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Zlata Praha - CzechSlovak - Astoria - Lunch Review

  • b

BEYOND DISGUSTING. (1) Tasteless cup of beef soup with noodles with no beef in sight (2) two tiny slices of beef in a vile cream sauce with two slices of soggy white bread that were suppose to be dumplings (3) For dessert stale cake with whip cream (4) decent cup of coffee. Also, they served wine in a tiny glass with about 2 oz of jug wine that was dreadful. When I think of all the fantastic restaurants in Astoria, why oh why did I pick this dump. The price was $5.95 for this garbage. Wendy's would have been a much better choice. Next time I'm in the area, I'll dine at Esperides which was just 6 blocks away.

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  1. I'm sure this was every bit as unpalatable as it sounds, but are you sure the dumplings were not simply Czech-stye? Czech dumplings are not like others - they are kind of like a raw, misshapen English muffin and quite doughy (and could be definitely construed as soggy whie bread).

    10 Replies
    1. re: Louise

      Louise, the dumplings were like you described. Raw and vile. The reason for the lunch is that I was planning on taking a group to this place for dinner. Three of them are Czech Americans who live in New Jersey. Oh, what a horrible nightmare this evening would have been. I feel blessed that only I had to endure such a dreadful meal. Sadly, this is the only Czech/Slovak restaurant in NYC (according to there website). True, the meal was only $5.95 but in the last week I've had two excellent lunches for this price. One was at a Cuban Restaurant on Steinway Street(near PC Richards)and the other at a new very upscale Thai Restaurant called Rice (72nd & Roosevelt). Not to mention many Indian places in Jackson Heights. Even the waitress was a disgrace (someone Taco Bell would never hire). Oh, the bread was stale and the water was served warm. Enough said. We live and learn.

      1. re: Bill C.

        As a Czech, I detest Zlata Praha, and one of many other reasons is that the owners lie on the web site and in their brochures (yes, they have brochures); moreover, the food is bad like you described and their whole shtick is gimmicky and aimed at unknowing Americans or desperate nostalgia-seekers. Please don't judge Czech food based on that place - it CAN be excellent, but excellent Czech restaurant food simply doesn't exist in NYC, at least not at the moment.

        There are two other Czech restaurants in the neighborhood - the Bohemian Hall (sadly, can't recommend THAT for food at the moment - see my comment above, but the beer is good and the garden lovely) and Koliba, which is also just a few blocks away and is decent to good, definitely way better than Zlata Praha. It's a small, unpretentious place, but the food is made much more honestly and the portions are decent. You might want to give that a try.

        Koliba Restaurant
        31-11 23rd Avenue, Astoria, Queens, NY 11105, phone: 718-626-0430
        Subway N to Ditmars Blvd. (Queens-bound)

        1. re: Katerina

          any particular ordering strategy that you would recommend for koliba, katerina?...

          dominick

          1. re: astoriaboy

            Um, not at the moment - I haven't been in a while... but these are the classic favorites I judge any Czech restaurant by:

            (1) Vepro-knedlo-zelo: roast pork with dumplings and cabbage (red or white). Ideally, these should be potato dumplings, which are dense (not too soft) slices of potato dough that's been boiled; they should taste rich, creamy and potato-ey, and are to be used to sop up the juices on the plate and complement the other two assertive flavors. The pork should NOT be lean and should fall off the bone (if there is one), liberally smeared with garlic and sprinkled with caraway seeds. The cabbage should be sweet but tangy (it COULD be based on sauerkraut in which case it's more sour than just tangy).

            If a restaurant can't do this right, they should be ashamed of themselves and quit the business. It is THE FOUNDATION.

