Perfect Restaurant

There's plenty of style and friendly, efficient service but this Old Town restaurant's food can't live up to its name

This article was originally posted on the Czech Please weblog.

When a dining establishment is named "Perfect Restaurant," you have to wonder what they were thinking. Nothing is perfect. They are just asking for it, aren't they?

But knocking them for that bit of hubris would be too easy. I don't need perfect. Above average would be good enough.

I just wish they could meet even that less-than-perfect standard.

The restaurant doesn't have the most glamorous location, on Soukenická, close to Revoluční. Náměstí Republiky is just up the road. In the basement, there is a dance club. At street level, there is a café. The restaurant is upstairs.

The dining rooms are works of modern art. There's a big mirror on one wall with a line of coffee cups embedded in it. The lighting is very bright. Their fixtures, with their dangling electric cords were not so aesthetically pleasing.

On the opposite side of the room, there is a wall decorated with white plates. The front room has an awkward layout – the main stairway comes up right through the middle of it. There is also another room connecting to this one.

The music was something of an electronica-drum loop drone. A bit loud. Not my favorite for dinner.

Service was friendly and efficient throughout the meal. However, the place was almost empty at 9pm on a Wednesday evening. Not an encouraging sign.

The waitress brought some sliced bread with tomato and black olive baked in. Not the freshest, but still OK. It came with butter, a weak olive oil, and something I’d never seen before accompanying bread: a dollop of tomato paste. It was bland.

As for the food itself, I’ll say this: It is pretty. The plating of the food is very creative. They use stylish square plates (all the round ones are on the wall).

Style is nice, but it's substance that counts. Things go downhill from here.

I started with the "Original Thai Beef Salad" appetizer (175 CZK). It had a nice mix of lettuce, a zigzag of balsamic syrup on the side, and sesame seeds sprinkled on the beef.

I took a bite of the beef. Not bad. But the dominant flavor was the sesame seeds. I took another bite. The only other thing I could taste is salt. Nothing else. I was trying to figure out what made this beef Thai. I called over the waitress.

"Excuse me, what spices or seasonings do you use on this dish?"

"I don't know. I will ask." She went to talk to the headwaiter and returned shortly. "He said it is Hoisin sauce and balsamic."

I couldn't taste any Hoisin, but I didn’t want to press her further. I was a bit confused. Perhaps there is a culinary fusion formula I hadn't known about:

Chinese + Italian = Thai

Another problem I had with this dish is that the greens came without dressing. I was given bottles of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. This presented a challenge. The beef, though not really Thai, tasted OK, and I did not want to cover it with oil and vinegar. In order to dress the salad, I had to pick all the beef of the top and place it on the side. Slightly more user input than usual.

On the English menu, it was called "Original Thai Beef Salad" with no other description. Afterward, I looked at the Czech version of the menu. It said in Czech that the salad comes with Thai dressing. I didn't get any.

I do love Asian cuisine, but for the main course, I decided to try something different. I ordered the "Perfect marinated ribs with pork tenderloin steak, onion rings, French fries, and variation of dip sauces" (295 CZK). Again, when it arrived, I thought it looked pretty good, with the bones piled up there on the plate.

Where to begin with the problems here?

Well, the ribs were dry. I understand the need to partially cook the ribs in advance, but these were way overdone. The sauce on the ribs themselves was one-dimensional, just sweet. It came with three sauces on the side: a very sweet but watery tomato-based sauce, kremžská mustard (sort of a spicy honey-mustard) straight from a jar, and an intense wasabi cream. I actually really liked the wasabi cream.

The ribs were large and meaty. To use the dipping sauce, I'd tear long pieces off the rib and dip it in the wasabi sauce. The onion rings were mostly an afterthought -- just a little fried onion on top of the ribs.

The pork steak was very basically salted and seasoned. I was doubtful that it was tenderloin. It was sitting atop a grilled tomato.

The fries were house-made, but not well made. There was no crispness at all. They were large, but there was only about six of them.

I worked in a restaurant. Making good, house-made French fries is a time and labor-intensive task. The potatoes have to be soaked in water, pre-fried at a lower temperature, cooled, and then fried again at a higher temperature before serving. If you don't do this, they don't get crispy. The chef seems to have skipped a few steps here.

A lot of thought obviously went into the design aspects of this restaurant. A lot of thought went into the choice of dishes. Reading the menu online had me excited. It is even called a "new menu" though I don't know what was wrong with the old one or how this one was an improvement. All I know is that not enough thought went into the recipes and their execution.

The website says there is an evening "all you can eat buffet" from "Monday to Sunday" for 395 CZK. It says there is a salad bar, antipasto, sushi, and a main course. It was not going on while I was there. A commenter here recommended it. Also, I originally planned to go on a Sunday night, but the restaurant was closed.

You can read more about the restaurant and see more pictures on the Perfect Restaurant website. A lot of it is in Czech, but the menu is in English and Czech.

I wouldn't say anything was bad. I just didn't feel I got good value for the money I spent. I wasn't angry. It was more disappointment. They tried hard. For some reason, I felt sorry for them.

There's something to be said for good looks, but if you want a long-term relationship, it’s just not enough. For me, Perfect Restaurant was just a one-night stand.

Perfect Restaurant

Soukenická 4

Prague 1

Tel. (+420) 222 311 600

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