Brno, CZ and area
I've started this thread to hopefully attract the attention of other Brno residents or those who are travelling to the area. I have recently relocated here, for work, from Bangalore, India where I had a thread running for a while (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/684476). I'll include my thoughts/comments on restaurants/food stands/delis/markets in Brno and the surrounding area. I look forward to seeing reviews from others here so I can work to discover all the culinary gems Brno, and area, has to offer.
Baroko (Orli 17, Brno), north east side of the Centrum, 2 blocks from Svobody Namesti (main square).
We were brought here by another expat couple who've been in Brno for over a year, they knew we hadn't had any beef in a while and promised that Baroko had a good steak at a good price. Baroko is one of the many underground establishments built in what appears to be an old wine cellar, I've always liked the ambiance of these types of places and Baroko was no exception. One difference here is they were going for a more modern look (glass/steel/white paint) which was a nice change from some of the more rustic versions. Our Czech is still not great, and will take time to develop, so it was nice the staff spoke some English and the menu descriptions included English as well.
I had the pepper steak (med. rare) with roasted potatoes and my wife had a chicken breast stuffed with cheese and ham and a tomato salad. The steak was properly cooked, well seasoned and the pepper sauce was tastey but lacked any real heat from the peppercorns. Coming from cattle country in Western Canada I'm usually underwhelmed by beef in other places and while this steak was good it was also not aged (my taste preference) and therefore was not an excellent steak compared to home. The roasted potatoes also appeared deep fried, not oven roasted and left something to be desired. My wife's chicken dish was huge and there was no way she had a chance of finishing it all, but she did enjoy it a lot and ate as much as she could.. the tomato salad was good but nothing extraordinary.
All in all Baroko is a good looking place, with attentive service, a decent wine list and a slightly too large menu that I believe has led to some banality. I'll definately be back for drinks but not necessarily for dinner.
Arka (Jundrov district)
I had been here before when previously visiting Brno and enjoyed a very nice lunch, so we decided to repeat the trip on a recent Sunday drive out to the resevoir. It's a slightly more upscale community pub with a good menu of dishes that include more than just the usual Czech standards. On this occassion I ordered the spicy pork ribs and my wife the gnocci with shredded pork, sauerkraut and fried onions. I was skeptical about the "spicy" claim on the ribs but was happy to find the two sauces supplied were both spicy, not hot hot, but hot enough to make me happy. The ribs were very tender, the meat fell off the bone and soaked up lots of the sauces. I had a side of the Viennese potato salad whose acidity went nicely with the pork. My wife had previously had the gnocci but liked it so much it was the only option she considered for lunch. Again she was very happy with the whole dish, nothing over cooked and nothing to complain about.
Borgo Agnese (Kopecna 43, Brno) just down the hill/road from the Comsa Palace Hotel in the direction of Mendolovo Namesti
This is one of the highest of the high end restaurants in town and it deserves the outstanding reputation it has. The ambiance is very elegant (although if construction of the hospital extention ever finishes it will be better), the service is attentive but not cloying, the wine list is extensive and the food is exceptional.
I've been here twice and each time the wine I've ordered has exceeded my expectations. Being new to CZ and Brno I'm never certain where to buy good wine (the hypermarkets are not the answer) but I always know a bottle of local South Moravian wine from Borgo Agnese will be far better than anything I've been able to source myself. I wanted to ask where to buy the wines they have on their menu, but in the end chickened out... I'll keep searching on my own.
I went outside the Czech box for dinner and ordered the Bison, something I cook and eat on a regular basis back home. Bison can be tricky because of the low fat content and I wasn't sure how far it had travelled to end up on my plate. I did ask where the Bison was sourced but unfortunately my lack of Czech and the waiters' English did not meet and I was unable to find out. But I went ahead with the order and was very happy with my choice, the meat was a perfect med. rare and was neither dry nor at all tough. The potatoes that came with the dish were also very well done, presented and seasoned with nothing to complain about, the same could be said of the roasted seasonal vegetables that were served for the table.
I really like this place and will continue to come back as often as my wallet allows.
Gausthaus Schrieber (Poysdorf, Austria) south of Brno on the highway to Vienna not far from the Czech/Austrian border
We were recommened here by the staff at one of the excellent Poysdorf wine markets, they recommended the schnitzel and as such we stuck to the recommendation. Gausthaus Schrieber is a neighbour pub, with a beautiful outdoor dining area, play area for the kids and a massive amount of space indoors. We sat outside as it was a very warm spring day.
We had two types of pork schnitzel: one traditional with breadcrumbs and an egg dip and the other was no breadcrumb just a very heavy egg wash. The egg wash schnitzel was very different, more of a breakfast taste with all the egg and the porky goodness, I enjoyed every last bite. The traditional schnitzel was good but lacked the lightness of breading compared to other schnitzels we've enjoyed in other places, nothing wrong with the taste or texture at all, simply not as well executed. The boiled, buttered and herbed potato side and the mixed salad were great accompaniments with nothing to complain about.
