Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Brasserie M (Closed)

"Prague, the Left Bank of the 90's" Alan Levy, 1991

A very nice woman asked me to dinner. It was the kind of offer that doesn't come along very often. The kind that's hard to refuse.

So I didn't. If you were in my position, you'd do the same.

I needed to pick a place not too far from Wenceslas Square so we could catch some music at Lucerna later in the evening.

I decided on Brasserie M.

Something French seemed appropriate. I thought the lady might be impressed. This restaurant was one of only three in Prague that won Michelin's Bib Gourmand. That doesn't mean it earned one of Michelin's coveted stars. Just that it has "good food at moderate prices."

Moderate is a relative term, I suppose. Brasserie M can get expensive pretty fast if you don't order carefully.

The restaurant is in the center of Prague, but off the beaten track. It is not the kind of place you stumble upon. You have to know where it is.

It is on Vladislavova. If you walk past the Národní metro station, go through the outdoor food market behind Tesco, and turn right, you'll hit that street. The other end of it is near the Lazarská tram stop.

The last few times I've been there, the large dining area has been nearly empty during prime evening hours. I have heard they do a good business during the day. The restaurant does offer a 149 CZK lunch special.

The dining room is designed to give it a real brasserie feel. It is not overly fancy, but it is obvious that a lot of money went into it. There are custom made Brasserie M tables and plates, and lots of brass. There is a big mural on one wall that I don't particularly love. You can see it in the background of the photo above on the left.

Brasserie M has a modern, open kitchen. I enjoy sitting at a table nearby and watching the kitchen staff do their work.

The Chef de Cuisine is Jean-Paul Manzac, who adds his "M" to the brasserie. I saw him the first couple of times I was there, but I haven't seen him on the last two visits. He's the one with the French flag on his collar and often walks around and talks to guests.

The lady and I were seated and began discussing the food.

"What do you want to eat, Ma?"

"Something light. I think I'll just have a soup and an appetizer."

She ordered the hearty vegetable soup for 85 CZK. I'm not exactly sure what vegetables are in it, since they are all blended together. Mom thought it had turnips.

I thought it needed salt, but she liked it as it was.

I started with the "grilled calamari with fresh rosemary and lemon served with garlic and parsley pesto on a bed of iceberg lettuce with lime dressing" for 225 CZK. Not a cheap starter, but Mom was paying.

The calamari were the long, thin, tubular type. They were swimming in olive oil and a serious amount of garlic. Good thing I wasn't on a date. The lemon and olive oil formed a warm dressing for the lettuce beneath. The squid were OK. I'd call it a generous portion. A few were very tender, but most were a little on the chewy side.

For the second course, Mom got the "grilled eggplant with zucchini mousse, flavoured with basil and concassée tomato" for 155 CZK.

The dish looks small, but it is fairly filling. There are three layers of grilled eggplant with the mousse sandwiched between the layers. It was also surrounded by a large amount of olive oil, which gave it a heavier feel. Some might say it was too much, but I enjoyed the power of the olive flavor.

I decided to go for the classic brasserie dish, le steak frite, for 295 CZK. The menu describes it as a rump steak served with homemade fries and a mixed green salad.

This is was a pretty thin piece of meat. It was also tough and chewy. They did a decent job cooking it to medium, which can't be easy given its lack of thickness. But it was bland. It would need a serious amount of salt if eaten by itself.

Fortunately, there is a choice of sauces to go with it: Pepper, Béarnaise, Roquefort, Mustard, Bordelaise, Mushroom. Unfortunately, they cost an extra 35 CZK each.

I got the Bordelaise. It had a very intense, red wine flavor. I liked it. A lot. Much more than flavor of the meat. I soaked each bite thoroughly in the sauce, and I was happy.

The frites are excellent. Hot, crunchy, and well-salted.

I've had the restaurant's grilled flank steak in the past, and it is better, but it was also not very big, which is disappointing when it costs 395 CZK.

The draft beer is Staropramen at 49 CZK for a half liter or Stella Artois at 65 CZK for a half liter.

I've never tried the desserts, but at least one person says they are very good (see the comments section).

