Brno, CZ and area
- vanderb May 11, 2011 05:22 AM
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.
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.
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.
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.
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...
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
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.