Coda: Harmony of the senses
Written by: Jasmina Žarković
Photo: Dorothea Bylica
Exciting tastes, soothing sounds, alluring flavors – the new Coda restaurant will no doubt engage all of your senses.
The simple, pellucid interior, constantly suffused with the music of various styles and eras – these are the main attributes of the hotel Aria and its new restaurant Coda. Neither the hotel nor the restaurant intend to compete with large-capacity international chains in terms of size (the restaurant seats only 40), but in terms of the menu offered and unique decor it represents a gauntlet thrown down for the current fixed stars in the Prague dining galaxy.
Coda is run by the well-known Prague restaurateur Nils Jebens, a Norwegian who has been living in Prague for almost ten years and enjoys no dearth of publicity. Epicureans know him mainly as the owner of great restaurants: the luxurious Kampa Park, Square – Malostranská kavárna, Hergetova cihelna, and the Bratislava-based venue Le Monde. Each of his establishments is conceived in a different way and focuses on a different sort of clientele. Coda is the fifth off-shoot of Jebens’s chain, and it stands out from the rest. “The atmosphere here is entirely different, not least in that people don’t come to this restaurant to be seen or to dance, but rather to have lunch with business partners,” Jebens says, adding that, like the hotel as a whole, the restaurant is designed mainly for international clients – executives and diplomats.
This is borne out by its sedate, unpretentious, but comfortable interior from the studio of the Italian architects Rocco Manoli and Lorenzo Carmellini, who are renowned in particular for their work with the legendary fashion designer Gianni Versace. “I wanted to create a restaurant the likes of which Prague had never seen,” Jebens says, not concealing his ambitions to receive three stars from Michelin, gastronomy’s highest award. Thus far, no Czech restaurant can boast of receiving this honor. The Alcron restaurant in the Radisson SAS hotel came the closest in 2002, when it was included on the list in the Michelin Red Guide. The restaurant’s special features include a roof terrace that seats fifty, offering a magical view of the roofs and gardens of the Malá Strana.
Just as “coda” means an addition at the end of a musical composition, the restaurant Coda, with its culinary specialties, is an ideal adjunct to the hotel, where music rules. Just take a look at the menu, which, while not overly extensive, will appeal to even the most demanding gourmets thanks to its creative selections. From the first glance at the appetizers it’s clear that quality supercedes quantity – hence the torchon of foie gras with Sauterne jelly, Iranian caviar chilled on ice, or grilled octopus with eggplant-tomato compote. Choosing the main course is a concert in itself. Jebens himself unreservedly recommends the fish specialties, for which all of his restaurants are renowned. His favorite is devil fish with a ragout of linguini and cherrystone sauce. Also high on the list is the grilled Chilean sea-dog with risotto of king crab, spinach, brown mushrooms, and lobster mousse.
Another Coda specialty is the quick-roasted deer saddle with mashed sweet potatoes and Burgundy sauce. If you prefer mutton, try the lamb cutlet with potato and bacon paté. Coda has choices for vegetarians too, like the grilled seasonal vegetables with Jerusalem artichoke mousse or pappardelle with wild mushrooms and rucola with pecorino cheese. The dessert menu is also hefty – and not just in calories. Cardamon cre`me brulée with caramel crust with wild fruit, white chocolate soufflé with mocha ice cream or heisse liebe – warm, vodka-soaked raspberries with home-made vanilla ice cream – are a few of the sensuous options.
Besides excellent Czech wines from Valtice, the list at Coda includes the very best from France, Spain, Italy, Chile, Argentina, the US, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand. The oldest vintage on the list is a red French Bordeaux – Cha^teau Lafite-Rothschild Premier cru, Pauillac, 1982. If you’re in unfamiliar territory, the pleasant staff will help you choose an appropriate bottle for your meal.
The main culprits behind this resourceful menu are chef Marek Radič and his team. In 1992 Radič took third place in the Young Chefs Olympics, and he came to Prague with experience gleaned in restaurants in Copenhagen (Kong Hans, Etcetera, Capo, and St. Giorgio) and New York (Nobu, Café Boulud, and Mercer Kitchen).
Hotel Aria, Tržiště 9, Praha 1
tel.: 225 334 790-1
AMEX, Visa, MC/EC, Diners Club
FARTHER AFIELD: Pod Dračí skálou
Photo by: Dorothea Bylica
If you visit the Karlštejn area in this brisk season, be sure not to miss the restaurant Pod Dračí skálou. Its location right below the castle makes for a quite romantic environment, and the interiors are so cozy you won’t want to go back out into the cold. The walls are bedecked with hunting trophies, flames dance in the fireplace, and the delightful aromas of cooking waft from the kitchen. This establishment’s great reputation has spread far and wide thanks to its wild game specialties. As autumn gives way to winter, the owners even organize a game feast. Although the menu is weighted towards meat entrées, vegetarian dishes here are also tasty. The restaurant seats 120, service is attentive and prompt, and the waitpersons speak foreign languages. Incidentally, the popular singer Helena Vondráčková held her wedding reception here in summer 2002, so large groups are obviously no problem. Dinners generally cost CZK 200 and up.
Pod Dračí skálou
Karlštejn 130, tel./fax: 311 681 177; Mon-Sat 11-23, Sun 11-20
How to get there:
Highway to Plzeň, exit 10 to Loděnice, and then right to Mokřina where you will see the restaurant signs. Or walk from the parking area at Karlštejn to the castle, and turn left at the little square.
|Photo by: Pavel Veselý|
“My favorite Prague restaurant is Petřínské terasy. I must add that the main reason isn’t the food, which I like very much, but the absolutely glorious views of the world’s most beautiful city. I almost always order poultry, fish, or pasta. From their wine list I usually go for a fine red, such as a Cabernet Sauvignon from Chile. And I have a nostalgic memory of Petřínské terasy – it was there that Tipsport celebrated its tenth anniversary, with the American track star Michael Johnson in attendance. He too was fascinated by the atmosphere of a May evening on the terraces of Petřín. I can recommend this restaurant in the spring or summer to everyone, but especially to lovers.”
Petřínské terasy, Seminářská zahrada 13, tel.: 290 000 457