Saturday, May 7, 2011

A Friday night food experience

Last night had a lot of things happening - an art opening, a beer tasting party that turned in to a Czech/Slovak world hockey watching event and then an opening party for a festival. Surprisingly and unexpectedly I found time for dinner with a good friend - we left the art opening and took a walk towards Stare Mesto from Mala Strana and found ourselves at Lokal just next to the Charles Bridge. It's a new local chain run by a group that's had some success in Brazilian and other types of foods. The Lokal chain is meant to focus on traditional homey Czech food and a more Czech experience.

It was both a hit and a miss... in the best ways possible!!!

The Hit

When we walked in the restaurant was either full or clearly marked reserved. It looked like maybe we could squeeze in someplace in the smoking section but when non-smoking is available that's what I'll pick. A waiter approached us immediately and directed us to the back and down the stairs - we were actually walked back and guided to the basement where we were again immediately greeted and given our choice of tables in a very large labyrinthian type brewery/restaurant area. We were seated at our table with menus awaiting - and English menu sheet was immediately procured for me, no request was made, it was just tended to.

Another waiting appeared asking for our drink order - we weren't ready and he smiled and left us for a few minutes. The first waiter returned asking for our drinks and again was quite pleasant. After we got drinks we needed a bit to pick the food. Again, the staff was attentive and pleasant during that encounter.

The food was fast and delicious. I was impressed by the flavor and tenderness of the chicken and the fully flavor of the side I'd order. It was heavenly - so much more than what I'd expected and at really reasonable rates. What as most curious to me was the drink - homemade orange soda. Sort of like orange juice and flat soda water - yet not carbonated, sweet but tangy and full of pulp.

The Miss

I don't write about food or restaurants often - this is an exception.

Throughout the meal the two waiters each checked on us and confirmed everything was all right - they addressed us both in Czech and English individually. The courteous consistent attention we were given is not a part of the Czech experience.

My Czech friend was overwhelmed by the staff's attention but I found it quite refreshing - it was exceptional for this area. They weren't overly familiar, they were formal, polite, efficient and made you feel as though your experience and enjoyment were a priority without in any way being a burden or imposition. They had a presence but weren't intrusive upon our meal or conversation.

I don't know who trained them but I really hope this restaurant model catches on. It was quite a refreshing change and I'll definitely be returning for more.