Sunday, July 15, 2007

Oliva Restaurant

"Shrimp is the fruit of the sea. You can barbecue it, boil it, broil it, bake it, sautee it. There's, um, shrimp kebabs, shrimp creole, shrimp gumbo, pan fried, deep fried, stir fried. There's pineapple shrimp and lemon shrimp, coconut shrimp, pepper shrimp, shrimp soup, shrimp stew, shrimp salad, shrimp and potatoes, shrimp burger, shrimp sandwich... That's, that's about it."

- Bubba Blue (Mykelti Williamson), "Forrest Gump"

I'd been wanting to try Oliva for long time. The chef came from an old favorite of ours, Atelier. And I'd seen a lot of positive reviews and discussion posts.

Then, a thoughtful fellow foodie, Good Will, told me about a special, all-you-can-eat tiger prawn night that was running last week.

Like Bubba Blue, we are obsessed with shrimp and prawns, so we had to go.

The restaurant is down by the river, past Palackého náměstí, on Plavecká. Not in the dead center of town, but easy to reach by tram.

We'd been in this dining room before, when the space was occupied by Le Bistro de Marlene. It's been changed around quite a lot. The interior design, with green walls and tile floors, didn't thrill us so much. But we were there for the crustaceans.

The tiger prawn deal, worked like this: It was all you can eat for 690 CZK. They came with shells on -- it was peel and eat, which makes it fairly labor intensive and a bit messy. They gave us finger bowls and a plate for shells, for almost every round, anyway. The restaurant was very busy and almost full.

There were four different sauces, and they came in the following order:

Tiger prawns on garlic and butter and cilantro. A fairly classic combination, with the cilantro as a nice addition.
Tiger prawns on a creamy crustacean sauce with cilantro. The sauce was simple but tasty. The shrimp, once peeled had a fresh, salty flavor. They were perfectly cooked.Tiger prawns Morocco style with spicy harissa, cilantro, and lemon. This was my favorite. I like the spicy kick along with the clear citrus flavor. It's a good thing we love cilantro.
Tiger prawns with an anise sauce and cilantro. I'm not a big anise fan, but the flavoring was fairly subtle.

Have I mentioned how lucky it is we are cilantro fans?

I wish I could have eaten more, but after four plates, each with six medium-large tiger prawns, I was as full as I wanted to be. V is truly passionate about shrimp and thought she could she could go for two more rounds. But she decide that, while it was possible, it would also be unwise.

So, in total, we had 24 prawns. It seemed like a quite a good deal when you consider that a lot of top-end restaurants in Prague these days will charge around 500 CZK for just six or even four tiger prawns (with the shells off).

It was a strange meal, in a way. We had no starter, no salad, no rice or potatoes. Just prawns and some bread.

V said I should point at that prawns (shrimp) are very low in fat, but high in cholesterol. However, a report I read said that prawns do not raise blood cholesterol levels in the same way that eggs do.

On a lighter note, I drank some very fine beer -- half liters of Bernard 13 dark for 45 CZK. White and red wines by the glass are 110-140 CZK.

For dessert, we had a carry-over favorite from the old Atelier menu, the warm chocolate gateau with pistachio cream for 135 CZK. It is baked to order, so it takes a few extra minutes.

It is not the prettiest looking thing, sitting there in the middle of that green stuff. But, trust me, it is quite delicious. The center was not liquid, like most cakes of this type. But it was a pleasure to break it up and soak the spoonfuls in the cream. When the cake was gone, we spooned up all the cream, too.

Good thing we like pistachio.

The host and server were very friendly and informal. They were a bit understaffed for the night and a bit harried, but there were no big problems.

We are looking forward to going back and trying the regular menu.

Oliva Restaurant
Plavecká 4
Prague 2

Tel. (+420) 222 520 288


EB said...

Curses! Now everyone knows about Oliva and I'll never be able to get a table without a reservation! It's Mozaika all over again.

It's a shame you missed the Angel@Oliva specials. They were great.

ross said...

Glad you enjoyed the prawns. One thing to note, however: the Seafood Watch program run by the Monterey Bay Aquarium says ethical diners should avoid tiger prawns because mangrove forest ecosystems are often destroyed to create prawn farms.

No such problems with trout, or carp.

Anonymous said...

I;m a long time reader of your blog and finally decided to post a comment for the first time :). Keep up the good work and enjoy the sea food.

The Forest Gump quote is quite entertaining and made me laugh, since I recalled the scene in the movie.

Anonymous said...

Fantastic food and the service was top class.