold for tables at many of the best-rated (by the Maurer guide) restaurants around the city (and the country) serving special festival menus at bargain prices.
You’re not going to get a ticket for the likes of La Degustation Boheme Bourgeois now – presales started in December and tables at the big-name places quickly sold out.But there are lots of other, usually pricey places which can be road tested for as little as 250-600kc. And you’ve still got plenty of time – the festival is on until February 28th.
I took the chance to go to the famous V Zátiší, on Liliova in the Old Town, where three courses with wine pairing would usually set you back almost 1700kc per person. I’ll be posting in more detail about that later this week, but for now here’s my favourite part of the meal; mango cheesecake with passion fruit sauce, which had the biscuit ‘base’ scattered around one side of the plate with a few berries. There were at least three types of fruit on this plate, so January was off to a good start.
New openings in January included the third location of Thai restaurant Modry Zub, in Andel. This place has been in the works for ages and, as with so many of Prague’s restaurant openings (for reasons unknown) has suffered delay after delay. I haven’t been yet but the photos of the interior look pretty stylish, and I like the food at their other locations.
I did stop by the new-ish Yam Yam Express on Vodičkova. The interior was all bare walls and tables packed close together. Give me the original Yam Yam location at Vysehrad any day… although this is the ‘express’ version, and I suppose they don’t want you to get too comfy. But the food I tried – spring rolls, chicken satay, red curry with duck, green curry with chicken – was just as good, and as inexpensive. It’s not a bad place at all to stop for a quick lunch if you’re in the centre.
Seafood lovers have two new options, both on Dlouha. Rybárna seems to be part of the new Dlouha 14 gourmet food market; both fresh fish counter and bistro, serving hot dishes like bouillabaisse and fish and chips. Then there’s Seefish at the Gurmet Pasaz – the place with Sisters bistro and Nase Maso.
Bombay Express, the newly-opened Indian place in the Flora shopping centre (in the space which used to be Coyote’s), was a let-down. Yeah, I know – it’s a restaurant in a shopping centre. But I just couldn’t help getting my hopes up.
Billing itself as “fine Indian fast food”, it might be fast, but there’s nothing fine about it. My visit about a week after it opened was a slightly surreal experience.I ordered their ‘Bombay Express Menu’, and was handed my change and, without any explanation, a pager. The place was packed, but I found a (dirty) table and sat down, watching in bemusement as pagers beeped all around me and my fellow diners leapt up one by one, as if they’d been electrocuted in turn, to collect their orders. If you hate phones ringing in restaurants, this will drive you nuts. It will probably drive you nuts anyway.
Soon enough it was my turn to be beeped at. I swapped my pager for a big, white hospital-style tray filled with various lukewarm curries. You can see photos of people smiling awkwardly while holding these trays on the restaurant’s Facebook page. As for the food itself, well, the dhal was edible though it was hard to find any spices in there. The chicken tikka masala just tasted salty, much saltier than my tiny little glass of Fanta (included in the price) could help me with. There was also an unidentifiable vegetable curry, made with frozen mixed vegetables and no spice whatsoever. You could choose from rice (mine was hard and cold) or naan bread, which they make a show of preparing at the counter and is probably the better option.
I only managed to eat about a third of what was on my hospital tray, and still developed a headache from the sodium and whatever chemicals were in there. For 165kc it was pretty awful, even for a fast-food curry. I found myself feeling homesick for the “rice and three” back home in Manchester and started daydreaming about the Curry Mile. But you don’t have to go that far to find something better – I’d take a ready-made M&S curry over this.
After months of hosting pop-ups, U Kurelu now has a regular menu featuring lots of smoked meats served in the form of burgers, hot dogs, nachos, salads and BBQ quesadillas, and there are some thought-out veggie options, too. There were four burgers on the menu, some of which are familiar from the Tavern (but smokier) and every bit as good – though the Tavern took a surprise tumble in Brewsta’s annual burger rankings, which came out this month.
On our table at U Kurelu, the smoked turkey quesadilla was a big hit as were the nachos and fresh salsa that came with it. Luckily there was enough that I didn’t mind sharing. Their waffle fries are really crispy, a bit too crispy for my liking but other people loved them. Everyone was really happy with the food and drinks, though the service was slow, disinterested and even a bit rude – very different to previous visits when the owners were around.
I wasn’t surprised to see the nearby Kiin Thai restaurant close down. I live around the corner and I couldn’t even be bothered to go there (I gave up – it never got any better after I wrote this review, and they kept “losing” my takeaway orders.) The restaurant has since been reincarnated as KiinDi on Michelska, in Michle (NOT Michalská in the Old Town, as I first thought – thanks to @CzechPlease for clearing that up!) I don’t know how much luck they’ll have impressing the local residents in that neighbourhood.
Much more excitingly, there’s a Dish no.2 in the works, planned to open sometime in 2015. No more details are available but there are rumours of a new and improved concept. We’ll just have to wait and see what that is.
If there’s anything else you think I should know about, feel free to leave a comment, tweet or email me
Until next time… dobrou chut’!