Red Fish: A culinary exchange program
Written by: Tim Gosling
Photo: Dorothea Bylica
As the world gets smaller, some are actively pushing to introduce
us to the rest of our planet. The manager of Red Fish takes the
long route: circumnavigating the globe counter-clockwise from Japan,
through the US to Betlémská in Prague 1.
Jan Špinler - chef
Alternatively, one could simply view Klára Roz-porková as a passionate
lover of food that likes nothing better than to share her enthusiasm
with her fellow Czechs.
Rozporková has been a matron of the Prague dining scene for some
years. She was the manager of La Provence and Bazaar restaurants
before opening Barfly in 1998. The floods of 2002 dampened her
plans for this small cellar offering international cuisine; but
while surveying the damage she was dazzled by the unoccupied space
next door, which happened to be the property of Trocadéro, a venue
owned by a friend.
Indeed it's hard not to be impressed by the clean, minimalist set
of angled, high-ceilinged chambers. Bold red walls, punctuated
with distinctive glass light-fittings, save it from feeling barren
or sterile, and the entire presentation is viewed through acres
of glass that flood the rooms with light, illuminating Bořek Šípek's
design. "The owner didn't want to rent it to anyone as he
feared they would ruin the design," explains Rozporková. "But
I didn't want to change it. I think it's perfect for a Japanese
A straight-talking lady, Rozporková's drive is evident throughout
the restaurant. Her sister, returned from living in the US, introduced
Rozporková to the alien landscapes of Japanese cuisine at family
get-togethers. She became instantly hooked on the exotic flavors
and colors. "I found out that it was fun and very healthy",
the restaurateur says, recalling how she began to explore this
novel terrain, attending seminars at the Japanese embassy and hunting
recipes and ingredients feverishly.
When delivered by efficient and friendly Czech waiters dressed in
bright orange, even such authenticity tends to have a strong influence
from the west. Being wary of culture shock, Rozporková suggests that
there are dishes the European palate may balk at if imported directly
from the East. Raw chicken livers and stomachs may have a fairly
close biological relationship with roast duck, but the culinary gap
is more like a chasm. A Czech chef, trained in Prague by Japanese
masters, works alongside Rozporková on the constantly evolving menu.
Czechs make up around three-quarters of her customers, and those
new to Japanese food are coaxed gently into discovering its delights,
the owner personally overseeing their initiation.
Both green-gilled novices and seasoned swallowers of exotic raw seafood
could do worse than tuck into one of the green salads at Red Fish.
A bit boring in a Japanese restaurant? Not with the sweet and zesty
acrobatic dressing that rockets these offerings towards the sublime
- a secret recipe that the chef had to steal during his training.
Rozporková is also keen to point out the Japanese cuisine does not
stop at sushi or sashimi, as much as she loves them. Warm dishes
give her more room for experimentation, although the succulent medallions
of Salmon Teriyaki remind one that sometimes things can be perfect
just as they are.
To whet the whistle, the owner notes that Japanese customers drink
beer, while Czechs often select a white varietal from the range of
French and New World wines on offer. Not surprisingly, teas are also
popular: Genmaiche, a subtle and refreshing green tea has the added
fortification of fried rice. The flavors entwine intriguingly, assailing
one another over the horizons of a shrinking world. "Czech tastes
have changed," Rozporková continues. "Friends would say
'I won't eat rice; I like my dumplings.' Then I persuade them to
come and try this food, and they like it."
Bring on the raw fish livers? Not quite yet.
Betlémská 9, Praha 1
Tel: 222 220 716
Open Mon-Sun 11:30-24:00
Photo: Dorothea Bylica
- Prepared for take-off
WHILE THE FUTURISTIC
décor implies yet another local bar going for style
over substance, certain extras - like wall-size
video projections and an impressive array of cocktails
- allows Jet Set to cruise ahead of the pack. More
importantly, the selection and quality of food
is arguably the best in Anděl. From the ciabatta
pork sandwich and spinach salad with chicken to
the calamari risotto and chocolate cake with lime
sauce, the menu here offers salvation to local
workers and movie-goers alike.
Radlická 1C, Prague 5
Tel.: 257 327 251
FARTHER AFIELD: Valašský
Tucked away under a hill at the edge of Vizovice, a historical
town of 5,000 just east of Zlín, sits a country inn that's been
a stopping point for hikers, bikers and, in winter, cross-country
skiers for many years. Besides food, beer and spirits, Valašský
šenk offers visitors accommodation, traditional bowling and an
outdoor swimming pool. But food and drink may be the biggest draw,
and as slivovice has made Vizovice famous, there's no shortage
of vintage plum brandies made in the local Jelínek distillery.
On the menu, as in the decor, the Wallachian kingdom rules. Some
local favorites are Valašský cop (three kinds of meat braided together
and served with creamy sauce), Hryzikůrka - a bread bowl filled
with beans, sausage and bacon, as well as halušky with brynza (sheep
cheese). After such a hearty meal, diners often choose to explore
the surrounding hills and countryside, or take a 10-minute walk
to the town center and its 18th-century chateau.
Lázeňská 451, Vizovice
tel.: 577 452 652, fax: 577 454 450
Open: Mo-Tu 10-23, Fr-Sa 10-24, Su 10-22
main credit cards
general director, Zapf Creation
"I live and work at Prague 5, so my choice of restaurants
tends to be in this area. One very good kitchen is at Barabizna,
a Mexican restaurant where I like to order tortillas and steak
tartar. Unfortunately, the service is not that great. On the other
hand, at Old Athens they manage both. My favorite dishes there
are chicken soup with lemon juice, and leg of lamb with mashed
potatoes. Strongly recommended! If I crave Czech specialities,
such as rosted duck or white pudding to go with beer, I visit Olympia.
All of these are suitable for both private and business dinners."
Barabizna, Pod Špitálem 363, Praha 5, tel.: 257 921 362
Old Athens, OC Nový Smíchov, Plzeňská 8, Praha 5, tel.: 257 324
Olympia, Vítězná 7, Praha 1, tel.: 251 511 080