True, a commenter on a previous post became overwrought during the intense debate on salads and sandwiches. But before you write off such a person as completely lacking in perspective, know this:
With the little information available, Mr. Anonymous got one thing exactly right. I am, in fact, a lazy, sandwich-obsessed millionaire.
So, now you know.
As much as I'm in love with Prague’s over-priced, shop-made sandwiches, even people like me need to get away once in a while. That is why V and I decided to go to Mariánské Lázně for the weekend.
We booked a hotel, but were distressed to learn that there was a special winter discount package. This meant we’d be sharing the hotel with, shall we say, people of a lesser economic orientation. Then, we were told our helicopter would be too heavy for the hotel’s roof, so we’d have to drive. It takes two hours from Prague by limo or, I suppose, a car.
First, let me say that Mariánské Lázně is not a fine-dining Mecca. We thought, perhaps, we could remedy the situation with big wads of cash. We decided to have dinner in the restaurant of the spa town’s five-star Hotel Esplanade. Because it is the low season and there are not many guests, they serve dinner on many nights in the bar area.
The bar looks like it belongs in a very posh golf clubhouse. The walls have green damask, framed by rich wood paneling. Many guests do come to play on the nearby courses. If you have a fetish for greens and fairways, there are photos on the walls.
First, let me tell you, there are no sandwiches on the menu. The closest thing you’ll find is the breadbasket, and that is filled with an uninspired selection of slightly stale slices and rolls.
For a starter, I went for the beef carpaccio (250 CZK). I liked it a lot. The very thin slices of fresh beef were completely covered with large sheets of Parmesan. The Parmesan was drizzled with balsamic syrup. It just needed a few shots from the salt and pepper mills. I’d get it again, but wish the portion would be a little larger for the money.
V went for the escargots (290 CZK). They were unlike any escargot she had had before. They were actually dry. No lake of melted butter and garlic. And, no big deal, but no shells, either. There was shaved Parmesan on top. They came with boring, dry, lightly toasted brown bread, probably picked up from the supermarket.
Strangely, she actually liked them. V described them as “very snaily snails.” And happily for her, there were 15 of them. I tried a couple. There were very large and meaty. But I missed the butter and garlic. To me they tasted like, well, garden-variety snails.
I tried the Caesar Salad with grilled chicken breast (290 CZK). I did not like it. The chicken breast had a nice smoky, grilled flavor. It was also warmed over, dry, and almost too salty to eat. There was no Romaine lettuce, only iceberg and some other green leaves. There was shaved Parmesan. The dressing was mustard-based, with a hint of anchovy. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzz.
V got a seafood salad. It came with nicely grilled shrimp and scallops (390 CZK). The shrimp were a bit dry and may have been reheated. Both salads came with generic white toast. V said the rest of the salad was not very good, but the seafood made it worthwhile. But at this price, I personally wouldn’t recommend it.
For a main course, I had the grilled pork tenderloin with green beans, bacon, and scalloped potatoes (450 CZK). The pork also had the great smoky, grilled flavor, but was not as tender as I was expecting. I’d say I liked it, but it was not worth the money.
V had carp (CZK 290). I don’t like carp and don’t know why anyone would eat it outside of the Christmas season. Like my insightful, commenting friend, Mr. Anonymous, I'm rather astounded when someone doesn't share my point of view.
“Why would you get carp at a nice restaurant?” I asked.
“Because I wanted fish, I didn’t feel like salmon, and the other ones seemed too expensive.”
In the end, she said it was good, but bony.
The Pilsner Urquell was perhaps the most expensive I’d ever had at 100 CZK, but it tasted much better than usual because I was in a clubby room of a five-star hotel.
Looking around at the end of the meal, I was pleased to see a very young,extremely wealthy couple sitting nearby with a vicious dog at their feet. We had noticed them arriving earlier in the day driving separate cars: A new Mercedes S-class and giant black Cadillac Escalade. Finally, a few more Escalades in the Czech Republic! But there was also a non-wealthy couple near us, wearing jeans no less! We wondered how such people could get into this exclusive little place.
"Oh, yes," we recalled. "The coupon clippers."
But seeing people such as this did pique our curiosity. What must it be like to live in their world? We decided then and there that we would eat our next meal at a cheap, bad restaurant in the tourist zone.
Stay tuned for part II.
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