The restaurant/dance hall formerly known as Dinitz and Metropol hits a few bum notes
A week or two back, my good friend Prague Ginge's own best mate Hairy Dave was over on a visit from the UK, and -- in spite of recent inclement climes -- my copper-colored comrade was eager to impress on the Prague culinary front, at the very least.
Having already done the usual round of traditional Czech hospodas and pivnices over the previous few days, Prague Ginge therefore decided to go a bit more upmarket on one night with a visit to one of her long-time favorite restaurants/dance halls/cafés -- the two-story Republika just off Náměstí Republiky. I can't remember if I was officially invited for this occasion, or whether I simply invited myself along for blogging purposes, but either way I was along for the ride.
I hadn't been to this particular restaurant since its previous incarnation as the atmospheric Dinitz Café, and, on first impressions, I have to say I preferred the old menu, with its platters of internationally themed nibbles and gigantic sandwiches, over the comparatively standard fare on offer at Republika.
One thing hasn't changed, though, and that is the regular performances of live music -- primarily jazz- or blues-based. Incongruous as it may seem for a middle-class girl from the Home Counties, personally speaking, I'm not really into any music that doesn't focus primarily on pimping, crack, hoes and the conscience-free merking of your enemies, so admittedly I am not best placed to comment on the quality of the evening's particular jazz-themed performance (to me just vociferous muzak sorely lacking in both bragging or bloodshed). The marginally more highbrow Prague Ginge and Hairy Dave professed to enjoy it, at least, though both agreed it was a bit on the loud side and did drown out conversation somewhat.
Anyway, I digress.
Back on the subject of food and drink, which -- like this article -- in this case was a frustratingly long time coming. Our table sat notably unattended for about 15-or-so minutes, with waiter after waiter conspicuously failing to catch our eye, and in fact, it was only after I resorted to making the international distress signal -- kept up for a good 30 seconds (much to Prague Ginge's and Hairy Dave's presumed embarrassment) -- that we finally managed to get our drinks order in, a 0.2-liter glass of Veltlínské zelené white wine for me (45 CZK) and an Italian Merlot (70 CZK) each for Hairy Dave and Prague Ginge.
Along with the wine, a basket of brown and white bread with garlic butter was brought to the table, which Hairy Dave and Prague Ginge both practically fell upon, despite having apparently put away big plates of vepřo-knedlo-zelo just a few hours earlier in the day. Apparently they'd been drinking solidly ever since, so probably it was a good thing for a straight-from-work-and-therefore-as-yet-still-sober me that they were at least soaking up the alcohol somehow... ;-)
I myself wasn't massively hungry on this occasion, so decided to skip on a starter, contenting myself with just a bite each of Prague Ginge's and Hairy Dave's choices instead. These were namely the tartar of marinated salmon on endive (165 CZK) and beef carpaccio with rucola (195 CZK) respectively.
Of the two, I definitely preferred the salmon tartar, which I found really tasty with definite undertones of red onion and dill. Presentation was a bit on the lazy side, but Prague Ginge was still a fan of the crunchy endive. By comparison, I found the carpaccio was pretty standard, really, though it did come with a variety of toppings for Hairy Dave to jazz it up a bit.
For mains I went for the vegetable lasagna at 165 CZK.
I know I said earlier that I wasn't particularly hungry, but still, I did think this was a bit on the miserly side, portion-wise, and in the event it was all but gone-and-forgotten in just a few short bites. Pleasant enough, if again a bit sloppily presented, with pesto and tomato sauces seemingly just dolloped on with indifferent abandon.
Luckily, Prague Ginge's risotto with parma ham, tomatoes in white wine, thyme, cream and parmesan (165 CZK) was more than enough to make up for the puniness of the lasagna, however.
I will confess to having more than a few bites of this huge mountain of creamy, sticky, cheesy risotto of unashamedly stodgy loveliness, and still between us we couldn't finish it. True comfort food at its best, if maybe not necessarily the most strictly "gourmet" in true risotto terms...
As for Hairy Dave, he ordered the beef sirloin with cream sauce and bread dumplings (175 CZK).
Had I been paying closer attention when ordering, I'd have probably cottoned on to the fact that this was actually the English description for svíčková rather than the standard hunk of sirloin steak that Hairy Dave (unfamiliar with the wonderful world of Czech cuisine) had been expecting. An easy enough mistake for a visitor to make, I suppose, but in the interests of culinary adventurism (or possibly just to avoid kicking up a fuss), Hairy Dave decided to just roll with it anyway, in the process gamely putting away his second pile of meat and dumplings of the day -- I'm officially impressed.
I had a quick taste of the sauce, which would have just about rated as average, had it not also been decidedly cold. I didn't feel I knew Hairy Dave well enough to request further permission to pilfer various parts of his dinner, but I didn't think overall it looked particularly nice... Hairy Dave commented that it was "okay," but, yes, admittedly somewhat on the chilly side.
After a bit of a break, conversation naturally turned to dessert -- understandable perhaps given that we were seated directly next to their tempting-looking revolving cake display.
In the end we went on Prague Ginge's recommendation from her last visit, namely the chocolate soufflé at 75 CZK. And just to be "good," we decided to belatedly show restraint and share just the one between the three of us.
Needless to say, these initial good intentions quickly descended into a soufflé fight to the death practically the minute the three-spooned dessert was set down on the table. After all, with a cupful of hot, squishy chocolate fondant encased in a (possibly ever-so-slightly overdone) lovely cakey crust -- what's genuinely not to like...?
A welcome sweet end then to an in-all-honesty somewhat hit-and-miss meal.
I'm sorry, Prague Ginge, to speak ill of one of your long-standing culinary faves, but with its decidedly shoddy service and -- apart from the risotto and soufflé -- mostly underwhelming food (the two key tells that you may be in a Prague 1 tourist trap), Republika simply didn't impress enough to warrant a second visit on my part. If, on the other hand, you are a) a tourist in search of reasonably priced, central eats in nice environs or b) a lover of jazz/other live music (neither of which, admittedly, I happen to be), then this place might just float your boat.
As for me, however, there are definitely better places to be found in Česko than Republika.
Na Poříčí 12
Phone: ( +420) 242 481 655
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