Crystal unveils new menu
Eatery near Old Town Square blends French and world cuisine
Posted: October 16, 2013
The touristy center has no shortage of restaurants trying to find a particular niche, and it isn't easy to be original. Crystal, a few blocks from Old Town Square, opened about four months ago and just launched a new menu with French inspired treats such as escargot along side some solid main courses including beef shoulder, lamb shank and Alaskan salmon. To top these off there are few playful desserts.
The venue itself tries to have a sense of style without looking like a theme restaurant. The overall effect is that of a classy lounge in a 1950s or '60s widescreen film. A framed pop-art poster of Marilyn Monroe by Andy Warhol has place of prominence on a central violet pillar that also sports a working gas-flamed fireplace and a bottle of Cognac engraved with the venue's name. The upholstered chairs, glass tables, pillows on the couches that line the walls and even the sleek scimitar-like steak knives all work together to create a unified space. The loungy jazz music over the PA system reminded you that you were there to relax for a while. Some nights reportedly feature live music.
Another Warhol-style print shows a several Heineken bottle caps, and indeed the restaurant does have that Dutch beer on tap, and Corona and Guinness in bottles. Oddly, there is no Czech beer, but the bar part of the restaurant presents itself as a cocktail bar, and the place isn't looking for beer-party tourists. The wine list does have some Czech offerings, starting at 350 Kč per bottle.
Chef Miroslav Vykysalý formerly worked for Bellevue, Villa Richter and Café Savoy, and he brought a sense of style to the menu. He also pointed out in a press release that the restaurant uses fresh ingredients sourced from Czech farmers that have long traditions. "Fresh, high-quality ingredients are the most important thing in cuisine," he said.
V Kolkovně 7, Prague 1-Old Town
Sun.-Tue. 11:00-midnight; Wed. -Thu. 11:00-1:00; Fri.-Sat. 11:00-2:00
Mild chestnut cream soup 105 Kč
Czech dill soup with quail eggs 95 Kč
Caesar salad 195 Kč
Steamed beef shoulder with potatoes and vegetables 340 Kč
Alaska salmon with lemon grass and ginger sauce, sides, 340 Kč
Beef onglet steak with sides, 380 Kč
Lava cake with white chocolate, ice creamand sprinkles 125 Kč
Ambiance 4 ½ *
For the area, the prices are fairly reasonable, ranging from a vegetarian salad for 165 Kč and a Caesar salad with chicken or shrimp for 195 Kč up to a beef onglet steak with potatoes and mushroom sauce that goes for 380 Kč.
The Prague Post decided to check the new menu out. While escargot featuring six snails in garlic butter at 205 Kč sounded nice, and another appetizer promising salmon and tuna tartare patties with wasabi mayonnaise and flying fish caviar for 210 Kč also sang its siren song, we chose to skip the Scylla and Charybdis of soup and appetizers and sail straight to business with a main course.
The roast duck breast for 330 Kč stood out from the list, even though it was the least expensive. While it is a traditional Czech dish when served with red cabbage, this menu promises a new spin. The side dish was listed as caramelized wallflower, along with celery and fennel puree and cherry sauce.
The presentation was quite eye-pleasing, with two thick slices of duck topped with the wallflower - apparently another name for endive - sitting in red cherry sauce and the off-white puree.
The duck was a bit rare in the center, but the skin was crispy and it cut easily. The puree had a flavor reminiscent of tahini, while the cherry sauce was tangily sour and included three whole cherries. The endive also added a hint of bitterness that was sweetened by the caramelization. Duck can sometimes be a heavy meal, but the choice of sauces and vegetable kept it fairly light.
Having passed on the starters, we decided to indulge in dessert, which proved to be a good strategy. The three options included lava cake, strawberry cappuccino and sea buckthorn tart. We chose the latter, intrigued by the idea that it came in milk sauce with a cotton candy top.
When it arrived, the white cotton candy stood up like a wig, making it look a bit like Albert Einstein having a bad hair day. The cotton candy was at first a bit hard to deal with using a knife and fork, but it eventually dissolved in the milk sauce. The cube of cake, not exactly a the tart we had envisioned, was warm and offered an atypical fruit flavor that went well with a cappuccino.
The restaurant also offers a weekly list of lunch specials. The week we were there the list included a spinach soup with gorgonzola for 55 Kč, roast beef with semolina custard for 139 Kč and poached perch with vegetables for 149 Kč. Not bad prices for the area.
While a lot of effort went into the details - extending all the way to citrus fruit slices in the urinals and complimentary hair gel by the seashell-and-pebble-filled men's room sink - one odd note was heavy-duty paper napkins instead of cloth ones. Perhaps this is a new trend, but it seemed a bit out of place.
Raymond Johnston can be reached at