Brasserie M has a large seating area that can accommodate large parties. There is a non-smoking area. There is also an outdoor seating area in the back that could be pleasant in the summer. The restaurant does a buffet brunch on Sundays for 695 CZK a person.

I've been thinking about why the restaurant always seems to be empty. The obscure the location may be a factor. The cooking can be pretty good sometimes, but not great.

Above all, it just seems to me that occasionally above average food in a brasserie setting doesn't go well with the much higher than average prices.

Take a look at the menu. A lot of the meat dishes are 300-450 CZK. House specialities climb quickly from 400 CZK all the way up to 1000 CZK. They all sound very French and authentic, but I've never felt like spending the kind of money required to try them and find out for myself.

I don't even want to think about what a good wine would do to the final total on a check here.

Still, there's something about the place, a certain je ne sais quoi, perhaps a need for something different, that draws me back. Not regularly, but every once in a while.

In the 1990s, the late writer and newspaper editor, Alan Levy, inspired many to compare Prague to the Paris of an earlier era. In the 2000s, Prague is not as connected with the spirit of the Left Bank as it used to be.

Brasserie M illustrates that point. If you want to eat at this shiny eatery, you'll need to make a stop at the right bank.

Brasserie M
Vladislavova 17
Prague 1
Hours: 12 pm -1030 pm, Sunday 12 pm-430 pm
Tel.: (+420) 224 054 070
Email: info@brasseriem.cz


Unknown said...

Just a couple comments - I've eaten there three times in the last two weeks :)

The desserts in the case are the ones you get with the 149 Kc lunch menu. When you order a la carte, the desserts are about 2-3 times bigger. And bigger is better in the case of hte creme brulee and choc mousse :)

The place is usually quite busy at lunch, both during the week and on the weekends. We were there on Saturday for lunch and it was about 2/3 full, including one party of three families with about 17 jillion kids between them. The annoying, running around kind. It's not full in the evenings most likely for hte reasons you mention - it is off the beaten path for sure. Maybe things will be different in summer...

Jean-Paul has always been there the four times I've been there - two weekday dinners, one weekend lunch, one weekday lunch. I suppose he does need a day off every once in a while, tho :) Plus he's a totally friendly guy - one of those who goes through the dining room greeting guests both known and unknown.

I won't contest your comments on the prices...but I think you can get good basic brasserie cooking at a reasonable price there...

Brewsta said...

Thanks Jennifer -- I really appreciate all your additional information. You answered a lot of questions I had but didn't know the answer to. And I'll update the post regarding the desserts.

Anonymous said...

Good review -- nice to see you back reviewing restaurants again ;)

I have never eaten at Brasserie M and after reading this, I'm not sure I ever will. Seems a little higher than the atmosphere and food warrant.

One minor correction. Alan's quote was first printed in the debut October 1991 edition of the Prague Post, so I'd fix the year to '91. (A minor aside -- there are some questions about whether he's the originator of that expression as a similar remark was printed in Prognosis -- another newspaper at the time -- earlier that summer (also in '91). I haven't seen the Prognosis citation, so I don't know if that is true or not. Alan is certainly the one who made it stick).

Brewsta said...

Well, I admit I didn't research the date extensively -- a website for the documentary "Rexpatriots"

I see the Wikipedia entry says 1991. I'll fix it.

Anonymous said...

Great review, Brewsta! I also must put that I prefer reading your restaurants reviews.

I'm going back to prague in June, and you made me convinced that Brasserie M is not worth the visit.

Have you tried Cervena tabulka?

Brewsta said...

Thanks, Pingrid. Still haven't tried Cervena tabulka.

I think if I go to Brasserie M again, I'll just get the frites and dip them in the great Bordelaise. Maybe a small salad.

Did you try the beer Max recommended at Ferdinanda when you recently visited Prague? I went recently and enjoyed it. Didn't try the food, so not sure if it is post-worthy.

Anonymous said...

No, I had limited time since I travelled with a group (friday-sunday). We went to olympia and ordered a czech platter. It tasted not that good, it was like the food was'nt fresh, and they have reheated it in a microwave oven. When the bill came they included 10 % service in total sum. Olympia has sadly become a tourist trap like U fleku I think.

