Prague Restaurants Serving High-end Czech Food?!??!

Sorry, folks. But no one visits the Czech Republic for the food. Sure, I grew to like it when I lived there, and it was cheap, but unless you like rather bland meat, potatoes and dumplings, then save your palate for finer fare elsewhere.

That’s simply the way it’s been for many years now.

According to a recent New York Times article, however, the Czech culinary scene is surprisingly changing. A number of high-end Czech restaurants serving traditional Czech food (!) are popping up all over Prague. Instead of $1 plates of goulash, the chefs are serving up escabeche, beef tartare, “white tomato meringue, topped with honey and aged balsamic vinegar,” “ravioli, stuffed with diced beef lungs,” and much, much more. Just check out the slide show here!

Journalist Evan Rail recently took a culinary tour of the Czech capital and his review was something I’d expect to find in a place like France or Belgium. But instead, it was all about the long-established doldrums of the culinary world where high-end Czech restaurants are now offering up first class, traditional meals that can run seven courses long and cost hundreds of dollars.

Man, things have come a long way since my first visit in 1990 when they used ketchup to top their pizzas.

Best Beer Garden in New York

I admit that by being Czech, I am slightly biased when proclaiming that The Bohemian Hall & Beer Garden has the best outdoor garden of any bar in New York…but really, it does.

First of all, it is huge (big asset in New York.) Secondly, it has real Czech beer (and authentic food, which I realize could be a drawback to some). Thirdly, they host all kinds of events in the summer, from movie screenings to jazz concerts.

To many Manhattanites, the Bohemian Hall is way too far, which is another reason it has remained authentic. After all, you do have to cross a bridge to get there. It is in Astoria, Queens but only a few subway stops from Midtown Manhattan. Not that this place is ready for an influx of “tourists” but when you get sick of those $14 cocktails in SoHo, this might be a good change of scenery…

Kung Pao Chicken with Olives?

One of the great joys of traveling is undoubtedly the food one gets to sample. That applies not only to the local specialties. When traveling, I always like to taste how different cultures handle cuisines that are exotic to them. For example, how often do you see mayonaise on those fries that came with your burger? That’s how you’ll normally get them in Europe.

Chinese or Thai cuisines are my favorite ‘culture barometers,’ since they taste completely different everywhere: each culture injects a bit of their own taste into it. In Prague, for example, you will be hard-pressed to find a Chinese restaurant that does not automatically serve their dishes with parsley, cucumber and tomato (the two Czech staple vegetables) on the side. In the US, on the other hand, you almost always get the convenient ¨soup, eggroll or salad¨ choice with your Chinese meals. I certainly did not see that anywhere in China.

Today on the Costa Brava in Spain, I actually saw Kung-Pao chicken garnished with lettuce and olives. Part of the Spanish-Chinese diet, I imagine?