New restaurants open in Prague all the time, and though I'm a major foodie, it's impossible for me to try them all. Then the pandemic really put a dent in my dining lifestyle. But one new restaurant especially caught my eye – perhaps it was the very big, very red stag suspended between two buildings at the entrance to an alley near Prague’s Marriott Hotel – a location I pass by often. But I never got a chance to try it before things shut down. I did peer inside the windows once, though, as the red sculpture had drawn me in, but I never made it there for a meal. I put it on my list of places to try, though.
When travel to Prague finally began to resume, a friend from Switzerland who used to live in Prague visited, and we met for lunch at one of our favorite places, an old standby that we both love. She had already been in Prague for a few days when we met, so she’d been trying some of the many new restaurants that had appeared since she’d moved away. When we sat down for lunch at the old standby, we started talking about restaurants, and out of the blue she asked, “Have you been to Červený Jelen?” “No,” I said, “but it’s on my list.” She then added: “It’s great.” This only confirmed my hunch that it must be a pretty good place and moved it to the top of my list.
In my Prague Restaurant Guide, I talk about Prague's "food revolution." I also mention several of what can be called "mini-revolutions" within the broader food revolution. One has been in the area of coffee. And a recent one has been in the area of burgers. Every corner now seems to have a "burger joint" in hot pursuit of the perfect real (American) hamburger.
These food "mini-revolutions" are happening at such a pace that I find it hard to keep up, let alone try all the new things on offer. But I have had no trouble finding time to explore the subject of Prague's latest revolution: gelato! That's because, along with the French fry, I suppose ice cream is my favorite food.
Angelato has competition... And I'm glad!
If you've followed me on Facebook or other social media, you know that I am a hugely devoted fan of Angelato, one of Prague's first gourmet gelato spots, and certainly the first to offer unusual seasonal concoctions such as poppyseed, jasmine rice and other inventive flavors.
Angelato will always have a special place in my heart, and I will always visit it several times every spring and summer. But earlier this year, Creme de la Creme appeared on the scene, and I have a new ice cream love. Its owner apparently spent years in Italy learning the traditional art of gelato-making, and if he happens to be in the shop when you visit, he will gladly explain the differences between his product and Angelato's (and why his is superior, of course).
Creme de la creme
Creme de la Creme has a lot of the same favorite flavors that Angelato has, like salty caramel (and Creme de la Creme has salty peanut, also) and many seasonal flavors, too. In my view, the consistency of Creme de la Creme's gelato is creamier than Angelato's, and the flavors are a bit more intense. And they also have a few vegan choices. Let's just say that Creme de la Creme is my new favorite (sorry Angelato!).
And then there's puro...
And there's another local gelato on the scene. Actually, Puro has been around in its first location out in the 'burbs for a few years, but this week they opened a long-awaited shop right in the middle of Old Town, near Old Town Square. It's located on Kaprova Street, and I can't wait to try it.
If you follow me on Facebook, you know that I'm a major foodie, and I am always looking for great food in Prague. I especially love to discover new restaurants so that I have another interesting place on my list when planning an evening out in the city. But like many of us, I'm a creature of habit, and I love to return again and again to my old tried-and-true places. So occasionally it happens that I miss a wonderful new entry on the Prague dining scene, and I have recently discovered that I have overlooked such a place.
Last week I had the pleasure of dining at Kalina Restaurant. I can't believe that I missed this new star. Under the fine direction of Chef Miroslav Kalina, this restaurant serves up some of the most inventive and interesting dishes in Prague, all expertly prepared from the best ingredients available, sourced both locally and internationally.
Chef Miroslav Kalina at his restaurant
a new take on czech cuisine
And if you want to try Czech cuisine without the heaviness it is sometimes known (or infamous) for, Kalina specializes in the recent gastronomy trend called The New Prague Cuisine: modern interpretations of old Czech classic dishes and ingredients.
The restaurant's location only a few steps from old town Square is also a welcome break from the many tourist traps serving overpriced bad Czech food or the ubiquitous pizza. And while Kalina is not cheap because it is a fine dining establishment (though it does have a very affordable lunch menu), it manages to combine a local, casual feel with a somewhat formal service and decor. This combination is a rare find in old town these days. Kalina's website says it best:
Our "Genuinely and purely designed interior without any pretentiousness offers nothing less than thoughtful simplicity and a pleasant atmosphere. The real luxury is actually waiting for you on your plate and inside your wine glass."
a local place in touristy old town
On the night I visited, the restaurant was filled with a well-blended combination of both local and visiting clientele. I felt as if I were in a local neighborhood rather than the tourist mecca that Old Town has become. I'm not knocking tourists or tourism - I think they are great and good for Prague in many ways, and, of course, my business is based on tourism. But Old Town in particular has lost some of its "local" feel, and it seems like we locals rarely go there to dine anymore. Kalina felt like an exception to this rule.
