Monday, 21 September 2009

Sa Sa Zu the restaurant......followed by a drink in the Buddha Bar September 2009

Prague is greatly in need to top quality restaurants and, fun places to go, after dinner, for a “glass” or two and chill out in nice surroundings.

Sadly, while efforts are being made in that direction, the City still lags miserably behind other international destinations. Perhaps it has been a victim of its own success in attracting mass tourism and being able to rely on its cheap beer and stag night image. Strange though, because the wealthier and better travelled Czechs are knowledgeable about good food and having a good time; but known of them have emerged as operators of restaurants or night-spots of any real significance and the few spots around town that justify visiting are nearly all run and owned by foreigners.

A Tuesday night is not a big night out in Prague, for either the locals or, the invading trippers, so I picked it as a good time to quietly try out the restaurant of the strangely named Sa Sa Zu . What you can tell immediately is that there is some Asian origin; but what is not known is that it apparently belongs to a large international casino group that is keen to prove that it can legitimately operate in the Czech Republic. The restaurant is coupled to fairly large and functional night-club that is fast becoming the top spot of an otherwise, lack-lustre collection of second rate discotheques. Having had a business lunch already at SSZ I was keen to test its menu for dinner with the blonde and a connaissuer of the Prague social scene, Peter K.

Arriving a few minutes before Peter and the blonde, the greeter gave me a blank look when I said that we had a reservation for three. Not sure if she ever found it, but with the restaurant being two-thirds empty she directed me to a table for four. But then I thought I would relax with a Mojito in the attractive lounge area next to the bar; perhaps I should have stopped by the bar first, as it took at least ten minutes to get the bar tender’s attention ( even though I was the only one within 20m of him ) and order. Probably he resented the intrusion into his quiet evening, as the Mojito he eventually produced tasted very much like a “virgin”. Ordering the same ,a few minutes later, Peter had the same experience. Warning the blonde about this pattern ( she has been known to down the odd Mojito, or three ) she decided to play safe and go for a glass of Tattinger. This arrived warm and flaccid; waving at the bar man he must have known that the try-on from the long-opened and warm bottle, as he was already unscrewing the top from a new bottle. Not really cold either, and at 15 Euros a small glass, one deserves better.

Moving to our table, finally left the remains of my unfinished Mojito and ordered a palatable bottle of Cotes de Rhone 2005. A little trick I use in ordering at unfamiliar restaurants, is to always select a French or Italian vintage from 2005. This was an outstanding year and rarely disappoints. This one admirably took over from the Virgin-like Mojito and warmed my palate well for the meal.
I decided against a starter as reading ( Prague restaurant reviewer ) Curtis Wong’s praise of the Beef and Prawn Curry in his latest review, I decided to hold back until savouring that delight. The blonde however, opted for a soup which arrived in a miniscule bowl and proved too hot for her taste; Peter battled with a couple of non-descript starters but seemed relatively happy.

Finally my curry arrived, also in a small bowl with an even smaller bowl of steamed rice. The rice was perfect but I wish there had been more of it; the curry was well spiced but otherwise not especially memorable. I guess Curtis had been trying to find something kind to say about SSZ, when he wrote it up, in case he ever wanted to go back there !

Declining deserts we settled a reasonable bill and decided to give Buddha Bar a chance to show its after dinner capabilities. Being almost the only people there, apart from some trippers dining in the cavernous and completely wasted lower ground floor, it was a slightly disheartening experience. But at least the music is good (which is more than can be said for that in SSZ which was a mélange of old and new tracks more suited a TGF operation, an Asian “Fusion” joint with pretences to sophistication.) With no other patrons in sight, we contended ourselves with views on where the unfortunate tables of trippers, in the restaurant below may have come from. Peter thought, perhaps the US, the blonde patriotically plumped for Russia and I suggested Essex ( no personal connection, I assure you ). But the truth remains a mystery as the music drowned out their conversation and the only thing that is sure, that they were not well informed denizens of Prague who have long since decided wisely to give the restaurant at the BB, a wide berth.

Coming out of BB, I broke my golden rule of calling AAA to get me home. The balding security man ushered us towards a “cab” and feeling generous I slipped him 100 CZK as he kindly held the door open for the blonde to hop in. I want to go back to collect that 100CK as the final fare came to about three times the AAA rate; I paid up with a disgruntled muttering about handing the driver’s receipt chit to Prague Mayor Pavel Bem in the morning….I wish !!

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