Restaurant U Emy Destinnové plans some big changes
A new menu and website will be ready just in time for the summer food festivals
Restaurant U Emy Destinnové is having a bit of a face lift ahead of the summer food festival season. The restaurant itself will be launching a new menu and a new wine list, and on top of that there will be a new and improved website. The restaurant also recently has been getting into vintage rum from the Caribbean, South America and even Japan.
U Emy Destinnové's owner and head chef Steven Trumpfheller said all this is part of his ongoing effort to “keep it fresh.”
The restaurant will be promoting these changes at the upcoming Prague Food Festival, to be held May 27 to 29 at the Royal Garden of Prague Castle. It is one of the biggest food festivals, expecting 18,000 visitors over three days. The restaurant will be at other food and wine festivals in June.
Trumpfheller said that his restaurant has won at the Prague Food Festival for the most popular stand for the past four years, which is an accomplishment for a relatively small place competing with the city's big hotels. “We sold a crazy amount of food, a lot more than other people,” he said. Meals are sold for coupons called “grands,” and these are counted at the end of the festival to see which stand was most frequented. The organizers also conduct some interviews with festival patrons to get opinions about the various stands. This will be the restaurant's sixth year at the Prague Food Festival.
U Emy Destinnové will be offering several items at the festival cooked on a grill. “We do everything fresh, this is why we are really popular. We honestly are cooking to order, we don't pre-cook anything. We have bison steak, and once somebody orders the bison steak they can see that it is fresh on the grill and not something that has been sitting in some sauce,” he said.
Bison steak proved popular last year and sold out, as people like to try something different. This year he has ordered more to meet the expected demand. The steaks come from Nebraska.
At the festival, Restaurant U Emy Destinnové will be offering seven items and two degustation menus. Aside from bison steak with served black currant Shiraz wine demiglace topped with toasted almonds and roasted baby potatoes, there is Pacific king salmon, fallow deer steak, grilled octopus, and roasted rabbit salad, as well as two desserts.
Trumpfheller said the festival has plenty of places to sit and eat and people also bring their own picnic blankets. He likes the festivals because it gives him a chance to get outside in the nice weather and present his food to new potential customers in a relaxed atmosphere.
The restaurant changes its base menu about once a year, usually just before the festivals. In addition there will be seasonal items.
“This year I am adding a monkfish paté, this is something unique that we have,“ he said.
People like the steaks that the restaurant serves, so Trumpfheller is reinventing them with new styles and sauces. For a small place, the menu is fairly extensive, with game and seafood alongside New Zealand lamb and a signature dish called steak Ema, which is a filet mignon served with honey Chianti reduction.
Fish options include salmon, perch, swordfish and cod.
“We added some homemade pasta dishes like a wild boar ragout. We have a really nice octopus salad and a nice rabbit salad,” he said.”For the average person walking down the street who sees the menu there are some really nice choices,” he added.
Competition has gotten tough recently, and there are too many restaurants in Prague, according to Trumpfheller said. “You really have to stay on your A-game,” he said, adding that he makes an effort to offer unique items that give people something they can talk about.
“One of our big successes is table-side cooking,” he said. Customers can call in advance and arrange for a chef will to cook a special menu on a movable cooking cart right at your table. Once people see it, other tables usually also want it, and if the restaurant isn't too busy they can be accommodated as well.
“People are not rushed here. They like to sit and relax, so we say, 'No problem, in 10 minutes we can come over,'” he said.
The restaurant uses French and Italian cooking techniques but with an international mix of ingredients and new approaches to make a fusion. He gave an example from the new menu. “We have a nice pork belly from Spain that is slow roasted for four hours, but we are making it with a ginger soy pineapple glaze, so it is taking a meat from one country and using different style sauces from a different place in the world,” he said. “We have fun with the cooking.”
The wine list also comes from all over the world, as well, he said.
Trumpfheller cooperates with at least a dozen different suppliers for his ingredients, and says that searching for the right supplier is important. Beef comes from either the US or France, with veal currently coming from the latter. “It's excellent, fresh. … People know me. I have been here for nine years. They know if I am nor satisfied with something I will send it back,” he said.
“We get fish from the US, some from Denmark and Scotland. Fruits and vegetables from Belgium. It took time, but now I know where to get what I want,” he said.
The name of the restaurant comes from the opera singer Ema Destinnová, who was born in the same building. The restaurant remembers her on the menu with a steak named for her as well as a late-night cocktail, but doesn't go overboard on the idea.
Trumpfheller describes his customers as a mix of steady Czech customers, people from a nearby hospital and tourists that hear about the place from local hotels. “When people come here they know they will be pampered,” he said.
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