The menu at NEB.O, an Asian fusion restaurant in Old Town, doesn’t stray too far from the standard fare of noodle creations and curry dishes. Rather, it’s the presentation – aesthetically pleasing and delicate (not to be confused with small portions and big plates, like many luxe restaurants are prone to favor) – that sets this spot apart from being just another quick wine-and-dine in the city center.
I had been a little bit skeptical when the waitress, unsmiling but efficient, brought out the starters: four teeny tiny spring rolls (75 CZK) and a papaya salad (75 CZK) in what looked like a gravy boat. The salad was supposed to have papaya in it, but despite much exploration with a fork and sticking with it until the very last green pea, I came up fruitless.
The deal breaker would have been if the Pad Thai (165 CZK) had arrived in a gravy boat and without the chicken I’d ordered. No worries there. My main dish was arranged in a scooped dish/bowl with a generous helping of chicken, peanuts and chili shavings. The rice noddles, flavored with leeks and soya sprouts, was more dry than I’m used to, but I was quite content with the size portion. It can also be ordered with beef or shrimp.
My dining companion that Saturday night, P., a food connoisseur and fierce critic of Prague restaurants in general, ordered yellow curry with seasoned vegetables, Com Cari Vang (165 CZK). She asked for tofu instead of meat and was pleasantly informed that NEB.O can substitute most meat-based dishes with tofu on request. I’m always impressed when wait staff in this city offer unsolicited advice and quickly gave our waitress a mental gold star.
P. declared her curry “good” – which I suppose for less food-centric people would mean “great” – though the chef had added a bit too much turmeric.
In the meantime, I had moved on to Tom Khaa Kai (85 CZK), a coconut milk soup mixed with chicken, mushrooms, onions, coriander and mint. The combination was surprisingly tasty and quite filling.
It is the drink list, though, that’s the real standout here; sort of the proverbial cherry on top of an otherwise nice, but not exceptional evening out. The choices include wines, spirits as well as mixed beverages. Cola, meanwhile, is available for a staggering 50 CZK and water’s not far behind at 45 CZK.
But don’t waste your time on any of that when there’s cucumber lemonade (75 CZK) on the menu. NEB.O offers a range of homemade lemonades and iced teas. It is the “Cucumber” that garners the most attention, however, with its striking color and long green vegetable slices standing in for one of those decorative drink umbrellas or flamingos. And yes, it really does taste like cucumber, which is equal parts odd and wonderful. But if liquid salad isn’t your thing, there is plenty of other exquisite concoctions to sample.
We of course indulged in several. I started with a raspberry iced tea (55 CZK) but soon realized how boring my choice was when something called “Fresh Fruit PINK” (75 CZK) and another cocktail-like wonder, Mango Keo (85 CZK), showed up at our table. PINK, a swirl of bananas, strawberries and pineapples, and Keo, a refreshing blend of mango, coconut milk and mint, are both alcohol free and oh-so-good. I decided to double down on the Mango Keo for dessert, while P. had the skewed pineapple (Dua Nuong) with honey and coconut cream (75 CZK). “Who would think of grilling fruit like that?” she cooed, spearing another dewy slice into her mouth.
These unique touches, which also includes the beguiling Nem Nham Dua (75 CZK), a pair of phallic-looking green pancake rolls filled with coconut and almond cream, are worthy splurges.
Word apparently hasn’t gotten out yet. NEB.O was fairly quiet during my first visit. I returned a few days later to see if Saturday night had been a one-off, but the dining area, whose floor-to-ceiling windows face Perlová street, was once again fairly sparse, not really an encouraging sign to the average passer-by.
It might perhaps be time for some redecorating. The small corner unit is an odd combination of sterile and industrial with a misplaced touch of comic book eccentricity. There is nothing particularly inviting about the blonde wooden tables and hard, uncomfortable seats. It appears NEB.O was going for a modern “designer” look, but all its sleek furnishings manage to achieve is bad posture. Bare light blubs hung from a tangle of red extensions cords illuminate the minimalistic setting, where the only decorations are art renderings of Superman and Spock pinned to plywood boards.
The spot seems to be trying a little too hard to be hip. It’s veering dangerously close, however, to dorm-room chic – not exactly cozy enough for a first date, but definitely more upscale (aka slightly pricier) than your average Prague noodle bar.
My advice: add some cushions or ergonomic chairs and ditch the super heroes.
Perlová 10 – Staré Město
Tel.: 224 248 678
Hours: Monday-Sunday 11am-12am
Photos by Michael Heitmann
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