Written by: John Letzing
Photo by: Dorothea Bylica
The original Kogo was hailed as one of the first local Italian eateries to properly present bella cucina. But when a second Kogo opened – in a shopping mall, no less – some observers were skeptical.
Two years after Kogo Slovanský dům’s opening, most fears have been assuaged. This has something to do with the fact that Slovanský dům is a more subdued, successfully urbanized version of a shopping mall. But also, quite simply, the restaurant employs a triumphant use of space, somehow managing to cleanly sever the dining room from both the mall and the attached café, which serves a full menu but is allotted for diners only popping in briefly before visiting the adjacent cinema. Some die-hards, however, claim eternal fealty to the old Kogo location on Havelská street. Alas, in a city fast succumbing to worst-of-western culture shopping mall drudgery, a certain reluctance is entirely understandable.
Jovo Savič, Kogo’s co-owner/ operator, is a big, garrulous native of Sarajevo, with slightly graying hair, a youthful gait and beaming brown eyes. Savič opened the first Kogo some eight years ago and, when it came time to consider expansion six years later, much of his vision hinged upon finding that rarest of treasures: centrally located, wide-open green space. Now, glancing out across Kogo Slovanský dům’s sweeping outdoor patio on a particularly sunny day, he cannot resist grinning; “Fantastic,” he says. True enough, the patio here defies the limitations that would seem to have been imposed by being anchored between the National Bank, a mall and an office complex; it is leafy, sunny and, even late-morning on a Tuesday, very quiet. Says Savič: “no cars, no trams, nothing.”
This spirited restaurateur has another reason to grin: Kogo’s Slovanský dům location is now doing a much brisker business than the original. A greater capacity – some 700 seats – may help explain, as does the more accessible location (yes, part of the charm of old Kogo was being virtually buried under a gloomy church, but it was nonetheless hidden from potential walk-ins). In fact, Kogo as a whole is doing so well that another installment is on the way. A new location is due to open any day now in Charles Square Center, the glass-and-steel monolith adjacent to Karlovo náměstí in Prague.
At all Kogo locations, one will find the same menu. It is big, and as given to simple pleasures such as a wonderful caprese salad with properly bulky mounds of mozzarella, as it is to things slightly more involved; a plate of grilled swordfish or dover sole, for example, or a pizza topped with mussels, calamari and shrimp. The menu veers generously toward both carnivore and leaf-eater predilections, with anything from a risotto with porcini mushrooms to roasted veal. Also, and this is the key to much of Kogo’s success to date, the pasta is made fresh here daily, and served al dente (Savič admits, when pressed, that he personally can’t live without the spaghetti frutti di mare).
There is no executive chef here. Rather, Savič helms the kitchen. “I run the waiters, the kitchen, everything,” he boasts, adding that up until a couple of years ago he was also doing a lot of the cooking. In fact, his energy seems boundless; he even talks about expanding across the ocean and opening a restaurant in San Francisco. It’s difficult to discern if this merely playful bluster – he is, however, going to San Francisco in July to scout locations. Perhaps there, as here, his Balkan hospitality and culinary skills will serve as more than fair stand-in for the Italian variety. Who needs real Italians anyway, when we have a Mr. Savič around.
Kogo Slovanský dům,
Na Příkopě 22,
Praha 1 · Tel: 221 451 260
Open daily 11:00- 24:00
CC: Visa, MC, AmEx
FARTHER AFIELD: Hraniční zámeček
Photo by: Archiv
If your summer travels bring you to southern Moravia, make a bee-line for the Hraniční zámeček hotel and restaurant complex in the Lednice-Valtice area. The castle was originally the summer seat of the Lichtenstein family, which built it at the beginning of the 19th century. It was so named because a little stream passed through it, and still does, and this stream in earlier times created the border between Moravia and Austria. However, today a stylish restaurant and café are located here. Under the vaulted ceilings and murals you can enjoy specialties of both Czech and global cuisine. But on a hot summer day, most people will appreciate the large terrace, which seats twice as many as does the restaurant itself (120). On Friday and Saturday evenings, guests can dance to live music, which is rather unusual to find in eateries these days. Thanks to the lovely countryside and many historical landmarks in the area, Hraniční zámeček is also a nice place to spend a summer weekend.
Hlohovec č. 70
Open: Sun-Thu 7:00-23:00, Fri-Sat 7:00-02:00
MC, Maestro, Visa
|Photo by: Archiv
Vladimíra Pavlíčková, Facility & Sales Manager, Honeywell
“I definitely prefer eating to cooking, and love Italian, Thai, Japanese, and Korean cuisine. I like many places in Prague, but Hanil has a special flair for me. I usually set up my personal plate of sashimi and drink sake with it. Their Korean dishes are genuine and wonderful…but you have to be patient with the personnel. My other tip is a cosy Italian place – Da Emanuel, which offers both fish and meat menus. Here I really feel spoiled for choice, as all the dishes are as tasty as they sound. My favorites are seabass in salt, grilled calamari and pasta. The restaurant is run by an Italian, and the staff is very helpful and always smiling.”
Hanil, Slavíkova 24, Praha 3, tel./fax: 222 715 867
Da Emanuel, Charlese de Gaulla 4, Praha 6, tel: 224 312 934