Sunday, March 11, 2007

Perfect Restaurant (Closed)

This restaurant has closed.

When a dining establishment is named “Perfect Restaurant,” you have to wonder what they were thinking. Nothing is perfect. They are just asking for it, aren’t they?

But knocking them for that bit of hubris would be too easy. I don't need perfect. Above average would be good enough.

I just wish they could meet even that less-than-perfect standard.

The restaurant doesn’t have the most glamorous location, on Soukenická, close to Revoluční. Náměstí Republiky is just up the road. In the basement, there is a dance club. At street level, there is a café. The restaurant is upstairs.
The dining rooms are works of modern art. There’s a big mirror on one wall with a line of coffee cups embedded in it. The lighting is very bright. Their fixtures, with their dangling electric cords were not so aesthetically pleasing.
On the opposite side of the room, there is a wall decorated with white plates. The front room has an awkward layout – the main stairway comes up right through the middle of it. There is also another room connecting to this one.
The music was something of an electronica-drum loop drone. A bit loud. Not my favorite for dinner.

Service was friendly and efficient throughout the meal. However, the place was almost empty at 9pm on a Wednesday evening. Not an encouraging sign.

The waitress brought some sliced bread with tomato and black olive baked in. Not the freshest, but still OK. It came with butter, a weak olive oil, and something I’d never seen before accompanying bread: a dollop of tomato paste. It was bland.
As for the food itself, I’ll say this: It is pretty. The plating of the food is very creative. They use stylish square plates (all the round ones are on the wall).

Style is nice, but it's substance that counts. Things go downhill from here.

I started with “Original Thai Beef Salad” appetizer (175 CZK). It had a nice mix of lettuce, a zigzag of balsamic syrup on the side, and sesame seeds sprinkled on the beef.
I took a bite of the beef. Not bad. But the dominant flavor was the sesame seeds. I took another bite. The only other thing I could taste is salt. Nothing else. I was trying to figure out what made this beef Thai. I called over the waitress.

“Excuse me, what spices or seasonings do you use on this dish?”

“I don’t know. I will ask.” She went to talk to the headwaiter and returned shortly. “He said it is Hoisin sauce and balsamic.”

I couldn't taste any Hoisin, but I didn’t want to press her further. I was a bit confused. Perhaps there is a culinary fusion formula I hadn’t known about:

Chinese + Italian = Thai

Another problem I had with this dish is that the greens came without dressing. I was given bottles of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. This presented a challenge. The beef, though not really Thai, tasted OK, and I did not want to cover it with oil and vinegar. In order to dress the salad, I had to pick all the beef of the top and place it on the side. Slightly more user input than usual.

On the English menu, it was called “Original Thai Beef Salad” with no other description. Afterward, I looked at the Czech version of the menu. It said in Czech that the salad comes with Thai dressing. I didn’t get any.

I do love Asian cuisine, but for the main course, I decided to try something different. I ordered the “Perfect marinated ribs with pork tenderloin steak, onion rings, French fries, and variation of dip sauces” (295 CZK). Again, when it arrived, I thought it looked pretty good, with the bones piled up there on the plate.
Where to begin with the problems here?

Well, the ribs were dry. I understand the need to partially cook the ribs in advance, but these were way overdone. The sauce on the ribs themselves was one-dimensional, just sweet. It came with three sauces on the side: a very sweet but watery tomato-based sauce, kremžská mustard (sort of a spicy honey-mustard) straight from a jar, and an intense wasabi cream. I actually really liked the wasabi cream.

The ribs were large and meaty. To use the dipping sauce, I'd tear long pieces off the rib and dip it in the wasabi sauce. The onion rings were mostly an after-thought -- just a little fried onion on top of the ribs.

The pork steak was very basically salted and seasoned. I was doubtful that it was tenderloin. It was sitting atop a grilled tomato.

The fries were house-made, but not well made. There was no crispness at all. They were large, but there was only about six of them.

I worked in a restaurant. Making good, house-made French fries is a time and labor-intensive task. The potatoes have to be soaked in water, pre-fried at a lower temperature, cooled, and then fried again at a higher temperature before serving. If you don’t do this, they don’t get crispy. The chef seems to have skipped a few steps here.

