Thursday, February 8, 2007

Dining Out in Prague - An Overview

Prague has a growing variety of fine dining establishments, with an increasing emphasis on international cuisine. Prices are also going up, but are still, generally, less than in Western capitals.

One of my favorite restaurants, in terms of food and service, is Kogo in Slovanský dům, near Náměstí Republiky.

This restaurant has an open kitchen and a bright, modern dining area with big glass walls facing a green court yard. They serve Mediterranean/Italian style cuisine with an emphasis on pasta, grilled meat and seafead, and pizza.

It is particularly nice to sit outside in the open courtyard on a nice day. The seafood risotto and gnocchi with mushrooms and cream are particularly good. There is also a Kogo nearby on Havelská, below Wenceslas Square. And the Kogo people just opened a new restaurant called L'Angolo by Kogo, on Dlouha near Old Town Square.

Another restaurant with good cooking and modern, interesting design is Zahrada v Opeře (Garden at the Opera). It is next to the State Opera at the top of Wenceslas Square. There are dishes like Nasi Goreng (spiced Indonesian fried rice with seafood and lime leaves). There are also more tradition dishes like lamb.

For a fun night, book a table at the Cuban restaurant, La Bodeguita del Medio, at Kaprova 5 near Old Town Square. The restaurant has great food -- Cuban-style steaks are a specialty. But the seafood dishes, like jumbo shrimp with black pasta, are also excellent. In the evening, there is live music for the diners in the downstairs area of the restaurant, playing and singing Cuban classics. Think Buena Vista Social Club. Just about everyone acts like Hemingway and drinks the big mojitos.

The owners of La Bodeguita have opened a new steak restaurant, La Casa Argentina, at Dlouhá 35. The steaks are terrific, with a great smokey flavor from the grill. They make up for many of the restaurants sins. Most of the the side dishes and desserts are unimpressive, and the service has been generally poor. The bar in the back of the restaurant has a ship theme and unqiue chairs at the bar that are suspended by ropes from ceiling.

Around the corner from La Bodeguita are two other good places, under the same ownership: Le Cafe Colonial at Široká 6, and Marco Polo IV, which is next door. Both have menus that fuse East and West -- and provide a quieter setting for dinner.

For food with something of an American style, there is Ambiente on Manesova, above Wenceslas Square. Bookings are a must for this popular restaurant. Try the juicy, meaty ribs and chicken wings with mango chilli sauce. They also do steaks, lamb chops, fajitas, and salads. The cooking and service are top-notch.

Other restaurants at the top of the Czech fine dining scene are:

Kampa Park -Top food, with a top location, and top prices. The place all the biggest celebrities eat (you can see their pictures on the wall). Personally, I think it is a bit overrated, but there is a "wow" factor because of the view of the Charles Bridge.
La Perle de Prague - In Frank Gehry inspired "Dancer" building, with a view of Prague castle.
Mlynec - With a view of the Charles Bridge. Bellvue and V Zatisi are also under the same ownership.
Alchymist Club - Very good cooking in a setting that is something like Louis IV meets the 1960s. A lot of gold. And zebra print chairs cushions. OK, so I liked the weird kitschiness. For one visit, anyway.

If you want Czech food and beer, try one of the restaurants in the Kolkovna group. There is the original Kolkovna, on V Kolovne, near Old Town Square, Olympia on Vitezna near Ujezd in Mala Strana, and Celnice near Namesti Republiky.

All have great Pilsner Urquell beer and Czech specialties. For the a real Czech experience, try the koleno (pork knee) with mustard and fresh horseradish. It is better than it sounds. They do all kinds of meats, including a season-it-yourself steak tartare.

For breakfast, one of the best is Cafe Savoy on Vitezna near Ujezd in Mala Strana. It is owned by the Ambiente Group and has a gorgeous ceiling.

They have a "French breakfast" that is huge and takes up most of the table -- French toast, croissant, boiled egg, sausage, coffee, fresh-squeezed orange juice and more. The "American breakfast" features grilled chicken, egg, and bacon sandwich, fries, juice, hot chocolate, bread, jam, and fruit. The ham and cheese omlette is also wonderful -- big and well-priced. It comes with big chunks of real, smoked Prague ham. There is also a terrific, though somewhat small lunch and dinner menu.

If you really need a bagel in Prague there is Bohemia Bagel with three locations (Šimáckova 21, Másna 2 and the "Express" at Tylovo Námesti). The original shop on Ujezd closed down.

To get a little history with your breakfast, lunch, or coffee, you can go to Cafe Louvre, on Národní třída, between the National Theater and Wenceslas Square. Franz Kafka, Albert Einstein, and Karel Čapek used to hang out here. The breakfasts are alright, not too special, but it is a nice looking place and a lot of locals come to eat there. They also have a Czech cuisine menu in the afternoon and evening. One thing to try is their hot chocolate -- it is extremely thick -- like hot chocolate pudding. If you like, you can play pool on the nice tables in the back room.

A good beer and Czech food option which is not mega-touristy is Pivovraský Dum at Lipova 15 (off Ječná ). This restaurant serves a large Czech menu, plus their beers brewed on the premises. It is the home of the national brewery school.


Anonymous said...

Brewsta, love the web site. Very helpful for some of us who have never been to CZECH Republic. Do you have a list of restaurants in Prague which are primarily used by locals. We have travelled to many countries in Europe and prefer to eat away from the places that cater to tourist. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks....Buckala

Brewsta said...

I don't have a list -- it's almost too broad a subject especially if you go beyond Czech cuisine. I know a few places where the majority of people will be Czech.

Could try Staroceska Krcma on VP Ckalova, near Dejvicka metro. Small rustic place with benches serves meat grilled on an open fire. Smokey.

Czech office types like Bredovsky Dvur near Wenceslas Square. A younger crowd like Druhej Svet, right near the National Museum.

Czech young professional types also like Potrefena Husa's mix of Czech and American-style dishes -- pork knee or burgers -- not many tourists in the Vinohradska location.

For some good Balkan cevapcici, you could try Mon Ami on Kodanksa in Vrsovice -- or see my recommendation for Neklid.

Don't know if that sounds like what you are looking for.

Anonymous said...

Brewsta, thanks for your suggestions. Yes these appear to be the type of places where one can find and experience as near as possible the real CZECH cusine. We will definitely check out the Neklid Restaurant. I'll continue to follow your website for other nice places. Good luck with your website.


Brewsta said...

Just be aware -- I like Neklid a lot, and especially because I live close by, but I'm not sure I'd cross an ocean for it. An endearing oddball hybrid of a place. They do have English language menus (I actually helped fix their previous version's translations), but the waitstaff doesn't speak much.

Anonymous said...

hi guys, do you know where can I find uzbek kitchen here in Prague? If you know, please, help me

Anonymous said...

Thank you for advices. I'm new here in Prague and don't know which place is better and which is worse. This evening I plan to go to one of restraunts you discribed.