Oh, you’ve got to love annual recaps. They are a fun way of retelling the year, sieving out the events that proved to be, in hindsight, redundant, and leaving the things that will remain relevant for years to come. What were the best restaurants in Prague that opened last year? We’ve already tried to capture the best in our 2015 Prague food scene recap.
But now it’s time to get more personal. What were the dishes we liked the most in Prague in 2015? We do have a list of our must-eats in Prague but we're always on the lookout for something new. So we've created a rundown of the best dishes that were introduced in 2015 or that we tried that year for the very first time. Regardless, it’s a very personal and biased metric, but in a sense the most true one. Food is not something you can break to bits and analyze. It’s about tastes and flavors and emotions. It’s about satisfaction. And these dishes satisfied us the most in 2015, and we hope we can keep having them in 2016 too. Here’s a rundown of our favorite dishes in Prague in 2015.
Duck soup @ Sansho
We’ve lamented for years that in order to get a taste of good ramen in Prague, you have to sit in a car and drive to Cocolo Ramen in Kreuzberg, Berlin. And trust us we have taken that trip to get a bowl of noodles with pork and miso broth. Luckily, we now have an as-good-as alternative in the form of the duck soup at Sansho. Fragrant, rich and super-aromatic broth, generous portion of juicy duck and perfectly cooked noodles combine to create the same filling, comfortable feeling only a great bowl of ramen can. And it feeds two.
Sansho runner-up: Pork belly and oysters
2015 was the year when we totally changed our view of oysters. Confession: we did not like oysters. In fact, we hated them. So when we got the pork belly with three-pepper sauce and broccoli combined with oysters during or Chinese New Year dinner at Sansho, our heart sank. "OMG, we have to eat them now.” We closed our eyes, took a deep breath, put a piece of pork belly and an oyster in our mouths… and it was delicious. The contrast between the two temperatures and the two proteins was fantastic. And they were not slimy and briny at all. Since then, we've actually learnt to love oysters and really enjoyed them in NYC and in Austin this year. But the combination of pork belly and oysters over at Sansho is something we will remember for a long time.
Beef medaillons @ Story
Sure, it may be one of the the least exciting dishes at Story, one of our favorite restaurants in Prague, but we keep coming back for the beef medallions in veal jus with arugula and pieces of parmeggiano. The meat is beautifully tender, the jus is just incredibly rich and buttery, the arugula adds a bit of peppery notes, and the parmeggiano add the right amount of umami. And then the fries. The fries! The best fries in Prague in our book. Bird nest-style, super thin and crunchy, these fries could be served alone and still would make this list. They’ll hate us for adding this here because we’re sure they look down on this dish in Story, but definitely give it a try.
Runner-up @ Story: Lobster bisque
Honestly, this soup is so good we could bathe in it, and it's clearly one of the three best soups in Prague. The broth is fluffy and delicious and clean tasting and a bit sweet and compliments the bisque very well. We get this nearly every time we visit Story, and we are always very happy.
Baked celeriac @ Eska
We ate at the newly-opened Eska for the first time literally three hours after we landed in Prague from our NYC-Austin trip. We did try some vegetarian and vegan food in NYC and we loved it, so we were happy to find no drop in quality and flavor when we dined at Eska. The baked celeriac quickly became our favorite. It is exactly how vegetarian dishes should be: they should combine a very high quality cooking while not mimicking meat. The celeriac baked in bread with the pickled celeriac shaving, walnuts, brown butter and rum-and-raisin puree create a wonderful combination of rich flavors that is hard to resist. We order it nearly every time we’re there.
Runner-up @: Red wheat with mushrooms and egg
Mushrooms are Czech gold and they are severely underused in Prague in our book. Eska changes that by constructing their signature dish around them. The fermented red wheat has beautiful texture and the black trumpets, sous-vide egg with mushroom dust and mushrooms create a winning combination.
Catfish and smoked lardo sandwich @ Maso a kobliha
The Prague food scene has been getting better every year for some time now, but we still do have a few reservations. Here’s one: why don’t more restaurants serve Czech freshwater fish? Many Czechs crave them but they’re hardly ever on the menu anywhere. And if they’re as good as Maso a kobliha’s catfish and smoked lard sandwich, more people will want them. That sandwich is a bit like Czech Christmas i na bun: the crunch of the breading and than the bite into the juicy fish, combined with the spiced mayo and the smokiness of the lardo are just to die for. Do we really need an English chef to rediscover Czech classics? Who cares? The food's great, and we’ll be happy to reap the benefits. (Have you had the fried cheese bun yet, btw?)
