Prague for Foodies

OK.  We’re home; but before jet lag fully sets in, we want to finish out the trip blog—first with our meals in Prague… then with some closing thoughts.  First, the meals.  To paraphrase my uncle, if we “got the job done” in terms of eating in Budapest, we really hit it out of the ballpark in Prague.  (Of course, this is not to say that we didn’t eat well in the other cities.  We did.  We’ve only provided extra dining details for meals that were really memorable. )
As an aside, almost all of our restaurant picks were selected from the NY Times Travel city-specific blogs.  By googling “NYTimes best restaurants in Prague,” for instance, our search yielded approximately 50.  We narrowed the field and we’ll report on three here.  These three just happened to be recommended by our tour guide as well.  (The NYT blog has been invaluable to us since our Mumbai dining adventures two years ago.)
Our first evening in Prague we dined at Kampa Park--a trendy restaurant on the far side of the Charles Bridge in the picturesque  “Lesser Town” (Mala Strana).  Our seats were river-side so the view was great and the food was even better.

While we each started with Czech beverages (champagne and beer), the meal was not particularly Czech. Wendy’s first course was a velouté of crab with a caviar and crème fraiche garnish (we’re talking about an entire tin of red caviar here—self serve—and I assumed it would be a teaspoon!). 

Wayne’s starter was grilled sea scallops with capers, raisins, cauliflower, and beurre blanc—beautifully presented.  Wendy’s main was halibut poached in olive oil and served with black truffle garnish, crispy pancetta bacon, potato mash with French mustard and vegetable foam.  The dish was light, artfully presented, and very popular among other diners.  Wayne chose pepper steak with crispy potato pancake (a Czech specialty), and zucchini ribbons, nestled in a Cognac sauce.  Delectable. 

For the next course, Wayne had “chocolate cube with crème brulee” (the translation truly does detract from the dish); Wendy had chocolate lava cake—though the menu described it in a much more exciting manner—“chocolate fondant with beetroot sorbet, dark bread ice cream and toffee espuma.”    

You can never get too much foam in a meal which is why I closed it out with a cappuccino. Extra foam!  That said, we have decided we will curtail the foam in future trips—we can get that in Chicago! Good thing we had a long walk back to the hotel—back across the Charles Bridge and another 20 minutes.  But, the meal was lovely and worth every calorie (and Czech Crown).
The following evening, we treated ourselves to dinner at V Zatisi - another highly-rated restaurant.  This one is more eclectic—featuring both Indian and traditional Czech cuisine.  It was set back from the main square down a cobble-stoned street (oh, wait a minute, they’re all cobble-stoned in Prague).  The room was contemporary chic.  While you might think the combination of Indian and Czech flavors in one menu wouldn’t work, it did and the meal was fantastic.  Nothing like having naan as one of the many bread options—gotta love it.  Anyway, we both decided to sample from both menus.  Wayne started with Tiger Tandoori shrimp (which was perfectly flavored) and Wendy had a sampler plate of several small Indian bites—including a delicately-sized bowl of delicious curried tomato lentil soup. 

The Indian option was a creative and welcome alternative to the usual smoked salmon appetizer (though that has been quite yummy).  We went Czech with our mains—Wendy had roast duck with two types of cabbage and fresh herb dumplings...

Wayne had pork belly glazed with honey, barley risotto, and horse-radish flavored apple sauce. 

For dessert:  Wendy had tandoori pineapple with pistachio gelato and Wayne had four flavors of sorbet.  Let’s just say steer away from tandoori pineapple, doesn’t work.  
For our last dinner in Prague, we decided to go traditional.  We chose The Blue Duckling (or in Czech in case you were wondering:  “Restaurant U Modré Kachnicky.” ) This place, also in the Mala Strana district, has been in business over 150 years and has been frequented by many political and pop celebrities, so we had to try it.

The menu was translated into 5 languages, but we didn’t feel like this was a “tourist” restaurant.  And the experience did not disappoint.  The décor was classic (and, in some respects, kitchy) Czech—with more duck-themed décor that we ever thought possible in one restaurant (four floors). As one would expect, the specialty was duck—with eight duck entrees to choose among.  Here goes:  (1) Roast duck with walnut stuffing, red and white cabbage, potato dumpling,  (2) Roast duck with plum brandy sauce and potato pancakes, (3) Roast duck marinated with honey and apple brandy served with baked mashed potatoes (4) Roast duck with bacon brussel sprouts and garlic potato pancake, (5) confit duck roulade with liver and raw potato dumplings, (6) Flambeed duck breast spiked with dried apricots, red wine, and green pepper sauce with almond potato croquettes, (7) Duck breast roasted in ginger, marjoram, and bacon served with mashed potatoes, and (8) wild duck breasts spiked with Prague ham and cranberry sauce with raw potato dumplings.  So, we had….. duck!  Wendy had duck choice (2)...

and Wayne had duck choice (3). 

We steered clear of duck for the appetizer and dessert courses—but enjoyed our choices.  Wayne had a classic Czech wild mushroom/potato soup.  Wendy had roast asparagus.  For dessert, Wayne had the last piece of apple strudel he will probably have for six months as he is starting to resemble one and Wendy had fresh strawberries in puff pastry.  It was a wonderful meal to close out our trip (and to precede the all clear liquid diet that will probably be necessary for the next two weeks).
In closing, we would like to dedicate this trip to Wendy's dad who was absolutely captivated by Holocaust books, movies, and most everything related to WWII (he served in the Army of Occupation).  We booked the trip in February. Dad died in early April. I know he was definitely with both of us as we navigated our way through Central Europe—in all its splendor and historical depravity. When we booked the trip, we had no idea how powerful it would be.

We will be processing this voyage for some time.  We have been in 5 countries, used 4 different currencies, seen some amazing things, eaten lots of great food (countless pierogis and strudels!), and really learned a lot about the history of this region, the saga of our ancestors, and the specifics about our family.  Once again, thank you for joining us.

as always,

love, w&w.

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