sobota 24. července 2010


Prague is short of places like noodle, salad or sandwich bars, or other places serving good and cheap lunch grub. Polevkarna is such a place, specializing in soups and savoury pastries. It's a quite small bistro like establishment where you order at the bar, collect your food and find a place to sit either outside or inside. I'm sure that the proximity of quite a few big office buildings was the reason for opening at this venue in Karlin.
We arrived at 2 p.m. and there was only 2 kinds of soup out 4 left to choose from. A good sign - the place seems to be popular. None of us 2 was eager on the bean soup with walnuts, which I later regretted, so we both went for big serves of borsch. To go with it we ordered a piece of cheese chachpuri and fried eggplant with walnut paste served on home-made bread. The bill for 2 big soups, the chachapuri, eggplant and 1 Mattoni was 206kc - a very good deal in my opinion.
The borsch was very good. With just the right level of sweetness and acidity, crunchy vegetables and some meat. This isn't the borsch you sometimes get served in Czech restaurants, but a proper version of the soup.
The generous slice of cheese chachapuri went very well with the hot soup. Chachapuri has to be quite salty, because the cheese it's originally made with is very salty. Here in Prague, brynza or balkanský sýr mixed with tvaroh could be used to make chachapuri. No idea what the cook used here, but it was mighty tasty. They also had spinach and bean chachapuri on display, but we decided to stick to the classic this time and we did not go wrong. The slice of fried eggplant with a smooth walnut paste is a brilliant example of healthy and tasty finger-food. The home-made bread it was served on was wonderful.
The place clearly has a Georgian cook, there is no doubt about that. The superb chachapuri is a clear sign, as well as the little "sandwiches" with eggplant or spinach are typical Georgian and it all tastes very homey. Also the soups they serve often have a Caucasian or Russian feel to them - Bean soup with walnuts (walnuts are a staple in Caucasian cuisine), Chicken soup with tarragon (one of the most popular herbs in Georgia), Okroshka (a cold Russian soup made either with kefir or kvas), Borsch etc.
Below is the menu for the day of our visit. Short, straight forward and cheap. Everything is cooked fresh everyday and they do not seem to be left with any left-overs. By the time we were leaving they ran out of the bean soup as well. They announce the daily menu on their facebook page every day.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed for Polevkarna and hope they will open another outlet somewhere in the center. If they keep up the good quality, low prices and the simple koncept, they might soon see queues lining their entrance - I wouldn't be surprised if this is the case already.

středa 14. července 2010

Ladronka gourmet restaurant

Ladronka is a park, but I it’s definitely not my favorite park in Prague. The reason for it being that it’s full of inline skaters and people riding bikes. Don’t get me wrong, I like sports and I do sports…..but there is no space for pedestrians in the front part of this park. You get angry and annoyed looks all the time if you step onto the inline or bike paths, if you don’t pay attention you can get easily overrun. So the best idea is to quickly cross this dangerous area and head deeper into the park where there is plenty of green and beautiful lawns. But if you are into inlining then this park is perfect!

Usedlost Ladronka is a big complex, with 2 restaurants, 1 fast food stall with plenty of shaded outside seating, facing several beach volleyball courts. There is plenty of other outside and inside activities like bowling, inline rental, petanque etc. When the weather is nice the place is completely crowded and you could spend a whole day there without getting bored.

But we were after more sophisticated dining...the Ladronka gourmet restaurant. We came across this place by accident, while looking for a nice place to have another family celebration. The place seemed "new" as I never read or heard of it. It’s fairly small and has a very nice, smallish terrace with a unique view of the park itself and the city panorama. When we came to inquire about reserving a table we were informed that they are French restaurant specializing in exclusive wines and food. The waiter stressed that there was no draught beer and no dogs allowed. We quickly looked through the menu, decided that it looked alright and made a reservation for 10 people.

When we arrived at 6 p.m. it was still very very hot and although the terrace disposed of an enormous a very sophisticated umbrella there was no way of getting any shade. Our table stood directly in the gleaming sun, while all the other, empty, tables took up the surrounding shade. Weird, if you ask me. But the staff did not seem to consider it a problem. BTW, not all of us arrived, there was only 8 of us in the end, but we informed the staff about this in advance by phone.

