Vegetarian food for all
Presentation sometimes scores better than the meal itself
Posted: October 2, 2013
By now we should all know that vegetarian food doesn't have to mean bland lettuce and raw carrots. Even in a traditionally meat-heavy city like Prague, vegetarian food has shown its many incarnations and managed to nudge its way into the restaurant mainstream.
Tucked away in the tiny streets behind Národni třída, Estrella is a place that you could walk past a million times before actually realizing it's there, and lo and behold, it's a vegetarian restaurant.
Sure, some will be more excited about that prospect than others. However, the good news is that Estrella's small but well thought-out menu is flavorful and varied enough to satisfy a wide bunch, from vegans to meat-eaters.
The tagliatelle (155 Kč), for example, contains chunky slices of tempeh, which almost trick you into thinking they're meat. Combined with the crumbled ricotta, arugula and sun-dried tomatoes, it is a satisfying meal.
Tel. 777 431 344
Cream of green pea soup with mint and almonds 55 Kč
Carpaccio of marinate beetroot with goat cheese and pine nuts 78 Kč
Quinoa Estrella (Chilean goosefoot seeds with dried tomatoes, lime and fresh cilantro, mesclun salad and roasted almonds) 148 Kč
Carrot cake with chocolate sauce, nuts, cranberries and crème fraîche 55 Kč
The quesadilla (145 Kč) has become a mainstay of vegetarian eating in Prague, and it is a decent choice here too, though it's not as creative as some other ones in town. Prying apart the slightly soggy tortilla, you can find cheese, tomato and zucchini inside. Served on the side is a rather small portion of salsa and sour cream as well as some lettuce.
A more interesting option is the "quinoa Estrella," (148 Kč) with Chilean goosefoot seeds, dried tomatoes, lime, cilantro, mesclun salad and roasted almonds. You could argue that reading the list of ingredients tastes better on the tongue than the actual dish, which despite being light and fresh falls just short of being stunning. The inclusion of thin rice pancakes is a slightly odd touch that doesn't do much for the flavor, though it looks appealing.
The pea soup with mint and almonds (55 Kč) is also an intriguing choice. It was a delightful bright green color, frothy and light, and not too salty. The almonds were a nice addition, but the mint flavor was indiscernible, which is a shame.
One ingredient Estrella doesn't skimp you on is beets. They have perfected how to slice the root very thinly, for example in their beetroot carpaccio with goat cheese and pine nuts (78 Kč), or their beetroot salad with arugula, spinach and walnuts (98 Kč). They are hard to beat.
During the week at lunchtime, Estrella offers a daily menu comprised of a soup and a main, usually 45 and 108 Kč respectively.
On one lunch visit, the offering was a tomato soup with quinoa along with a skewer of roasted tofu and vegetables, served with a side of turnip puree and a small salad. This soup was also not over-salted and triumphed in achieving a happy balance between the stewed vegetables, quinoa and broth. The main course was also very well cooked, with the mashed turnips, mixed with just a hint of carrot, providing a tasty and original side.
The dessert of the day, a home-made tiramisu, was sold out, but the moist carrot cake with a crème fraîche filling offered instead made a perfect ending to the lunch.
The daily menu for the week can be checked on Estrella's Facebook page.
Where you can't fault Estrella one bit is for their presentation. All dishes are artfully arranged, which sometimes can magically make all the difference in how it actually ends up tasting.
For drinks, Estrella has several types of wine and Kocour beer available, and of course no vegetarian restaurant would be complete without homemade lemonades and teas. Just be careful with the homemade ginger lemonade: though it's delicious, the pile of ginger shavings at the bottom of the glass can create a conundrum when shaken up. Filtering the ginger bits through our teeth didn't prove to be effective.
Unlike the food, the design and ambiance errs more on the side of unpretentious simplicity than well-planned style. The furniture and decorations are humble and homey, a perfect backdrop for a casual lunch or dinner. Over the murmur of voices you may also hear some variety of atmospheric music being played, which fits the vibe.
The service was consistently friendly and could accommodate English speakers. Given the small size of the restaurant, the service was also sufficiently speedy.
All things considered, Estrella is a viable contender in Prague's flourishing vegetarian scene, impressing with food for herbivores and carnivores alike.
Jennifer Day can be reached at