Sunday, January 25, 2009

Angel Restaurant Revisited (Closed)

“Spice is life. It depends upon what you like... have fun with it. Yes, food is serious, but you should have fun with it.” Emeril Lagasse
I had originally planned to do a post today about Noodles restaurant at the Hotel Yasmin. But I deleted the photos by mistake.

I still feel I should say something.

In summary, let me put it this way.

It was not good.

Their menu (not in English) offered noodle dishes from around the world, but it seems their favorites spices were salt and sugar. The Phad Thai (229 CZK) was sweet as candy. The Yaki Udon (239 CZK) and ravioli with black olive sauce (169 CZK) both needed a trip to a desalination plant.

When a restaurant cooks German, Italian, Chinese, Korean, Mexican, Swiss, and Indonesian food -- beware.

In almost every case, they are a jack of all trades, master of none. But in this case, I'd even say they don't know jack.

And now I turn to more pleasant duties: writing about a place that does know how to use spices. We returned to the restaurant Angel in Old Town.It was a year ago that I wrote a post about our first visit.

In the case of this restaurant, the favored seasonings are lime leaf, cilantro (coriander), coconut, and curry. All of which I love.

The interior of the one-room restaurant hadn't changed and I still found it quite attractive.I recycled the decor photos from our earlier trip. It has warm beige tones and cool lighting fixtures. Not a bad place for a date.

I was glad to see they were doing some business, despite the bad weather. Many nearby restaurants were empty.

Their good and unique bread was the same as last time.There were two warm balls of regular and two of cheese bread. The salted butter was a bit too cold and hard, but the heat of the bread melted it soon enough.

On the menu, the starters all sounded great. We couldn't decide which two to choose. Luckily, there is a taster platter for two (525 CZK). It included seared tuna roll, duck rillettes, quail breasts, and fish cakes.The tuna was our favorite. The fresh red fish barely touched a hot pan and was then placed with basil leaf in a cool rice paper roll.

It came with peanut and green chili nahm jim and homemade pickled ginger. The ginger was similar to what you'd get at a sushi restaurant, except that it was made inhouse and was fresher and better.

The pan-fried quail was fresh and perfectly prepared. It was marinated in soy and ginger with pomelo. On the side was an Earl Grey-infused quail egg and fresh red chili sauce. I wished the marinade and chili sauce underneath were more assertive.

The sugar and spice cured duck had the largest portion. The flavor was quite complex. I thought I detected some anise but couldn't put my finger on all the flavors.

There was a plum sauce, a five-spice brioche crispbread, and red chard leaves in palm vinaigrette. A tasty little salad.

The two small fish cakes were made from Balinese lilit-spiced red snapper. There was a lemongrass and shallot sambal.

They came with a green mango in coconut and lime dressing. They were dense and a little chewy. I liked them, but I'd rank the others on the plate as better.

I talked V into ordering the prawns, which I wanted to try (525 CZK). She thanked me afterward.They came with a sweet soy glaze. V was neutral about the sauce, but said they were the best prawns in recent memory. Very large, perfectly butterflied and cooked. There was a cucumber and coriander salad on top. I agreed they were excellent.

I had the Thai-style orange curry of monkfish (550 CZK).It came with with black rice and bamboo shoot and cilantro salad.

I tried a bite of the spongy monkfish and curry by itself. I didn't think it was too exciting. But I enjoyed it much more when I mixed the flavors of the warm fish with the cool salad on the fork.

For dessert, I had the Valrhona dark chocolate marquise with sour cherry chutney and lemon and thyme anglaise (175 CZK).This was a very smooth, intense little piece of chocolate. They cherries were quite sour, which was good for cutting through the sweetness of the dessert.

V had a cup of Harney & Sons tea (60 CZK).It was a lovely jasmine. A .33 liter bottle of mineral water was 45 CZK. A Beefeater gin and tonic was 115 CZK. Stella Artois non-alcoholic beer was 55 CZK.