Zamecka Restaurant (Lednice, CZ) just outside the gates of the Lichtenstein Palace in Lednice
Outdoor seating is key to this place as the interior is pretty standard with nothing to draw attention, outdoors of course allows you to view the restored palace and a small corner of the gardens. We had the beef broth soup with liver dumplings, pork medalions in an herbed gravy and the fried cheese with tartar sauce. The soup was the highlight of the meal with very light and texturally pleasing dumplings in a clear beef broth. The pork medallions were ok, although not "medallions" of pork tenderloin as expected and instead were circular cuts of pork from a piece other than the tenderloin. The sauce was a bit flour heavy and lacked much of interest. The fried cheese was... fried cheese how can it be bad! (It wasn't)
I don't think we'll rush back to this place if we're in Lednice again, unless it's to have a beer on the outside patio.
That's it so far, I hope we'll get recommendations from others in the area and if anyone can point me to a place to buy really good Southern Moravian wine and a butcher/market that sells lamb I would greatly appreciate it.
East Village Diner (Jaselská 2)
This is a new American style diner that has opened in the city centre just off Udolni. The menu is full of diner sandwich favourites from burgers to tuna melts to BLTs; there are fries, onion rings and shakes as well.
We went shortly after they opened a few months ago and were only moderately impressed. The burger was decent and I'd say the best in Brno, but that isn't really saying much. As hot as the burger trend is throughout Europe the local chefs still have not nailed it. My SO ordered a BLT but instead received some form of veggie sandwich; as she likes a good veggie sandwich she kept it but was very disappointed and wished she hadn't. The chocolate shake was good, a bit on the thin side, but I did not hear any complaints from the other side of the table.
We haven't been back but that's mostly due to the fact the markets are heaped with tons of great produce right now and we've been cooking at home a lot. We do plan to return and see if they've got things running a little better.
Pizzan (Františkánská 214/15)
Felt like trying a new sit down pizza place in the centre a few weeks ago and knew the one in this little square was usually quite busy, so we stopped in. Quite disappointing though, the crust on both pizzas was tough and in many places crumbly, the toppings lack luster and the cheese almost non-existent. Mine tasted like it was cooked earlier in the day and then reheated when ordered. The service was also terrible, from sitting down to getting menus to placing an order was almost 30 minutes and not worth the wait... won't be back.
Brabander (Hybešova 30)
This is a well-known medium-high end place in Brno that moved to a new location about a year ago, conveniently just down the street from us.
The appetizers we ordered were good, although they were out of prawns when we ordered and said they'd have to go get some... we weren't in a hurry and agreed to wait. Waiting was a good choice as my SO's prawns were very good in a light Thai style curry sauce, my scamorza and prosciutto was decent but nothing too special.
There was no delay on the mains, I had the special mussels of the day and my SO the fish ravioli with tomato ragu. Again my SO got the dish of the day as the raviolis were excellent and the pasta perfectly done. On the other hand my mussels were quite lackluster, nothing wrong with them but nothing to make them jump off the plate. I was also disappointed to get a caraway bread for dipping in the sauce... I just don't like caraway and that flavour really ruined the sauce for me.
We will be back, the service was excellent, the menu and wine selection good and it's very convenient to home. I just need to choose better next time.
Bistro Franz - Veveří 461/14
Finally got a chance to try Bistro Franz last week, it is quite trendy and popular in the foodie area on Veveří.
The menu is seasonal and appears to change very frequently, if not daily, and was quite unique in that it was Czech inspired but not your traditional/standard Czech dishes as most restaurants produce.
We started with the seasonal asparagus soup, a good idea given the season has started but a rather poor execution. The soup was thin and stringy, it lacked seasoning and to be honest good flavour. Not that I would want to cover up the asparagus flavour but the soup did lack cream/milk/fat of some sort to give it body and heft.
For mains SO had a potato dish with jellied medvedi cesnek (bear's garlic) in a creamy cheese type sauce. While this sounds perhaps a bit boring the potatoes were of excellent quality and the jellied medvedi was very unique. This is the first year we've really noticed local restaurants using medvedi cesnek in special seasonal menus; this is great progress as it is one of the greatest produce finds we've made in Southern Moravia. I chose the gravlax main with salad; how the gravlax was cured was not on the menu so I was a bit surprised when it showed up a purple/red colour. Based on the flavour/colour I had to assume it was cured in blood orange juice and beet juice or possibly grapefruit and beet juice. Either way the salmon was very good, although inelegantly cut (1 pin bone found as well), but the salad lacked any real reason on the plate as it was mostly generic cabbage with little dressing.
While this may not be a rave review, we were happy with dinner and because of the unique seasonal menu we do plan to return.
