Friday, February 4, 2011

Valentine's Day 2011

I claim there ain't
Another Saint
As great as Valentine
Ogden Nash
Valentine’s Day is fast approaching and if you want to get a table for a romantic dinner on the town, the time to act is now.

Sure, there are many restaurants and special offers out there that could do the trick.

My 10 choices are based mostly on places I’ve tried, with a range of different prices and locations.

Some are planning special menus (with, probably, higher prices) for the evening. All will hopefully provide the right combination of warm atmosphere and delicious dishes to spice up your evening.

Sahara Café
I’ve always found something seductive about Sahara Café. Good looks help. I think it is one of the best-designed dining rooms in the city, with high ceilings, lots of earth tones, wood, and cozy couches. I’ve eaten here many times and seen hungry couples desiring more than just the food. It can get expensive, but with many smaller, tapas-style options it doesn’t have to.

Zelená Zahrada
When I first visited this restaurant, it struck me as a nice place for a date, and I stand by that. They do some creative cooking, but the prices are surprisingly reasonable for the quality. It is smart-looking, with a modern design and a relative rarity in Prague – a fireplace. They also have a winter garden so you can get the feeling that you are dining close to nature and under the stars (should they show themselves).

La Degustation
I have yet to try La Degustation, myself. But I hear rave after rave after rave from trusted sources, some foodies, some not. Just about all called it one of the great dining experiences of a lifetime. The dining room looks great and my sources call the service understated perfection. If your Valentine doesn’t hate you for spending such a ridiculous amount of money for dinner, he or she just might love you. Dinner for two with recommended wine pairings can cost north of 10,000 CZK.


This low-lit restaurant has a warmth and style that is quite conducive for an intimate dinner for two. Tables in the back by the garden are the best. Service has almost always been friendly, unobtrusive and efficient. Without breaking the bank, you can dine on creative dishes like marinated salmon with jalapeno and mango for 125 CZK or open-faced ravioli duck ragout for 235 CZK. Spend the extra money on wine – they have a very fairly-priced list of French and Italian bottles.

This restaurant serves some of my favorite dishes in the city. I believe their Hong Kong Roll, among other delicious choices, will bring a smile to almost anyone’s lips. The big, warehouse-like space is not exactly embracing, but it is stylish, and they usually have a DJ to set the mood. At the club next to the restaurant, they are throwing a Cuban Valentine’s Day party, which will include live music performed by a band that includes some of the players from the Buena Vista Social Club.

Alchymist Club
Though this restaurant has a chef who earned a Michelin star, I pick it not so much for the food, but for the way it looks. The dining room is just over-the-top opulence. I’ve never seen anything quite like it. With vaulted ceilings, red and gold or zebra chair cushions, crystal chandeliers, and mirror mosaics, it’s Louis IV meets Elton John. If you like flash and have plenty of cash, this high-end spot might be for you.

U Emy Destinnové
How about some delicious international cooking in a cozy setting with a working fireplace? On top of that, there will be piano and violin player for Valentine’s Day. This restaurant does top end dishes for what I consider mid-range prices. If you are into red meat, I’d recommend the grilled Argentinean steak with Chianti reduction. The chef Steven Trumpfheller and his partner Jiří Pešek are super hosts and I’ve always seen them make sure their guests are well taken care of.

Botel Matylda
Call it the love boat. I didn’t give this floating Italian restaurant top marks for food, but I thought the beautiful, dark wood interior, low lighting, and views of Prague Castle made it a very memorable place for a meal.

Grosseto Marina
Yes, it’s another floating Italian restaurant on the river with a view of Prague Castle. The prices may be among the lowest on this list, but you still get the golden visuals across the river. With competent pastas and pizzas for under 200 CZK and Italian wines in the 400 CZK range, you’ll have plenty left over afterward for champagne and strawberries, should you be so inclined.

Hotel Okoř
Picture this: A trip to the countryside, a dinner featuring respectable international cuisine, an after dinner walk under the ruins of a 14th century castle, and then a night in a quaint family-run hotel. All this and more can be yours if you are willing to make the short trip outside Prague to Okoř, either by car or by Bus 350 from Vítězné náměstí. It’s close enough that you could easily be back in the center in time for work the next day. I have not been there, but a trusted source, Grant of the Gusto blog, calls their steak the best in Prague (even though it is not in Prague). I called at the end of January and was told their 10 rooms were still available.

This list is hardly definitive. It's just my personal list. There are plenty of other romantic spots, especially if price is no object.

If you have your own suggestions (and already have your plans locked up) feel free to share with the rest of us.


enzo said...

bototel matylda........ uno dei posti
più tristi mai visti. Cucina pseudo italiana che di italiano non ha niente. Caro brewsta vai qualche giorno in italia e fatti un poco di cultura culinaria.
Chiamare il matylda ¨very memorable place¨ è poco responsabile. Ciao

Brewsta said...

Google translation of above comment: bototel Matylda ........ one of the saddest ever. Pseudo-Italian cuisine that has nothing in Italian. Dear brewsta go a few days in Italy and made a bit of culinary culture. Call Matylda very memorable place ¨ ¨ is irresponsible. Hello

malastrana said...

In fact, he is speaking above all for the ambience and the feeling of Matylda.
Just think about the view to the castle and the lights in the river. Touching.
Among San Valentine's places is one of the most romantic.

Anglitcky po Skole said...

If you were jonezin' for a fabulous steak where would you go, El Barrio or U Emy?

Brewsta said...

Wow - that's a tough call.

They are such totally different steaks and different restaurants.

I'll dodge the question slightly by putting it this way.

For flame-grilled beef, usually a little better, more tender cut, go to El Barrio. But it is a bigger, busier place.

For a more peppery, pan-grilled steak with better, delicious sauces, I'd go for U Emy.

I hope this helps!