pondělí 25. ledna 2010

Grand restaurant festival - La Degustation Boheme Bourgeoise

Everybody knows about the Grand restaurant festival right? A budget friendly opportunity to set foot in some of the best restaurants in Prague.
The first restaurant we were to visit was Ambiente group’s La Degustation Boheme Bourgeoise. I don’t think there is any need to go into much detail about this place, anyone who is interested in gastronomy heard about this unique establishment.

We were greeted by the manager, who asked us for our reservation code, while he typed it into the computer a waiter took our coats. The manager offered us 3 tables, 2 by the entrance and one that is called the chef’s table, which is something like a bar lining the kitchen window. Of course, we chose the latter. A thin glass panel separated us from the small kitchen where some of the cooking takes place and where the plates are arranged. It was a pleasure to watch this perfectly coordinated team of professionals and see how all of the beautiful dishes were prepared. A unique experience.

Chef Oldřich Sahajdák at work. I was surprised to see that the majority of the kitchen staff was not older than 23-25 years. Some even looked younger than 20. A great start for a beginning chef.

We were asked whether we wated sparkling or still water and it was promptly brought to the table. After that our first amuse bouche arrived.

A Valhrona chocolate praliné with pepper and something else that I don’t remember J It was very good, but why serve a sweet amuse bouche at the start of a dinner? I guess it did have a deeper meaning.

Next the sommelier came, and asked us whether we wanted to choose our own wines or rely on them for the pairing. Pairing it was. The sommelier thoroughly introduced each one of the three wines.

Second amuse bouche – their famous beef tartar in a thin, crispy, wafer like bread. It was almost creamy. Husband liked this a lot.

Butter, salt and a choice of breads.

Prague ham with Malin horseradish sauce, baked potatoes and tiny cubes of stewed carrots. The ham tasted like real ham, which happens rarely these days. The horseradish sauce was delicate and not overpowering. A beautiful take on a classic dish and it all worked together quite well.

The svíčkova na smetaně was rather unusual. The beef was almost rare and very tender, almost too tender. This meat was probably cooked under very low temperature because even though it was practically raw, there was no trace of blood in it and it wasn’t red, but fairly light pink. But I’m no expert, I may be wrong. The dumpling, which was unusual as well but very good non the less, sat on a vegetable pureé. The sauce, the most important part of the dish, was smooth and silky. A cranberry jelly was served on top of that. Altogether it tasted and looked good, but this is not my favorite version of the dish.

Another amuse bouche – tomato raviolo with basil oil. A perfect example of molecular cuisine IMHO…how on earth do these people turn a tomato into an exploding blob of gel?? :) I guess it was meant as a palate cleanser, it was very refreshing and really did taste like tomato with basil.

Beef tongue with mashed peas and marinated (?) shallots. The star dish of the restaurant and I can now see why. The tongue was incredibly tender, almost like a paté. The rich pea mash and the caramelised onions were a perfect sidedish.

Dessert amuse bouche – tvaroh with a tropical fruits sauce. Smooth, creamy and sweet tvaroh was perfectly matched with this very tangy, fruity and intensive sauce. I’d eat it again any time.

I just had to take a picture of this batch of incredible looking desserts! The ball was actually pink and contrasted beautifully with the bright blue sauce.

The restaurant was full all of the time we have been there. Some people were there as part of the festival while others, mostly foreigners though, were enjoying regular dinners. I didn’t notice anyone of the personell behaving differently to these 2 groups of customers. I heard many people raise this argument of the staff behaving rudely or unattentive to those on a „budget“ during the festival. I don’t know about other places yet, but this was clearly not the case here.

When we were leaving the manager came to chat with us, among other things he asked about the other place we planned to visit during the festival. He also asked what dish we liked the best. For me it was the tongue and the dessert, for husband it was the tongue and the tartar.

We were handed 2 small golden cardboard boxes. The manager said they were chocolate muffins to go with our morning coffee. We don’t really drink coffee and we surely were not going to wait until morning :) The muffins were a bit unusual, on the drier side but with a very intensive chocolate flavor. Perfect!

I’m really happy we got a chance to get a glimpse of this place. I always wanted to go there, but spending almost 10 grand on a dinner with wine is beyond our income, at least for now. It’s a very fine example of a unique concept paired with perfectly professional service and great food.

** I may be wrong, but it seems to me that there is a mistake on their website. On my computer the English and French versions quote only one menu! There is a choice between 2 menus but the content is the same!

úterý 12. ledna 2010

Kiev cake

If you were trying to come up with a food to symbolize the capital of Ukraine then this cake would be it.