            (2) Svickova (sveech-koh-vah). This should comprise one or two relatively thin slices of roast beef nearly covered in a creamy sauce that is the main point of the dish, plus dumplings. The sauce tastes sweet, tangy and mildly spicy at the same time (like korma) - it has allspice and bay leaves and a bunch of pureed root vegetables in it, and lots of cream. The meat should be tender but not particularly flavorful (the sauce is the deal), perhaps with a hint of smokiness as it might be threaded with smoked bacon. The dumplings (these are the so-called bread dumplings, made with flour, milk, egg, and bread, boiled and cut into slices) should be soft but not Wonderbread-soft, fresh of course, and have a mild taste that can only be described as doughy. They serve exclusively as a vehicle for the sauce. I am not fond of these dumplings per se, but nothing else works in this recipe. Oh yes, and the plate should be adorned with a lemon slice and a spoonful of cranberry preserves.

            (3) Bramborak, the Czech potato pancake. Easy to make, so nobody should be allowed to screw up this one. Bramborak is made with raw potatoes, usually grated fairly finely, garlic, marjoram (important!), salt (lots), pepper, egg, and a dash of flour. They should be crisp on the outside, soft on the inside, and smell nice - garlicky and marjoram-y. Various people prefer various degrees of doneness - from golden to brownish (I like them on the light side).

            I know that Koliba also makes some Slovak dishes, such as halusky (a sort of large spaetzle topped with sheep's cheese) and maybe more.

            I'll have to get over there one of these days, but I'm just too sad about the Bohemian Hall. It had potential.

            1. re: Katerina

              thank you, katerina...i was just asking for a couple of recs from the menu, but you gave me so much more...

              from what i've heard, before now, about czech food, i didn't think i'd find it all that appealing...but, your descriptions have got me psyched to try it...

              i'll pick up koliba's menu, soon, so i can start planning out my attack, right away...thanks, again!

              dominick

              1. re: astoriaboy

                I agree Dominick, that is a quite a hymn to Czech food Katerina has blessed us with.

                cheers.

                wray

          2. re: Katerina

            I went to Zlata Praha last fall before my trip to Prague - the food at Zlata Praha is no way similar to the excellent meals I had in Prague, including the simple foods i got at the delis.

            I do want to try and make it out to Touch of Hungary - maybe sunday.

            1. re: mark

              Mark, partially thanks to your excellent report I took four food journalists to the Black Rooster (Cerny kohout) in Prague (I still have to write up a full-fledged report), and it was absolutely fantastic. The owners remembered you warmly, and had your CH review, and played your CD. I have now recommended them to a lot of powerful people in the hospitality industry, so perhaps they'll get more business - there wasn't much when I was there.

              1. re: Katerina

                Katerina -
                So glad you enjoyed Black Rooster - looking forward to reading your report.

              2. re: mark

                I hope you have a better meal at Taste of Hungary than we did. After several attempts, I finally got there about a month and a half ago and was severely disappointed by the food and set back $100 for 2 non-drinkers (+ 1 takeout entrée). The good things - the cucumber salad and the desserts (the chestnut purée is delightful if you haven't had it before). But we had some tasteless fried mushrooms with a bland dipping sauce, also pricey. We tried several pork dishes, one stuffed pork (dry) and one with bacon and mushrooms, if I remember correctly. The latter was OK but nothing special. But then we tried one of the evening's specials: beans with a selection of meats. Granted, it was near the end of the evening, but we were thinking Hungarian cassoulet and got somewhat dry brown beans with a fairly awful flavor, probably intensified sitting around until the late hour, and one stringy little piece of beef. The staff was friendly, but I've been to Budapest, Paprikas Fono in S.F. and a good Hungarian place on Cahuenga in L.A. (or was it Hollywood?), and this bore no resemblence to any of those.

        2. I had the same experience about 1 year ago..The "dumplings" were awful..Like a pasty, uncooked dough..I had some appetizer, slice of Deli ham rolled around this horrible cream..I got 3 things there and each was worse than the other..

          I guess it hasn't improved

          1. f
            Frredom P. Keaton

            Bill C., pray tell, even start a new thread (preferable)and describe to me the diner they call Esperides.

            1. s
              s.m. koppelman

              I've been out of the neighborhood for a couple of years, so maybe the place has gone to hell. Call me a nostalgaic American sucker, but I always liked Zlata Praha just fine. The dumplings make no sense at all unless you soak them, piece by piece, in whatever gravy your meat is swimming in, and then they make plenty of sense to me. I was partial to the boiled beef in dill sauce.

