Friday, February 1, 2008

La Rotonde - Sunday Jazz Brunch at the Radisson SAS Alcron Hotel

"Nothing is more fatal to happiness than the remembrance of happiness."
-André Gide
Years ago, we'd go every month or two for a fancy buffet brunch at a big Prague hotel.

What can I say? We were young and hungry.

Back then, it seemed like a pretty good deal: All-you-can-eat for around 600 CZK, if memory serves.

Our favorite brunch was at the Radisson SAS Alcron Hotel, near Wenceslas Square. The Interconinental Hotel had a better dining room with better light and a fantastic view of Old Town.

But the Radisson always had the best and the most seafood. And that's what we cared about most. Times have changed, and we pretty much stopped with the brunches. Prices in Prague have been sky-rocketing. There just isn't as much money lying around to blow.

We hadn't been to a brunch in about a year. And not long ago, the Radisson raised their prices significantly. It now costs 999 CZK per person.

I'm a hard guy to get a Christmas present for, but V knows what I like. So, this year, my gift was a return trip to the Radisson's Sunday Jazz Brunch. It is in the hotel's restaurant, La Rotonde.

We had a great table with a view of the whole restaurant and the lovely backside of a replica of a statue that stood there in the 1930s.V was quite surprised when the waiter stopped by. He did not speak Czech. Guests were expected to speak English.

We each got a complimentary glass of champagne, and then we set off to cruise the salad tables.There was quite a variety salads and cold meats to choose from.I put together my first plate with some of my favorite items. The seared tuna was very fresh and perfectly done.There were also individual raw scallops, marinated salmon, and salmon tartare mixed with onion.

V went straight for her all-time favorite: Fresh oysters. They remind her of her favorite place to be: The sea.We hit the salad tables a few times at the beginning.On one side of the room, there were two chefs who cook any requested combination of shrimp, scallops, salmon, tuna, and vegetables.

We were disappointed that, unlike our previous visit, they did not have lobster.In a small space, next to the chefs, a good jazz band with a female singer went through its set.

The chefs also cut a variety of meats, which are kept under heat lamps.

There were also some nice-looking sausage. I decided to save the heavy stuff for later.

When it comes to the freshly-cooked seafood, you have to time your visit to this table carefully. A lot of people put in orders at the same time and overwhelmed the two cooks.

I asked for a plate of sauteed shrimp and scallops. The seafood itself was great, but the seasoning was basic and unexciting.

In the middle of the room, there were shiny, covered heat tables. Usually food from these things is dried out and/or over-cooked.V tried the duck with red cabbage and was surprised at how good it was.

I looked in one and found it had oxtail ravioli with baby tomatoes. I'd never had this before.It was really tasty. It really didn't require any sauce.

I offered some to V, but she refused to try it. She is usually more adventurous than me, but she said it reminded her of a dish she didn't like when she was young.

There was a whole table devoted to sushi and sashimi, with a chef making basic nigiri and maki. There weren't so many options. They had salmon, tuna, shrimp, scallops, and maybe one or two other kinds of fish.The sushi chef was not great. The pieces were awkwardly cut, and the nigiri rice was formed into big, almost round balls.There was a heavy amount of wasabi on the rice, which I like.

From the carving table, I decided to try the roast beef. It was not too warm, but nicely rare. The meat was a little fatty and needed salt, but I liked it.While I was in beef mode, I had to get another round of the oxtail ravioli, I liked it so much.

We made a few plates with our favorites of all we tried. V had a little of the duck there in the middle, along with melon and prosciutto, and a lot of the different fish.

Finally, it was time for dessert. There were two different tables.There was a chocolate fountain, chocolate mousse, ice cream with various toppings, fresh fruit, creme brulee, various cakes, chocolate truffles, and on and on and on.V went for some stuff on the fruitier side of the table.As usual, I leaned toward the chocolate.You have to be careful here. You could throw yourself into hyperglycemic shock if you get carried away.

Although it was a self-service buffet, I should talk a little bit about the service.

It was not very good. Waiters do have responsibilities, such as removing old plates and checking on drink needs. We were ignored for long stretches. Empty oyster shells sat on our table for half the meal.

It's not cheap, so we expected better service. The bill came to 1998 CZK.

The good news is that the price included bottled water, red or white house wine, beer, and those glasses of Czech champagne.

The house white was very light, and we thought it was a good complement for our huge afternoon feast.

Overall, we enjoyed a lot about the brunch, but I don't think we'll be doing it again for a long time.

It had a very familiar feeling, a remembrance of things past. But the big price increase was, perhaps, fatal to our happiness.

La Rotonde Restaurant
Radisson SAS Alcron Hotel
Štěpánská 40
Prague 1
Tel. (+420) 222 820 000

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