La Bouchee (Údolní 567/33)
Went about a month ago to try another higher end option in Brno and was very pleased with all aspects of the visit. Started with the sous-vide of duck, very flavourful with a light mango chutney, but too small. The special of the house is their roast lamb, which is primarily why we went but they were sold out when we arrived. Went with the ubiquitous flank steak, cooked medium rare as requested fairly well seasoned but nothing to differentiate it from the 100 other restaurants serving the same cut in Brno. Others at the table had pastas and seafood which they all enjoyed. The service was good, not at the same level as Borgo Agnese, but the cellar atmosphere and pocket sized lounge at the front were all excellent design elements, and it was not smoky which is nice for a change.
Shanghai Chinese Restaurant - Pekařská 422/42
As usual I went in with high expectations that a Chinese food gem might exist in Brno, but left disappointed. It's not that the food is bad, it's not, but it lacks authenticity. I understand they are cooking for a Czech palate, but with the prevalence of good mostly authentic Indian restaurants you'd think the Chinese places could start to adjust to more authentic flavours, seasonings, spices and dishes.
Spring rolls to start were microscopic and lacking in flavourful fillings, the hot and sour soup was neither hot, nor sour, the chicken kung pao was decent with fresh bamboo shoots and the Shanghai noodles with pork were the best dish of the meal... but that's not saying a lot.
Won't be rushing back here, ever.
Thali of India - Campus Centre
The owners of Goa Indian restaurant have opened a satellite kiosk in the food fair at Campus Centre and it has provided much needed variety, flavour and spiciness to week day lunches. Their menu is varied and the service pretty quick if you stick with the thalis. If you order something not as popular at lunch time (tandoor chicken or a stuffed paratha) you can wait quite a while, but on the upside those items are extremely fresh.
Highlights at lunch are the aloo gobi, bean curry, channa masala and chicken vindaloo. The lamb dishes are not ideal as they don't slow cook the lamb long enough and it tends to be a bit chewy and their biriyani is lacking in preparation style and flavour.
Jakoby - Jakubsky Namesti
This is a casual place owned by the same people as Borgo Agnese so the expectations for quality are suitably high for me. The space is good and well laid out but the lack of a non-smoking section is very disappointing.
The menu is good, lots to choose from. The first visit I had their oso buco which I really enjoyed, excellent flavour and texture, great gravy and perfect mashed potato to soak it all up. The second visit I had the flank state (yes it is ubiquitous) and again it was good, cooked as ordered, well seasoned but nothing to stand out. Potrefena Husa is still doing the best version of this in the centrum, but their side of "spicy red beans" is weird and oddly flavoured.
We'll go back to Jakuby but a non-smoking section is really needed.
There have been a few new places open lately around Zelny Trh, here are reviews after a couple of recent visits:
Il Mercato - Zelný trh 314/2
A new high end place in town to compete with Borgo Agnese and Palazzo for the top Italian spot. We went on a very warm evening after a very hot day, a while back and were very disappointed to find no air conditioning in the restaurant and minimal air flow through the massive windows. The space itself is beautiful, and it should be after all the time it has taken to get the new hotel, cafe and this restaurant open.
I liked that they brought out a selection of meat for the grill, to examine and choose from just as most high end places will bring out the tray of fish on ice (which they also did). The giant florintine style T-bone steaks looked very good but I wasn't quite hungry enough for one of those monsters so I settled on the veal chop with a side of grilled vegetables. The chop was excellent, perfectly grilled & well seasoned but they'll have to work on the grilled vegetables. One important point about eggplant that I expect most chefs to know... it has to be cooked really really well, which takes time. If it's not done this way it ends up kind of like styrofoam... which is what I received. I won't hold this against them for long, it was a minor problem with an otherwise great dinner but I hope they tune up to prevent these kinds of problems given they are going after the high end market in Brno.
U všech čertů - Starobrněnská 7
This place is associated, maybe owned by, the Oslavany brewery and during it's renovations prior to opening the Pegaš Pivnice vehicles were out front pretty much all day... so maybe it's associated with Pegaš as well(?).
Anyway, the Oslavany beer is excellent, zero complaints about that. I've ordered a few things from the menu lately, the house gulash with potato pancakes, the baked chicken wings and the pork ribs. The gulash is very good, rich, dark sauce with excellent tender chunks of beef, the potato pancakes are pretty salty but that is standard with all I've tried here. The chicken wings are outstanding, a really great BBQ style sauce with the baked, not deep fried, wings. The ribs were the only disapointment so far, way too much fat and too little meat which lead to some serious indigestion about an hour after consumption.
Overall the food is quite good based on feedback from others I've been there with, but after a recent trip with a couple of vegetarians... very little for the veggie only crowd. This isn't uncommon in Brno, although most of the new(ish) pubs in the centrum do have at least 4 or 5 vegetarian items as opposed to this place.
Vytopna - Starobrněsnká 12
This is the latest location of the restaurant chain where drinks are delivered by a model train. The other location in Brno is by the Starobrno brewery on Hlinky.
