Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Restaurant Review: Café Imperial, Prague (Czech Republic)

Café Imperial in Prague isn't ranked 4.5 out of 5 stars for nothin'.
It's the restaurant attached to the 5 star Hotel Imperial. The restaurant itself has been the most famous and most popular "Grand Cafe House" in Prague for the past 100 years, having been frequented by Franz Kafka and other eminent residents of Prague.

The first thing you notice upon entry is the breathtakingly ornate ceramic wall tiling.

Then you look up and realize the entire ceiling is made of painstakingly detailed mosaics. All of the tilings and mosaics are the original Art Nouveau pieces from 1914.

The menu is traditional Czech food with a dash of modernity. The restaurant is the home kitchen of celebrity Chef Zdenek Pohlreich, who, when not whipping something up in the restaurant, is filming for his weekly show on Czech TV.

We were escorted to our table with its white linen tablecloth, and a bread basket with a Thousand-Island-esque dressing was immediately whisked in front of us. 

Goat cheese salad with figs and lavender honey. This was my favorite of the appetizers. I loved the sweet honey paired with the rich creaminess of the goat cheese, and the tartness of the greens cut the sweet and rich nicely.

 Marinated foie gras with apple chutney and ginger bread. I usually adore foie gras but found the bread too soggy and the apple chutney too sweet to do justice to the rich foie gras.

I was vacillating between the duck ravioli with foie gras shavings and the Chilean Sea Bass fillet but I am SO glad I went for the sea bass. It was glazed lightly with a lime and ginger sauce, and served with leek and marinated zucchini. It was the perfect light, airy dinner to follow the super heavy foie gras, and the lime and ginger sauce a welcome acidity on my tongue. 

There was also a braised shredded cabbage salad underneath but I just picked at that. 

BUT! Let me wax on a bit about the braised veal cheeks. Hands down, this is absolutely the dish you MUST try if you ever find yourself at Café Imperial. Every review I'd seen regarding this restaurant RAVES about this dish, so we decided to order it. The braised veal cheeks arrive on a bed of creamy mashed potatoes, sautéed mushrooms and vegetables, surrounded by a rich gravy. You guys. The veal cheeks. I don't even want to KNOW what cute little bleating animal veal cheeks come from, but this dish just melts in your mouth. The meat is so soft, you could cut it with a dull spoon. It's not mushy, but buttery, soft, and delivers such a huge hit of rich umami to your tastebuds. I found myself asking for more and more bites, which I'm sure the boy was a little >_< about. I want to go back to Prague JUST for these veal cheeks. Heaven.

For dessert, we shared a vanilla cake slice with a lemon glaze and white chocolate shavings. A sweet and tart ending to a fabulous meal.

Café Imperial has a rich history as being an important Art Deco architectural site in Bohemia, and has survived fairly intact with original tilings and mosaics since 1913-1914. The service is impeccable, the customers international, and I hear that Café Imperial also serves an amazing Eggs Benedict at brunch! If you're looking for spot-on traditional Czech food in a gorgeous setting, this place is highly recommended. 

Na Porici 15
110 000 Praha 1, Czech Republic 
Reservations in advance recommended: +420 246 011 440 

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