We had so many great meals during our summer in Prague, that it was hard to narrow them down to a short list of favorites. So, we split them into two blog posts. In our last post, Restaurants in Prague, Part 1 we shared some of our best gastronomic experiences in Prague at restaurants that go above and beyond serving traditional Czech food, either by applying modern concepts to traditional dishes or by embracing a diversity of cuisines. Here in Part 2, we discovered the magic of the Josper Grill, ate lots of fantastic Italian food, had front row seats for a Vietnamese tasting menu, and found that you can actually get great fresh fish and seafood in Prague.
At the Nejen Bistro in the Karlin District, the first thing you see when you walk through the door is the kitchen, which is centered around the Josper Grill.
If you’ve never heard of a Josper Grill, it is an indoor charcoal-fired grill and oven all in one. It is very popular with chefs because it sears food on all sides at high temperatures, sealing in flavor and juices. The team at Nejen Bistro say that they tried a Josper Grill in Budapest and were inspired to make it the centerpiece of their restaurant.
The menu at Nejen Bistro is small and seasonal, dominated by meats and seafood cooked in the Josper. Chef Martin Císař is a former butcher, so I can only imagine how much fun he is having with this grill! Actually, we could taste it in the food.
We started our meal on the light side with a unique char ceviche that combined the unexpected flavors of diced turnips, onion, currants, grapes, and cucumbers in a creamy horseradish dressing that both surprised and pleased our palates. It went exceedingly well with the delicate fish.
Then we were ready for some red meat. The beef heart tartare was a real heart stopper when delivered to the table. The finely diced ruby red beef heart was topped with smoked egg yolk cream (how did they do that?) but wait, that’s not the best part. The tartare was mounded onto a veal bone sawed in half and roasted until the marrow was soft and buttery. Spoon out some marrow and blend it in with the tartare and dive in. This was quite a dish.
It’s been a while since we had a nice piece of steak, so we had to try the Maminha, which is a lean cut of beef similar to tri-tip that is well suited to grilling. The Josper Grill left it juicy and tender. The peanut ginger sauce complimented without overpowering the meat. I was almost equally enamored with the grilled zucchini sculpture that the beef medallions rested on. Pretty and delicious.
Once we got started with the grilled meats, we went all in and ordered the beef ribs. Twenty-four hours in the Josper Grill had reduced the solid block of meat to unbelievable tenderness. The sauce was an intense blend of mushroom soy and garlic. Some crispy shallots gave our teeth something crunchy to work on, since the meat just melted away in the mouth.
Yes, you could say that we enjoyed every bite at Nejen Bistro. The menu may be small but what they do, they do very well. It’s also worth a “shout out” to mention that the kitchen is open all day. We got there at 2pm, bridging the gap between lunch and dinner and it was no problem.
Křižíkova 24, Prague – Karlín
I love being entertained while I eat, and it’s even better when that entertainment is my dinner. For me, eating at Taro was more than just a meal…it was an event. Taro opened in the Smichov district of Prague in December 2017 with the idea of serving a new form of sophisticated Vietnamese cuisine. The entire restaurant consists of 17 bar seats arranged around a central prep kitchen. In this “Chef’s Table” layout everyone has a view of the kitchen, like food theatre. We were pleased to see a Josper Grill in the kitchen, know the good things that it promises.
The restaurant is run by two brothers: Khanh Ta is the chef and Giang Ta runs operations. They serve a small à la carte menu for lunch, while for dinner they offer either a four-course or seven-course tasting menu. The menu is seasonal and constantly changing. Not wanting to miss anything, we opted for the seven-course menu.
We were welcomed with a non-alcoholic drink of green tea with mango and an amuse bouche of smoked duck. These were followed by a stream of intricately composed and complex dishes. Each dish when delivered was described in extreme detail, which some people might find to be too much, but for me each description was like poetry. First, a deconstructed papaya salad with carrot purée, coriander paper, with panna cotta.
Then, flounder ceviche that combined sweet and sour flavors, with pickled kohlrabi, passion fruit and puffed rice. Spring rolls of marinated smoked pork and rice noodles were their take on a common North Vietnamese street food.
