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Občanská plovárna

Občanská plovárna

Brewsta tries riverside Thai

Občanská plovárna

Občanská plovárna

Brewsta tries riverside Thai


Published 
Last updated 17.07.2012

Food
Service
Atmosphere
Value
Overall

"The nicest thing about standards is that there are so many of them to choose from." Andres S. Tannenbaum

I've said it before and I'll say it again: I ultimately judge Thai restaurants by their Pad Thai.

When done right, it's one of my favorite dishes, but it requires the balancing of a lot of flavors. I've had plenty of bad ones and very few good ones.

My standard for excellent Pad Thai in Prague is the one served at Noi. In fact, it's among the best I've ever had. There's a lot going on in that dish.

I read a report that there was a really good one being served at the Thai restaurant Občanská plovárna. I went to check it out.

The restaurant sits on the river below the main embankment road.

Občanská plovárna

The nearest tram stop is Čechův most. Trams 1, 8, 12, and 17 go there.

I used come to this building in the late 90s when it was a high-end restaurant called Aqua. The 2002 floods wiped out the structure's interior. It's had a series of tenants afterward that didn't interest me. But it's a great location.

They've done up the interior with some Thai touches. There are great glass window walls that completely open up the dining room to the river.

Občanská plovárna

Outside, there are plenty of metal tables along the banks of the Vltava. Some had table cloths, which lent a more upscale feeling.

Občanská plovárna

It was less pleasant to eat on bare black metal. Either way, there is a good view. The tables also have good cover in case of rain.

On my first visit, I had the Pad Thai. But I'm going to save my review of that for the end.

I started off with a beer. They serve Lobkowicz, which I quite like, in .3 liter glasses only (30 CZK). It's a nice alternative to Pilsner Urquell.

Občanská plovárna

I do wish they had half-liter glasses. They also serve BonAqua sparkling water (45 CZK), which I really don't like.

First, the price is crazy. Second, the .25 liter bottles are too small to quench your water needs through a meal. And third, Mattoni is Czech, tastes better, and comes in more satisfying .33 liter bottle.

My date had a .2 liter glass of wine (50 CZK). It was fine.

We both ordered soups. They took a long time to arrive. I had the Tom Kha Kai (95 CZK), another classic Thai dish.

Občanská plovárna

It was lightly sweet with the comforting aroma of galangal. The chicken was fresh and not overcooked, as is sometimes the case. There was also a good balance of lemongrass, fish sauce, and cilantro (coriander). The bowl was large.

My Italian companion had the Tom Yum Kung (105 CZK).

Občanská plovárna

This roughly translates as hot and sour soup with shrimp. Indeed, I usually enjoy this soup at other restaurants because of its terrific tang.

Here, the broth was more salty than sour. The chef at this restaurant is Thai, but I've never had a version quite like this.

Dull, almost raw mushrooms floated at the top. Underneath, there were three, delicate, properly cooked shrimp. This was a similarly large serving of soup. I didn't like it much.

This meal, which included the Pad Thai with shrimp (285 CZK), some stir-fried spinach, and a long wait for both, came to 815 CZK.

I returned on a warm evening with G-Man.

Občanská plovárna

He started with the fried black tiger prawns (175 CZK). You get six medium-size crustaceans with plenty of bread crumbs on them. There was the standard sweet chili sauce on the side.

Občanská plovárna

They were nice and crunchy, but not something I would have ordered to test the skills of the kitchen.

I had the Pra Neua, or which the menu describes as marinated beef tenderloin with lemon grass, cilantro, and Thai herbs (185 CZK). This I loved.

Občanská plovárna

The slices of beef were incredibly tender and tasty. All too often when I get beef salads in Prague, the beef is too tough. Not here.

The dressing had the perfect balance of fish sauce, lime juice, coriander, and mild, sweet onion. It was the right mix of sweet, savory, and sour. The portion was not large, but the quality level was high.

Inspired by my choice, G-Man ordered the Lab Kai (165 CZK). This is billed as a salad with fresh coriander, mint, onion, lime, and chicken.

Občanská plovárna

It basically tasted the same as my dish, except with chicken. I didn't really detect the mint in there, and it was not as spicy as my Pra Neua. We both liked it anyway.

Then I got an order of panang curry with pork (185 CZK). Rice was included with this dish.

Občanská plovárna

The mildly sweet sauce had the strong flavor of lime leaf I like. It also was thin and soup-like. I long for thicker curry sauces in this town.

The pork was fresh and not overcooked. Other than that, there was really only lightly cooked, chewy eggplant chunks. Not too exciting.

This meal, which included five beers and two glasses of wine, came to 960 CZK. The service was a bit better this time.

And what about that Pad Thai with shrimp?

First, it was certainly the nicest presentation I've seen. The huge portion came wrapped in a banana leaf.

Občanská plovárna

It's really enough for two people. I took half of it home. There was a generous portion of butterflied, properly cooked shrimp. The tofu picked up a smoky flavor from the grill.

And yet the massive amount of rice noodles themselves were unforgivably bland. I squeezed out the one lime wedge, but it didn't help much. I'd probably need at least two or three more to get the flavor right. And though there were chili flakes on the side, the crushed peanuts were missing. As in not there.

