“Oh, please, please, please let this be good,” I hoped as my dinner companion and I scurried with scrunched faces through the wet streets towards Kubelíkova. Armed with a mere pocket-sized umbrella in the sudden angry downpour that greeted us when we stepped out of the metro station, I hoped at the very least Taverna Olympos would be a warm refuge from the rain and all the puddles that kept gripping my feet in cold arrest along my journey.
The complications encountered with my initial restaurant choice would become a blessing in disguise. What started out as my Plan B establishment to review on this gloomy Sunday evening, quickly shifted into my hope for shelter from the rain, and ultimately concluded as my dining sanctuary, my Greek rainbow after the rain.
Soaked, shivering, and sniffling, I slid into a thickly cushioned booth in the glass-encased patio dining room, and began to breathe a sign of relief. The welcoming staff was as warm as the ambience, and the heat lamps overhead thawed my merlot-hued hands, which struggled in their stiffness to remove my coat and situate myself.
The menu is, unapologetically, a 45-page booklet laden with colorful photographs and lists that open the gaps of knowledge to a true Greek kitchen. Like the fare, it is as easy to follow and unambiguous as it is filling.
Targeting rich flavors and big payoffs, much of the cooking is traditionally inspired, and much of it is excellent. The Olympos kitchen—exposed to the dining room—takes familiar Greek dishes and ingredients, and adds its own subtle and clever ways to distinguish them, be it through preparation, generous portions, or presentation.
Our server was never shy of recommendations, alleviating any overwhelming feeling that could stem from the extensive menu selection. From which cheeses to sample, to how to best comprehensively sample the meat dishes, to which wines would best accompany our dinner, she never hesitated to make suggestions. And when my facial expression reacted with the slightest hint of uncertainty, she quickly added alternatives, exhibiting her thorough knowledge of kitchen offerings. This wasn´t out of haste. A few seconds of pondering over which of her wine suggestions to choose, and she disappeared and reappeared with two types of red wine for me to taste, to ensure I was completely satisfied with what would fill our carafe.
I think of the vision of starters, which arrived simultaneously and filled the white tabletop with vivid color and a wonderland of tantalizing choices. The jaw-drop of my dinner companion prompted me to remind him that my dining experience is, at times, an exercise of restraint, and a wolfing-down of the starters ceases enthusiasm for the main dishes to come. I tried my hardest not to be a hypocrite.
It´s a match made in heaven. The pita bread, straight from the oven and sprinkled lightly with herbs, was the plainest item on the table and still begged for attention both from us as well as the tzatziki, which seemed to billow from its dish in a snow-white cloud. To brighten the taste and add a faint jovial texture, tiny cucumber pieces scatter the swirls of this classic Greek staple.
Once the fork is ready to break into its aesthetic perfection, soft feta cheese oozes from a shimmering, golden fried pepper—a simple starter with a rich taste that is anything but simple. So, too, was the steaming flawlessness of the fried eggplant, breaded and sliced just right.
A passion for fresh octopus that equates mine is hard to find among my Prague dining companions, so my indulgence in this vivacious, cool starter was a solo act. Dressed in a light oil and slightly tangy vinaigrette, Olympos´ octopus is not only fresh but also surprisingly easy on the jaw. The texture, to my delight, was exceptionally soft while maintaining its dense familiarity.
I could find no inconsistency in the superb quality of the deliverables, no cue for my use of musical metaphors, like “crescendo” or “high note”. The most problematic part of the evening involved the Bujurdi, a dish highly recommended by our server as a kitchen specialty: oven-roasted feta and kasseri cheese in a thick lagoon of tomato and pepper. The quality of the cheese and the heat maintained by its clay serving dish make a trying process for acquiring forkfuls, as the cheese, stretches, strings and sticks like it has a mind of its own.
Owned, operated, and staffed by Greek people, Olympos of course has a fresh fish list in addition to the separate fish and seafood section of the menu. The fresh fish list includes gilthead, red mullet, sole, and swordfish, but our server recommended the bassfish labrus. The fish is served in traditional fashion, in its lone entirety with lemon, and for the portion, the way it gently flakes from the bone, and its un-meddled natural flavor make you glorify the fact that it´s only 100CZK.
Chicken, pork, veal and lamb played starring roles in the grilled meat courses we sampled, all equally succulent and elegantly dressed in such a way to offer the true body of taste without veiling or disguising layers. The kleftiko is served in a flowered paper display atop its oval plate; peal open the bulb and steam dramatically drifts from the scrumptious oven-roasted lamb, potatoes and vegetables. And I suppose I did find a favorite main dish at Olympos, through the way they prepare the mousakas. Layers of eggplant, fried minced meat, and sliced potatoes baked with beshamel harmonize exquisitely in this popular Greek favorite, with the added Olympos touch.
The fondness for exceeding expectations and assuring a pleasing experience through and through doesn´t tire with the desserts. Heavy portions of sweet pastry treats, like the honey-laden baklava, are a perfect way to close the evening´s gastronomic curtains.
With this all-to-none ratio of hits to misses, I´m eager to explore the multitude of other authentic delectable creations from this refined Greek kitchen. I returned the warm sentiments to the staff on my way out of the restaurant, and headed out, unbothered by the rain.
Kubelíkova 9, Prague 3
+420 222 722 239
Disclaimer: All stars are relative to an establishment´s context.
Jessica Rose can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org