Founded by Prague-based Slovak couple Tino and Ivon, Forbidden Taste is the increasingly-food-crazed Czech capital's first pop-up restaurant. Though it's much more than that, actually. With a punk aesthetic and some pretty bold food this underground supper club is a living testament to the owner's motto: "Restaurants are boring". We spoke with Tino on the eve of the second event.
LA: What inspired you to introduce the pop-up dining concept to Prague?
FT: Probably the lack of dining experiences that are more than just about a good meal. Here in Prague, there are restaurants and then there all the food festivals and markets. I love both of these but I had a feeling that something in between is missing. That's why we're bringing a high-end restaurant-style dining into unexpected locations while keeping in mind the homemade and the "punk" aspect.
LA: Tell us a bit about the pop-up dining concept. How does it differ from conventional dining? What makes it a more interesting experience?
FT: The guests have no idea where the dinner will take place. They come to a spot according to instructions that they receive on the day of the pop-up. They don't know the menu either. They just arrive and the whole evening is bit of an experience for them. It's about the small details and we love to surprise our guests and tease them a little. Plus there is a mix of interesting people from different backgrounds, too.
LA: Your slogan is "Restaurants are boring". What exactly is boring about them?
FT: I agree that it might sound a little shocking but it's true. Every time you come to a certain restaurant you know pretty much what to expect. Yes, they might have a new chef, a seasonal menu, different kind of music or whatever but it's still about the same. Restaurants are boring but we're not saying that's a bad thing. I also have many restaurants where every time I come I get the best steak or a best burger. I know what to expect and I want to get it. But why not having an alternative for people who want more than just good food?
LA: You've already run one of these events in Prague: can you tell us a bit about it?
FT: The very first Forbidden Taste pop-up was at a former transformation station. Industrial place, six course menu with wine-pairing, live music. The guests were enjoying their dinner at a table for two but the desert (made by Ivon) was served at a big table for everyone. We've received very positive feedback from all the forbidden-tasters which is the greatest satisfaction. And the next one is about to pop.
LA: If people want to attend your next event, they sign up for your mailing list and then await further instructions. I understand that selection isn't random: potential attendees have to write an email explaining why they should be invited and who they would bring along. What are you looking for in your clientele? Can you give any examples of answers which really appealed to you?
FT: When applying, people should let us know why it should be them who we invite. I have to admit that with the first Forbidden Taste it was quite easy. The number of potential guests wasn't that big and what mattered most to us was their excitement about the whole concept. Since then we've received several hundreds of new applications and we do have something in mind about how to still keep the mixture of our guests as diverse as possible. But these kind of interesting experiences attract interesting kinds of people so we're not afraid at all.
LA: I realize that most of the details of these events are kept secret, but how much does it cost?
FT: The entrance to the first Forbidden Taste was 1500 CZK for a six course menu including the wine pairing. The price for the second one stays at 1500 CZK as well but the guests can decide whether they want wine pairing by a sommelier for an extra 500 CZK. Otherwise they can bring their own wine (or Božkov rum if they wish)!
LA: What's the worst meal you've ever eaten in a restaurant (and was it in Prague)? And the best?
FT: When traveling, one can come across some interesting combinations. Together with Ivon (my business partner and fiancee) we like to eat at the places where locals usually eat, which doesn't guarantee that it must be the best cuisine. But in the Czech Republic and Slovakia you can come across some of the most ridiculous combinations ever, like Wiener schnitzel with dumplings. But to be honest, I love it just for the sake of taking a picture of it. Actually, only few days ago I ordered gratinated pecorino cheese in an "Italian" restaurant in Holešovice. And what I got was melted cheese in tomato puree. When I asked if it was pecorino cheese, the waiter answered: 'No, it was Koliba'. And the best? Probably sushi right by the biggest fish market in Tokyo, an ostrich steak in South Africa or Laos style pad thai in Občanská plovárna.
LA: What you think about traditional Czech cuisine?
FT: Czech cuisine done well is great. I can't eat it too often though as it's usually too heavy. But I'm Slovak and I do prefer our traditional cuisine.
LA: What do you cook at home?
Well, I have the luxury of having a great cook at home. Ivon is a cooking and baking addict, which I like of course. I would say we mostly cook Asian cuisine but also Italian and Spanish. Homemade bread each week is almost a must and all kinds of cakes. I'm not a bad cook either but I'm a lazy one.
LA: What food would you crave if you were stranded on a desert island?
FT: That's easy. Desert island means sea which means fish. And that means sushi. If there were no rice fields then I would eat just sashimi all day long.
LA: What do you think about the Prague dining scene more generally? I understand you've only lived here for a couple of years but things have come a long way, there's a fair amount of international cuisine available now.
FT: That´s true. The variety here is pretty good. Some places do suffer from becoming too touristy but I guess that's just the way it is in the bigger cities. I´m really glad that people here started to appreciate good food and quality ingredients more and more.
LA: What was on the menu at that first event?
The menu was by the chef Petr Heneš (currently La Bodeguita del Medio): veal tartar with zucchini salad, grilled crawfish tail with pea purrée, asparagus cappuccino with confit tiger prawn and pecorino cheese, a cranberry granite, and as the main course sous vide pork tenderloin with puy lentils and thyme juice. Plus the homemade bread and the dessert – a Cabernet and Camembert cake – all baked by Ivon.
LA: What do you think about the increase in food trucks in Prague? Do you see them as being linked to the pop-up dining movement?
FT: I eat at the Chefparade food truck quite often and every such project that brings interesting cuisine into the streets is always a great idea.
LA: Pop-up dining may be very fashionable right now, but isn't it just silly and pretentious?
FT:I´m not sure if it´s fashionable and honestly it doesn´t really matter to us. Pop-up restaurants have been around for quite some time in the world and we don´t care whether we are the first one in Prague or not. We just want to be the best one. And Forbidden Taste is more than just a pop-up restaurant. It´s always about food, the whole experience and the people.