Runner-up @ Maso a kobliha: the salted burnt caramel tart
Thin buttery pastry base filled with wonderful, chewy caramel that is not overtly sweet but super buttery, served with a pinch of salt and a blob of cream. Yes, if you had a look at the word “decadent” in a dictionary, it would be accompanied by a picture of the salted burnt caramel tart at Maso a kobliha. Or it should be. This thing is so good we actually hardly ever order it because we have highly addictive personalities. Oh, and having a small slice leaves you full for the entire day, so there are savings involved here, people. Maso a kobliha is a place you go to when you’ve had a bad day to eat yourself happy, and this is the final nail in the coffin of your new year’s resolutions.
Pumpkin risotto @ La Bottega Tusarova
Move over, Starbucks. The true taste of the fall and winter for us, and the best use of pumpkin in our book, can be found in the creamy, luscious and sweet risotto served at La Bottega Tusarova. This risotto is so great we often opt out of the meat it is usually served with. And that’s saying something. The risotto comes in slightly different flavors and with different meats but some things don’t change: the rice is perfectly cooked, and we always eat it too fast.
Pizza Margherita @ San Carlo
The San Carlo pizzeria at Dittrichova street is a truly odd place. We have described it to the guests of our tours as a “money laundering scheme with coincidentally great pizza”. Yes, the place does not inspire much trust as you walk in: it is neither hip nor entirely popular, and when we walked in for late lunch, we were the only diners there. The tired baguette with olive oil does not help. But then they bring out the margherita, and you forget about the rest: thin crust pie of great dough that remains elastic but has beautiful burnt blisters on the edges, combined with a really nice sauce and pieces of fior di latte mozzarella. And it eats better than Pizza Nuova’s pizza because the dough is slightly thicker. Sure, the place had the atmosphere of a funeral when we ate there, but the pizza is memorable.
Marrow bones @ Nase maso
When the chefs at Nase maso brought the marrow bones with toasted bread and parsley salad to the table, they did not even try to conceal their inspiration by St John’s in London. But hey, they serve a great version of the dish at the butcher shop, and we’re happy we can get it in Prague. Compared to the original, we actually thought they improved on the salad: Nase maso’s had more acidity that nicely offset the beautiful, buttery fattiness of the bone marrow. While we thought the whole concept of the dinner could have been a bit more adventurous (we don’t consider prime steak a true butcher’s cut), it was a great, fun experience, and a great way to meet new people.
Runner-up @ Nase maso: Freshly made smoked craklings
We have a very weak spot for regular pork cracklings to start with, but the cracklings made of the skin of Nase maso’s Prague ham just take the entire concept of the crackling to an entirely new level. And when they’re still hot and melty, straight from the frier, they are so good they should be made illegal. Beautifully smoky and crunchy, they are best when eaten just by themselves, from greasy paper, bread purely optional. No wonder they tend to run out of them quickly. We eat like one half of them alone.
Paris-Brest @ Votre Plaisir
It is clear that the pastry makers at Votre Plaisir are very passionate about what they do and we honestly can’t remember having a pastry by Votre Plaisir we did not like. Great mille feuille, wonderful pate a choux and nice tarts. But we keep coming back to their stand at Prague’s farmers’ markets for the Paris-Brest, a pastry we fell in love with in Paris. Votre Plaisir’s version is simply to die for: tender choux and rich hazelnut praline cream stays five seconds on your lips but forever on your hips. But hey, who cares? And now that Votre Plaisir has opened their patisserie in the centre, we don’t have to wait until Saturday to get our fix. Which is a good thing, right?
Pecenace @ Cestr
The funny thing about Cestr, a Czech steak house, is that we rarely order the steak. (And when we do, we do it only as an excuse to have their Perigord sauce with it, which is a thing we would buy in milk cartons and pour over anything.) We think of it more as a restaurant that does traditional Czech roasts and dishes really well, including Pecenace, a post-Christmas treat served here throughout the year. The fried carp pieces pickled with shallots, red pepper and dill are arguably the most surprising dish of our Prague food tours: our guests would have never ordered the dish based on the description alone, but the combination of sweet, sour and hot easily wins them over. And no wonder: the dish has very fresh but complex flavors and the carp surprises how clean it can taste.
Pulled pork @ The Jerk Station
When we had our first taste of Jerk Station’s pulled pork sandwich at the Street Food Festival at the Zizkov Freight Train Station, we honestly were not that impressed. It was kinda bland we thought. Fast forward to this year’s last installment of the Street Food Festival in front of the National Technical Library. We’re handed Jerk Station’s pulled pork in a box by our friend, and we think "oh no, here we go again, well thank you so much”, we take a polite bite… and we don’t want to give the box back. Ever. The juicy, super smoky, sweet, tender and hot pulled pork was one of the best bites this year, and a reason alone to look forward to Street Food Festival’s new season this year