Thursday, March 15, 2012

And the Michelin star goes to...

You may think us Czechs aren't foodies with our carnivorous appetites and our love for dumplings, all washed down with a good pilsner (Czech of course), but we are.  Oh, we are.  And this foodie is extremely excited to try Prague's haute cuisine at our Michelin-rated restaurants.

An article in yesterday's Prague Post informed me of just where I'll be dining...

The Prague Post Food Blog

Prague Michelin stars announced
Posted by Fiona Gaze on March 14, 2012

Alcron, La Degustation take top honors with others recognized

The long-awaited news of which restaurants — if any — in Prague would receive Michelin stars was released today, with the 2012 edition of Michelin Main Cities of Europe. Previously, only Allegro in the Four Seasons had received the coveted award, and since that restaurant’s closing in October, many had wondered if Prague would go starless this year.

The Alcron, a seafood-specializing establishment in the Raddison Blu Alcron hotel just off Wenceslas Square, is surely celebrating today, as its chef, Roman Paulus, was awarded one Michelin star. Likewise, La Degustation Boheme Bourgoise, long considered a front-runner for a possible award, finally has the star to add to its list of accolades.

Another of Michelin’s awards, the Bib Gourmand status, is given to restaurants in recognition for accessibly priced, high-quality food. SaSaZu, Le Terroir, Aromi and Divinis all retained their Bibs from last year, and new ones were given to Sansho and the Monastery restaurant, which has been rebranded as Lichfield with a new concept and a new chef.

While some may dispute the overblown authenticity of the Michelin star system, it’s nonetheless great news for Prague and the local dining scene for several restaurants to receive such international recognition for quality. Long gone are the days when anyone can say that Prague lacks a reputable fine-dining scene.

A new chapter

After Allegro at the Four Seasons closed at the end of October, in honor of its award-winning chef, Andrea Accordi, moving to St. Petersburg to open up a Four Seasons restaurant there, the Four Seasons in Prague decided to go a different route and offer up something completely different at its flagship Prague restaurant.

Cottocrudo opened two weeks ago with a celebrity-studded event, where press bulbs flashed and cocktails clinked, but the main star was the food. Even the trays of appetizers were delightful: braised beef cheek and potato puree, simple pasta with fresh tomatoes, fried risotto balls. It’s in keeping with chef Richard Fuchs’ idea for the new restaurant: simple yet elegant dining where the focus is purely on the quality of ingredients, not on the intricacy of a given dish.

I chatted with Fuchs a few months ago about his plans for the restaurant, which you can read here.  Last week I got the chance to stop by Cottocrudo to sample the menu, and I left about five kilos heavier but in heaven. For the best experience of the food, I’d recommend snagging the hightop table right by the raw bar; here, you can watch the chefs at work preparing fresh fish, mozzarella and charcuterie. Here are some photos I took of the dishes I tried:
At the raw bar is a “mozzarella bar,” where you can see the luscious cheeses stewing into goodness. The chef gave a tableside demonstration of how the burrata is made, by folding cream into the sack of leftover buffala: 
Next up was a selection of charcuterie from the meat fridge, where tempting salamis and proscuitto hang. This mixed plate came with braseola, parma proscuitto and salami Felino. While all were tasty, the salami in particular had a wonderful flavor.
A basket of bread arrived with these, a nice mix of freshly baked focaccia flecked with rosemary and some dense, flavorful bread. The presentation in newspaper was a nice touch, and a bottle of spiced extra-virgin olive oil proved perfect for dipping.
Cottocrudo has first plates and second plates in addition to starters, and the portions of many are decent enough to make a meal in and of themselves without pairing a primi and secondi, which can make a meal much more expensive. Out of the primi plates, the tagliatelle with boar ragout was a standout. 
This was intense comfort food, the ragout a salty, sweet mix of the dusky meat. A topping of shaved Pecorino gave a welcome bite, and the perfectly al-dente pasta below ensured that I ate every last bite, even though I began to worry how I’d get through the secondi I’d ordered. Greeting chef Richard Fuchs out of the kitchen, he recommended the sea bass that day, as he said it had just arrived moments before. It was indeed an incredibly fresh fillet, although in general I’m not partial to the white fish. A buttery sage sauce, bobbing with vongole and fennel, however, gave some great personality. 
Although it’s often hard to save room for desserts, the Amareno cherry chocolate cake was absolutely sumptuous.  While pretty on the outside, the light and fluffy exterior opened up to a sinfully rich wedge of fudgy chocolate within and tart cherries. 
Cottocrudo is definitely expensive, but it’s a bold new step for the Four Seasons that is worth checking out, if even just for a coffee and a dessert. Here’s the menu:

Other goings-on

SaSaZu, which can now further revel in its Bib Gourmand status, unveiled last week a new Philippines menu. The Philippines have a beautiful cuisine, with influences from Spain. Colors abound, and seafood and meat commingle with fresh vegetables, sweet touches of coconut and bright, zesty herbs and the like.

Another local favorite, Ichnusa Botega Bistro, is hosting its second event in its “The Taste of” series. Taking place this Sunday, it focuses on Venice this time, and will be presented in partnership with a restaurant in Venice, Riviera. The goal of the series is to be a “a cycle of events to taste the genius loci,” and combines sampling of a particular Italian region’s cuisine as well as experiencing its culture through music and art.

“The Taste of — Venice” will be held at Theatrino in the Amedia Hotel, Bořivojova 53, Prague 3–Žižkov, on Sunday, March 18, starting at 5:30 p.m. Lasting approximately four hours, there will be a welcome drink followed by a presentation of Images of Venice, a documentary, with live music performed by Luigi Nono, a Venetian composer (1924–1990) performed by the Prague Modern Ensemble. There will then be a tasting of traditional Venetian antipasti with a paired wine; Baroque music from 17th-century Venice by the group Collegium 1704, then a first course accompanied by a theater production, followed by second course and dessert with similar cultural entertainment. All courses are prepared by Ichnusa chef Ivo Koudelka, and are accompanied by wine.

Tickets cost 1,500 Kč and can be purchased at Ichnusa, Plaská 5, Prague 5-Malá Strana. Reservations are possible by calling 603 375 012 or e-mailing