Cafe de Paris

This small Malá Strana restaurant serves fine French food at reasonable prices, despite some confusion with the service

"If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast."
Ernest Hemingway
It was a sunny Sunday, and we felt like getting out and having a nice lunch. Cafe de Paris in Malá Strana was a place we'd been wanting to try for a long time.

This restaurant should not be confused with the Café de Paris in the Hotel Paříž.

This one is at Maltézské náměstí, just across the street from U malé velryby (Little Whale), where we had a party a few months ago.

Cafe de Paris is a very small place with just a few tables.

The main menu is also small, with just a few options, plus an extra page of several special offerings.

I started with onion soup (39 CZK). It had a yellow broth, rather than the variation made with red wine. The soup had melted cheese in the middle and plenty of onions.

There were no big surprises in this bowl, but it tasted good. The soup had a perfect balance of salt and didn't require any seasoning adjustments.

It was served with a few warm baguette slices. They were airy and light.

For a main course, I ordered the entrecôte with frites and a red wine sauce (259 CZK). It can also be ordered with the "secret recipe" Cafe de Paris sauce or a Bernaise sauce with tarragon.

The beef dish came with a small salad, which came out first. The red leaves were heavily dressed, with a strong, mustard-based dressing.

The steak and frites were served on two platters that were placed on holders with candles underneath to keep them warm.

The waiter had already taken some off of each and put the food on my plate before I took a picture.

The steak was very rare and very tender. I like it this way, but they did not ask how I wanted it cooked. They seem to know what I wanted at least as well as I did. More on that later.

The frites were excellent. They were thinly cut, obviously housemade, nicely crispy and salty, and cooked in fresh oil. They were served very hot.

After one bite, I realized that the entrecôte did not have red wine sauce. Whatever it was on top, it was very good. But I thought I should have a word with the waiter (who also appeared to be the manager).

"Excuse me. Can you tell me what sauce this is? I ordered the red wine sauce."

"That is the Cafe de Paris sauce. Do you like it?" He asked in return.

"Yes, it is very good."

"Then it's OK, then?"

"Yes, sure, I like it. I'll keep it. I just thought you should know I ordered something different."

"Ah, well, the chef really thinks the Cafe de Paris sauce is the best. I'm glad you like it. You can try the red wine sauce the next time."

An odd exchange. The comment about the chef had us shaking our heads in bemusement.

It wasn't that big a deal. I really liked what I got. But we both thought a small mea culpa comment would have been appropriate.

Later, I asked what was in the Cafe de Paris sauce. The waiter said it was a very old recipe made with 35 different ingredients, including a number of herbs. But he wouldn't even give us the smallest idea what was actually in it. That's a secret.

V ventured a guess that it had capers in it. He would only say no. We really couldn't figure out the flavors.

V ordered the Caesar salad with shrimp (179 CZK). It came with three very large, plump, butterflied shrimp.

V said they were, without question, the best shrimp she has had in Prague. This is high praise, indeed. We've eaten a boat load of crustaceans in this town over the years.

They were cooked in a very nice olive oil. Perfect simplicity. And the price for such good quality was really fantastic.

They reminded me of the great grilled shrimp we had at the restaurant Le Casabianca, on the very isolated Plage d'Arone in Corsica. That was one of my all-time favorite holidays. A nice memory to bring back.

There is a little sad news, though. The dressing was watery and bland. Several times, the very thin liquid spattered on V's sweater as she cut the Romaine lettuce and put it on her fork.

The salad did have a lot of shaved Parmesan, which really helped. We both thought more cheese in the dressing itself would have helped.

But the shrimp alone guaranteed that she would order it again.

V had two glasses of Bohemia sekt (55 CZK each). I had two bottles of Mattoni sparkling mineral water (39 CZK each).

Now, more about the service. They tried hard and smiled a lot, but it was pretty confused.

Silverware was taken away and not replaced. A plate was taken that was needed for the steak and then brought back after the main courses arrived.

There was a lot of running back and forth while we waited for what we needed in order to eat. There was also the entrecôte sauce mix-up.

There were a few other offerings on the main menu, including grilled vegetables and salad (249 CZK) and foie gras terrine (145 CZK).

On the special offer menu, they had rolled crepes with cheese and smoked salmon (179 CZK), grilled eggplant with potato and a tomato puree (139 CZK), and raclette, which came with electric table-top heaters for melting the cheese.

The prices were very reasonable for the center of Prague. The final bill was 665 CZK.

We didn't have dessert, but I was very tempted by the chocolate soufflé with hot cherry coulis (95 CZK). V was intrigued by the thought of a chestnut crème brûlée with a shot of strawberry consommé.

We had to say no. We were full, almost immovable, if you will.

The waiter suggested we try the desserts on our next visit. Despite some odd moments and dishes with room for improvement during this feast, I do believe there will be a next visit.

Cafe de Paris
Maltézské náměstí 4
Prague 1
Tel.: (+420) 603 160 718

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