A lot of thought obviously went into the design aspects of this restaurant. A lot of thought went into the choice of dishes. Reading the menu online had me excited. It is even called a “new menu” though I don’t know what was wrong with the old one or how this one was an improvement. All I know is that not enough thought went into the recipes and their execution.

The website says there is an evening "all you can eat buffet" from "Monday to Sunday" for 395 CZK. It says there is a salad bar, antipasta, sushi, and a main course. It was not going on while I was there. A commenter here recommended it. Also, I originally planned to go on a Sunday night, but the restaurant was closed.

You can read more about the restaurant and see more pictures on the Perfect Restaurant website. A lot of it is in Czech, but the menu is in English and Czech.

I wouldn’t say anything was bad. I just didn’t feel I got good value for the money I spent. I wasn’t angry. It was more disappointment. They tried hard. For some reason, I felt sorry for them.

There’s something to be said for good looks, but if you want a long-term relationship, it’s just not enough. For me, Perfect Restaurant was just a one-night stand.

Perfect Restaurant
Soukenická 4
Prague 1
tel. (+420) 222 311 600


savannah said...

i'm putting together a list of places to visit instead of always meeting in paris, long story, but anyway...great site here, good info, thanks! can't remember how i found your site, but i am really glad i did!

Anonymous said...

Perfect reminds me of lots of other similar new places. 80 percent of the elements to have a successful restaurant are there, it's just that something gets lost in the follow through.

I have my usual conundrum, and maybe readers of your blog can help me. A friend's sister and her husband are in town this week and have offered to take me out to dinner. (So far so good.) She called me last night to firm up the details and asked me to choose a restaurant. (Never as easy as it sounds.) I asked if she and her husband had any preferences or were in the mood for anything in particular. Not at all, she said, but it would have to be something "Czech." (Arrrggghhh.) Don't get me wrong. I love Czech food when it's prepared well. I cook Czech food at home and have several Czech cookbooks. I just don't know of ANY really decent, affordable, consistently consistent Czech restaurants. Can anyone out there help? This place should have excelllent Svickova, fresh dumplings, not too smoky, not ridiculously expensive for what you get, and not too touristy (and no chains, please). Does this place exist in the Czech capital city?

Brewsta said...

Thanks Savannah. As I point out in "about me", these are all just personal and limited views of one visit. It occurred to me that it would be useful to share this information outside my immediate circle. As with my friends, I appreciate constructive feedback, positive and negative.

Kava, I'm not a big Czech restaurant expert. But here are a couple of ideas. Friends who have lived here a long time love this place near Andel that specializes in steak -- I've been a couple of times, but didn't get the steak:

U Mikulase Dacickeho

Prices are a bit above average for steaks -- but the menu is big and there are many more economical options.

There is also Zlaty Had - a friend liked it a long time ago, but I've never been there myself:

Anonymous said...

Hi again .. thanks for the suggestions. I will look at them.

I didn't mean to hijack your Perfect post (you obviously did a lot of work on it and wanted to talk about this particular restaurant). I just wanted to solicit some opinions here if that's alright ..

Anonymous said...

Brewsta, I Just checked out the website for U Mikulase Dacickeho -- looks interesting. What did you think when you were there?

Brewsta said...

It has a nice atmoshpere for visitors -- dark with sort of a 15th century theme - old paintings, dark room. People are nice. I've been twice and everyone I know says the steaks are great, but for some reason, I was not in a steak mood both times. The dishes I had were OK, I think I had the Staroceska Basta -- I like zeli -- it was nice but pretty fatty stuff. Won't knock your socks off, but better than the usual.

savannah said...

you cover all the basics: ambience, food, level of service and cost - what more can a traveler ask for? thanks again, btw, we have 3 cities in common, los angeles and atlanta! i have visited london quite a few times, as well...did you ever get to the electric cafe on portobello road? has to be the perfect place for the morning after the night before *L*

Brewsta said...

Haven't been to London or LA for some years now. London was during my school days. Not up on the scenes any more.

In LA, used to like Off Vine in Hollywood, Farmer's Market, House of Pies, The Kettle in Manhattan Beach, Versailles, Canter's Deli, and yes, Cheesecake Factory.

