When we first heard about the Field restaurant in early November last year, we had pretty high expectations. We were fans of Ola Kala and its executive chef, Mr Kasparek: the food was great and the restaurants did seem like one of the few hidden gems in the city - we always wondered why it was not on more people’s radar given how good we thought the food was.
Then we saw Field's website. Full screen photos. Gorgeous pictures. Ambitious philosophy. We heard the first reactions. Great sauces. Lots of fun. We knew we had to go.
Field hit the jackpot with its location: a great room on the corner of the U milosrdnych street, right next to the Public Interest bar that opened just a few months earlier. A great little quaint street near all the major sights of the Jewish Quarter but way far from the madding crowds. The decor is very clean with bare white walls and colorful yet unobtrusive video art projected on the ceiling. As far as Prague fine dining restaurants go, Field is up there with the best, and we really liked how casual yet refined it felt, when many fine dining restaurants in Prague seem too stuffy for their own good.
The staff was great. We were greeted by the manager who lead us to the table and explained the concept and the menu. The sommelier discussed our preferences and we were set to go: the tasting menu for Jan, three a la carte dishes for Zuzi, along with the non-alcoholic pairing (mostly vegetable juices with herbs), and two glasses of wine for Jan.
We liked the food. Mr Kasparek's style of cooking is very likable: it is hard not to like a dish when it always sports a generous amount of some great sauce with lots of umami. Their bread (a thing we are very sensitive to - Zuzi can overeat on great bread even before they bring the starters) was good, too: you get a small selection with regular and chicken-skin flavored butter. The star of the evening was clearly the kohlrabi dish with the sourdough sauce. We could eat bowls of this. The snails were delicious, too. (Definitely two dishes to come back for.) Jan's pork belly, served "Heston-style”, was on the drier side, but Zuzi’s piece was good. That was not the only problem with the dish, but more on that later. Cheeses by the Krasolesi farm served with pretzel rolls and California IPA by Matuska were a great touch - we always like to see local cheeses on the menu. Also, we should note that Field is a great option for diners with gluten-free allergies: we had a celiac guest in our rental apartment. We asked about it in the Field and they were very open and fully ready: our guest absolutely loved the experience.
We were really impressed with the service and the customer experience. Although it was only Jan who ordered the tasting menu, Zuzi was always served something small - or exactly the same dish in the case of the pork belly - whenever Jan’s course was served. We later asked whether this was normal (we brought a big camera and thought it may have distorted the service we were provided) and the manager swore they liked to see all the people at the table eat, so if one was skipping a course, they would serve him or her something anyway.
But all that time, there was an elephant in the room. You see, in the short time of its existence, Field has managed to divide the Prague foodie community. The problem? Many dishes seemed more than “inspired” by signature dishes of famous Michelin-star restaurants. The most blatant examples? The pork belly served Heston Blumenthal-style, fuming through stones and tree needles all across the table (served by the manager with the words “We did not invent this anyway, right?”), the cheese course served exactly like they serve it at Eleven Madison Park (google it if you don't believe us), or their beef tongue with peas and apple, served by another restaurant just a few blocks away.
There were many debates on the internet. Some diners - and chefs - saw this as Field's inexcusable resignation on its own creativity in favor of other people’s ideas. Other people took a much more liberal approach. Once commenter on Twitter summed it up: “They may play covers for now, but I am sure they’ll have their own ass-kicking album in six months.” We tend to side with the former group but sure hope the latter is right. And it may be: their recent changed menu is clearly showing signs of progress.
The other problem is the whole "Free Range Dining" thing. What exactly does it mean? The website claims that the restaurant cooperates with carefully chosen local farmers and all that, but the dessert included in the tasting menu featured bananas and exotic fruit. We asked the servers about Free Range Dining and they just stumbled through cliches as the manager looked the other way. To be fair, the new menu omits the dessert altogether so it seems they are moving in the right direction here, too.
So how to wrap up? We really liked our dinner at Field. We like the chef and the restaurant shows lots of promise. We will happily recommend it for the food and the service. To use the analogy of the Twitter commenter, we may have heard some familiar tones on our first listen, but can’t wait to hear the kick-ass album a few months from now.