After we asked for the bill, we received more complimentary chocolates.The ones with almond on top tasted strongly of marzipan. If I had remembered this tradition at this restaurant, I might have skipped dessert.

I wasn't drinking that night, so that helped keep the cost to 2095 CZK, plus tip.

I like Angel a lot. I haven't found anything else quite like it in Prague -- the pan-Asian menu, the complexity of the dishes, and the attention to detail on the plate.

It's not cheap, but you can pay a lot more for a lot less fun at dinner.

Angel Restaurant
V kolkovne 7
Prague 1
Tel. (+420) 773 222 422

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Sunday, January 11, 2009

Malý Buddha Restaurant and Teahouse

"When you realize how perfect everything is, you will tilt your head back and laugh at the sky." Gautama Buddha
Malý buddha (Little Buddha) isn't perfect. Not even close.

Don't laugh, but I'd still recommend it. I'll explain later.

The restaurant is close to Prague Castle and Strahov Monastery.We booked ahead on a cold Saturday afternoon, just to be sure we wouldn't be turned away.

The restaurant is long and narrow, and doesn't have many tables.There were some Buddhas in the back, along with a few more seats.It was fairly dark and reading the menu by candle light was a bit of a challenge.I started with a cucumber salad (60 CZK).It was sweet and sour, with shredded carrots and bean sprouts mixed in. I'm not a big bean sprout fan, but I liked it.

V got the ginger salad (80 CZK). The menu says it is a good remedy for sore throats.It was also fairly sweet. I was nicely surprised that there were, indeed, slices of real, fresh, and sharp ginger mixed in with the more mundane iceberg lettuce. There were also sesame seeds, with a small amount of tomato, cucumber, carrot, and bean sprouts.

For a main course, I ordered a dish called "The Nightmare." (210 CZK).It is described as beef sirloin with onion and garlic with chili and lemon grass. It was too salty, dominated by soy sauce. There was a touch of sweetness.

The beef was not really what I'd called sirloin, but it was reasonable quality and not too tough. There was certainly a good quantity, and it was very filling.

What really saved the dish from mediocrity was the generous amount of fresh rucola and cilantro on top. They helped the flavor a lot.

I also asked for some extra chili sauces and added more sweetness to cut the savory edge.Mixing it with rice (18 CZK) also helped in that respect.V got the prawns with Chinese mushrooms and bamboo shoots (220 CZK).The prawns were nicely cooked, but that was about all we liked about this dish. It tasted very Czech-Chinese, if that means anything to you. Just salty and boring. The mushrooms did not appear particularly Chinese to us.

A side order of white noodles (18 CZK) didn't make it any better.It being a cold day and this being a tea house, we decided to order a pot.We got the jasmine tea (45 CZK). It had a beautiful, perfume-like aroma. We enjoyed it. There were dozens of other teas on the menu to choose from.

The bill, which included wine and beers, added up to 836 CZK.

I would not recommend Malý buddha for outstanding food or service. It had neither.

But I would recommend it because it was fairly priced for the area, had a cozy atmosphere, and the food was the most part, acceptable, if nothing special.

With all due respect to Mr. Gautama, the lack of good value restaurant choices in this prime tourist zone is no laughing matter.

You just have to realize that with so many perfectly bad establishments nearby, you could certainly do far worse.

Restaurant Malý buddha
Úvoz 46
Prague 1 - Hradčany
Tel. (+420) 220 513 894

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Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Barack Obama - Restaurant Critic

"Why can't I just eat my waffle?" Barack Obama on the campaign trail, April 21, 2008
I share so much with Barack Obama, it's uncanny -- Everything from a love of pick up basketball games to wishing I was on a beach in Hawaii. Now, I can add one more item to my list: a passion for reviewing restaurants.

And check out the name of the program in the bottom left corner of the screen.

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Sunday, January 4, 2009

Bohemia Bagel in Holešovice - Burger Fridays

“Love must be as much a light, as it is a flame.” Henry David Thoreau
My love of hamburgers is well documented here. Judging by the popularity of such posts, I'm far from alone.

