Two designers creating a roadmap to a simpler more fulfilling lifestyle
Thursday, August 20, 2015
LA DEGUSTATION, PRAGUE
IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN CALLED LA INDULGENCE
Since beginning our travels together in the summer of 1980 food has been a main point of our trips. From simple baguettes on the steps of the Sacre Coeur in Paris and cones of frites with mayonnaise in Brugge, then on to the fancy fantasy of the turtle soup we indulged in at the Swiss Club in Cairo and finishing it off by taking a gourmet tour of the lavish richness of Paul Bocuse and Les Frere Troisgos in Rouen; we've tried to enjoy the world with our sense of taste along with sightseeing.
So when I stumbled across La Degustation Boheme de Bourgoise in Prague I immediately made reservations for the three of us, Emmy, Lee and me to indulge our palates.
The restaurant claims to think differently about food and to provide not only an exceptional meal but also an extraordinary experience, it did not disappoint.
From the moment we arrived we were treated as special guests (along with all the other diners) in the "smart casual" atmosphere of this truly unique dining establishment. Immediately we were whisked to our perfectly comfortable table with views of both the elegant bar and the open efficient kitchen that seemed to run on some sort of magical precision more notably associated with the rail systems of Germany and Austria. Warm hand towels rolled and placed on simple rectangular saucers were immediately brought to our table along with the offer of an aperitif and the first of many amuse bouche not found on the menu. With each serving of these one or two bite delicacies we were instructed to eat them with our hands, a directive that dispelled the notion of any pretentiousness one might fear from a restaurant of this caliber.
Every course was described in a beautifully folded menu delivered to each diner in an elegant envelope like some important missive as indeed it was. Two menus were being offered. We decided on the six-course menu over the eleven-course, we were willing to indulge only to a point. Emmy with great poise and elegance and because she can in European provinces, chose the wine pairings with her dinner. Since Lee and I no longer imbibe in alcoholic drinks we were offered "juice" pairings a not only thoughtful gesture but experience enhancing treat. These juices were handmade in the restaurant and chosen to compliment the food in the same way the wines were chosen. I must say this feature impressed me very much.
Our first amuse bouche was a trio of fermented radishes with licorice parsley brought to the table on a chunk of rough-hewn granite.
Then, very unexpectedly a second appeared served on a cast iron dish consisting of four petite delicacies each with a surprising combination of tastes.
Then before the meal proper began a third surprise arrived on a stone plate; a sandwich of rabbit pate layered between two crispy beef crackers.
Our First course was Lettuce with flowers & defrutum - basically a salad of small bibb lettuce with nasturtiums and sun dried tomato "dust" with a delicious defrutum or grape juice reduction dressing.
Once again we were instructed to eat this course with our hands and it again was accompanied by a fresh hand towel. Emmy's wine was a Mueller Thurgau 2014 - velké žernoseky and our beverage was a white current juice. It added just the right touch of sweetness to the salad
The second course was one of our favorite: a combination of trout, buttermilk, poppy seeds, and dill. It was almost like a warm ceviche with drops of dill oil floating in a delicious broth of buttermilk cream. It was smooth and crunchy at the same time. Our sommelier paired the trout with a 2012 Sauvignon Sedy - jožka valihrach and an elderberry juice. We wanted more but were mindful of our manners.
The Third course was composed of kohlrabi, yeast, and nasturtium, the yeast being in the form of a wonderful clear broth poured around the vegetables and flowers. The wine was ryzlink vlašský 2010 - mikrosvín and get this - the juice was broccoli and rhubarb! Yep I too had to ask and it was explained that the juice was squeezed from the broccoli then mixed with the cooking water of rhubarb stalks. Now I know this sounds odd and on its own it was a little peculiar but paired with this particular dish made for a very interesting culinary accompaniment.
Course number four was something that seems to be au current in the food scene: pork belly. Actually, the pork belly came prepared with cabbage and cranberries. Here the wine was pálava 2010 - sonberk and the juice was plum. This was our favorite juice pairing. Again we felt a bit like young Oliver at the Dickensian table of Mr. Bumble, "Please sir, I want some more?", but once again we restrained ourselves and did not put forth the question.
At the Fifth course I thought we might lose Emmy with our serving of beef tongue, yellow peas and apple but she soldiered on and found this delicacy a nice treat with no visual resemblance to any organ found in a bovine maw since it had been delivered in small rectangular blocks floating on a hearty pool of mouthwatering sauce. Lee and I on the other hand were not fond of the beetroot juice we were served but Emmy who usually doesn't like red wine found her cuvée skale 2006 - pavel springer very nice.
For our sixth and final course Lee and I chose the sweet dessert while Emmy went for the cheese. Lee and I were divided on the mushroom ice cream, blueberries, and defrutum; I was for and Lee against.
Emmy found her cheese served with ipa beer - matuška a nice ending to the meal.
Our dessert was partnered with a raspberry soda that was really more of a foam than a liquid and was tasty indeed.
Oh and I failed to mention that after the meal and before the dessert/cheese course we were offered a beautiful silver spoon containing a honeycomb dripping with honey and a dash of lemon juice. We were directed to chew but not swallow the wax. A separate dish was provided for us to deposit our sucked dry wax.
However our three-hour meal did not end there. While the ever-genial hostess went to call a cab for us so we could return to our hotel Emmy ordered a specially brewed coffee while I had an appropriate nightcap of the most delicious chamomile tea I have ever tasted. Again we were treated to some delights not mentioned on the menu, a homemade marshmallow that was delivered to the table in a long rope and snipped with a special little scissors and a small plate with a spoonful of cream with blueberries and a cherry still on its steam secretly holding a pistachio inside instead of a pit.
After paying our bill we were informed our taxi was outside and we made out way to the door with one last fond look back at one of the most delightful restaurants and beguiling culinary experiences of our lives before we were whisked away into the sultry Czech night.