The train is pretty cool and they've done a great job with the setup, but the gimmick alone cannot carry this place, it will have to improve. We went for dinner and order the Halušky and ribs. The halušky must have been frozen and then warmed up on order as it was pretty poor looking; the cheese having separted from the halusky causing a very unappetizing oil slick in the dish. The ribs were kind of like the meat part of a McRib sandwich from McDonalds, is it really rib, not really rib??? In the end they were simply so bland and lacking in any interest that they left me cold.
Add to the food troubles that they cannot serve their white wine cold, room temperature only so far, and I'm just not impressed. This location is very convenient but with all the competetion in the Zelny Trh area (Potrefena Husa, Tripoli, U všech čertů, Acko, etc... they need to get a lot better a lot faster or they'll be out of business pretty quickly.
Starobrno Brewery, Pivovarska Brno (Mendolovo Namesti)
Had dinner here last week as a part of a work outing that I arranged. I'd heard the food at the brewery was good but was, as always, a little suspicious it being a small brewery in a relatively small town.
We started off the evening with the latest craft brew, Black Pepper Beer, it seemed a novelty but was actually very nice, subtle pepper taste and aroma that went really well with classic Czech pub food. I ordered the ribs and was very happy with the order, nicely cooked, fall off the bone but not mushy, lots of little crispy bits and chopped up into nice 3 bone sections. The mild long peppers, freshly pickled cabbage and bread were all very good accompanyments to the meatiness of the ribs.
My collegues all had the same "steak and egg" which went down a treat and left a lot of satisfied faces around the table.
We'll definately be back and looking forward to the beer garden opening later in the spring.
I haven't updated this in a while because I've just been repeating places I've been to before and have not been at all adventerous lately and this update is no different.
Went to Hansen last night for their Valentine's dinner, didn't realize it was a set menu until we sat down but the menu looked good so we stayed. 5 courses were on offer, a celery and chicory salad, beet blinis, shaved roast pork with mustard melon and apple, then choice of either tuna steak or veal cheeks and lastly a choice of apple "pie" with cinamon foam or a chocolate cake.
Sadly things really seem to be sliding at Hansen, previously one of my favourite restaurants in Brno's very small high end bracket. The salad was boring, the blinis ok but very dense (more like a ravioli), and the veal cheeks mundane and bland. The only culinary highlights were the shaved roast pork, but I am a big sucker for mustard melon served with anything and the apple pie, which is a big deal in my world as I don't usually enjoy deserts or sweets in general. The mustard melon was quite good, sweet and ripe with just the right amount of grainy mustard and the "pie" had wonderful apple pieces in jelly (served ice cold) with a light and flavour cinamon foam.
In addition to the food issues, the service was not good. Our waiter took forever to collect after our fist course was complete, then brought the 3rd dish before the 2nd which resulted in a screw up in the kitchen and a big delay in the mains coming out. If the place was packed, as it should have been, I'd have cut some slack but it was not. We were also seated at the worst table in the house (next to the kitchen door) even though I had a reservation and most of the other tables with "reserved" on them were never occupied while we were there. And lastly there were only two red wines in stock on their wine list... I've said it before and I'll say it again, when the wine list on offer isn't even 1/4 stocked it means there are money problems and a closure is imminent. This would be too bad as I've had some of my most memorable meals in Brno at Hansen.
On the upside we returned to Momo Sushi last Friday and it was far better than the previous experience, which I now see I didn't mention before. The rice was perfectly cooked and everything really well assembled and presented. The only issue was I forgot the rolls were 8 pieces each and we ordered to much food. We'll continue to return to Momo for midrange (price) sushi in Brno and reserve Koishi for our high end sushi requirements.
Stopkova Pivnice - Česká 163/5
We've been wanting to stop in here since we saw renovations in the winter but never seemed to remember at the right time, until this weekend. We popped in for lunch on Saturday and were pleasantly surprised by the very new/modern atmosphere for such a historic location. Although we never did find the non-smoking section (upstairs maybe) they had excellent ventilation that sucked out most of the smoke very efficiently.
We had a selection of soups including the Gulas soup and garlic soup and then a few appetizers. The soups were all very good and typically very generous in size not to mention holy crap hot and served in a "pot" that kept them smoking hot from start to finish. The garlic soup was hugely garlicly and came with additional cooked garlic on the side, with croutons for those who needed more. The Gulas had a wonderful gravy like broth with very tender beef shin and potatoes, nothing to complain about.
The appetizers included the smoked lamb sausage, picked smoked sausage and potato pancakes with pork crackling. The sausages were all good and I believe house smoked, the picked ones came in a "pickle jar" with a ton of very tasty but dangerous to the digestive system, picked onions. The lamb sausage came with green beans and red beans in a skillet and was again very good and smokey. The potato pancakes were so good there was no sharing and I didn't get a chance to taste them.
I went back again last night because they have a few lamb dishes on the menu including braised lamb shanks, which I ordered. The shanks were very generous in size, braised perfectly (not so much they fall of the bone on their own, but enough that a slight tug gives you a lot of great rich meat) and served on a garlic spinach bed with a very dense potato croquet.