The evening began with an outstanding glass of champagne. It sparkled with flavor yet was incredibly dry, and it went perfectly with the small taster that was served complements of the chef. After choosing appetizers and a main dish, the restaurant's staff offered excellent input and recommended perfect pairings of wine with each dish.
a place for wine
Speaking of wines, not only is Kalina's wine list extensive and filled with excellent Czech and imported wines, mainly from France but other countries too, but it also has one of the most extensive lists of wines by the glass that I have come across in Prague. This is an important feature, as, unfortunately, the custom for most Prague restaurants is still to offer the best wines by the bottle only and a very limited choice of mediocre to bad wines by the glass.
The importance Kalina places on wine is summed up thus:
"The strong emphasis on the best quality wine list makes Kalina restaurant the right place for gourmets and wine lovers. Our wine collection is built mainly on Champagne and other wines from the best European wineries."
And to add the final touch on great wines, each wine is served in the perfect type of glass from expert glass maker Riedel (which, incidentally, began its operations in the historic Czech lands).
a great way to start
For a starter I had the Marinated Scottish salmon “label rouge” with citrus skin and pink caviar. This was followed by the chef's signature dish, roasted breast of duck with fennel, caramelized kumquat and almond croquettes. My dining companion tried the cocktail of Kamchatka crab with avocado and green apple followed by the USDA strip loin prime beef with red wine sauce. I might add that it was incredibly difficult to finally arrive at our choices given the enticing offers on Kalina's menu.
The salmon was superb, with a firm, juicy texture and a rich taste that was set off by the caviar. The chef's modern version of classic crab cocktail was truly surprising. The two white wines that accompanied these dishes - an oaky French white with the crab and a dry French white with the salmon - were excellent.
the main attraction
Next came the main courses. My companion's steak had the characteristically wonderful flavor of US beef that I recall from growing up there, and it was cooked to a perfect medium, which allowed the fine quality and texture of the meat itself come through. The mashed potato side was indescribably creamy and thick. The secret, we were told, has to do with preparing the dish with an extra large amount of a very special butter. The accompanying wine was a deliciously robust, oaky red.
The duck, tender and filled with flavor, was a modern take on a classic check dish, and the almond crust on the potato croquettes made for a delicious twist on an old standby. A lighter, yet very flavorful, red was paired with the duck.
make room for coffee and dessert
For dessert, the pistachio ice cream was something to behold. And my companion's poppy seed dumplings were simply heavenly. A similar dessert can be found in many check pubs and restaurants, and I have always loved it. But the version prepared by Chef Kalina took it to a new level and was simply wonderful.
Our end-of-the-meal espresso was thick and robust, and throughout we were given professional service that was attentive but not overbearing.
I will definitely be adding Kalina Restaurant to my Prague Restaurant Guide as a recommended place for fine dining in Old Town.
Dlouhá 12, Praha 1
Tel.: (420) 222 317 715
Mon - Sun 12:00 - 15:00, 18:00 - 23:30
Prague Restaurant guide
After a super hot summer in Prague, we finally got a break a few weeks ago, with much cooler temperatures and the telltale signs of autumn's approaching, especially a dramatic change in the light and the angles of the sun's shadows. But over the past weekend, the summer temperatures returned (though, thankfully, they were not as extreme as in the summer!) and everyone headed for the parks and even a few to the swimming pool.
But another way to cool down in Prague is to head for some great gelato, and by far the favorite choice of locals is Angelato. I can't get enough of it, and on Sunday the line snaking out the door was the longest I've seen so far at either of Angelato's locations. It was at least 20 people long, flowing halfway down the block.
But even though it feels like summer, this time of year in Prague is usually quite cool and autumn-like, and despite the current warmer temperatures, the local fruits in the shops reflect that fact. And Angelato, which makes its flavors fresh daily, also loves concocting seasonal flavors.
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I am an American who has been living in Prague for two decades. After a long career in international finance, I left the business world to pursue other interests. I now work as a writer, mentor and guide to the city.