The views from the terrace are very nice...

The service was very considerate and polite, but it definitely wasn’t friendly or smiley. We weren’t given menus when we were seated, instead there were small pieces of paper under each guest’s napkin with an extract from the menu. There was a choice of 2 soups, 1 salad, 4 main courses and 2 desserts. No appetizers. When we asked why we weren’t given the full menu we were informed that the offer on the little pieces of paper were menu choices for large groups. We could choose from the normal menu, but it would take longer to serve us. Another thing I didn’t quite understand, because the choices were totally the same as in the normal menu.

Nevertheless, the regular menu has a choice of 3 soups, 2 appetizers, 3 salads and about 8 main courses. I didn’t think that their menu is particularly well designed. With one appetizer costing under 100 crowns and the other costing just under 400 crowns, it doesn't leave too many choices to the majority of people. The main course section offers a better selection. In the end all of us narrowed our choice to 1 appetizer and 1 salad and 3 main courses. *The online menu does not completely correspond with the onsite menu.

Above is my virgin mojito...way too sweet. The rest of the party drank wine, I'm not a wine expert so I avoid writing about it. All there is to say is that it was all good. The restaurant offers bottles costing over 20 000 crowns, but also some very reasonably priced and good quality wines.

Above is an amuse bouche we all received as a compliment from the chef. It was some kind of salmon pâté or rather mousse, with a few pieces of smoked salmon and a sweetish wine reduction type sauce. It was alright and extremely small :-) I thought it looked rather ridiculous on this huge plate, and I am used to small things on big plates. The also served tasty bread rolls, but surprisingly no butter or even olive oil. I would have been happier if they served some garlic and herb butter for the bread instead of this salmon thingy.

Foie gras with nectarines and some kind of fruit jelly. There are no active PETA members among us, so 4 from the party ordered this. It was a serious piece of foie gras served on a dense toast and with the sweet sides. This was alright but not spectacular. It was too raw for two diners.

Ceasar salad with prawns. It was a great Ceasar salad, with a well made dressing and crunchy Romaine lettuce. However, the prawns were just the average frozen stuff you get everywhere else. Overall I liked this, but just because of the very tasty and most importantly proper Ceasar dressing.

The first main course that came out of the kitchen was the Goose leg confit with cabbage and dumplings. The meat was good, well seasoned, tender and not greasy, as goose often tends to be. Thumbs up for the goose.

Lamb chops with ratatouille. They were way too raw for all of the people who ordered them. Some chops were not even warm. They were all sent back to the kitchen and came back a little more cooked, but still medium. After that they were delicious, very good meat just with the right amount of fat. The ratatouille was especially great.

Pike perch with chanterelles and a truffle espuma. I guess I could call this tasty. I couldn't taste any truffles in the white foam, but it went very well with the chanterelles, which I love. The fish itself was very well cooked and fresh, but unfortunately there were many bones in it. It was a fillet and in my opinion a fillet should not contain bones. There wasn't one or two or even five of them, but rather fifteen large bones. Another thing I didn't appreciate were the chips like potatoes on top, they were tasty by themselves or would have been great with a beer, but this delicate dish deserved a creamier side like mashed potatoes or creamed spinach or risotto.

Cremant jelly with sorbet. Refreshing, and very sour. Expect to have a blue tongue until the next morning.

Chocolate fondant. A good take on a classic, creamy and warm inside. I liked this!

Strawberry dumplings. Looks good, doesn't it? And it was tasty too. Sweet and fragrant straberries and the creamy, warm vanilla sauce made the perfect match.

Overall we liked this dinner, especially because of the beautiful setting. The food needs improvement however. Or perhaps the menu needs to be adjusted. The place might be a bit too expensive and too luxurious for this location, but despite this, customers were coming in all the time, although mostly having only dessert or salad. I guess we would come back if they amended the menu a bit, broadening the appetizer section and maybe adding some fresh seafood.