In addition to more lime, I'd wish for another dash of fish sauce and a hint of sweetness. And I wouldn't forget the nuts. These are my tastes, but my date agreed with me completely. This Pad Thai didn't make the grade for either of us.

While I loved the beef and chicken salads, the noodles and curry left me disappointed. The view and the peaceful location are perhaps the biggest draws for Občanská plovárna.

The trams that go there are not the most convenient for me, but a better option for some, including me, is that they have their own parking lot. It's something I'd consider on a nice weekend day.

But given my standards, I'll probably still choose Noi when I'm in the mood for Thai.

Občanská plovárna
U Plovárny 8
Prague 1 - Malá Strana
Tel: (+420) 257 531 451

Občanská plovárna


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Grue(Guest) Published: 10:46:42 31.07.2012
Ignorant, arrogant review.
Comment from: Published: 01:14:33 23.07.2012
Wow! Lot of harshness there. He never claims to be an 'official' food critic, but rather someone who enjoys food and writes about his experiences. I greatly prefer his style and use of informative phrases, rather than flowery and poncy statements that have no relation to the food\atmosphere, but rather seek so show off the writers literacy skills.
Bob(Guest) Published: 02:31:33 19.07.2012
Whenever I read a review by Brewsta, it seems I'm reading something a 14 year-old would write. It seems he is almost incapable of making compound sentences, which results in very choppy writing that doesn't flow. I frequently don't agree with his reviews and also don't understand his rating system. I've read reviews of places he really didn't like and he gave them 3-4 stars, then a rave review that received the same number. It makes me really miss the Prague Spoon- excellent writing with a very trustworthy rating system (I also love that you can sort the restaurants by rating on that blog). I don't know Brewsta's background but I've never gotten the sense that he really understands cooking or international cuisines (agree with those below on the curry), more that he is someone who just likes to eat. So why do I bother to read his reviews? Good question.
Teddy(Guest) Published: 11:10:25 19.07.2012
I have read his blogs for a while now, the reviews are much better than some of the others in Prague, atleast we get to see good images of the food and get to know the rates. I came across another blog where more was said about the boyfriend and some thoughts than the food. Obchanska plovarna has a great location. The food is good but can be much better.
Pierre(Guest) Published: 09:06:33 18.07.2012
IMO, Brewsta has produced some of the greatest insights regarding Prague's food scene and the expats really feel his influence over the past decade. His style of writing is addictive and fun most of it because of the "diary" moment which I personally love! What also makes his posts a well spend time for me is that he is able to tell the story of Prague as 99% of the expats are experiencing it. God knows how many venues and dishes I've been introduced to while reading the reviews. I believe critics are always welcomed, but insults?
Comment from: Brewsta Published: 04:44:35 18.07.2012
Well, that's some fun feedback! I'll repeat what I've said a number of times over the years: I go to restaurants and tell the stories of my meals from a personal perspective. I write these stories as blog posts, not conventional reviews. I've been exploring Prague's restaurants since the mid-90s -- some people are interested in my opinions. Some people aren't. That's life. For the record, I've been to Thailand twice. On the curry question: it's true that many are thin and soup-like. However, Panang curry (which I had) should be thicker and creamier (and generally includes ground peanut). To say Panang curry can only be thin and soup-like is not correct.
Piers(Guest) Published: 02:00:02 18.07.2012
Expats seriously, it's about time you got rid of the dead wood. Brewsta, your style of writing is basic at best, and you are certainly not a food critic. It's about time you found yourself a job you can do old boy. What is this, ''I do wish they had half-liter glasses. They also serve BonAqua sparkling water (45 CZK), which I really don't like.'' That's not even a review, that's just you thinking out loud, to the detriment of the reader. Utter nonsense. Instead of filling your articles with blabber, biased opinions and ramblings, how about a well structured , thought out, proper critical review. Like the other guys mentioned on here, you are reviewing Thai food, yet haven't even bothered to research basic facts about the cuisine. Instead, you are just making use of your own pig headed opinions on how it should be. P.S. It's also obvious to anyone with half a brain that you are clearly getting back handers from some of these restaurants!
Comment from: Good_Will Published: 12:52:35 18.07.2012
I don't want to join in any sort of "Let's bash Brewsta!" fest, but the comments below are correct. Another point I'd make is that even in Thailand, whether it be Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Sukhothai or Koh Samui then the variations of Pad Thai are countless. To use it as a judgement for a Thai restaurant based upon your favourite recipe is pointless. It's an indicator at best. Just as my favourite pizza place in Italy can't cook lasagne for love nor money, and my favourite Indian restaurant in Kolkata does a fantastic vindaloo but their "Onion Bhajis" are bleedin awful. It's a get out clause to judge a restaurant one one dish unless they get it very badly wrong, and apart from the lack of peanuts in your Pad Thai then it seemed OK. One last thing: This habit of beginning all your reviews with a quote and ending it with a glib reply to that quote is beginning to limit the scope of your reviews. You should change it.
Comment from: Published: 11:27:46 18.07.2012
Thanks Jeff. Was about to make the same comment.
Jeff(Guest) Published: 10:21:22 18.07.2012
I think someone should pay you to stop writing reviews. If you actually went to Thailand you would realise that thai curry actually has a thin, soup-like sauce. It's Thai food, not Indian.