Great shanks, good service and a very lively and fresh atmosphere. Given they have a lot of different dishes on the menu, compared to other Pubs, we'll be back on a regular basis... I also need to work my way through the smaller "food for beer" menu.
Highlander Steak House - Main square in the Brno Centrum, next door to the KB main branch
We have a winner for worst english translation of a Czech entree.... "Leather bag of piggy". This is not a dish that inspired a lot of confidence when we sat down to a business dinner this past week, but one of our local guys did order it with pride. When it showed up it did look good and huge (which didn't play well with the english translation) but from the smile on the other side of the table it was thoroughly enjoyed. I believe it was ground beef, wrapped around a very large pork sausage and baked, but I couldn't get a proper description due to a bit of language barrier.
Aside from this highlight dish I wasn't super keen to eat here as it is in on the main square and never seems that busy, but it wasn't bad. I had a pepper steak, my standard at this point, with scotish potatoes. The steak was decent, cooked as ordered, no heat in the pepper sauce but otherwise an ok steak. The scotish potatoes on the other hand were outstanding, kind of like scalloped potatoes but with caramelized onions, bacon and cream... a definite heart attack primer.
Service was good, but ambiance in the cellar was lacking and confusing... not sure what they were going for in this surprisingly small underground cellar.
I won't be rushing back because there are so many better places to eat in Brno, but it was worth the visit just to see Leather bag of Piggy on the menu.
Comuna Cafe & Bistro - Znojmo (Southern Moravia almost on the Austrian border), just off the main square next to the medieval tower.
We chose this place because of the view of the tower, the beautiful flower boxes up and down the street and that you could get a sandwich for lunch and not just massive portions of Czech specialties. It's not often that lighter lunches can be found so we jumped at the chance to eat a light lunch.
I had a cheese burger topped with red peppers, fennel and lettuce; a surprising combination and not normally a combo I would go for but all in all a great little burger with nothing to complain about. My wife had a baguette with ham and cheese, that also had some red pepper on top and then grilled to open faced perfection. No complaints all round.
If we're back in Znojmo around lunch time I'm certain we'll be there.
I know this posting is Brno and area, some may feel Prague isn't exactly "and area" but I didn't want to start another Prague thread. We had to go to Prague for one night and managed to fit in a few places to eat.
Lokal - Míšeňská 66/12, Prague 1 (just off the Charles Bridge on the Castle side, near Shakespear & Co. book shop)
We had wanted to stop at Lokal on our last two visits to Prague but couldn't get a table, a good sign for the place, but not if you're the hungry one standing outside. This time we made a reservation and got a good table in the non-smoking section. Service was good, it was packed and there was no loss of ambiance, a nice change from Brno. We ordered our pints and started looking through the menus, there were two menus for some reason, one with no "specials" and the other with the "specials". We started with the South Bohemian soup, a very creamy soup with a ton of dill in it and small pieces of mushroom. I've had this before but not as good as Lokal's with a slight acid (lemon juice?) hit and so much fresh dill. We then moved on to the mains, I had the roast beef entrecoate with herbed butter and my wife the steak tartare. The tartare was the way to go and based on the number of tables ordering it everyone seemed in the loop on this dish. The tartare was almost paste like in consistency with onion and parsely chopped in with massive slices of grilled bread and a nice half clove of very good garlic to rub on the bread. Everything about this combination was excellent, the texture of the tartare and robust beefy taste combined very well with the heat from the garlic clove and the crunch of the bread. This was also a good size for a main, no fussing about with tiny poritions here. The entrecoat was not quite what I expected, I had thought more along the lines of a cut from a roasted standing prime rib roast, instead it was more like a NY strip steak. It was cooked med. rare as requested but it just wasn't what I expected and lacked the richness I had been imagining from a cut of prime rib. My fault for not asking for more specifics.
Restauracia U Dvou Slovaku - Tynska 632/10, Prague 1 (off the east side of the Old Town square)
As we've had a fair bit of Czech food over the past month we opted for a Slovak restaurant for lunch in Prague on Friday and it was a nice change. We started with the daily soup which was a cream of potato with lentils, rich and hearty. Next we went with the "spatzel" which was really more like Gnocci than a Swiss/German spatzel and the pyrogi! My wife had the spatzel with sheep's milk cheese and potato/cheese pyrogi and I had those two plus the bacon and sauerkraut spatzel. Aside from the pyrogies which aside from the homemade ones my wife made in India, we haven't had in almost two years, the bacon and sauerkraut spatzel was the real winner. Great porky flavour from the bacon fat, sweet acid from the very fresh sauerkraut all combined with the lovely soft (but filling) potato spatzel. There was nothing light about this meal, we had to walk non-stop for the next few hours just to keep from feeling sleepy.
We've been wondering why it appears Czech cuisine lacks a "pyrogi" type dish, every other country in the area has some sort of dumpling with cheese/potato but not the Czechs. Anyone with insight on this, or do we simply not see it on the menus as we don't know the correct Czech term for this dish?
