Šípek Bistrot: A jumble of tastes, aromas, colors, and shapes

Šípek Bistrot: A jumble of tastes, aromas, colors, and shapes

Šípek Bistrot is a modern, casual establishment where informality and experimentation go hand-in-hand with high quality. In spite of the casual atmosphere, the venue is both a gourmet’s paradise and a designer’s dream.

Just a few steps from Old Town Square and the Rudolfinum, you’ll find the latest endeavor of aesthete, hedonist, and artist Bořek Šípek. Six months ago, he opened a French restaurant right next to his well established Thai restaurant, Arzenal. The new restaurant’s uniqueness lies in that everything you see and touch was made by the owner, with the exception of two photographs in a place of honor in the salon, which are the work of photographer Jan Saudek, a loyal friend and admirer of Šípek. “As far as I know this is the first designer restaurant in Prague,” says Šípek, who is responsible for the tables, chairs, utensils, and the glass ham that hangs above the bar as a decoration. Not to mention accents on the doors to the men’s and ladies’ WC – you should see them for yourself.
Guests don’t know whether to look at the remarkably curved candle holders or the unusual dinner ware, or to watch the frantic bustle in the kitchen, which is partitioned off by only a glass wall. “It’s really amazing,” laughs Mirek Kalina, the chef, who is fully at ease with Šípek’s unconventionality. Even his hiring was unusual. Šípek took Kalina to his cottage in Lindava, gave him a wild duck and three other kinds of meat, and said, “Cook.” Kalina, who garnered experience from the sole Czech holder of a Michelin award, Pavel Pospíšil, passed the test with flying colors. Now he can show off his skills every day. “True, we say that Bistrot Šípek is a French restaurant, but in fact it features new European cuisine, based on French recipes. We’re different from other similar restaurants by striving for
a slightly avant-garde spirit, an experiment of sorts,” explains Kalina. The menu includes traditional appetizers like escargot `a la Burgundy or shrimp cocktail with avocado mousse, but it also features veal sweetbreads in a mushroom fricassée, or goose foie gras in a roasted chestnut soup.

The choice of main courses is intentionally limited to five or six, guaranteeing that the ingredients are absolutely fresh. Seasonal cuisine predominates – light dishes in the summer and game in the autumn. Fish and poultry are offered daily. The pre-Christmas mood will certainly be complemented by the excellent roasted venison haunch with celery purée, or wild rabbit in goose liver sauce, the most recent experiment. You can top off your feast with an assortment of European cheeses or curd cake with mascarpone and fresh fruit. Šípek and Kalina intend to broaden the relatively limited choice of salads, while the wine list needs no supplement, as it presently includes excellent European wines, mainly from France.
The clientele of this restaurant, which seats 40, is diverse – ranging from ministers, senators, and diplomats to businessmen, foreigners, and young locals. “You can come here in a suit or in jeans; we’re a casual restaurant,” notes Kalina, and Šípek adds that Šípek Bistrot attracts not only people who appreciate fine food, but also those who want a cultural experience. Under the restaurant is the Suterén pod Šípkem club, which hosts regular talk shows featuring Eugen Brikcius and guests such as Jan Hřebejk, Antonín Panenka, Jan Saudek, and former president Václav Havel. “It seems that a community of like-minded people comes here regularly – actors, artists, musicians. A club atmosphere is starting to develop,” Šípek says happily. In his role of club guru and restaurateur, he feels entirely at home. He’s had a passion for cooking since he was five, when he and his father organized men’s parties around the stove on Sundays.
Who is his ideal guest? “A big spender, for sure!” laughs Šípek, and Kalina adds, “A guest who comes in a good mood, understands food, takes advice, and is frank and solvent!”

Šípek Bistrot
Valentinská 9, Praha 1
tel.: 222 323 948, 775 155 505
bistrot@sipekbistrot.com · www.sipekbistrot.com
Open daily except Sunday, 11:00 am to 11:00 pm
All cards except Diners’ Club accepted.

Photo: Dorothea Bylica

LIMELIGHT: Rounding up the steers

Czechs have always liked good meat, so it’s amazing that classic steakhouses were long neglected on the local catering scene. There are precious few in Prague, and you rarely hear of any besides Ambiente Brasileiro and the now legendary Kozička. But you’ll definitely be hearing about the newly opened Cowboys.

IT’S ALREADY a custom for Kampa Group to come up with something new almost every year and create a stir among local gourmets. As 2005 draws to a close, the group has just introduced its latest novelty. The well established Bazaar at the very top of Nerudova street has been completely reconstructed and taken on a completely new appearance, concept, and name. The name “Cowboys Steaks & Cocktails” suggests that it’s a restaurant in the American spirit: booth seating covered with Argentinian cowhide, a funky bar with screens carrying the latest sports events, DJ performances on the weekends, informal staff in cowboy hats. “Czechs like steaks, but I don’t think you can find a really good steakhouse in Prague. So I decided to open one,” says Nils Jebens, Kampa group’s owner.
What does he think a “really good steakhouse” is? An extensive choice of the highest quality cuts of beef from the US, Argentina, Brazil, Uraguay, and the Czech Republic, plus more than ten kinds of vegetables, and at least as many sauces and side dishes. The ubiquitous Czech Pilsner Urquell is joined by Miller Beer from America, while a well-arranged wine list features heavy reds like Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, and Merlot, from classic regions like Italy and France, but also from the sunny slopes of Chile, Argentina, the US, South Africa, and Australia. In fact, the restaurant’s interior is dominated by an imposing wine rack that reaches to the top of the brick vault.
Above all, Cowboys is a place to go for a good time. “The prices are moderate, so almost anyone should be able to afford to dine here,” explains Jebens. “The booths are ideal for larger groups, and they enhance conversation,” he adds, pointing out that the bar should be the vibrant heart of the restaurant, pumped up by rock and roll like that of U2 or Guns ‘n’ Roses. What’s more, guests who really take the atmosphere to heart can buy cowboy hats, belts, and even boots.

COWBOYS STEAKS & COCKTAILS, Nerudova 40, Praha 1, tel.: 800-1-52672

Klára Smolová






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