"Forget it, Jake. It's Chinatown." Chinatown (1974)I can get obsessed with specific restaurants. It's a useful problem to have in this line of work.
If I like a place, I'll return again and again until I tire of it. In rare cases, the obsession doesn't end.
I still haven't lost my passion for La Bottega di Finestra, perhaps the finest cafe in the city. I've lost track of how many times I've been there.
Asian eateries are well-represented on my short list of regular favorites, so when I saw the new Zebra Asian Noodle Bar on Havelský trh, I quickly got curious.
Both the menu and the interior reminded me of Coa.
The first thing I went for was the Zebra wings.
One unappetizing aspect was that they revised the menu recently. Some tasty dishes were dropped, a few others were added, and they raised the prices.
When they first opened, they charged 89 CZK for six Zebra wings. Now they've soared to 139 CZK for eight. A number of offerings went up in cost by between 10 and 60 CZK.
We tried the vegetarian dim sum (99 CZK).
They also have shrimp dim sum (119 CZK). These three dumplings filled with chopped shrimp also had the satisfyingly moist, thin skin.
I was curious about the Vietnamese roll (169 CZK). Of all the things I tried, this was the only one I considered a failure.
We enjoyed the cool and refreshing soba salad (179 CZK).
An alternative is the green papaya salad (169 CZK).
Two soups I really loved, the corn with coconut milk and the Five Treasures have dropped off the menu update. I won't tease you with the pictures.
They still have the tom-yam (179 CZK).
Either way, the large bowl was loaded with glass noodles, calamari, shrimp, and shiitake mushrooms. The seafood was fresh and well-complemented by the lime leaf and fish sauce, plus with a slow-building heat. It was very filling by itself.
I sampled my Thai litmus test dish, the Pad Thai with shrimp (249 CZK). I'd rank this one second only to the version at Noi, which is still my favorite in the city.
Continuing with the Thai theme, there's the massaman curry with beef (249 CZK). Rice is included in the price.
Občanská plovárna, I was talking about my desire for thicker, creamier curries in Prague. This is exactly what I was talking about. It's my wish fulfilled.
Thai curries are usually thin and soup like. The exceptions are panang and massaman curries, which can be creamier and more Indian-like in their consistency.
In this one, chunks of beef were slow-cooked to softness. The meat was surrounded by eggplant, potato, white onion, green onion, and peanuts. The spiciness built up slowly. It was a little too salty for me, but otherwise great.
If you like that one, you might want to try their "Chang-Mai" noodles (249 CZK).
Continuing with the egg noodle theme, they have a Japanese dish they call Kuni salmon (249 CZK). This included shrimp, yams, leeks, and oyster sauce.
I'd note here that they were accommodating and prepared this once without salmon on request. Another time, my date asked if they would make a vegetable stir fry, which was not on the menu.
From the Chinese portion of the menu, I ordered the Sichuan Beef (279 CZK).
The last of the main courses was the pork ribs (249 CZK).
Mood, but they were still easy to peel apart with fingers. Although the menu said they have a "sweet and spicy glaze," I found them more salty than sweet. And I thought they were great. The flavor brought me back to London's Gerrard Street and New York's Chinatown. It wasn't exactly the same, but close enough.
On the last visit, we tried the two new and most expensive items on the menu. My date had the Zebra maguro (570 CZK). It was sesame-crusted seared tuna over bok choi cooked with soy sauce.
My date liked the tuna. I thought it was OK, but I'd say it didn't satisfy my price to pleasure quotient.
I had their Thai-style sea bass (490 CZK). Although I'm a big tuna fan, I actually like this dish better.
Rice came on the side for both dishes, but it went less well with the tuna, which had very little sauce with it.
To drink, I most often had the .3 liter glass of Merlin dark beer (45 CZK).
My date drank rosé (99 CZK) and a large bottle of Romerquelle sparkling water 85 CZK) on one visit.
I did try one dessert: the marquise chocolate with ginger and orange (99 CZK).
What about the service? It was all over the place. There was a total melt down on one visit with two forgotten orders, incorrect charges on the bill and the like.
I'd make some allowances for the restaurant being newly opened. The later visits did have better service.
The location, at a crossroads of Prague's tourist trails, can't be cheap. The rising prices did take away some of the feeling of value. I thought the price for water was ridiculous.
However, with many filling and delicious dishes going for around 250 CZK, it's still possible to eat at this restaurant and not go broke. My meals for two with at least two courses and drinks averaged 1000 CZK.
It's clear the people behind this restaurant have an international perspective and did their homework. Although not gourmet or groundbreaking, Zebra brought back memories of simple, but satisfying meals in London, New York, Los Angeles, Beijing, and Thailand.
For me, food like that is hard to forget.
Zebra Asian Noodle Bar
Tel. (+420) 777 873 333