Hora Haus has new menu every day
New restaurant in Vinohrady seeks to be unclassifiable
If you say “Let's all meet at Hora Haus later” quickly, it is going to turn some heads. Chef Christopher Hora said he wanted the name to be playful and punny. “It is somewhat tongue in cheek. It can be horror house or something a bit more lascivious. It also has an international connotation,” he said.
Hora Haus, located at Korunní 1251/48 in Prague's Vinohrady district and has been open for about a month.
“The idea is that as a chef, it is a place I would want to go. I have lived all over the world and it always ends up to be four or five places you would go to eat because it’s not boring.”
Hora has been to every state in the US and every province in Canada, as well as 78 countries, picking up culinary experience everywhere along the way.
As a result, his place is hard to classify. “Good luck searching [online] for this kind of restaurant,” he said. For a food website or app, he could check off every box. “Are you a Mexican restaurant? Sometimes. Are you Asian, are you Thai? Yeah, sometimes,” he said.
But that hasn't stopped him from getting a loyal following in the month that he has been open. The majority of clients are already repeat customers, with many coming twice a day several times a week. Brunch on Saturday and Sunday is also popular enough to move Hora to do all week brunch till two.
His ideal customers are people who like food, who want to have fun and who enjoy being treated like people, he said.
The menu changes every day and only has a small number of dishes. These often depend on what is available from the local farmer’s markets and from a small number of carefully selected local suppliers.
“To me the most important thing is the quality of the product. … I don't see any other chefs wandering around the farmer’s market. I am there every morning,” he said.
The menus is also driven by customer demand, and every day there is something new. “You don't pick something and say 'this is going to be our signature dish' and [keep it when] it sells none. If it is a menu dog you get rid of it,” he said. Instead he pays attention to what his repeat customers order the most. “Those are the people that are going to pick your signature dishes,” he said.
One item he keeps is steak tartare, as he calls this the “land of tartare,” but his is a bit different. “I make a tartare that probably nobody has had before,” he said. He uses rib eye steak chopped by hand instead of tenderloin and has other atypical ingredients. He called rib eye the best part of the cow, aside from the cheeks. … Maybe.
He also does some dishes that many places overlook or do not excel at. “I did spaghetti and meatballs. You can't get spaghetti and meatballs anywhere in Europe. I heard one place in Rome had it,” he said. The menu also sometimes has macaroni and cheese. “Everyone is into mac and cheese,” he said.
Another popular item is octopus salad. “I would like to say it is always on the menu but it sells out the day I put it on. It is always on the menu as long as it is still there,” he said. He has also done hamburgers, but also cannot keep enough on hand to meet demand.
Hora opened the restaurant relatively quickly. He was in Berlin working on another food-related project when he heard that the space in Vinohrady had become available. He came down to inspect the place and then signed a lease and had it open in four days. “It was something that I wanted to do for a few years, but I never found the space,” he said.
Hora has a long history with the city and has always wanted to come “home” but walked away when a few ventures turned into a nightmare, he said. After leaving Prague, he went for a while to Shanghai and then Berlin, but returning to Prague was always on his mind. “It was one of the few things I thought about every day,” he said.
While he has traveled extensively, the biggest influence on his culinary career, though, was growing up in Los Angeles, California. “You have an authentic representation of everybody's cuisine. Some of the best Thai is in LA, the best tacos are in LA. Growing up with this, you kind of lose the lines that people drew on the map to classify things into genres,” he said.
But his travels may be over. “I don't ever want to leave,” he said, adding that he may open a few more eateries in Prague but does not want to operate a chain.
Operating a restaurant is hard work, according to Hora. Many people dream of opening a restaurant with their grandmothers' recipes, but it is not so easy. “It's rough. It is long hours. Everybody yells at each other, and there is no please and thank you. Every one of your customers is your boss,” he said.
He finds inspiration in a sign that he claims chef Gordon Ramsay hangs in some of his restaurants. It says, “Neither I nor my staff pay any attention to anything good that is said about us.”
It is important to keep an open mind and listen to advice and criticism to find ways to improve, he added.
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