V had been having many meals at Bohemia Bagel in Holešovice and wanted to take me for their special Burger Friday.Having heard good things about their hamburgers from an online friend, I was more than happy to head over there. I'd been there for breakfast and wrote a post on it back in June 2008.

We sat in the no smoking section, which is a separate room and feels a little isolated from the rest of the place.The main section of the restaurant can be empty in the afternoon, but it was full by 8 p.m. I'd recommend booking ahead. It's not a huge place.I was drinking half-liters of Gambrinus (30 CZK each).They had Pilsner Urquell, which I like better, but sometimes I'm not up for the higher alcohol content.

V had a couple of .2 liter glasses of Moravian white wine (40 CZK each) and a .3 liter bottle of Mattoni mineral water (30 CZK).On burger night, they double the selection of burgers on offer. There was a Greek burger, a tofu burger, a falafel burger, a fish burger, and a steak burger, to name a few.

Call me boring -- I had the standard Bohemia Hamburger with American cheese and bacon.One of the great things about the burger was the price -- 155 CZK.

I will now officially declare that this was the best hamburger I've had in Prague. Ever. Especially since the Czech Inn stopped making theirs.

The prime reasons for a new favorite? Great ground beef, and a perfectly formed patty that was flame-grilled. For me, nothing beats the smoky flavor from real fire.

Then, there was the bacon. Lots of it. Three long, thick strips, cooked to near but not total crispness and placed with almost geometric precision across the top of the cheese.The raw red onion, lettuce, and tomato were cut to the appropriate size. However, they were placed under the patty, which was not ideal in my book. I like them better on top so the juices don't run through them.

On the side, I had the sweet potato fries, which I liked despite their limp and greasy nature. They were included in the price. As far as I can tell, they weren't offered on the regular menu.

The bun was toasted and buttered. Pretty good, although it was slightly more dense than a classic American-style bun. The positive side to that was that it held together under duress.

Its holding strength was tested. It was seriously hard to get my big mouth around the whole thing. The burger was hard to put down in more ways than one.

When you consider the great price -- it slaughters the competition.

V had the Sante Fe Burger (155 CZK). It was made with freshly ground chicken seasoned with onions, cilantro, and jalapenos.You could really taste the cilantro, which I liked. The ground meat held together well. It was topped with a sweet tomato relish.She took the top off and ate it with a knife and fork. There was a side salad, which had a slightly sweet dressing.

For dessert, I decided to try the warm brownie with ice cream (75 CZK).I've had their brownie many times, and it is quite good, very fudgy. But I'd never had it warm. Definitely nice, but one end was not as well-heated as the other.

Also, they use an artificially-colored vanilla ice cream that many restaurants favor, and I dislike. I'm sorry, the natural color of vanilla is not yellow. The flavor does not taste natural, either.

I should note that I heard that Brad Huff, a player in my previous post, will be playing guitar at the restaurant's Wednesday chicken wing night.

At the end of our dinner, V bought some tins of Harney and Sons teas for herself and as Christmas presents.

They were not cheap -- 220 CZK each. She bought a few as Christmas presents and kept some for herself.

When we got the bill -- 555 CZK -- I saw that we received a 10% discount. I couldn't figure out why. So I asked the waitress.

"Your, ah, girlfriend comes here all the time. I recognize her. Sometimes, I give a discount to regular customers. Is it OK?" she asked and smiled.

"Sure, it's OK. Just curious. Thanks!" A nice touch.

We enjoyed the irony. I'm the one who writes about restaurants every week, but she's always the one who ends up getting the special treatment.

It left me with the good feeling that a love for Bohemia Bagel in Holešovice's burgers comes as much from a light tab as it does from a flame.

Bohemia Bagel in Holešovice
Dukelských Hrdinu 48/Šimáckova 21
Prague 7
Tel. (+420) 220 806 451

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