Restaurant Review Archives
By Dave Faries*
Staff Writer, The Prague Post
January 29th, 2008 issue
If you’ve ever gotten drunk, read F. Scott Fitzgerald, and then tried to write a restaurant column, you’ll understand what I have to say about my visit to McDonald's.
It’s less “The Great Gatsby” and more “This Side of Paradise.”(1) But a comparison to Lewis Carroll’s “Through the Looking Glass” might be more appropriate (2).
Know what I mean? No? Well, it doesn't matter.
At the Wenceslas Square location, I went straight for the specialty that has brought this restaurant so much critical attention, the Big Mac. As Prague's foremost burger expert (3), I am able to discard personal likes and dislikes in favor of a hard-nosed assessment of this quintessentially American sandwich (4).
Everyone knows it comes with two all-beef patties. However, if my Big Mac had one weakness, it was that the beef was not as grassy as I'd hoped. The meat should speak of freshly cut lawns on a hot summer day.
For example, I much preferred the grassy undertones of the steak at Gott Gallery (5). That was quite different than the almost grassy beef at La Veranda (6). Based on my experience, the filet at Monsoon rates higher on my grassy scale (7). But, I was also very impressed with the organic beef at La Degustation, which was redolent of the great green grass of Argentina (8).
Only true beef lovers and, of course, the more sophisticated restaurant critics, understand the importance of grassiness in a steak. I could write a whole column about it (9).
After the first bite of the Big Mac, I noticed a prick on my tongue. It's a sensation I'm always looking for. But it was nothing like the big prick that came with the freshly cracked pepper at Styl (10). It was more reminiscent of the little prick I had in my mouth after biting into that cod piece at Gordon Ramsay's place (11). Or maybe it was more like Karel Gott's timid prick (12) .
As many are aware, the Big Mac does not have the cloying tomato coulis that is so ubiquitous atop many of the restaurant's other offerings. It does have a so-called Special Sauce, which reminds one of the intricacy of a good mirepoix and indicates grounding in traditional cooking techniques (13). The onions were breviloquent (14). I didn't expect it, despite my exegetic reading of the menu and ingredients posted on the wall (15).
Let's talk about the pickles. These little circles of sourness wield daggers that jab your palate with impunity (16). The lettuce takes full advantage of the furious attack, parrying it with a watery blandness.
Then, the salt hits you like uppercuts to the mouth that belt your palate with salvo after salvo of salinity. The violence of the toppings is only calmed by cheese (17). In the end, the sesame seed bun grabs them all and wrenches them to the ground (18).
As I see it, the Big Mac is Prague's best burger. It is even better than the Balkan pljeskavice at Mon Ami, which I consider a hamburger, but which laymen bloggers think is crazy talk.
But what do they know? First of all, they probably never worked at a free alternative weekly in Dallas like I have. Second, who can take these no-names seriously? They don't stand behind their work (20).
I do. I'm Dave Faries, dammit.
(1) "In his classic The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald cautions readers against the natural human desire to recapture moments past. If I remember correctly, nostalgic reverie has some pretty devastating consequences. Sam Waterston as a neighbor, for one."
(2) "In Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass, Humpty Dumpty declares that a word 'means just what I choose it to mean — nothing more, nothing less.' Thus empowered, he elects to say 'glory' in place of 'knock-down, drag-out argument' or 'impenetrably' to express his desire to change topics. Clearly, any conversation with the large egg could easily devolve into a confusing mess. U Slavíků, the new restaurant lodged in the space once occupied by Rudý Baron, is a model of such incoherence."
(3) The Prague Post, September 26, 2007, "The Grill of Victory" by Dave Faries
(4) "She understands the importance of accuracy, of discarding personal likes and dislikes in favor of hard-nosed assessment."
(5) "Otherwise, a gentle seasoning hand allows the flavor of beef to step forward — sour, grassy undertones in this case, with very little heft."
(7) "It’s not the best grade of meat in terms of marbling, but intensely flavorful — rich and grassy, almost like wild game."
(9) Dallas Observer, February 5, 2004, "Grazing Pains" by Dave Faries
(10) "Because of the exuberance with the pepper mill, sparks leap suddenly from the dense, rich and ever-so-slightly smoked sauce to prick at your tongue before relinquishing the sharp lance and disappearing back into the mist."
(11) "Seasoning pricks the tongue then falls away, allowing natural flavors to rush forward."
(12) "A sprinkle of pickled green peppercorns throws in occasional tart but timid pricks."
(16) "As a jjigae (stew), however, the stuff wields daggers — a coal-fire red broth that clutches your palate and begins jabbing away with impunity."
(17) "Yet it still met traditional standards and the mixture of spinach and gorgonzola belts your palate with salvo after salvo of pungent bitterness, calmed only by cream."
(18) "But pancetta is the heart of it — grabbing the bright taste of crushed tomato and wrenching it to the ground, uppercutting herbs with strokes of salt."