We also went to the blue duckling II, and allthough it was quite expensive and located in the old town, it turned out to be a very pleasent evening. Both food and service was great!

The highlight of the trip was a visit at U Zlatheo Tygra and a nice concert with Ondrej group.

I'm going back in June/July. I will then try these restaurants (influenced by you and Peb):

Thursday: Kogo or perhaps Tiger, tiger!

Friday: Bodugitea

Saturday: Cervena tabulka

Brewsta said...

For Thai, Peb likes Lemon Leaf. I like it there, too (the sweet beef dish). Neither Thai place will knock your socks off.

Definitely book Bodeguita -- ask for downstairs if you like Cuban music. I like the "European-style" mojitos with the crushed ice better than the smaller "classicos" with cubes.

Anonymous said...

I was to Bodeguita last summer and both the food, mojitos and cigars were great.

Anonymous said...

I go to Ferdinanda regularly for beers and though the food is serviceable, it's run-of-the-mill and I don't think it's post-worthy. I wouldn't be going there if not for the beer.

Pivní Filosof said...

I agree with the Fan. The food at Ferdinanda is nothing to write home about, just does the job. The beer, though, specially Sedm Kuli is really good. Also, every time I go there, I get very good and very friendly service.
Oh! If you want to go to a REALLY expensive restaurant, try Modra Ruze. I was invited there a few days ago. Some business partners of my wife were in town and, as usual, took her and her brother out to dinner, this time they wanted me to join them.
It was six of us, the bill must have been around 20,000Kc and we didn't have the most expensive stuff on the menu. The food was really really good, it was worth the price, I believe. Now the drinks, that was daylight robbery. The wine we ordered was 2500Kc a bottle. It was very good, but I know you can buy it from their supplier at 600Kc a bottle (retail price). But then, that could be said about pretty much every luxury restaurant in the world.

Anonymous said...

Still going back to "Brasserie M" Review, I feel that, as they say, "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder" so thus the taste buds differ also, and preferences do too. We have eaten at the Brasserie M several times. Each time our experience was very enjoyable, with great food and excellent, friendly service. You see the prices, you choose accordingly. Very few top restaurants five you that option!Food has always been very good, original in its presentation, and fresh. We have recommended this reastaurant to a number of people visiting Prague, and everyone loved the food, the atmosphere, and found the decor - especially the mural (which you don't like!) quite a conversation piece, and a most interestig concept in a wall decoration. So, as you see, not everyone shares your negative opinions, and I just hope that your readers will become curious about Brasserie M and will try to explore its menu for themselves to find out, if they like it or not.

Brewsta said...

I appreciate you perspective very much mmmdancer. You offer excellent counterpoints to mine. Opnions on taste and value are personal things, mine included, and I always welcome respectful disagreement.

My bottom line is there is a lot to like about Brasserie M, including most of the decor. My problem is I want to love it and, for me, the price points are holding me back. And, obviously, I spend more to eat out than a lot of people.

My posts are just snapshots and impressions -- I try to make that clear. But I've been many times -- and the steak frite didn't put a smile on my face, -- the flank steak was just tiny. So, I expressed my disappointment, given the prices.

But I've never gone deep into the menu, and can easily understand how others would feel differently about the place.

Anonymous said...

I went to Brasserie M while in Prague for all of 5 nights. I found it quite good - my eggplant dish had maybe a bit too much olive oil and salt but I liked. One person wasn't a fan of her fish but another at the table ordered the same thing and liked it. And prices seemed fine to me. Mainly - the owner was so friendly I'd go for that reason alone.

Brewsta said...

I can respect your different perspective. There are a lot of things to like at Brasserie M. I have been there when the owner was there, and he is great.

He wasn't there the last two visits, and there was a difference in how things went (I've been four times).

I didn't really like the steak frites and I've had it several times.

Price and value are certainly relative and subjective issues. Not everyone can afford to eat out so much. For some, it is not the slightest issue.

Impressions are often formed by expectations and perhaps I expected more. Brasserie M can be good, and I am on the fence a bit, but I felt I've gotten better value elsewhere.