Review: Perpetuum Duck Restaurant

A neighborhood gem in Dejvice

When opening a restaurant, owners often make the mistake of trying to be too ambitious. The late-arriving trend of "fusion" food in Prague, which has sunk many a restaurant in the rest of Europe and the US, has brought with it some strange obsession with Tom-Ka-Gai and the "burrito" - which more often than not is some canned red beans, chili seasoning from the packet (MSG), some meat on the grill smothered in Podrafka (MSG), and wrapped in what would be a close approximation of Indian Nan bread).

There are a few restaurants that can pull "fusion" off, but the failures are far more common than the successes. Which makes Perpetuum [Map], a pleasant, modern, neighborhood restaurant off of Dejvická street on Na hutích, even more of an iconoclastic surprise.

It's a duck restaurant. There's one chicken dish on the menu, and one steak, and some goose favorites such as foie gras with vanilla emulsion and apple chutney (260 CZK), grilled foie gras with carmelized peas, warm cranberries and a thyme emulsion which also features on the duck liver appetizer and is as truly delicate and well executed as you will find anywhere in the city. Vegetarians however, are left with one thing on the menu - a salad with warm goat cheese - that never had a mother.

But the focus is on duck, for which this region has always been famous. We tried the seared duck liver with thyme emulsion for a starter with a mixed green salad of ruccola, grapefruit tomatoes, carmelized onions and basil pesto which was a perfect hint of what was to come. One person in our party didn't eat duck, trying the steak instead. It's often not a good idea to order the one thing on the menu you know a lot of people probably don't order, but in this case it was an expertly cooked 250-gram steak of Filet Mignon on a bed of mashed potatoes and a rich sauce of forest mushrooms with thyme and tiny hint of crème-fraiche. Nothing flashy, just very well executed.

The duck however is where the kitchen's real skill is realized. We tried the Chef's recommended entrée of roasted breast and leg of duck over baby vegetables with fingerling potatoes and a wild herb jus. The duck breast was perfectly cooked, with the flesh still pink, the leg slow-roasted and succulent. The vegetables were fresh and simply done and the jus was a beautiful distillation of flavor. At 260 CZK this is one of the best deals in the city. People happily pay twice this at some of Prague's more expensive eateries and don't get half the quality.

One of the nice things to see is that the menu tips its hat to Bohemian classics, interpreted as they should be, and uses the best local ingredients. The communist impact on the Czech kitchen was enormously detrimental, and as anyone who has lived here long enough knows, it is still sadly reflected in the Steak Floridas and Chicken Gordon Blues that populate the menu of just about every pub.

Desserts also reflect Perpetuum's Bohemian nostalgia. We tried the buchty - fresh buns stuffed with stewed plums and served with a light vanilla custard, and dusted with confectioner's sugar. The buchty were incredible! They featured a carmelized crust, almost like a donut, but light and airy on the inside. The plum filling was just tart enough to offset the sweetness of the buchty and the custard. Also on the menu are Livance, or small, light pancakes, with blueberry mascarpone and crispy corn wafer. Simply and beautifully done, it makes a very nice ending to the meal. There's also an excellent selection of cheeses on offer, and dessert wines.

The staff was excellent and attentive, laid-back and knowledgeable about the menu and the wine. The wine list is fantastic and there are some well appointed and affordable wines in the mix.

The interior can feel a little sterile when the restaurant is empty, and like many places in Prague you have to wonder what the restaurant management is thinking making diners listen to Phil Collins belting out Don't Lose My Number while sipping their 2001 Cote-du-Rhone and enjoying a beautiful meal, but that's a small price to pay for superlative food in a neighborhood restaurant at neighborhood prices.

"had a romantic dinner in perpetuum this week and it was simply delicious. maybe they read the music comment - they played louis armstrong and some jazzy bits. no phil colllins :-)"
May 29th, 2006

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