Saturday, September 6, 2008
Little Prague in Davis
My Dining Out Meetup group went on a roadtrip to Davis this week. If you drive I-80 between Sacramento and the Bay Area you will see signs before Davis advertising Little Prague. Sacramento does not have a Czech restaurant that even compares to LP, so we ventured forth in a carpool to try it out.
The restaurant is located right in the heart of downtown Davis and has a lot of seating indoors and quite an extensive patio as well. In the evenings they light two fireplaces outdoors and then in the very back there is a nice gurgling fountain.
There are mixed reviews for this place on the internet. Most seem to involve some rude service from the owner. Luckily we never saw him and were just served by two nice college student servers. The menu has a Czech saying up front that says (can't remember the exact words) to dine and speak slowly to have a long life. These words turned out to be important because the service was slow. But our conversation was about how they eat much slower in Europe and that dining is an event there. They would certainly fit in with the Slow Food movement that we also discussed over dinner.
I had planned the event well in advance and found that they have their menu listed online. So even before arriving I knew which TWO desserts I was going to order! But I also wanted to try a Czech main dish that was typical. Another complaint was that the menu was pricey. This is true. I had pre-budgeted $40 for the night. Turns out there were a few featured dishes that sounded really good but were more than I could afford, so I stuck to my original plan.
Dinners were served with either a soup or a salad. They had three soups to choose from: a split pea, a chicken pasta, and a cold vegetable one. I ordered the chicken pasta soup and you can see how lovely it looks. The server came out, put down a clean bowl, and then poured each individual serving of soup out from small, individual pitchers. My soup was hearty and delicious and raised my expectations for the rest of the meal. Those that got the cold veggie soup were also very happy with their choices. The veggies were cut up into small cubes and the broth was a light, almost clear, tomatoey broth. The salads were basic but had enormous croutons.
I ordered the Chicken Paprikash with Dumplings. I have had goulash, stroganoff, and schnitzel at other places, so my goal was to try a dish that I was unfamiliar with. Unfortunately I made the wrong choice. My dish was dull and not that flavorful. It was just chunks of the chicken breast in the creamy paprika sauce with no sign of onions that are mentioned in the description. I really thought paprikash was going to have a little more zip to it. So I was disappointed. But there are so many interesting dishes on the menu that I'm interested in going back and trying other selections. Especially since everyone else seemed very happy with their choices.
For instance, one of the features was this roulade of pork tenderloin, chicken, and spinach served with a potato and a nice sauce. Julie said it was as good as it looked.
Another featured dish was a vegetarian item. It was this potato pancake folded over a creamed spinach with a tangy tomatoey sauce and broccoli. I steer clear of vegetarian dishes because I'm a carnivore, but I must admit that I had been tempted when the server talked about it. Laura enjoyed it and said it was very filling. She ended up with a doggy bag.
Clint had the stroganoff because it was different from the stroganoff that most people are used to. The most common type of stroganoff is beef and mushrooms in a beef and sour cream sauce. This version uses just a little cream versus sour cream. It was also served with rice where I've always had my stroganoff over egg noodles.
The dessert carousel was full and enticing and rivals the dessert case at Tower Cafe. The dessert menu is two pages long and full of descriptions. One of the desserts I ordered was the Princess Cake - white cake with raspberry filling, topped with custard and whipped cream and then a marzipan layer. It was delicious although a bit too much custard. The marzipan was the green fondant you see and added the extra oomph for a splendid dessert.
A few opted for the famous Sacher Torte. This is a strawberry version with chocolate cake, buttercream and then covered in a chocolate ganache. I've been making very similar cakes lately and so this one held no interest for me. I wanted something different, thus the Princess Cake.
My had also landed on the description of the Josephine - puff pastry layered with custard and berries and whipped cream. In the end it turned out to be another name for a Napoleon (remember that Josephine was Napoleon's empress). Never mind. Napoleons are my favorite decadent pastry and so that went home with me. Other desserts listed included eclairs, pistachio apricot cake, studels, tarts, and more!
I 'discovered' Davis this week with two visits in a week. Such a nice town with a vibrant downtown thanks to the nearby university. I can see why they strive so hard to keep it the way it is and keep out the shopping malls and huge discount stores. I look forward to visiting both Davis and Little Prague again.