Monday, July 9, 2007

Staročeská krčma

We first started going to Staročeská krčma (Old Bohemian Grill) back in 1999. The place next door, which is connected, is called Bar Fontana. We loved it for its great meat, great cooking, and casual, rustic atmosphere.

Then, several years ago, the cooking and quality went down hill, and we stopped going.
Recently, a colleague told me things had improved, and there is a new menu. We decided to give it another try.

Staročeská krčma is on a quiet residential street in Prague 6, about halfway between the Hradčanská and Dejvicka metro stops. The interior has exposed wood beams, tables with benches, and dripping candles. There is firewood stacked up along the walls.
It used to get crowded and you'd have to share a table with other diners, but it was empty on a holiday evening. They do allow smoking.
Another source of smoke, the good kind, is wood fired grill in the middle of the relatively small dining area. Years ago, there was no enclosure at all for the fire, but the smoke got out of control, and they put bricks and mortar around it. We once actually saw the fire go out of control when the chef left the room. Very entertaining.
Not everything is cooked on fire, so if you want something grilled, make sure you order from the correct part of the menu.

A meal starts with a basket of nice Czech bread and a ramekin of škvarky. This is rendered, ground pork fat for spreading on the bread. There is a cover charge of 20 CZK a person.

The grilled Argentine rump steak came with scalloped potatoes and a whole head of roasted garlic. The chef comes out and cooks the meat over the fire. The potatoes were good, and the gravy, made with meat drippings, was excellent. The steak absorbed very nice flavor from the wood smoke.

It was a thick cut, with relatively little fat. I asked for the meat to be cooked medium. It acutally came out medium-rare, which is how I like it. But, too often, I've had Czech waiters telling me I could have either rare or medium, so I gave up trying.

On the negative side, this was not a very tender piece of beef. The effort required to cut and chew left us wondering if it really did travel all the way from South America. The texture was more similar to the Czech cut, roštenka. It is one of the more expensive items on the menu at 299 CZK.

I drank Gambrinus, which costs 28 CZK for a half-liter. V had Cabernet by the glass. They charge for each .1 liter, and a glass is .2 liter. I had to do some math, but it worked out to 66 CZK a glass. A .3 liter bottle of Mattoni mineral water was 25 CZK.

The menu is also written in English if you need it, but I don't think the staff speaks much of it.

Neither of us were very hungry, and both of us ordered the same thing, so I don't have much more to say about the food at this point.

After we went, I did speak to my colleague who recommends
Staročeská krčma, and lives close by. I agreed that it had gotten better, but expressed my disappointment about the quality of the meat we ordered. He insisted that the tenderloin pepper steak is the best choice on the menu, which is also a bit cheaper.

Though I wasn't totally happy, I do have a warm place in my heart for this place. I told my colleague, I'd try the pepper steak next time. And there will be a next time.

Staročeská krčma
V.P.Čkalova 15
Prague 6

Tel. (+420) 224 321 505

1 comment:

Pivní Filosof said...

I used to go there a lot too a few years back, until I saw that instead of the romantic candlelight that was the only lightning in the room, they had put lamps. That took much of the atmosphere away.
Around that time a friend of mine, who knew the place as well, told me he had gone there with his wife and some other people and found that the menu had changed, that the place had turned into another corner hospoda, and not a very good one at that. I think they changed owners, and the new ones were not the wisest people on earth.
I remember they had a really wicked grilled tuna steak, and sometimes they grilled lamb, too, which was simply wonderful.
I´ve been wanting to go there for some time now, but for one reason or another I haven't done it yet. Pity they have such crap beer, though.