Samurai - Japanese Restaurant

Ninety percent of Samurai’s menu is comprised of fresh fish

The Japanese restaurant Samurai is distinctive for a number of reasons. It is the only restaurant in Prague to offer teppanyaki, a dining experience in which guests sit around a horseshoe table with an aluminum pan at its center and watch as one of the restaurant’s chefs cooks their meals. With its two floors and public as well as secluded private rooms, it’s deceptively large, even labyrinthine. Its décor is modern but understated and, like the food and the imported white bricks that line the wall opposite the entrance, authentically Japanese.

On a recent Friday night a group of friends and I reserved a table in one of the private rooms named for the Japanese mats on which guests sit. There are two types of these “tatami” at Samurai: Japanese and European. In the Japanese tatami rooms, guests rest on their knees or sit cross-legged. Designed to recreate traditional Asian methods of dining, these rooms do not include chairs.

European tatami, on the other hand and as the name suggests, are fashioned with non-Asian customers in mind. Though at first glance the table appears to be situated at ground level, it is in fact suspended above a large hole. Guests have the option of sitting on the floor in the traditional Asian style, or of sitting as if their mats were backless chairs, on the edge of the hole into which they can then stretch their legs. The table hits comfortably at mid-stomach. This method of sitting feels akin to perching on the rim of a pool.

My friends and I opted for the European-style tatami. We were greeted by a friendly waitress who remained attentive all night. Each of the private tatami, Japanese or European, has a door you are welcome to close. Your server will not open it of her own accord; instead, you can summon her inside by pressing a button on your table.

Having adhered to Asian custom and taken off our shoes, we took our seats on the tatami mats and spent more time than usual looking through the menu. Samurai offers an extensive range of dishes, many hot entrees as well as several pages’ worth of sushi and sashimi.

While we waited for everyone in our party to arrive, and to give us more time to comb through that dense menu, each of us ordered hot sake. It was lovely: smooth, not too strong, and served at the right, warm temperature. It was unanimously appreciated and became one of our favorite offerings of the night.

As did the sushi. Ninety percent of Samurai’s menu is comprised of fresh fish, says head chef Stanislav Roedl. Much of it is imported from northern Europe and Sri Lanka.

Roedl leads a team of half Czech and half Asian cooks in preparing specialties that testify to the chefs’ competence. The sushi was excellent, and surprisingly large. Samurai is not cheap; the average sushi roll costs around 300kc. But the density of the food with which you’re presented roundly justifies its cost. I was expecting to feel satisfied if not quite full after two sushi rolls, one spicy tuna and one with avocado, cucumber and fried shrimp. But I was stuffed.

Perhaps the best and most cost-effective way to enjoy a wide range of Samurai’s food is to take part in one of its all-you-can-eat specials. These occur several times a week, every week. On Tuesday and Thursday, for example, you can enjoy all-you-can-eat teppanyaki for 800kc a person. On Monday, you can eat all the sushi you would like for 950kc a person.

Petra Filisteinova opened Samurai nine years ago, and it is not difficult to see why it remains to this day a local favorite. “We are not a restaurant for tourists,” says Katerina Landova of the establishment that is a five minutes’ walk away from the metro at I.P. Pavlova. She says the majority of customers are local Czechs.

But discerning foreigners have been known to make their way to Samurai.

“If you want to have nice Japanese food,” Landova says, “you’ll find us.”

Japanese restaurant Samurai

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