Friday, May 18, 2007

Waikiki Restaurant & Music Bar

"Hawaii has always been a very pivotal role in the Pacific. It is in the Pacific. It is a part of the United States that is an island that is right here."

-U.S. Vice President Dan Quayle speaking in Hawaii, 1989

To put it kindly, Prague restaurants can have their own special kind of quirky eccentricity. Sort of like Dan Quayle.

Restaurant owners here can and still do follow their hearts over their heads. The results usually fall somewhere between strange, intriguing, and amusing.

A case in point is a restaurant in the Vršovice neighborhood of Prague. This place specializes in two distinctly different cuisines: Mexican and Italian. It's not a fusion, mind you. They are separate offerings with separate menus.

Given the eclecticism already on display here, the name for this establishment makes just that much more sense:

Waikiki Restaurant & Music Bar

There is no Hawaiian cuisine. No loco moco, no mahi-mahi, and certainly no poi. Not even a Hawaiian pizza. Curiosity got the better of me, and I actually found out why this is so. I'll come back to that story later.

The restaurant itself is in an odd location, underneath an ugly old building on a side street at the edge of Vršovické náměstí. It's just up the road from the Bohemians football stadium. A stop for the 4, 22, and 23 trams is not far away.

Despite the somewhat dreary surroundings, when you walk down he steps, there is a nice, covered outside dining area. The roof does not retract, so it is not a place where you can get too much sun.

Inside, there is very modern looking interior that was built a few years back. There are lights hanging from the ceiling and a DJ booth.
But we were there for the food. And meals here start off with a small, complimentary basket of chips and salsa. They are basic chips from the store and a simple salsa, not too spicy.

I start with one of my regular favorites, the beef carpaccio for 135 CZK. The beef is good quality, topped with a few capers. I'd much prefer freshly shaved Parmesan cheese instead of the finely grated variety. But still, I liked it.

V got the chili relleno -- a deep-fried, whole, pickled jalapeno peppers filled with cheese for 85 CZK. The peppers were pretty hot and sour. The melting cheese had a smoky flavor that I appreciated. V couldn't eat them all, so I was happy to help.

For a main course on one visit, I got the beef chimichanga for 149 CZK. Or at least I think I did. That's what I ordered. On the receipt, it is listed as a burrito. It may have been a burrito because I didn't detect much in the way of deep-frying. It was hard to tell because the whole thing is covered with melted cheese and sour cream.

If you like refried beans, this is the way to go. I'd guess that this tortilla is filled with at least an entire can of the stuff. I like refried beans a lot, and it was even too much for me. Mixed in with the refritos are chunks of some decent beef. I didn't taste or see anything else in there.

Watch out if it should fall off the table. The thing is a brick. It will break your foot.

For a main course on one visit, I ordered the nachos topped with sliced steak for 209 CZK. Not good.

The biggest problem: The strips of beef were so dried out, it was close to beef jerky. They weren't even very warm. There was decent guacamole and average salsa on the side, along with sour cream. Underneath, there was a little melted cheese. The thick corn chips underneath were cold. They stayed hard and crunchy and did not absorb any of the toppings.

It just didn't work. Especially for the price. I was hoping for something more along the lines of one of my favorite snacks -- the chili con carne nachos at La Casa Blů. Those are killer. And much cheaper.

V got the Biftec Naranja (orange beef) for 219 CZK. This wasn't so good either. It came out on an iron skillet. The cut appeared to be a fillet, but the toughness and taste was more like a roštěná -- not a high-quality cut. There was some unremarkable orange sauce in the pan along with a slice of orange. Wouldn't get that again.

On the drinks side, a half-liter of Pilsner Urquell is 35 CZK. A .25 liter glass of Müller-Thurgau is 40 CZK. There is also an extensive drinks menu, with reasonably priced cocktails. At least compared with the cocktail prices in the center.

In spite of a number of disappointments, I'll probably go back again. There are a few other dishes I'd like to try. And there were a few things I liked -- the carpaccio and the jalapenos. The fact that it is walking distance from my home makes it a little harder to write off.

It was pretty busy the night we went. The bartenders were getting a workout behind the bar. The outside tables fill up fast in warm weather. The restaurant inside is split into two levels. There was a big birthday party there.

There was also a special promotion for Jägermeister while we were there. There were a bunch of orange and black decorations and flashing lights. And there was even a special appearance by the Jägerettes -- a collection of orange-haired temptresses.

Not tonight.

At a certain point during tour dinner, curiosity got the better of me. I asked our waiter why the restaurant is called Waikiki.

"I don't know," he said. He looked a little embarrassed. "I'll go find out."

A short time later, he returned with the answer. The waiter pointed out a young-looking man behind the bar as the owner. He said "Waikiki" is the owner's nickname. He got it because he used to spend a lot of time on the beach. The man liked the name so much, he bestowed it upon his Italian-Mexican restaurant.

So, now you know.

The whole concept for Waikiki is certainly odd, yet strangely amusing to me. I don't know the owner -- I never worked with him, and we're not friends, but I will say this:

He's no Dan Quayle.

Waikiki Restaurant & Music Bar
Vršovické náměstí 2
Prague 10

Tel. (+420) 271 741 082
Open every day, 'til 2 am on weekends


pd.adams said...

Aloha from the Island!
I was intrigued! We could use a restaurant with
that name here in Waikiki. Great writing....

Brewsta said...

Ahoj! (as we say here).