Les Moules - Pařížská 203/19 (Jewish quarter near the Old New synagog)
A hankering for Belgian style moules et frittes drew us to Les Moules and their tiny, and very busy, patio out front. A great place to watch the vintage cars with their loads of tourists checking out the synagogs in the Jewish Quarter and a very beautiful neighbourhood with wonderful architecture. We order the Basque (ok, not quite Belgian) moules with chorizo, tomato and cellery and a side of frittes with mustard mayo. The moules were very well flavoured and the chorizo had just a touch of spicy heat which was very welcome, nothing to complain about. The frittes were nothing special though, in fact I'm pretty sure they were McCain brand, not hand cut, and did not appear to have been double fried.
Josef Hotel Rybná 20, Prague 1 (easy to get to and with a secure parking garage in the Jewish Quarter)
I'll only comment on the breakfast at the hotel which was ample and fresh. An excellent array of fresh fruits, berries, eggs, sausage, juices, breads and of course coffee. This was an excellent buffet breakfast for a Euro hotel and we were very please and full when we left. The hotel isn't bad either, well placed and easy to get to when driving in the Centrum, the only downside is it is starting to need a freshing up as the paint and carpets are looking quite worn.
Our only regret from the trip was not knowing in advance that the Prague Food Festival was on in the Castle Gardens. I should have done some Googling on events in Prague before we left and likely would have added an additional night to the stay so we could have taken in the Food Festival. If anyone reading this did attend it would be great to hear how it was as I'm going to bookmark the event for next year.
Pivnice Pegas - Jakubská 120/4 (town Centrum behind the Best Western International)
Pegas is an institution in Brno as they brew their own micro brews on site and they do a very fine job of it based on the packed tables and the pint of black lager I had. The only challenge as with so many pubs is fighting through the smoking section to get the back room non-smoking section.
We had dinner last night with some friends as well as a pint. I went with the classic goulash with bread dumplings and my wife the fried duck's liver with potato croquettes. I've mentioned before that I have not yet acquired a taste for the ubiquitous Czech dumpling but I find the bread ones more palatable than the potato ones. Unfortunately the sauce was the only good thing about my goulash, there were only two of the tiniest pieces of beef in the entire dish and no other substance aside from the dumplings and small mound of peppers. I actually ate most of my dumplings because there was so little substance here. If they were almost out of the goulash I would have preferred they tell me so I could have ordered something else. My wife's fried duck liver and croquettes were only so so as well, the liver had very little flavour and relied solely on the crunch from frying and the croquettes were completely unseasoned.
Given all this the service was efficient considering how packed the place was. I know we'll be back here because the beer is so good and I would like to try other menu items, I just hope it gets better from here at Pivnice Pegas.
In addition to this we swung through the Brno Old Town Hall beer festival on our way to Pegas. I had heard the lines for beer were massive and the place was heaving, but it actually wasn't too bad around the music stage and there was a trick to getting a beer. Each brewery had 1, 2 or 3 stations selling different beers and generally if you looked at the lines closely there was always one big one and one little one. Not sure why no one seemed to notice the little lines, might have been herd mentality. We had a Lobkowicz lager which was nice and hopy with a rich amber colour, the Jezek unfiltered lager which was also excellent (not like a german wheat beer in it's unfilteredness, but still excellent) and Merlin black lager which was also had good hop with a great depth of flavour. The festival is still on today and they have lots of food, which we didn't get to last night because of the plans to hit Pegas, but we just might manage a swing by today for another pivo and a kolbasa.
For those of you who try to read a bit of Czech, there is a good web site for restaurants. They publish only the restaurants that are above average. You can see their level - 3 is above average, 4 is excellent and 5 is above any expectations and without any fault. The site is http://www.scuk.cz/katalog/restaurace/jihomoravsky/
For wine, you can try to drive a bit outside Brno to the winery Sonberk, very high quality, only white wines, very nice modern architecture wine house. They were also published in the New York Times recently and have won some Decanter awards :-) www.sonberk.cz
Pizza Coloseum - Dominikánská 351/3
I tried out what looked (from the outside) to be the most promising pizza joint in our neighbourhood and was quite happy with dinner. Although there are no wood fired ovens here the dough is hand tossed, the toppings fresh and the overall product very tasty. We had a well priced bottle of Chianti Ruffino with our pizzas which was a nice treat and break from the Moravian wines we have mostly been drinking. I had a "spicy" salami pizza (not the diavola) as this one listed the addition of hot peppers on the pizza, there were hot peppers just not enough for me... next time I'll ask for extra. The pizza was very good, the sauce was not too sweet and there was not so much that the crust became soggy. Although the pizza was not cooked in a wood fired oven and had no char it was well cooked and chewy but still light. My wife also enjoyed her pizza quite a bit but the toppings allude me at the moment.
All in all a very good place close to home for a quick and easy dinner out, we'll be back... often.
