For the past decade, Robertson, which opened in 2004 in Prague 4, was the go-to shop for quality meats. A more recent addition, The Real Meat Society, opened by Paul Day and Michaela Jorgenson in 2012, has made a name with for itself with its farm-to-table ethos. Both shops have provided customers with a welcome reprieve from the ready-cut meat of mystery origin that is the norm at the corner řeznictví.
Now the choice is getting a little wider.
Boutique butcher Naše Maso, owned by the Ambiente restaurant chain, opened on March 5th in the new Gurmet Pasáž Dlouha, itself an up-and-coming haven for food and beverage connoisseurs.
Naše Maso’s meat supplier, Amaso, also provides fresh cuts to Ambiente restaurants, including popular steakhouse Čestr. Amaso chooses its farms carefully, and oversees the fattening and slaughtering process. Naše Maso has plans to be more than a butcher shop, and will eventually give patrons the option of having their Fleckvieh beef or Přeštice pig grilled in-store.
On the day of my visit, I asked chief butcher, František Kšána, to recommend a good cut of steak.
He asked if I liked strong-tasting beef and reached for a piece of 38-day-aged flap steak (bryndáček vyzralé 38 dní in Czech). The meat is aged on site in a cool room from which a side of beef dangled as we spoke.
“You need to cook the steak on a high heat for about three minutes on either side and then put it in a hot oven for 10,” Mr. Kšána instructed in English.
Apart from the flap, they had a hearty portion of ribeye, filet mignon and round cuts. Pork cuts included shoulder, knuckle, chops and the ever-popular krkovice. They didn’t have lamb, but the butcher said they would be getting it in this week.
Sausages included debrecínské, víděnské and klobásy as well as a salsiccia, an Italian pork sausage seasoned with fennel. The butcher confirmed the Amaso claim that everything came from locally raised animals. I added a couple of debrecínské to my order; it came to 146 CZK with the 266g steak.
That night I prepared the steak as instructed. It seared up nicely with a good charred crust. To my surprise the meat came out tender and juicy. The slightly fermented taste from the aging gave the steak a bit of a kick. The párek on the other hand was nothing special. Good, but not exceptional.
Presto Meat Market
Presto Meat Market at Vítková 11, which opened in Novemeber 2013, resembles a more typical butcher in appearance but the meat on offer is anything but ordinary. Butcher Vladimír Komorád wants to bring an appreciation of good quality fresh meat to the Czech market. Unlike most butchers, the meat is cut on the premises.
“What’s missing here is what I’m trying to do,” he said as to why he opened the store.
Komorád has spent quite a bit of time abroad, honing his skills in small shops and supermarkets in the US, UK and Australia. We chatted at length about the range of cuts he had and how best to prepare them. Our conversation even got on to why Czech beef is often of lesser quality. The butcher put it down to the shorter periods cattle spend outside and the use of dairy cattle for meat.
Komorád buys one animal a month and ages it for 21 days.
When I asked for steak, Mr. Komorád recommended a center-cut of rump, thick and marbled with fat, for 349 CZK. “Cook it on a high temperature for two minutes on either side then cover and let it rest for six,” he said. Aged Czech flap and brisket are also on offer. The latter looked like it would have made an ideal roast.
Apart from butchering, Komorád runs courses on preparing sausages and making skewers. There are also plans to open a bistro beside the store, though no firm date is set.
A range of pork cuts, from cutlets, leg, rib and neck and lamb, also caught my eye. There were sausages, too. I chose a home-made pork sausage seasoned with pepper. The 400g of rump and the sausage came to 163 CZK.
Both the steak and the sausage were worth the trip. The rump may not have had the interesting flavor of the aged beef, but it was tender all the way through, and the marbling meant it was juicy and flavorsome. The sausage was a real treat. Lightly smoked and peppery, it was not the usual baton of fat and grease but rather lean and meaty. However, it had the thick skin of a klobása, so if you prefer the thinner skin of an English-style sausage I doubt this will win you over.
Masna na Kozím plácku
Conveniently located at Kozí 9, a bones throw from the Old Town Square, Masna na Kozím plácku, won the prize for the best butcher’s in 2011 and has since then vastly expanded its small-goods offerings. But if you don’t venture to the center much, you may have missed it.
The store is part of the Made Group, which supplies their wares to around 3,000 stores, including Penny Market, Globus, MAKRO, and Kaufland. In this way, the store isn’t a small producer like Presto, but it has the broadest selection of the three I visited, including delicacies like baked apple butter and wide range of cheeses and other dairy products.
In slightly faltering English the butcher was able to make some recommendations. The single ribeye steak for about 400 CZK seemed a bit excessive. The sirloin at 349 CZK a kilo was a bit more reasonable, though I wish I had specified that it be cut a bit thicker. Sadly, the butcher was not so forthcoming with cooking advice, just telling me to cook it for five minutes.
On the sausage front, they had fresh home-made pork sausages, sold as ‘bangers’, which looked like the sausages I am used to, so I grabbed four of them. The final bill – 200 g sirloin and the sausage – was 146 CZK.
Surprisingly, though thin, the center of the steak remained rare after a couple of minute either side. The meat was very tender. Not chewy at all. The sausage looked good and grilled nicely, but the interior was chewy and dense and needed more spice.
Overall the three stores are showing that local beef producers are lifting their game, though Lovers of English-style sausages, though, may want to stick with imports.