Okay, spring may be the time of love, but for us it is the time for food. We bring you a short roundup of new openings in spring, and a few things we’ve heard through the grapevine about openings that are due later this year.
One of the biggest openings in recent weeks was that of Spices, the revamped restaurant of the Mandarin Oriental hotel. It is clear that they want to attract more locals and tourists beyond their hotel guests. We really liked the design and the signature cocktails. While we loved some of the flavors (crab cakes!), some other dishes just did not work for us. From their description, we would have expected bolder flavors.
The new concept reminds us of SaSaZu although it is not as exciting or, as some may say, extravagant. Mercifully, the lounge menu still includes the Czech kulajda soup, one of our favorite dishes in the whole town. Speaking of SaSazu, the people behind it are planning to open a new restaurant. It’s still in the pipeline and the details are scarce, so we’ll see what they will come up with.
If you prefer drinks over food, you will rejoice over the opening of Cash Only Bar, only about two minutes’ walk from its mothership, the Hemingway Bar. Three rules: no reservations, no smoking and no credit cards. The monthly menu features a dozen drinks but they will do anything if you ask politely. Make sure you check their basement floor if the ground floor is full. The skilled bartenders prepare some great cocktails and the hot dog is the perfect bar food after you’ve had a few drinks.
On the other side of the spectrum, PURO Gelato is a new gelato place near the Naplavka farmers’ market that does some classic and weekly flavors. Prague definitely needs a place that does more innovative flavors and PURO, with its weekly polls for the next flavor of the week, and the enthusiastic owner, might just be that. Right now, they are not better than 2AD, our favorite ice-cream maker in Prague but who knows? Maybe they will be in a few months.
Let’s move on to a food group where many Czechs start, and end: meat. After the burger explosion we saw last year (which it’s not going away any time near it seems), Prague now seems to be bracing itself for a pastrami shakedown. The thing is so hyped right now it should have its own hashtag (#pastramiwars, anyone?). The first pastrami we tried in Prague was by Delicatessen 1881 at Jungmannovo namesti. Sure, it was their first week, but we were in for a surprise: for CZK 160, we got tough meat in tired toast with mustard. Needless to say, it would be expensive at any price.
The pastrami at the very recently opened La Bibiche had a much better start. They try to do as much in house as possible, with home-made mustard and bread. They serve the meat cuts only cold for now, but that should change soon. The third contender is the Pastrami Deli Sandwich, run by the people behind the late Oliva restaurant near the Vyton area. Right now they are only a stand at the Kuban farmers’ market in the Vrsovice district but we’re sure they will not leave it at that. We’ll see how the beef wars play out.
Talking about burgers, there’s a new kid in town: Meat and Greet on Senovazne namesti square should be opening soon. The kitchen is headed by a former chef at the infamous Dish, and they are already getting traction on their Facebook page. (We love reading Facebook reviews of a place that is yet to open.)
To finish off the meat segment of this extended gossip column, we should talk about Nase maso, the wildly popular butcher shop in Dlouha. From June on they should focus more on cooking. If everything goes according to plan, they should be closing the meat counter every day at 6pm and turn the whole place into a bistro that will use the protein they have and serve some creative dishes.
One of the biggest complains we have about the Prague food scene in general is that the city lacks good, neighborly bakeries. That may actually change now. First, Julka, a.k.a. Maskrtnica, has joined the team over at Paul Day’s Maso a kobliha, arguably the best bistro in town today, to bring the good people of Prague killer donuts (or should we say donut, because they only serve a vanilla custard donut) along with sourdough and brioche breads.
And now, a new bakery in the Vinohrady district, Praktika, shows lots of promise as THE place for great bread in Prague. The breads by the young baker, a really passionate and super nice guy with baking experience from abroad are fantastic, and they have many plans for the future. Also, the floured shirt is one hot look in our humble opinion, so make sure you check them out. They have really opened just a few days ago so give them some time to figure out the quantities needed: right now they seem to be running out of bread quite quickly into the day, but you can call to reserve a loaf ahead.
Let’s move on to coffee. Ye’s Cafe, a bare espresso bar with little in the way of decoration, opened in Letna at the beginning of May by the people behind Bitcoin Coffee. The stage and center is an old, refurbished espresso machine in a see-through enclosure. Of course, it’s no La Marzocco Strada or Synesso, but we actually liked our coffee made from beans roasted by the Berlin-based Bonanza Coffee Roasters. Another opening is Kaldi fresh coffee bar, a small operation very near the Botanical garden, that claims to have “the best coffee in Prague” on their Facebook page. We’ll see about that.
Still, the one coffee opening that keeps us awake at night (and they don’t even serve coffee yet) is what we call “Muj salek kavy II”. The new cafe by Karlin’s coffee powerhouse will go by a different, yet unknown name, and will be located near the Hradcanska subway stop. They’re trying to assemble a coffee Dream Team, including Ondra of Alza Cafe and Jirka from Naplavka’s Brew Bar, both Czech champions in their coffee fields, and they also promise great food, too (think Australian brekkie and the like). When exactly will they open? We’ve heard the whole cafe is finished but there seem to be some formal obstacles that have to be negotiated before they open their door to the first customers.
Another opening that will hopefully happen later this year is the announced joint venture by Bogdan Trojak of the Veltlin wine bar and Ondrej Kobza, the King of Hipster that has been building an empire of hip, student cafes here in Prague. They’re scouting locations but the name is certain: Winetou. Do cowboys and Indians mix with wine and beer? The place has an innovative concept: joint micro-brewery and a micro-winery. Sign us in.
Also hanging in the air is the opening of Eska, the long-awaited nearly-vegetarian restaurant and bakery by the Ambiente group in the Forum Karlin building. The last date we’ve heard was “some time in September or October”. Judging by the frequent visits to London, we expect modern, hip cuisine. The design should be top notch, too, including waiters dressed in cool uniforms consisting of blue jeans and Botas sneakers. Eska should make quality sourdough bread, too, so we’ll see how Ambiente will shake up the bakery game.
Bring your popcorn: this looks like an exciting year.
Expats.cz is excited to announce occasional contributions by the foodie folks at Taste of Prague!