Friday, June 6, 2008

Planet Sushi

"Praise those of your critics for whom nothing is up to standard." -Dag Hammarskjold
How does one judge a sushi restaurant in Prague?

Should it be held to an international standard?

Or should it only be measured against what the Czech capital has on offer?

First, let me say I have never had sushi in Prague that compared favorably to what I usually eat in the United States.

I haven't been everywhere in this town, but I've been to a fair number of Japanese restaurants here.

So, I will only compare our visit to Planet Sushi in Smichov to other Prague restaurants. And even by that lesser standard, the sushi was not so good.It's a stylish place with a fair number of Japanese style points. The employees were mostly Czech, but they were wearing kimonos. Kind of amusing, actually.

There's a front room where you can take your shoes off and sit on the floor.We were there on a Sunday, when they have all you can eat sushi for 690 CZK. It's served from a very small buffet area in front of the chefs (sorry, no close up).The sushi sat on two trays under plastic shields. I took a long, hard look at what they had on offer and decided it wasn't worth it.

They had only a few kinds of nigiri, including some electric pink tuna. Which I hate.

When it is that unnatural color, it usually means it has been treated with carbon monoxide for cosmetic purposes.

There were some maki rolls to choose from, but several appeared to be filled with cream cheese. Which I hate.

There was a steam table with hot food. The remains of some sorry chicken teriyaki looked old and tired. There was vegetable tempura, but that rarely does too well or remains too crunchy in a steam table. There was also some soup.

There were a lot of expats eating there that Sunday. But for my money, there are too many other all-you-can-eat Sunday brunch buffets that offer better value. They need to do better.

I also admit I'm spoiled after I had a better looking all-you-can-eat sushi meal in Atlanta recently for $9 a person. Crazy cheap.

At Planet Sushi, we decided to go a la carte.

V started with the Chukka salad (140 CZK), which was seaweed salad with what is described as a nut sauce.We really couldn't taste nuts in it, but liked it anyway. It had more of a mustardy, eggy flavor, sort of like Caesar dressing or Hollandaise. I asked the waitress what was in it.

"Nuts," she said.

"What else?"

"Hmmm. I don't know, really," she said, and she walked away.

She looked busy so we didn't push her to ask in the kitchen.

I ordered the Caterpillar Maki (210 CZK). Not good. It was described as smoked eel wrapped in avocado. To make it look more like the crawly bug, they put two red fish roe on it for eyes.The eel was average at best. But the real problem was the avocado. How they could serve this yellowish, unripe avocado is beyond me. It looked and tasted like plastic.

It was so unripe and stiff that it detached from the rice and spread out like wings. They should have called it Butterfly Maki. A waste of time and money.

We had far better maki at a food court at a Florida mall. I will even boldly assert that Florida mall sushi was better prepared and better tasting than any sushi I've had in Prague. Not to mention cheaper.

Prague sushi is always on the expensive side. I don't accept the "Prague is landlocked" argument for that. Is there not enough demand? Or competition? Or what?

A colleague told me she used to get amazing and not expensive sushi in Moscow, which is further from the sea than the Czech capital. She even recommended a place called Yaposha.

Prague is different, for a variety of reasons I don't fully comprehend, and Planet Sushi's raw fish was no bargain.

So, we ordered some of their less expensive hot dishes. And I thought these were more successful than their maki.

I had the Uma tama don (230 CZK). It was smoked eel mixed with fried egg over rice with sukiyaki sauce. I'd never tried this dish before, and I really enjoyed it.The egg was mixed with the eel and onion and had a pleasant sweetness. It formed a layer over the rice, which was had the wonderful flavor of the sukiyaki.

You could taste the soy sauce in it, but it also had the strong essence of mirin, a rice wine similar to saki. Yum.

V ordred the Kaisen Yaki Udon (250 CZK). It was udon noodles with mixed seafood like calamari and salmon. I thought it was pretty good.Unfortunately, V didn't like it so much. It came loaded with bonito flakes -- salty dried tuna shavings. It was too much for her, so she wasn't happy. They didn't bother me.

