Surprise on the square
Como serves outstanding fare in an unlikely location
Posted: November 25, 2009
Como lives up to the past of its locale with modern twists on a grand scale.
Restaurants on Wenceslas Square are typically tourist traps, and it's de rigueur for a chic-looking eatery in one of the city's best-known hotels to be overpriced. But Como in the historic Hotel Jalta proves such assumptions wrong. The Mediterranean restaurant and café does justice to its inviting location with a classy-yet-modern setup and an innovative menu that infuse Prague's dining scene with a serious dose of hipness.
High windows at the front, overlooking the square, make Como perfect for people-watching. Vaulted ceilings and a grand staircase hark back to a grand past, and sleek tables, ruched burgundy wall curtains and low, muted banquettes create a club feel - a sensation further emphasized by mellow house beats and a circular area at the back that looks as though it could open into a dance floor at the wink of a waiter. And, with live music every night starting at 8 p.m., it just might.
Such an atmosphere, however, would count for little if it weren't for the solid performance in the kitchen. Como's staff lives up to the lively Mediterranean genre, tossing fresh seafood, vegetables and spices into an array of dishes that stands out from the madding crowd of mediocrity.
Como offers a range of tempting tapas, but the regular menu is where it excels. The slow-roasted leg of lamb is exactly that; though, curiously, it's listed under Czech specialties. One can only wish the young meat was featured more regularly in local pubs and restaurants, especially of a quality like this cut. Como serves up 350 grams of tender lamb easing off the bone at a knife's hint, served with a gravy of juices moating past just-right mashed potatoes and purposely wilted spinach. Likewise, the veal saltimbocca comes with an excellent gravy and mash, and the rosemary infusing the cutlets contrasts nicely with the Parma ham wrapped around them.
Václavské nám. 45, Prague 1-New Town
Tel. 222 247 240
Open daily 6:30 a.m.-1 a.m.
Fried shrimp tapas (2 pcs) 70 Kč
Slow-roasted leg of lamb 395 Kč
Veal saltimbocca 320 Kč
Salad Nicoise with seared tuna 220 Kč
Gnocchi with salmon, basil and tomato 265 Kč
Panna cotta 120 Kč
0.5 L Pilsner 69 Kč
Seafood features prominently on the menu, and Como doesn't hold back on the good stuff. Paella brims over with langoustines and scallops; a creamy gnocchi with salmon, basil and tomato gives a balanced amount of salmon per dumpling bite; and a Nicoise salad has a steak's worth of seared tuna shaved on top of fresh, tart rucola, green beans and eggs. The prices may seem high to some, but they are entirely justified by the size of the servings.
Como is also, as one would hope for a restaurant purporting to be Mediterranean, confident with its pasta. A spaghetti carbonara lunch special for 135 Kč, for example, was a perfect comfort-food dish of al dente pasta, Parmesan and light seasoning, and proved more than enough for one person.
It's hard not to fill up on other courses, but desserts are also a hit, especially the panna cotta, where fresh strawberries swim in a deep-red, strawberry sauce next to the glace mould, a treat finished all too easily.
The wine list is also surprisingly impressive for the location; a good bottle of Czech Riesling can be had for 450 Kč. A modern, metal-and-glass display of the wines spans part of one wall, adding an interesting, almost post-office-looking twist to the design. Wines are also available by the glass, though not listed on the menu that way.
Servers are polite and efficient, with one whisking away courses while another refills glasses, all with a professional demeanor that, while vaguely detached, is befitting of a place where tourists break for coffee, hotel patrons eat breakfast or relax after a day's pavement-pounding, and local office workers stop in for lunch specials.
There are few spots more trafficked in all of Prague than Wenceslas Square. There are also a notorious number of places there that seek to lure hapless tourists with promises that won't be kept. Como, however, is not one of those, and it's worth escaping from the hordes to have a quick lunch - or while away an evening - at the Hotel Jalta.
Fiona Gaze can be reached at
Tags: Fiona Gaze, restaurant review, Como, Mediterranean, Wenceslas Square, food.
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