La Bodeguita Del Medio

All is forgiven because there are lots of flavors that can’t be found elsewhere in central

When it comes to eating and dancing and generally carrying on all night, Cubans are tough to beat. That, in a nutshell, is the draw of La Bodeguita del Medio, the new Havana-themed music bar and restaurant that,true to its name, is situated in the middle of Kaprova Street, just across from the newly reopened Staremesto metro station. An instant hit with Prague's Spanish-speaking set, La Bodeguita offers good food, cocktails and salsa music, though not necessarily in that order. Patrons step off the street directly into the ground floor bar,
which holds pride of place for good reason. There ís no way to authenticate the claim that the original La Bodeguita was the birthplace of the mojito, but there ís no denying that the drinks are excellently mixed, mulched and shaken with clinical precision and using just the right
amount of brown sugar.

The best places to dine are on either of a pair of tables on the small loft overlooking the bar. All other eaters are relegated to the back room, or the basement, which is perfect for groups but feels sidelined from the action. Though the space has been intentionally distressed to appear older than it actually is, the dark wood, tile floors and good sightlines make for an attractive environment. And the salsa soundtrack cannot be beat.

The kitchen creates passable renditions of some Caribbean favorites, many of which are tempered by local ingredients and toned down to please Czech palates. A meal here is far from the top of the genre and most everything looks better on the menu than it does on the plate, but
all is forgiven simply because there are lots of flavors that simply can't be found elsewhere in central Prague.

La Bodeguita is part of a fourteen-link chain that extends from Mexico to Barcelona and passes through Palo Alto, California in the heart of America's Silicon Valley. This last detail is the clue to La Bodeguita's main pitfall. These restaurants are
apparently corporate contrivances. Cuban versions of the American franchise restaurant Bennigan's, if you would, complete with portion controls and an avalanche of Ernest
Hemingway clutter thatís not dissimilar to the way many businesses in Prague invoke the ghost of Kafka.

The story goes that the novelist once made a written note of a drink he had at the bar in Havana bearing the same name. And Papa's loopy signature is replicated here ad nauseum on
menus, placemats and walls. Which is all a bit unfortunate because this place, at its core, is
damn good.It would be even better were it not part of a chain gang and burdened with the same manufactured non-history that puts it on the same level as other theme eateries.

Dan Levine is Editor-in-Chief of the Avant Guide travel guidebook series.

La Bodeguita Del Medio
Kaprova 5, Prague 1

Tel.:224 813 922

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