Thursday, March 14, 2013

Dish {fine burger bistro}

"The discovery of a new dish does more for human happiness than the discovery of a new star." Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

As some of you know, every year, I compile the much-read list of my favorite burgers.

For the 2012 survey, I ranked 23 of them. When the late November deadline approached, I did a lot of cramming. There were great burgers I wanted to retaste and a few well-known places I needed to get back to.

By early December, I was burgered out. I needed a ground beef break. But one place kept calling me back.

Dish {fine burger bistro} was a last minute inclusion on the Brewsta's Burgers list because they opened the week before my deadline and the Facebook pictures of their kitchen and burgers looked great. They did surprisingly well in my assessment, placing fifth out of the 23 burgers I tried. For a brand new place, I was impressed. I felt it could be better, but then again, I feel that way about everything.

I thought I'd wait a while to do a full review. That time is now.

The restaurant is located on Římská, between Náměstí Míru and Vinohradská.It's especially easy to get there if you live on the 135 bus line, which stops almost in front. The 11 tram also passes nearby.

Dish is not a big place. It has an open kitchen by the entrance, with a shiny, new grill and a few stools.There is also a large table that people sometimes share.The back room is also cramped, with about seven tables, including some right by the bathroom door.They did a decent job converting the old Italian shop that used to have the location.

There is very nice wood flooring, solid wood and cast-iron tables, and cute, black and white retro photos on the walls. They use thick, high-quality paper napkins.

They picked wonderful beers to serve on tap. Dish gets its brews from Únětický pivovar. I love the 10 degree (28 CZK/half-liter), which for me has a crisp, bready flavor.I also love the price. Únětický's hoppy unfiltered 12 degree (38 CZK) is also available, which is a more assertive and bitter brew.

I was at Dish their opening night. I tried the Dish Burger (179 CZK) that night and about nine times since then.The first thing you notice is the brioche-style bun. The bread was toasted and had a light sweetness I like, but it was too much for a British friend. One drawback with this bun is that the exterior can become brittle and a lot of it can flake off while you are eating.

On the bun, there was leafy lettuce, somewhat bland homemade ketchup, quite garlicky aioli, great sliced, sweet pickles, white cheddar, and relatively soft bacon.It was well-put-together and fine-looking burger.

The patty is the most important part of any burger, and this 120 gram version comes close to greatness, with one caveat. They were almost always cooked to a perfect medium, with one coming out rare.The coarseness of the grind was just right. Too many places in Prague over-grind their meat into a beef paste that give the patty the wrong consistency.

The grill sears a wonderful crust on the patty that seals in the juices and gives it a terrific charred flavor even though it never touches a flame. Salt is added just before cooking and the levels are just right.

I have just one criticism of the patty. In just about every burger I tried, the ground beef had tough, chewy bits in it and, in a couple of cases, gristle. I noticed it the first night, and I haven't stopped noticing it. I can only speculate that the meat has not been properly trimmed before grinding or that there are some lesser cuts in the mix.

That said, it still tasted wonderful and there are not many burgers in town that can come close in terms of flavor.

Fries are not included. Their regular fries (39 CZK) were wrapped in brown paper and served in a jar.I worked in a restaurant did homemade fries, and they are tough to do well. Getting them to be crispy can be a laborious, time-consuming process.

These thin-cut, partially-skinned potatoes achieved only semi-crispness so I wasn't fully satisfied. Even so, I like them enough that I usually order them. For a counterpoint, I have a fellow American friend who raves about them.

They also offer homemade steak fries (45 CZK).These were thicker versions of their regular fries. They were soft, with almost no crunch. I would not get them again.

I ordered a dish of their homemade ketchup (26 CZK). As mentioned above, the flavor fell short for me. It tasted of tomatoes, but needed a stronger vinegary-sweet kick. The portion was also disappointingly small for the steep price. I'd much prefer a bottle of Heinz.