              Of the soups, the beef noodle or whatever is the booby prize of what I always thought was an otherwise solid line of soups, the tripe being the standout. And if you've worked your way through at least half the meat-with-gravy entrees, then and only then are you allowed to try some of the other things on the menu like the stuffed potato pancakes or the chicken paprikash. I wouldn't bother with the beef goulash. My general Zlata Praha rule was that an entree either had to involve potato pancakes or gravy and dumplings.

              As for the free glass of wine with lunch, I think they do that to compete with the diner across the street. This being a 1970s-expat Czech restaurant and not a 1990s-expat one, beer's a better accompinament anyway. As for the owners being liars and Bad People, they never seemed to be treated as outcasts at the annual Czech community festivals at the beer garden. I don't know. Maybe there's an anti-Suchanek faction that boycotts them entirely; I'm not privy to the politics of Astoria's vestigial Czechoslovak community.

              But if Koliba's widely preferred these days, by all means go there instead. Just my two cents on what may (MAY) be partly a matter of unfortunate ordering and poor dumpling-to-gravy utilization.

              1. I dunno. I've been to ZP plenty of times (though never for lunch), and I always walk away more than satisfied. Same goes for Koliba.

                The thing that confuses me, though, what with all of these negative reviews, is that ZP is still in business.

                Can anyone explain why?

                Call me crazy, but I feel a need to "stick up" for this place. I felt the need to say that I, along with at least a dozen other people that I've recommended ZP to, have thoroughly enjoyed our meals.

                So, despite the majority of negative views here, there are a few positives. And even with those negatives, it's mostly the same people saying so, which, when you think of all the years this place has been open, isn't all that bad. Actually, that's pretty darn good.

                1. All I can say is "Gordon Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares." Let me start by saying I can not understand for the life of me how anyone can give this restaurant positive reviews and stars. Zlata Praha was beyond horrible.

                  My husband and I took our 2 daughters and their boyfriends out to dinner this past Saturday night. We should have known we were in trouble when there was only one other table with customers at it.

                  After being seated, we were given room temperature, stale tasting water and our menus. The menu was full of delicious sounding specialties...we were VERY excited! We ordered 2 orders of pierogis, potato pancakes, stuffed cabbage, chicken paprikash, and pork goulash.

                  We were given "homemade" Mrs. T's frozen pierogis!! Honestly. There was no denying that they were Mrs. T's. The potato pancakes were nothing to write home about, but at least edible. The stuff cabbage tasted as if was made with old meat, tasting very much like some strange animal rather than beef and pork, swimming on a plate covered with an overly cinnamon-like red sauce. It was so bad, we could not swallow it. The chicken paprikash consisted of 3 small chicken 'parts' covered in an orange sour cream type sauce tasting nothing of paprika. I say parts, because you really couldn't tell which pieces they were. The pork goulash contained 5 small pieces of pork that looked as if they had seen better days, and more sauerkraut type soup/sauce than a person could safely consume. And lastly the 2 plates of dumplings were heavy, cold and sponge like.

                  My husband and I grew up on Russian, Czech and Slovak food. Our grandma's came from the Old Country. The food we were given would make anyone cry. When our waiter checked on us, he noticed our untouched food and asked if we wanted more dumplings. He gave us our bill totaling over $100 with gratuity added.

                  On the up side, my husband did say the Czech beer was good. Sigh.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: kamiller

                    While I've never had a horrendous meal at Zlata Praha, I've never been thrilled either.

                    I find Koliba on 23rd Ave to be much better: http://www.kolibarestaurant.com/

                    1. re: kamiller

                      having grown up on polish food -- with sides of slovak and slovenian chow -- i agree. this place is pretty dreadful in a baffling way. the proprietors seem to be of an ethnicity that should get it, but the stuff churned out is reminiscent of what stouffer's might do turned loose of central europe.