Red Fish: A culinary exchange program

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 restaurant.”

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.

Red Fish
Betlémská 9, Praha 1
Tel: 222 220 716
Open Mon-Sun 11:30-24:00

Photo: Dorothea Bylica

LIMELIGHT – 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.

Jet Set
Radlická 1C, Prague 5
Tel.: 257 327 251

FARTHER AFIELD: Valašský šenk

Photo: archive

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.

Valašský šenk
Lázeňská 451, Vizovice
tel.: 577 452 652, fax: 577 454 450,
Open: Mo-Tu 10-23, Fr-Sa 10-24, Su 10-22
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Jiří Holeček,
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.: 257 324 555
Olympia, Vítězná 7, Praha 1, tel.: 251 511 080

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