Dish does 10 styles of burger, including two that are vegetarian, and they often have burger specials using various types of meat. Despite all the choices, the classic Dish Burger is probably my favorite. I'll run through some of the variations in the order I liked them.

The Savory Burger (159 CZK) comes with Dish ketchup, portobello mushroom slices, caramelized onions, baked tomato, and Parmesan cheese chips.I wished for more than three meager mushroom slices, but the sweet grilled onion, hot tomato, and somewhat unique, crunchy cheese made an excellent combination.

The Olomouc & Porto Burger (149 CZK) has Moravian Olomouc-style cheese and caramelized onion with Port.I didn't taste the wine clearly, but the tart notes of the onion balanced well with the very creamy, but not too strong cheese. Please forgive the grainy iPhone photos I shot on some of my visits. I often stopped by spontaneously and didn't always have my good camera.

I tried the Lamb Burger (165 CZK) and expected a ground lamb patty. However, theirs is made with tender slow-cooked chunks of meat mixed with onion that lend a hint of sweetness and a savory sauce.This is topped with fresh, raw spinach leaves and their garlic mayo. It was not as filling as a regular burger, which aren't gut-busting either, but I liked it a lot.

I'm not a vegetarian by any means, but I enjoyed the Caponata Burger (129 CZK). The very tasty caponata, dominated by aubergine has a great combination of onion and vinegar that give it sweet and tart notes.One problem here was that it was vaguely warm on the outside and cold in the middle. But I really liked how it tasted, and the warm, baked tomato and smoky cheese worked well with it.

The Bůček Burger (159 CZK) is a hefty-feeling 150 grams of slow-roasted pork belly with cheddar cheese, horseradish-chive sauce, and red cabbage.The salty meat reminded me more of a pulled pork shoulder sandwich. It was drowning under the yogurt-like sauce and the whole thing turned into an unholy mess in my hands.

The Pampa Burger (149 CZK) was my least favorite combination of the beef patty offerings.The tangy sauce, Manchego cheese and vinegary raw onions made for a very sour burger.

The Falafel Burger (139 CZK) was another vegetarian option, but in my opinion, much less successful than the Caponata Burger.The hot patty was studded with crunchy chickpeas, but overall, it was a mushy mess that oozed out of the bun when bitten. It came with a good tahini sauce, pickled red onion, baked tomato, and lettuce.

There are other things on the menu beside burgers. On one visit, I had the fried goat cheese (59 CZK), which is a regular chalkboard special.The lightly-battered cheese balls were fried and drizzled with honey. They were warm and crispy outside and soft and creamy inside. There was rucola and chopped radicchio in the middle. It was small but good.

They do a couple of other salads. There's rucola with smashed red beet, ricotta, and baked garlic (109 CZK) and lettuce with sliced pear, fennel, walnuts, and bacon (115 CZK).

Of course, I had to try a dessert. On one visit, I ordered the chocolate cake (70 CZK), which came with salted caramel ice cream.The cake was rich and fondant-like, but served cold. Warming it up would have doubled the pleasure.

The soft ice cream, which seemed to be homemade, had a good balance of salty and sweet. Just be aware the menu says the cake comes with a pistachio ice cream.

The service at Dish was generally good and friendly. I'd recommend reservations. I stopped by one Friday night just after they opened at 6 p.m. and was apologetically turned away. The small restaurant was still relatively empty, but not even a stool at the bar remained unreserved.

For people who want a burger, fries, and a beer, perhaps a side of ketchup, the average tab will run about 250 CZK per person.That's not a cheap meal for some people. But the burger fanatic in me says it's worth the money. Though not huge, there is a lot of quality and care in those burgers. I think it is among of the best in Prague.

Dish is dangerously easy for me to get to, and I've become something of a regular. The list of places where I am a regular is not that long, which tells you something.

And what it tells you is I am more than happy I discovered Dish {fine burger bistro}.

Dish {fine burger bistro}
Římská 29
Prague 2 - Vinohrady
Tel: (+420) 222 511 032

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