The most interesting dish for us was a steamed rice pancake that was topped with shrimp and a foam of lobster bisque. It may not be the most photogenic, but the flavors were bold and I just loved the sound of the spoon scraping against the textured plate as I peeled the spongy pancake away bit by bit.
When our place was set with a sharp knife, we knew that there was meat coming and readied for our main course. We were fascinated with watching the team assemble the plate.
The Peking-style duck had been through a lot…it had been marinated, sous vide cooked, and charcoal smoked in the Josper Grill. It was served with roasted kohlrabi, beets, eggplant, and baby spring onions. The layers of flavors on this plate were incredible.
Our server, Adam, explained that it is Vietnamese tradition to serve soup before a meal to get your stomach ready, and again at the end of the meal to help with digestion. And so we received a steaming hot bowl of vegetable pho with ginger, lemongrass, and shiitake mushrooms. It was intense and spicy. But that wasn’t quite the end.
We finished with Taro’s take on grilled bananas, a typical dessert in Vietnam. The bananas were served with coconut ice cream, chocolate ganache and edible chocolate soil. And I didn’t have to share it!
Nádražní 100, 150 00 Praha 5-Anděl, Czechia
La Bottega Bistroteka
La Bottega Bistroteka is one of several Italian establishments run by owner Riccardo Lucque, an Italian chef living in Prague. This bistro and deli opened in 2014 in a building/complex called the Dlouhá Gourmet Passage. The idea of the Gourmet Passage is to have multiple high quality gourmet food and beverage establishments in one location; like a one-stop foodie destination. We noticed daily food tours coming through the passageway, especially stopping at the extremely popular butcher shop Naše maso.
We were lucky enough to be staying down the street from La Bottega Bistroteka and enjoyed several great meals there, but we would have gone out of our way if needed. The great food and attentive and professional service impressed us at each visit.
The garden pea risotto screamed “summer!” with its bright green color and fresh pea flavor that was infused in the creamy sauce. It was topped with slices of seabream carpaccio, marinated shallots and passion fruit.
The high level of service really shined with the fresh fish. The fish selection varies day to day and they will bring a tray of fish to your table to show you what’s available. Each type of fish is prepared differently. The turbot wasn’t so pretty to begin with (check out his photo below), but cooked in a beurre blanc sauce with potatoes and mushrooms it was amazing. There was no concern about working around the bones in the whole fish, as our server was very accomplished at boning and filleting the turbot table-side.
The pastas were equally delicious. We loved the simple luxury of the linguine with scallops, chanterelles, and fennel. The tagliolini with beef cheek ragout and shavings of dehydrated ricotta was bold and flavorful, perfect with an Italian red wine.
Rabbit confit with spinach puree, potato fondant, and grilled wild mushrooms is also worth mentioning as an outstanding main dish. Then there was the ravioli filled with shrimp and shellfish veloute, the beef tartare with burrata foam…I could go on and on.
They also have prepared foods for take out and the dessert counter is very tempting. We became addicted to their almond cookies.
La Bottega Bistroteka
Dlouhá 39/39, 110 00 Staré Město, Czechia
Blue Fjord is both a fish market and a restaurant. They get fresh fish delivered from around the world every day. You can purchase fish to take home, or have their chefs cook it for you right there in the store for a fee of 55 Kč (about $2.50). There are only three tables, so it is best to make a reservation if you want a guaranteed spot.
It was difficult to choose from the case full of beautiful fresh sea creatures. We selected a whole John Dory fish, since these can be hard to find, and two of the enormous wild tiger shrimp from India from the ice. We then added a side of grilled vegetables to balance it out.
While we waited for our fish and shrimp to grill, we ordered a bottle of Reisling and an appetizer of crispy fried softshell crabs that came two per order. Nothing fussy about the preparation, just good, meaty, lightly battered crab.
We were so excited when this impressive platter of seafood showed up. Everything was seasoned with fresh herbs and the smoke of the grill, letting the super fresh fish flavor come through. The fish was stuffed with lemon, celery, thyme, and other herbs and grilled perfectly. I think this is really the best way to prepare fresh seafood—keep it simple!
Masná 705/1, 110 00 Staré Město, Czechia
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