Hansen - Husova 534/20 (just down the street from the Best Western International and next to the Moravian art gallery)
We've been to Hansen before in the winter on previous trips to Brno and have not been disappointed, although the wine list is not as good or extensive as Borgo Agnese there is still sufficient quality and selection to keep it interesting. We've been waiting for the weather to warm up and the beer garden to open at Hansen because the courtyard where it is located is between two architecturally beautiful buildings, with a massive plane tree in the middle; to say the least a very atmospheric setting.
On Friday night, even though it was a little chilly, we did sit in the garden enjoyed a very rich and smooth (light tannin) Moravian Frankovka while we tried to decide if we should go with the special outdoor BBQ menu (hamburger, bbq'd cheese or tandoor chicken in a tortilla) or stick with the regular menu. In the end the regular menu was too tempting, we selected an order of the schnitzel with Viennese potato salad and the pepper steak with potato dauphanoise. The schnitzel here is by far the best we've ever had, the lightness and crispiness of the coating and the amazing melt in your mouth tenderness of the pork are the hallmarks of Hansen's rendition. The warm Viennese potato salad is also outstanding with a very acidic dressing and peppery water cress on top. The amount of food in this order is massive, ensure you are very hungry before ordering it. The pepper steak was good although served medium well after I ordered it medium rare, this left the steak far tougher than it needed to be. The pepper sauce was good and even had a little heat from the peppercorns and the potato daupanoise was crispy on top and buttery underneath, both good things.
Hansen is on the high end of dinning in Brno, but the service, atmosphere and food all make it worth the money. In the end it's not really very expensive when compared to other cities in the world, the dinner above worked out to $65 CDN/47 Euro/1159 CK.
I've seen on the Brnonow.com website that Hansen is going to have a farmer's market and brunch some weekends this summer, I couldn't find any info on their website but will keep my eyes and ears open for any details. If anyone has any info on this I would greatly appreciate it.
Mazany Andel - Šilingrovo náměstí 4/5 (opposite the Comsa Palace Hotel)
Once again the major problem I have here is walking through the very smoky, smoking section, to get to the small and somewhat out of the way non-smoking section. Because the non-smoking section is off on it's own the service isn't as good as I'm sure the smokers get and there is little to no ambiance in this area of the restaurant/pub.
On the upside the menu (predominantly Czech specialties) is not too huge, the specials all looked good and they pour a very nice Pilsner. I had their schnitzel which was tasty but lacked the delicate texture when compared to their neighbour down the street, Hansen. There was nothing wrong with the flavour, it simply wasn't as light, crunchy or tender when compared to Hansen... but then again the price was about half.
Now that the outdoor patio is open, and a great place to watch people heading into the Centrum on a Friday/Saturday night, we'll be back and I hope to sample more of the menu items. I'm not too keen to be stuffed into the non-smoking section again but I'm also not going to try and consume food in the smoking section.
Staroceska Restaurace - Ztracena 2, Olomouc (just off the main square behind Cafe Mahler)
The patio was jammed when we arrived on Saturday afternoon but we found a table and eventually received menus. There was no English version of the menu so we hauled out the translators on our cell phones and muddled through the pages. In the end either the translators were not working well, we didn't get what we ordered or the menu is interpreted very liberally by the chef. My wife ordered a "spicy" chicken and noodle dish and I ordered what seemed to be chicken and pork flattened with potatoes. The noodle dish had no noodles, instead it came with some sort of hockey puck shaped potato things, there was nothing spicey about the dish and the sauce was oddly/vaguely Chinese (oyster sauce mixed with something more local in my opinion). Although not quite what she expected it was a decent dish and my wife enjoyed it. On the other hand my dish was very poor. There was no pork, just two thin chicken breast slices stuffed inside a very strange potato pancake type thing and then deep fried beyond an inch of it's life. The pancake thing was very greasy and had an odd flavour I couldn't identify (not the caraway seeds) and in the end left me with an upset stomach during our visit to the Museum of the Archdiocese.
On the upside the Pilsner was cold and well poured, but if I'm back in Olomouc I'll give this place a pass.
La Patas - Cenka Ruzicky 2 (residential area due south of the Fakultni Nemocnice Brno)
Had lunch here this week at the suggestion of a collegue and it was quite good, I'm sure I'll be back as it's not far from the office. The place is primarily a pizzeria and yes, they do have a wood fired oven with enough stockpiled wood outside to keep them going for a heck of a long time. The menu is very extensive, which I'm beginning to learn is pretty typical in Brno.
I had the capricosa pizza which had a light but very tomatoey sauce, thinly shaved ham, black olives, artichoke heart leaves, mushrooms and anchovies. The crust was the highlight but I'm a sucker for a wood fired crust with no corn meal on the bottom... I like a little char around the edges. The toppings were all good, not over done and the cheese was a real mozzerella that was liberally applied to provide just enough glue to hold the toppings on. I accompanied it with a Kofola, which is an excellent local cola drink that has a very herbal quality to it. For those who've been to Malta it is very much like Kinnie but without the addition of bitter orange and while I prefer Kinnie (because of the bitter orange) Kofola is excellent.
