Written by Naomi Boxall
This week our stop was Restaurace Doba, sandwiched between a hairdresser’s (Misha) and “all beer one” Cheers on the Belgická corner of Náměstí Míru. Though local to me, this was my first visit. Thankfully, though the downstairs cellar-esque area was almost filled, the two of us were easily accommodated at a vacant (but “reserved”) table for five.
Immediately, we were delivered one English menu to share (despite my asking for a table in Czech – damn the grammatical errors giving me away!) until another became available soon after. The menu was very extensive, yet inexpensive; it covered cold and hot starters, soups, small and large salads, fish, beef, poultry, pork, grilled goods, “meatless dishes”, sides, desserts and drinks. All the usual Czech dishes were represented: svíčková, pork knuckle, roasted duck, etc. Not only were there clearly defined sections, but each contained numerous imaginatively-titled options. My favourite was “headsmans lash” – loin of pork, onions, garlic, chilli, champignons, sweet capsicum and ketchup – illustrating the simple yet wholly descriptive approach to menu writing, in comparison with the blowsy poetry affected by other establishments – which can occasionally leave you surprised when you see your plate. Non-meat options included pasta dishes, various salads, pancakes, risottos and Chinese-style vegetables – although most included cheese.
Beware the lobster cocktail, for they seem to be disguised as shrimp, which lack the size you may have expected. It is served with a watery yet tasty Marie Rose sauce, and no lettuce other than the garnish (which I, personally, appreciate). My companion went for the chicken cocktail (same concept – it was a shame there were insufficient of us to try the roast beef cocktail and the crabmeat cocktail for comparison) – which may, or may not, have contained ham – and was dressed with a heavier mayonnaise-based concoction. To wash all this down, we´d already started a bottle of Bohmeia Sekt (Brut), which didn´t suffer the usual 4 times markup that many restaurants apply, and was a reasonable 230Kč. It was served with a flourish in funky saucers, and eventually chilled once placed in its ice bucket.
After a perfect interval, our mains were brought out. My grilled salmon steak was succulent, yet not undercooked. Complemented by lemon-herb sauce served in a miniature gravy boat, it flaked from the crisp skin in divine forkfuls. My date had the Saint Ludmila´s Bag (!): chicken breast stuffed with ham, onion, red pepper, champignons, garlic and smoked cheese. The stuffing kept the chicken breast moist during the cooking, and seeped out as a tasty sauce. Though keen to leave my palate uncompromised for my own meal, the intensity of flavours turned my friend into a plate pimp – I spent the meal assuring him that “no, really, one mouthful had sufficed!”.
The grilled corn on the cob was perhaps a little dry (not unusual for this time of the season), but once dipped in the juices of either the stewed asparagus or Saint Ludmila´s Bag, it was fine. The stewed white asparagus stalks were elegantly presented, and though a little mushy for my tastes, they were stewed – as my sidekick pointed out, merrily wolfing down the rest of them. Our third side dish was the small tomato salad (served with onions and salted) – which was not particularly small, being the perfect size for the two of us to still be picking over at the end of the meal.
Perhaps it´s just a pet peeve of mine, but I dislike it when my plate is removed before the others at my table have finished their meals; it seems unnecessarily rushed and was not the way I was taught to clear tables. But, this appears to be a common practice everywhere I´ve travelled, so even though it happened again here, I shan´t judge too harshly – but shall pass comment.
Unfortunately, I was slow off the mark and beaten to ordering the hot raspberries with ice cream, so instead had the banana with ice cream. Both desserts were simple, using good quality French vanilla ice cream; the banana had been divested of strings and sat in a puddle of chocolate sauce. My espresso preceded the dessert by enough minutes that the crema had dissipated nicely by the time I needed the bitter Segofredo taste.
Our first impression was of general cleanliness; despite being underground, there was a noticeable lack of dust. We were greeted with a cheery warm Czech restaurant vibe, created by the yellow corner lights, and yellow walls. The ruddy brown floor tiles were not noisy when scraped over by the surprisingly comfortable wooden straightbacked chairs, and both the linen tablecloths and napkins were clean and ironed. The bathrooms smelt of cleaning products, but not so as you´d come away smelling of them yourself, and were obviously frequently checked. The general hubbub drowned out the very soft jazz being played over the speakers, but was quiet enough to maintain a conversation without employing undue volume.
The restaurant seems child-friendly; although no specific corner was laid out for their entertainment, two young gentlemen were served as respectfully as their parents. Early on, we were impressed with the prompt and professional service, and ordering in English was simplicity itself.
I´ve noticed that the difference between intrusive service (where you´re bothered continuously and hurried along your meal) and negligent service (where you struggle to catch the attention of the staff) allows a fairly generous ‘safe zone´; you only really notice when service tips too closely to either end of the scale. Overall, the service here fit well within the safe zone for a leisurely meal – although, as usual, the delay between our desserts and the bill left us noticeably waiting and starting to fidget.
Overall, the restaurant lived up to its promise of reasonably-priced and good quality Czech and international cuisine. It´s an easy-going, modest family restaurant, even good for a date, or if you and work colleagues want a bite to eat at the end of the day (perhaps in the out-door garden, which we didn´t visit). Basically, tasty food that doesn´t break the bank (they also take food vouchers). We enjoyed our meal there, and I´d recommend it.