PRAGUE, Czech Republic – To stay relevant. In the restaurant world, it can be a remarkable challenge.
V Zatisi, in Prague, claims to be one of the first restaurants to have opened after the fall of communism.
In this series of articles, Cédric Lizotte visit some of the best restaurants in Europe. From France to Switzerland via the Czech Republic, here are the best places to sample the delights of some of the best chefs on the planet. Follow it with the hashtag #CedricInEurope.
At that time, everything was “innovation”. Everything was “discovery”, “exciting”, “novelty”, “concept”. After all those years behind the Iron Curtain, the Czech discovered what was happening elsewhere in the world. V Zatisi wanted to offer a fine dining experience to those who never had the chance to have one before. Mission accomplished: the restaurant is still at it after all these years.
But times have changed. To stay relevant, V Zatisi had to adjust.
The interior design has been completely refurbished in late 2008. Today, it is in shades of black, glass, paper light fixtures, ceiling mirrors, and some sort of neo-Gothic wallpaper.
The menu is all over the place. A “Czech” tasting menu was added, which is to say that the classic local dishes are now available, in a revisited version. An Indian chef was hired, and some dishes on the menu are “Indian”; Sunday brunch has an “Indian” theme. A third tasting menu, classic and bit more daring, is also available.
But the decor, the concept, the menu… These things are secondary. What counts is what’s on the plate, and the feeling it gives once it’s in the gob. And, second in importance, is the quality of the service.
Let’s talk about that, shall we?
V Zatisi: The Dishes
A quick note before we begin: the service, during my meal at V Zatisi, was everything I love: fast, courteous, efficient, simple, without excessive formalities.
Since I am in the Czech Republic, I prefer to order local dishes. I like to have the flavours of the place I visit. It is my preference, and I know people who visit fine restaurants sometimes do not dwell on these details. I am pleased that V Zatisi took the time to honor classic dishes, so I chose to follow that particular menu. So much for Indian food…
To begin, the traditional soup called kulajda – V Zátiší – is served in a stylish version. There’s a sour cream espuma and the egg is in this case a quail egg. Not too complicated, and well executed!
This is served with a glass of Moravian white wine named Jedlicka, which is a Welschriesling. It’s tart enough to cut the fat from the soup. Simple, good.
The second dish is served with another Moravian white, a 2013 from the village of Popice. The wine is called Palava, made with a blend of grapes. To go with the wine, I’m offered a roasted quail breast, mashed chestnuts, cooked cabbage and a playful version of a traditional Czech dish, Kuba. The quail is surprisingly good, and the rather sweet wine, which has some tropical notes, plays nice with the chestnuts.
Third course, third wine: a pikeperch is simply seared and served with pickled vegetables, potatoes with marjoram, and a lemony cauliflower mash. It is served with a Riesling, a 2013, also is the Popice region. Again, simple and well executed.
The fourth service arrives: bohemian-style duck leg. It is roasted and the skin is crispy; the sides of cooked cabbage with apples and the super-classic Czech dumplings are as common as it gets. The addition of a sauce of red cabbage and duck liver, which has a bit of a tinny characteristic, adds a decadent side to the dish. This one’s a bit more complex than the first dishes, but well executed!
Finally and for dessert, I’m served an apple strudel, another staple that I’ve also enjoyed in its classic version at Cafe Imperial. At V Zatisi, it comes with its homemade vanilla ice cream and an artistic presentation. And for the icing on the proverbial sundae: a glass of late harvest of the Poddvorov region, also from Moravia. This sweet wine interacts well with ice cream and the tartness of the apple.
The theme of the meal? Unadventurous combinations, successful execution.
V Zátiší – Liliová 216/1, 110 00 Prague 1, Czech Republic – +420 222 221 155