V Zátiší

Pairing Up in Old Town: Jessica Rose reviews the Zátiší Group's signature restaurant

Jessica Rose

Written by Jessica Rose
Published on 04.02.2009 14:44 (updated on 04.02.2009)

Imagine listening to a jazz song for the very first time, and delighting in all the playful notes that jump and swing adventurously across the musical plane. After all, the song´s success is about the melodious fusion of diverse, scattered parts that harmonize into one coherent composition. Now imagine a few moments after the song ends trying to recall the entire tune in detail from start to finish. Oh, come on—it´s jazz! Although it´s about the details, you remember the gist, you remember that you enjoyed it—you can perhaps hum a melody—and that´s all.

Expats.cz Rating
Atmosphere
Food
Service
Overall
From our plate
1190 CZK/
690 CZK
Bohemian Degustation Menu (4 courses)/Wine Pairing
1390 CZK/
790 CZK
Zátiší Degustation Menu (5 courses)/Wine Pairing
840 CZK/
390 CZK
Two Course Deluxe Menu/Wine Pairing
990 CZK/
590 CZK
Three Course Deluxe Menu/Wine Pairing
1190 CZK/
690 CZK
Four Course Deluxe Menu/Wine Pairing
1390 CZK/
790 CZK
Five Course Deluxe Menu/Wine Pairing
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This is what the experience was like for my dinner companion and I after our eyes scanned V Zátiší´s menu for the first time. Its colorful verbiage—“Pumpkin and autumn pear soup with cinnamon cream,” “Lamb chops crusted with violet mustard and lavender cremolata with tarragon-monbazillic lamb jus”—had us scatting back and forth across the white-linened table. We closed our menus, and sipped our introductory glasses of Champagne Saint Gal with anticipatory smiles, as the tantalizing details of our orders faded into the light jazz of the background.

Thank goodness for our server, who flawlessly articulated the details of each dish in response to our repetitive question, “Wait—what exactly is this again?” as the courses came from the kitchen, well-timed and well-organized. And in a restaurant of this caliber, it´s necessary to know exactly what you´re getting. The dishes command attention to detail and an appreciation for the art of upscale dining—but you can relax. V Zátiší offers approachability (in my experience, most attributed to the staff, and thereafter the quaint, parlor-esque atmosphere) that doesn´t leave you feeling daunted by the doll-sized fork, suddenly visible when you shift your plate, and don´t know what the hell to do with.

It´s a motley menu, concise yet filled to the brim with audacious, inventive combinations that draw primarily from European gastronomy, though without confinement to predetermined rules. It´s this unabashed approach—as well as the emphasis the restaurant puts on wine-pairing—that makes V Zátiší a dining odyssey, versus a mere belly-filling stop before heading to the theater.

I´ll not start with the starters for this one, because here´s a rarity that´s pleasing and more significant: the main courses outdid the starters. Although the fillet of sea bass, with citrus-rosemary and herb neige, and the grilled fillet of daurade royale with lemon grass and coriander sauce were pleasing, the meat courses stole the first-prize victory. The lamb chops were delectably tender and laced with seasoning just enough so that the quality of the meat spoke for itself. This was especially true for the fallow deer fillet, delivered in glistening, pinkish-centered cubes that left the accompanying drizzles of rosehip sauce and apple-rosemary puree as mere bystanders, fashionable as they were. And you might be hard-pressed to find another dish in this restaurant in which the sauces are bystanders.

Get ready to get saucy in this place, and I don´t mean because of the extensive wine variety guests are encouraged to explore. I can´t count how many different sauces and relishes lightly painted the otherwise shadowy atmosphere with thin swirls of vibrant color. The kitchen has a preoccupation with inventive sauces, and it´s not necessarily a bad thing. A pomegranate syrup, as well as a vanilla and cinnamon flavored pear relish, played up the goat cheese starter. I recall the tuna tartar and roasted prawns marinated in ginger and lemon grass (although the prawns were butter-drenched, like some of the sides, which costumed the freshness of produce). These starters were paired in the same ultra-intricate presentation, with two prawns centered by a petite tartar tower, sided by lime couscous, and circled by tiny rivers of flavor: a tangy tomato sauce prepared by way of a painstaking tomato saute process described in detail by our server, a ginger sauce that paired well with the prawns, and, the one I found most interesting simply because it´s made with squid ink, a distinctly flavored sepia sauce. The sepia sauce is a good illustration of how the explorative aspect of the experience redeems any mediocrity.

One special eclectic dish was far above mediocre, but I must first make a confession. It arrived at our table compliments of the chef, it´s not offered on the menu currently, and (please don´t be upset with me) they knew I was coming for a review. Regardless, these samples exhibited spectacular epicurean innovation occurring behind V Zátiší´s kitchen doors. I was highly impressed by the chef´s alchemy with the aggressive flavor of horse radish whipped into the light, airy texture of a mousse—a risky flavor-texture contrast that panned out well, and was perfectly matched with Italian salami. The celery soup with fresh coriander offered tough competition to the pumpkin and autumn pear soup we sampled, both smoothly sung songs of flavor with just the right subtlety.

“Dining isn´t about feeling ‘full´; it´s about feeling satisfied.” That´s what a well-established American chef once told me, a chef who, like all true chefs-at-heart, thought of himself as an artist. V Zátiší´s courses are portioned and timed in a way that doesn´t leave you shaking your head and putting your hand on your stomach when the server asks if you´d like dessert. And my eyes, in childlike fashion, wander to the dessert menu before I´ve even ordered my drinks, usually, so I was pleased I had welcoming room.

The vanilla bean crčme brûlée was exactly as crčme brûlée should be. The dark chocolate mousse platter is presented as a chocolate-lover´s dream, centering a delicate tower of mousse fancily layered with bits of dark chocolate varieties, vanilla ice cream, and orange marmalade coulis, amid a long stream of rich chocolate sauce. The dessert sampler offered a light lemon sorbet, traditional chocolate mousse in all its rich creaminess, and a simple rendition of tiramisu that´s missing the espresso-soaked ladyfingers.

Two degustation menus offer the most optimal navigation for the experience, though V Zátiší´s deluxe menu offers two, three, four and five course meal combinations for the fine-dining fancypants out there who will pioneer their own paths. The Bohemian degustation menu follows a trail of roasted quails, kulada soup, fallow deer fillet, and warm caramel gingerbread. The Zátiší degustation menu is a journey of the pumpkin and autumn pear soup, sautéed tranche of French foie gras, fillet of sea bass, the lamb chops, and the vanilla bean crčme brûlée. I strongly recommend the wine pairing option, as it really completes the evening, and the extensive knowledge and expertise of the staff is an added value to the experience.

Speaking of pairing, the holiday exploding with candy hearts and red roses is just around the corner, and I´m certain the small but sumptuous atmosphere of V Zátiší is filling up with reservations of star-crossed lovers, new and old, starry-eyed and bitter, and all couples in between. The ambience encourages romance. And while the origins of Valentine´s Day are rather ambiguous, this restaurant´s history is not. I found it commendable to learn that 18 years ago  this menu offered only a cheese plate and salami plate, and the Zátiší group is the official 2009 EU caterer in the Czech Republic. Aww, amazing what wonders can flourish from planting one small seed and giving it lots of love and attention.

V Zátiší
Betlémské nám./Liliová 1, Prague 1
+420 222 221 155

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Disclaimer: All stars are relative to an establishment´s context.

Jessica Rose can be reached at jessica@expats.cz