I do miss the food scene in Atlanta, that was one of the best parts of living there -- Went back two years ago and had two great dinners at Murphy's in Va Hi. I still read Cliff Bostock's Creative Loafing column -- I'm a fan of the first-person personal narrative.

Anonymous said...

I've been to U Mikulase Dacickeho a few times. Fairly good Czech food (the pork in port sauce is good), although they do expect a big tip even if you're a local (albeit non-Czech) - which kind of puts me off.

Zlaty Klas in Andel (opposite Ibis Hotel) is also a decent Czech restaurant with Pilsner Urquell from the tank, friendly service and not too smoky.

Brewsta said...

I've also heard good things about Zlaty Klas, but not been there myself.

savannah said...

lots of the same hangouts in la!...i was just in atlanta a month ago...murphys was tooo crowde, so we went across the street to a tapas place ...anyway, atl is fatastic for food...but horrible traffic..that's why i love savannah

Anonymous said...

I am sure that they are not experts at the dishes you ordered. They are capable of creating mind blowing dishes - that is a FACT. They also have a philosophy - watch them on TV.

The foie gras is truly amazing - the mushroom risotto can be worthy of an aria.

There is an eclectic mix of dishes on the menu and one should select with care. If you like ribs / french fries and that sort of thing you might have been in the wrong place.

Brewsta said...

How can you fault me for my choices and not the restaurant for their poor execution of them?

If I am in the mood for ribs and they have ribs on the menu, why shouldn't I order them and expect them to be good or even extra special?

Their philosophy didn't add much to the salad, either. How could they call that Thai? If there was one ingredient I could taste, like lemon grass, lime leaf, a curry, or even fish sauce, it would have gone a long way. But Hoisin? As it was, I lost a lot of respect for them on that salad.

Why should I have to "select with care?" There are restaurants about which I'll say, "go but only order this one dish." I didn't get an advance warning like that here.

You do know a lot about restaurants here, and I'll take your word that they have some great cooking.

Someone told me his girlfriend didn't like Neklid Restaurant, where I go often. I wrote that I like it for what it is. I don't blame her for not liking it.

I know how you feel -- it's hard not to react defensively if you are a fan of a place. Still, your response surprised me.

The post is a limited snapshot. All the posts are. I think people understand that. That's all I can say.

Anonymous said...

"Why should I have to "select with care?"

Because they are finding their feet.

I know what you mean - but when I visit Prague eateries I think about the menu. I'll go for what I think the chef can manage and not some jazzed up trendy dish - of which there are sadly a few on that menu.

Prague generally has an adolescent dining scene, and needs to be approached with care somethimes. That's my point. When she blooms then we will have a great time, Brewsta. Your blog is very useful in helping things along. Faerie and his purple prose predecessor - not.

This is just a personal thing & no crticism of you, Brewsta. Who does the best Thai salad in town? Not a Czech for sure!

Anonymous said...

BTW: the ribs are a disaster, I heard that from someone else. The salad / Hoisin issue is very, very disappointing - and infuriating when you know what they are capable of. Damn! What are they doing? Is it a nightclub, a cafe, what? It could - note could - be one of the finest around.

Let's watch and hope.

Brewsta said...

Maybe I'll give them another chance if I'm in the area. Anything you'd recommend besides the risotto and the foie gras?

Also, do you know why there was no buffet when I was there or why they were closed on a Sunday night? I couldn't figure that out.

Anonymous said...

It's a mystery! like many things there! I advise that you sit downstairs - did you know that you could? The buffet is usually upstairs and I want no part of that.

They recently changed the menu - the soft opening menu was less involved and amazingly cheap. The beef fillet is quite nice / some of the Czech dishes are quite good.

That mushroom risotto is (I think) made with a reduction from wild Czech mushrooms. I tell you, Brewsta, I nearly cried with joy! However I warn you that it is not always the same!

Anonymous said...

Brewsta and Escoffier, Is this the end of a beautiful friendship? After all of those posts together, I've never seen you two disagree before -- and so strongly... Can it ever be put back together?

Brewsta said...

Just a little tiff among friends. I think we worked it out.