Written by Naomi Boxall
NOSTRESS dishes up fusion food: by definition a mixture of French and Asian influences. There are menus depending on the time (daytime or evenings) and they have a business menu that changes weekly. Despite an initial kerfuffle over reserved tables outside the restaurant (we wanted to view the people´s reaction to the giant shoe in the roundabout at V Kolkovně, Dušní, Vězeňska and Široká – an exhibit from this year´s Sculpture Grande open-air art fest), and then the disappointment of not being able to have our first choice of wine (a Bordeaux Semillon), we settled with a Côtes de Provence Semillon and ordered starters from the well attired, if a little snooty, waiter.
Pan seared foie-gras with caramelised apples may not have been many peoples´ first choice, due to animal rights reasons, but I was desperate for liver, and this certainly satisfied the craving. The foie-gras was the perfect consistency: light and smooth yet gooey. It was warmed all the way through – not cold on the inside as occasionally served – and four sumptuous pieces lay supine over an apple rosti, over which was drizzled a caramel reduction sprinkled with crisp bits of apple. There was enough there to dilute one glass of wine and for the others to try, without me feeling as though I´d lost out on a few bites. While my starter was being sampled, I tasted the dim sum from a friend´s two-tiered steamer. The dumplings were a little fat for my liking (I prefer mine with less pastry) but the prawns were plump and juicy, and there was a hint of basil underlining the chilli heat of the green curry sauce. The surimi dumplings were unremarkable and the chicken a little dry for my taste, but perhaps that was intentional to mop up the semi-spicy red curry sauce? Another companion took the vegetable samosas which were gently spiced, but very well teamed with a tamarind dipping sauce.
The inclement weather forced a move to the inside of the restaurant, and we chose the smaller non-smoking section to the right of the bar, so we could still people-watch to a certain extent. I chose the halibut as a main dish. The largest of the flatfish, it´s very easy to overpower its delicate sweet flesh with strong seasonings: I wanted to see whether the saffron sauce was an ingenious complement – or not. I was in luck. Served on a bed of greens (beans, broccoli, haricot vert) the fish delivered exactly what I needed (a semblance of a healthy option). The bright yellow sauce was rich and salty, but not overbearing, adding the saffron ‘sea air´ fragrance to the sweet, fresh fish – I gave it a 9 and didn´t want to share. My companions were not so lucky: the salmon – supposedly accompanied by a ginger and lime sauce, was neither gingery nor limey. It was well cooked, and the potatoes it came with were also good, but ‘could have been better´. Lamb shank was the meat used in the lamb curry: a good cut of the beast, but one that´s apparently hard to flavour, as this shank tasted only of shank, and not at all of curry – a disappointment. The tuna tartare appears fabulous on the plate, four mounds of minced tuna held together with shallots amongst other vegetables and drizzled liberally with salsa verde, but it too could have used a little more lime – not as much as to turn it into cerviche – but at little zing wouldn´t have gone amiss.
One of my companions couldn´t see past the crčme brulee, but claimed it mediocre. I trust him, he´s French. The strawberry mille feuilles with raspberry sauce was enjoyed, but would be more aptly named trois feuilles; it lacked the finesse expected from this sophisticated dessert. The pancakes with vanilla ice cream and brown sugar were traditional: neither special, nor bad. A friend scored the winner this course: the warm pear croustillant with almond cream: deliciously sweet, he fended his plate from our scavenging forks. The presentation and portion size of all of the desserts was superb, and they did bring my coffee with my dessert, rather than have me wait until my sweet was finished for the bitter aftershock (I prefer the conflict of tastes rather than waiting).
Looking around me, only vaguely uncomfortable from overeating, the colour of the walls reminded me of sun-dried fertile soil – therefore totally at odds with the faux greenery adorning both the tables and the corners of the rooms. The art on the wall is well lit, both attracting and keeping your eye; I believe a lot of it is for sale. In the brightly coloured and clean bathroom, the water at the sink pours from a waterfall spout onto your hands, provided you get your hands positioned in front of the sensor first. It´s a novelty, but I quite like novelties in the ‘ladies´.
NOSTRESS really was all that: no stress. It´s easy dining in pleasant environs served by highly competent staff. I can be certain that the food served will meet my tastebuds various and slightly impetuous desires provided I choose my dishes wisely. It´s a great place to meet people, being in the centre of town, merely a stone´s throw from bars for ‘afterwards´, so it will continue to be a place I frequent.