My collegue had a Toscana steak, he seemed very happy with it and the salad that accompanied it but I was not able to ferret out what the cut of steak was... might have been sirloin.
This place is more expensive than a standard set lunch pub menu in Brno but the selection of dishes was very good, the preparation excellent and the service speedy and efficient for lunch. I'll be back so I can take my wife for a wood fired pizza.
Okruh Pub (Rybnicka 75 in Nove Liskovec)
I've been here a couple of times for lunch as it's a short walk from the office and they have a good 6 or 7 choice set menu, including soup, for 69 K. As with most pubs and unfortunately for those of us used to living in parts of the world where smoking in public places is banned, including India... yes India, the non-smoking section can only be reached after passing through the smoking section. Luckily the non-smoking section is about 3 times the size of the smoking section and they have beer taps at the table, not that I had one (or two) at lunch as I'm trying to behave myself in my new home.
The portions are not massive for lunch which is good as the selections are all traditional Czech with heavy meat, in a heavy sauce with some form of potato or dumpling on the side. I haven't had anything bad here and I believe based on the volume of lunches they serve that the locals are pretty fond of the place. It's not the best food I've ever had but there is little to complain about, except that service can get slow on a busy day... which is most days.
One nice thing for us "not yet Czech fluent" people is the website that is updated weekly with the lunch specials in English; you can pick what you want before getting there and be prepared to order without looking as foolish as normal. http://www.lunchtime.cz/okruh-pub/eng... . I imagine this website has other local pub menus translated but I haven't found another in my work area that's on here.
Koishi (Sushi) - Údolni 11
A craving for fish, and specifically raw fish, over took us this evening and we felt the need to hit the only sushi joint in Brno with a Japanese sushi chef/master. We went with the small plate options, Tokyo box (8 nigiri and 6 maki), 6 oysters, ebi tempura and lobster gyoza. We chose to sit outside in the courtyard as the inside was mostly reserved with only two tables, neither of which were ideal. The courtyard is across from the Japanese food store the restaurant runs and where we have previously bought udon noodles and instant miso soup (both of which were very good in quality).
The sushi was extremely well prepared, compact rice balls with a nice latent vinegar quality and well placed fish (salmon, toro, butterfish, ebi, mackerel, tamago, a few veg maki rolls and a salmon and tobikko roll with a bit of Japanese mayo) that made it all worth while. The ebi tempura was very light with a nice but not strong dipping sauce. The lobster gyoza were a little fancy with a foam topping and a tomato concase, but the flavour was excellent. The outstanding option was the oysters, it's been almost 2 years since it's been safe to order oysters (1.5 years in India) and these were a nice size, not too big and not too small, with a wonderful fresh and briny taste with a slightly chewy texture. The only sauces on offer were fresh lemon slices and a little soy sauce, and while I really like some fresh horseradish and/or a salty hot sauce, the lemon and soy were really fresh and complimented the oysters perfectly. Brno may be a long way from the sea/ocean but the seafood purchasers for this restaurant really know their stuff and it shows on the plate and the palate.
Koishi is not cheap by local standards but there is value for money in the quality compared to large Euro cities.
Next door, and the same owners, is Petit Cru wine store and I have finally found the wine store to meet my needs here. Their selection of premium local wines is outstanding and they have many premium selections from Germany, Austria, France and Italy as well. There is an option to taste before buying which is an awesome change from India or even back home in Canada where this is not common. Tonight we opted for a local Southern Moravian Pinot Noir rose, that had a lovely strawberry nose and a palate and finish that reminded me so much of the Pinot Noirs at home in the Canadian Okanagan. I had also wanted to try a Claret, so beautiful with just the slightest hint of pink, and we were not disappointed. Although this wine is slightly sweeter than normal, for me, the flavour was outstanding and the nose had wonderful citrus and spice qualities. I'm happy this place is only a 15 minute walk from the house and has very knowledgeable staff behind the counter, we took two bottles of the local rose and one of the claret to go after sampling and ordering a couple of glasses to sample.
For those who are interested Petit Cru and Koishi are non-smoking, which is a real treat and one I hope continues to grow in popularity here.
Great report. Keep it up. I'm sure you'll get a chance to visit the Macocha Abyss, a highlight of the region. Also nearby is Austerlitz, which represents the height of Napoleon's military acheivements, though it goes under a different name in Czech. The skansen at Rožnov pod Radhoštěm is one of the best in Europe.
My one culinary intrigue in Brno was staynig and eating at this immense business hotel (the Slavia I think). The renovation of an historic building was typical Soviet era planning: teeny tiny elevators, enormous hallways that you could drive a tank through, and tiny guest rooms.
The dinner was elegant and unremarkable. It was their attempt to be fancy. They succeeded, but not the kind of place I'd normally wind up.