The one and only original Kiev cake has been invented in the 1950s and is since then produced by the former "Carl Marx confectionery factory", now known as Roshen. The Kiev cake is one of the most popular souvenirs to bring from this city.
There is no way one could make the exact same thing at home, altough many people try. It's simply something like Sacher, it's best bought. And the best Kiev cake is made by the Roshen factory, there is really no argument about that, although you could find many cheaper and uglier copies all around the former USSR.
See how beautiful it is? :-) The kitchy old-school thick cream decor has become a trademark of this cake and even though Kiev is now full of modern looking desserts no one will ever dare to modernize this legendary cake. It looks just the way it looked when my mom and dad were kids. Children loved the buttery, melting pink and blue flowers and the green leaves. The whole family fought over the big, fat white rose.

But what's inside? Inside are 3 layers of very dense meringue with big and small pieces of nuts between which are 2 layers of extremely rich buttercream. The whole thing is creamy, buttery and crunchy at the same time. On top of the cake is a layer of cocoa flavoured buttercream topped with the cream flowers and leaves, the sides are heavily sprinkled with crushed meringue and nuts. It is very sweet and very high in calories, but so incredibly good. Until today, exclusively butter is used to make this cake, no vegetable fats.

When buying Kiev cake it's always best to buy the freshest piece and eat it within 1-2 days. After 2 days some of the cream soaks into the meringue and the meringue also dries out a bit, making the cake difficult to eat. It should be eaten cold, if it stands around for too long the cream becomes soft and unappetizing. The cake is sold in two sizes, the one pictured is the smaller one. This one costs 36 hrivnas, which is about 80kc and is more than enough as dessert for 5 people.

So, if you're ever in Kiev this cake is a must.

neděle 10. ledna 2010


We stopped by at this new Thai restaurant when we arrived to Prague from our holiday yesterday, to grab some takeaway food. Our flight was 4 hours late due to the weather and we weren’t in the mood for shopping and cooking.
The place is rather small, only 7 tables for about 20 people. It’s a non smoking restaurant and has free wifi, the place is clean and not kitschy.
The drink prices are quite unique for Prague - 15kc for a small Aquila or Mattoni and 30kc for a 0,75l bottle. They have Holba beer on tap, a big glass is only 22 kc and it’s very very good. This is the second place in Prague that I know of that serves this beer, Bukanýr being the other one. There was one friendly waiter/manager whose English was much better than Czech and another customer having a meal when we came in.

The placemats on the tables caught my attention. They depicted and described some of the most famous Thai dishes and their main ingredients. A label on the placemats said that they were produced by the Thailand ministry of commerce.
Our food took about 20 minutes to arrive, it came neatly packed, complete with the bill. We paid and headed back home.

I appreciated the “double packaging” (in a plastic bag or in alfoil and in a plastic container). I know it's not environmentally responsible, but nothing spilled on the way home and it was still warm after a 15 minute drive a 5 minute walk.

The tom kha kung soup was very good, bursting with flavor and not to hot, but I did skim off some of the fat before eating. It did not contain cherry tomatoes like some varieties in Prague do, but had lots of oyster mushrooms instead. There were 3 medium sized prawns. Tom kha kung, 75kc.

The green curry with pork was alright, although the meat could have been more tender and I like a curry with more vegetables, this one only had bamboo. But the sauce itself was very tasty with a medium heat factor. See those kaffir leaves? Not a common sight is it? Kaeng kiaw wan moo, 130kc.

I don’t eat eggs so we ordered the pad thai kung minus the eggs. I thought it was a tad too dry, this was because it wasn’t mixed very well. Half of it stuck together in a clump while the other half had just the right balance between noodles, peanuts and bean sprouts. It wasn’t too sweet and we actually liked it. Pad thai kung, 150kc.

The chicken dish was rather unremarkable, it had no taste whatsoever and I do not recommend ordering it. It had a Čínské bistro feeling to it. Kai kra tiam, 130kc.

Husband doesn’t really fancy hot food so he ordered a miso soup for himself from the Japanese menu. It was a decent classic miso with tofu and seaweed. Misoshiru, 45kc.
The rice was very fragrant but a little clumpy. It was 30kc per serving.

The total bill was 649kc, together with 2 beers and one small Aquila. No charge for the packaging.
I didn’t study the Japanese menu any deeper, it’s all online on the restaurant’s web. I don't really trust Japanese food in non-Japanese restaurants, but I may be wrong.There are no translations in the online menu which is a major flaw IMHO, the printed menu in the restaurant has Czech and English descriptions.
The restaurant also offers delivery, but the website does not specify the conditions and whether this service is free or not. ThaiOishi is located almost next door to a new Indian restaurant called Curry House. Their websites look very alike and the close by location may indicate that the restaurants are affiliated.
We enjoyed some of the food, the prices are decent and we might take advantage of the delivery in the future. This isn’t the best Thai restaurant in Prague but if you’re in that area it’s definitely worth checking out.


I just returned from a short stay in Kiev and will shortly start a small series of posts on restaurant food in this city.