Food Lab Prague
BY: LITTLE SCOTTIE
JUN 13, 2020 • 6 MIN READ
Anyone who has walked around Old Town Prague has eventually passed by the Food Lab. Their storefront and interior design has made me want to try it. Today was that day.
I was even more impressed by the interior once we were inside. The interior has a mix of materials. There is an abundance of mid-tone wood accented by black painted walls with wood trim, black and white tiles, and tufts of (I'm assuming fake) greenery the makes you at least feel the chefs care about where the food is grown. The tabletops are made to look distressed which helps you to relax. I immediately felt at home with the interior.
Today our reservation was unnecessary. When we arrived we were quickly greeted and seated. To be fair we were the only customers as Prague's Old Town hasn't yet recovered from the Coronavirus lockdown and tourists have yet to return in force.
The staff was very friendly and helpful. I've found friendly people are friendly no matter how busy the restaurant, so thumbs up for the service even though we were the only table.
We went straight for the cocktails and ordered two vodka drinks: the Mango Chilli Caipiroska and what I'll call the Summer Breeze. It wasn't exactly called the Summer Breeze, but it's not currently listed on their website menu. Both drinks came out with plenty of crushed ice which was welcomed and the drinks were fantastic. Clever garnishes made the drinks feel and taste upscale.
The Mango was a bit too syrupy-sweet for me, but I'm not that into sugary drinks. Cocktails were good and made a great start to the evening.
What is the Food Lab?
Let's start with their own words. They describe themselves as:
Like the Alchemists’, our mission is to create a perfect formula. FOOD LAB knows no boundaries as we search the world over for forgotten flavors we then combine and adjust to create perfect recipes served in a matching atmosphere. Our goal is to blend together the best products of the New World and the Old World for a true gastronomic dining experience. With a desire to introduce a cutting edge cuisine to Prague, we created a dining space that will delight the taste buds and enchant the senses. Primarily featuring "small plates," FOOD LAB also features a selection of fine wines and spirits from all over the world.
This sounds a little too magical for me, and the generic descriptions of 'Innovative Fusion Cuisine' and 'Lifestyle Restaurant' leave confused about what they are going for. What exactly is 'Innovative Fusion Cuisine' or a 'Lifestyle Restaurant' anyway? These sound like terms somebody dreamed up over a bottle of wine while brainstorming restaurant concepts to me.
The menu does a better job explaining. They offer an à la carte menu and suggest 2-3 serving per person and the idea is to share. From the menu:
Our Dinner menu is designed to allow our guests to indulge in a fun sharing experience while exploring different tastes and enjoying array of wonderful flavors. In that spirit, we offer plates of delicious innovative fusion cuisine, suitable for sharing with friends and family. 2-3 items per person recommended.
I get it. I'm thinking, "get ready to have your mind blown." I'm about to grab ahold of some innovative fusion cuisine that will have my taste buds singing to the heavens. I'm in. Get the alchemists in the back fired up, and let's do some magic.
We ordered two dishes as appetizers. They aren't technically appetizers on the menu, but we had them come out first and treated them as such. We had the Chicken broth infused with baked potato skin, smoked egg and the Tiger prawns with carrot variation, sea buckthorn and hollandaise sauce. The soup came out in two parts. The egg and veggies were in the bowl and the server carried the broth in a narrow neck conical flask (think: Food Lab logo). Okay I get it, but a little over-played. If there had been a small piece of dry ice in the bowl to create smoke on the water I would have busted out laughing. A bit theatrical, but fun.
The soup was good, nothing to write home about.
The tiger prawns were cooked to perfection. This was perhaps the best dish of the night. Hollandaise sauce was correct. It made for a nice melody.
Then we had three servings: Grilled sea bass with root vegetables and mussel sauce, the Teriyaki and sesame pork belly with grilled pak choi, topinambur purée and parsley oil and the Honey and lavender glazed duck breast with baked beetroot and blackberries.
The grilled sea bass came out two ways, grilled and fried. Whenever I see breaded, fried fish I immediately think one-week-old-fish. Maybe it's just me, but breading and frying covers up a lot of bad-looking fish. The grilled sea bass was perfect. The fried fish was undercooked which made me nervous. We crossed our fingers and ate it anyway. Turns out it was fine. The potatoes and mussel sauce were a nice compliment to the fish.
The pork belly was good, but surprisingly dry. It had a heavy teriyaki glaze so it made the bite more interesting. I expect pork belly to have a crisp exterior and explode with juicy fatness on the inside. No so with our dish. It was dry. The menu claims it came with topinambur purée and parsley oil. I thought it was peanut sauce. It was set heavy in a bed of it, probably too much. I'd hate to think they were serving peanut sauce instead of topinabur. It just didn't have the texture of topinabur. I'll give them the benefit of the doubt and say they mixed it well with parsley oil and it came out tasting like peanut sauce. Otherwise, they'd be sending people to the hospital who have peanut allergies.
The duck breast was cooked perfectly and the honey glaze was nice. It was good, not mind-blowingly good, but good. It was nicely done, but the taste didn't grab me and send me to the moon.
The duck came on a plate spotted with blackberries and baked beetroot. I love blackberries and there were a couple of very large mother-of-all blackberries on the plate. They were tart. I expected some tartness, but the berries were just a little early, and could have had a touch more time on the vine. Had they been picked a week later they would have developed that nice balance of tartness and sweetness that ripe blackberries have.
They were paired with cubes of baked beetroot. Not a fan of beetroot. Tried one, left the others. I'm certain the alchemists of Prague can think of better ways to pair blackberries and beetroot. Let me suggest one: puree the beetroot with butter, add a touch of garlic, vinegar, thyme and sour cream then use it as a dipping sauce for the blackberries. Just my idea, feel free to use it.
We finished off with another round of cocktails which were excellent.
The meal was just over 2,000 Kč ($85). It's pricey for Prague, but affordable.
Let me say that the food overall was good. But when a restaurant claims to deliver "delicious innovative fusion" in a fancy-food format I expect to have my socks knocked off. The food was good, but not even close to the lofty expectations set by the Food Lab's marketing department.
Would I return?
I would probably go back and try the breakfast. This seems like the kind of place that could put together a great breakfast, so I'll have to try that sometime.
Would I recommend the Food Lab to my friends?
Yes. If you're looking for a place with great cocktails, beautiful interior, friendly staff and good food with a fun sharing concept, yes it's definitely worth a try. You won't break the bank either. It's pricey but affordable. Just don't expect to have your socks knocked off by a tastes and flavors you've never before experienced. That idea is as fleeting as alchemy.
Reviews Food Lab Old Town