We had a pot of Mate IQ tea (55 CZK). This smart tea is made with mint, ginkgo, and guarana.

We didn't taste much mint, though so V was a bit disappointed. It was more lemony, which I liked.

We also ordered a couple of bottles of water with our meal (40 CZK each). V drank a couple of glasses of white wine (55 CZk each).

The final tab for the meal was 1075 CZK. Not cheap, but I'd go back for the hot dishes some time.

However, this meal only reinforced my opinion that no sushi in Prague is up to my standards.

I won't hold my breath while waiting to be praised for saying that.

Planet Sushi
Nádražní 110
Prague 5 - Smíchov
Tel. (+420) 257 286 265

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Pivní Filosof said...

I think you should compare everything to what you can find in Prague, for better or worse, because that is the standard here.
Problem with sushi, and not only here, is that is a trend more than a meal. Open a nicely located and decorated sushi restaurant and all the posh wannabes will flock there happy to pay through their noses for whatever rubbish is on the menu. Once the fad dies, the real stuff stays, those are the ones to look for.

Anonymous said...

Have you tried Katsura in the basement of the Diplomat Hotel? It's the only Japanese restaurant in Prague I ever want to go to and think that it matches the quality of what you'd expect to find in your average-to-good Japanese restaurant in the U.S.

(I've been told, by the way, that the best Japanese food is actually in Japan.)

Brewsta said...

I haven't tried Katsura -- The Diplomat is a little off my beaten track. I've also heard Samurai is good. I'd like to try them, but when I think of the costs involved in a full on experience, I lose my appetite.

And you heard wrong -- the best Japanese food is actually at a mall in Ft. Lauderdale ;-)

Anonymous said...

have you been to 'made in japan'? its the only sushi place i've been to in prague. its pricey, but i heard it's cheaper than most of the sushi places there. and of the 3x i've been there, the food has always been up to par. nice staff, too.

Anonymous said...

You should give Katsura a try. The place is full of Japanese people every time I go there--the best endorsement a Japanese restaurant can get.

U.S. out of Okinawa now!!!

Brewsta said...

I should try "Made in Japan" -- the rolls look OK. They once left a comment saying they don't use color enhanced tuna. That would be good, if true.

I have to admit, high prices put me off more and more these day.

joanh said...

hi! i'll be browsing through your blog since I'm visiting czech soon! it's funny how food translates in different countries, especially rolls which are more american than japanese, i'd say (i had a hard time finding them in Taipei as well!)

the avocado did look inedible! and i hate cream cheese in my rolls too.

Anonymous said...

at Made In Japan i often get the spicy tuna roll, and the fish has always been that pinkish/slightly brick reddish color i've found often back at home (florida). never bright/neon pink.

Brewsta said...

I think real tuna should be a dark, ruby red.

Anonymous said...

I don't know if this would be up to your standards, but I really enjoy a sushi/Korean restaurant in Karlin called Gaya. It's right outside of Krizikova metro on Sokolovska and it much more affordable than the average Prague sushi place.

Might be worth a try if you're in the neighborhood.

Brewsta said...

Thanks. I don't get there too often, but you never know.

Anonymous said...

I have been to just about all the sushi eateries in Prague and for me and my pals - samurai has excellent sushi and sashimi. On the contrary, I find their prices pretty reasonable for a classy joint.

Haven't tried their hot dishes yet though.

And you are right. Tuna should be dark, ruby red! Any other color, better you avoid eating.

Lidia said...

You mentioned a colleague that has had good sushi is Moscow and so I wanted to mention that Planet sushi is a Russian chain. They were planning to open another outlet on Maiselova street a few years ago but it didn't work out for some reason. I sometimes visit Moscow and Kiev (not as big as Moscow but still the triple size of Prague). There is a sushi craze going on there for the last couple of years. I'm still waiting for Mcd's to start selling sushi in Kiev, if you know what I mean. Unfortunately, I also know many people who have suffered food poisoning from sushi there. There is a huge demand but the sushi is still either bad or good but extremely expensive. The same thing, but to a smaller extent, is happening here. Your point about not accepting the argument of the country being land locked is very apt.