Ahhh, the joys of devouring a good steak tartare! One of the most feared - and later one of the most loved - dishes we used to order in the course of our Prague Food Tour, beef steak tartare is one of the most popular dishes eaten in Czech pubs and arguably the king of a specifically Czech category of foods found in many Prague restaurants. “Snacks that go well with beer.” Forget about the naysayers and fear mongers. You should give it a try in Prague. Where and how? Read on.
How to eat your steak tartare?
Okay, let’s start with the how. The presentation of the steak tartare does vary throughout Prague restaurants but you can find some common ground. The steak is usually served with raw garlic and a few pieces of fried bread, or “topinky”, the Czech take on the bruschetta brought from Italy during the development of the Czech railway system in the 19th Century. Because we do not grow olives here, a topinka is usually pan-fried in oil or pork lard, or toasted and buttered. We prefer the latter, although many swear by the former.
So how do you do it? You take a clove of raw garlic and rub it in the fried bread, using it like sandpaper of sorts. Beware: Czech garlic may surprise you with the intensity of its flavor - it is definitely stronger than many. Then you take a fork and mash the egg into the meat. Some restaurants serve the tartare premixed, while other bring a plate of raw meat and condiments for you to season it, but we think that is a mistake - why should you do the chef’s work? :-) Then put a generous portion of the meat on your bread and eat away. Easy.
Where should you have steak tartare in Prague?
La Degustation Boheme Bourgeoise
Good enough to make our list of the best bites in Prague, La Degustation’s beef steak tartare comes in a small package as one of their amuse bouches and looks more like an Oreo cookie. Two paper-thin slices of toasted bread and a layer of wonderful, fluffy steak tartare seasoned with mustard and who knows what else melt in your mouth and leave you wanting for more. Paying for a fancy 11-course meal just to get a taste of an Oreo-cookie-sized steak tartare? Makes perfect sense to us.
Where else should you have beef steak tartare than in a steakhouse that focuses on the local breed of the cow and serves meat dry-aged for about seventy days? Cestr’s version of the steak tartare includes fried capers and a quail egg. The bread is toasted and then lightly buttered, so it is crunchy without adding the heft of a regular topinka fried in pork lard. We honestly think that apart from La Degustation’s version, this is the best steak tartare in the town, and we order it regularly.
This signature dish of Na kopci, a long-time favorite of local foodies that has received the Bib Gourmand award by the Michelin guide, is unlike all the other tartares in this short list: it is pre-mixed, has a high mayonnaise content, and it is served with French fries and salad as a main meal. Still, it draws crowds from the entire city. In line with all the other dishes served at Na kopci, the portion is absurdly large. You can also order it at the Santinka bistro in Prague’s 6th district near the former International hotel, a wonder of Czech Stalinist architecture.
Name maso, a wildly popular butcher shop/bistro lets you peak into the entire process of creating the steak tartare: while the butchers cut the steaks and grind the beef in the back on full sight behind the glass walls, the staff in the front seasons it with eggs, onion and pickles, but they keep the tartare simple and clean. The bread is lightly toasted. The tartare is shaped into a something that reminds you of a burger patty. Looks great on Instagram, and along with their dry-aged beef burgers, this must be the most popular item on Nase maso’s menu. Available as take away, too. Extra bonus: the "Dinner from the Butcher", their 7pm meat bonanza served seven people, also includes steak tartare done in a slightly different way. We won't spoil it.
There are no concerns about the sourcing of Sansho’s steak tartare: the butchers of the Real Meat Society only use beef from “happy animals” who were not fed anything we would not eat ourselves, and the meat was expertly dry-aged and butchered. The tartare has a great Asian-inspired flavor with yuzu and other secret condiments and is served with Roti bread.
Krystal Mozaika Bistro
The Krystal Mozaika Bistro, one of our favorite places for "ovocné knedlíky" (fruit dumplings) and a popular venue in the ever-hipper Karlin district, actually serves a mean beef steak tartare. Perhaps it has to do something with its sister burger joint in the Vinohrady district on the other side of the Vitkov hill. Talk about synergy. This version is pimped out with cognac and their own home-made mayonnaise. Again, finishing with some of their craft beers on tap is a great idea (although thinking this venue is a gastropub would be a mistake).
The Lokál pubs with a growing presence throughout Prague are most know for their fresh Pilsner from the tank and a cheery, pubby atmosphere at night, but their steak tartare offering is not shabby, either. The bread is pan-fried in pork fat, and the meat mixture is rather heavy on pickles. And that's exactly why many locals prefer it: this is your standard-issue pub steak tartare after you mix all the condiments in yourself. Washing down with a cold Pilsner is not an option. It's an obligation.