Confession time: Czech food didn’t knock my socks off. That’s not to say we didn’t have some tasty meals in Prague, because we did. I’m just not planning a return trip specifically to enjoy any of the dishes again, like I am with the smoked cheese soup in Tallinn. Maybe we didn’t make the best menu choices or dine at the right restaurants, but after several days of stodgy local specialties, we were seeking out a little more variety. Here’s the very best of what we found, Czech and otherwise:
The Golden Pear
Our final meal in Prague turned out to be the most outstanding of the bunch, as these things usually seem to go for us. We wanted to give Czech cuisine one last time to impress our palates and the result was a resounding success. The Golden Pear (U Zlate Hrusky) is tucked into a quiet corner of the Hradcany neighborhood and reminded us of a cross between a classic American steakhouse and a French bistro. The dishes were expertly prepared and elegantly presented, and worth every penny we paid.
My appetizer of baked goat cheese with marinated beets, arugula and pine nuts was the most vibrant dish of the night, though the creamy pear soup with cinnamon gnocchi was the most inventive. Several menu items featured the restaurant’s namesake pear, including the mouthwatering strudel we had for dessert. As for the main courses, the duck breast with port wine reduction was succulent and well-paired with an earthy barley risotto and roasted mushrooms, while the venison leg with bready Karlsbad dumplings and marinated cranberries was reminiscent of an American Thanksgiving feast. We left stuffed and more favorably inclined towards the national cuisine.
We didn’t expect to find excellent seafood in landlocked Czech Republic, but I guess stranger things have happened. Eager for something other than a hunk of roasted meat, we headed to Les Moules, a Belgian bistro serving up some truly spectacular mussels. As a jolt to my culinary senses, I opted for the spicy broth with lemon and cilantro and slurped up every last drop. Pommes frites and a glass of Stella were ideal accompaniments. The finishing touch? Chocolate truffles handcrafted on the premises and a frosty glass of Belgian fruit beer. By the time we finished, I was ready to plan a trip to Brussels!
Lobkowicz Palace Cafe
We enjoyed lunch at the Lobkowicz Palace Cafe on two separate occasions, once to take advantage of the 10% discount coupon that came with our museum tickets and again because the food was delicious. Of the dishes we tried, the chicken schnitzel was the standout, the meat light and juicy thanks to a crisp panko crust. Schnitzel originates in Austria and is perhaps a nod to the Lobkowiczs’ ties to the Hapsburg monarchy. Meals can be enjoyed on the terrace overlooking the Palace Gardens Below Prague Castle or in the brightly lit cafe. It should also be noted that the Lobkowiczs brew their own beer.
When I started planning our trip to Prague, I reached out to the Twitterverse for restaurant recommendations. Several people responded that I simply had to visit Kolkovna Olympia for some excellent Czech food, specifically heaping platters of meat. We’d had our fill of massive pork legs and half ducks by this time, though, so I decided to try the “forest robber’s delicacy.” This turned out to be a delightful foil packet filled with tender pieces of roast pork (there’s no escaping it), onions, carrots, potatoes, thyme and lots of buttery sheep’s cheese. Potato pancakes and a Czech pilsner rounded out the meal. It was good, though the foil packet of yak, chilies and cilantro I enjoyed in Shangri-la, China was more memorable.
Kreperie U Kajetana
Just about every morning, we walked past this creperie on our way to explore Prague’s wealth of attractions, so of course I had to stop in for a bite. While I was initially most excited by the idea of crepes for breakfast, the trdelnik turned out to be the star. These traditional pastries are rolled and roasted on a spit until golden brown and crisp on the outside, while still soft on the inside. Dusted with cinnamon and sugar, they are as delicious as they are fun to eat!
Which of these dishes would you most like to taste? Are there any Czech specialties or Prague restaurants I need to try next time?The Golden Pear (U Zlate Hrusky) Address: Novy Svet 3, Prague, Czech Republic (in Hradcany) Pricing: Dishes range from CZK 95-490 (US$4-22)
Les Moules Address: Parizska 19, Prague, Czech Republic (in Josefov) Pricing: CZK 299 (US$13.50) for 900 grams of mussels
Lobkowicz Palace Cafe Address: Jirska 3, Prague, Czech Republic (in Prague Castle complex) Pricing: Dishes range from CZK 95-285 (US$4-13)
Kolkovna Olympia Address: Vitezna 7, Prague, Czech Republic (in Mala Strana) Pricing: Main dishes range from CZK 159-399 (US$7-18)
Kreperie U Kajetana Address: Nerudova 17, Prague, Czech Republic (in Mala Strana) Pricing: Trdelniks are CZK 60 (US$2.70)