Tastes of Tel-Aviv and Jerusalem give Prague's Jewish quarter new culinary cred

Two newly opened Old Town restaurants are bringing bold flavors – and great spirits – to one of Prague’s most ancient districts

Elizabeth Zahradnicek-Haas

Written by Elizabeth Zahradnicek-Haas Published on 04.03.2020 07:00:00 (updated on 19.09.2020) Reading time: 4 minutes

Prague’s Jewish quarter is one of the city’s most ancient districts, home to Europe’s oldest active synagogue, teeming with tourists on any given day. But aside from King Solomon’s, a local institution serving bagels and pastrami since the nineties, the area surrounding Široka and Maiselova streets is starved for authentic eats — something that’s slowly begun to change.

Two newly opened restaurants are not only bringing new dining options to the heart of Josefov but reconnecting the area with its culinary heritage.

A Tel-Aviv concept reimagined for Prague

Open on Maiselova street since late 2019, Whiskey Restaurant, Bar & Museum is the world’s second branch of the kosher Tel-Aviv restaurant of the same name which occupies 950 square meters in that city’s Sarona district.

“Whiskey is quite popular in Israel because it’s kosher,” says Shota Koblianidze, the restaurant’s whiskey sommelier.

Shota Koblianidze, whiskey sommelier at Whiskey Restaurant, Bar & Museum

Koblianidze who hails from a Georgian wine-producing family helped to start the original Whiskey bar in Tel Aviv in 2016 and was instrumental in the opening of its Prague branch. Was it important for the owners to set up shop on the street of Kafka’s birthplace and the Golem’s attic?

“Let’s just say it wasn’t disputed,” says Koblianidzewho adds that choice of location was largely based on the Czech capital’s vast historic appeal. “Prague as a city is in itself equivalent to a museum on an unimaginable scale.”   

A fully stocked whiskey library at Whiskey Restaurant, Bar & Museum

An Israeli architect designed the Czech franchise, an underground space that Koblianidze says “communicates a certain Prague ambiance.” Native touches include wooden tables styled after those found in traditional Israeli wineries.

While the food here isn’t kosher, the Prague menu offers a close replica to that of its Tel-Aviv sibling (just fewer tomatoes and more potatoes). “The recipes come from a kosher menu but are adapted to the European palette by size and taste preferences,” says Koblianidze.

The menu centers on fish and dry-aged steaks grilled over charcoal, complemented by wine (including Israeli labels), whiskey-infused cocktails, and a staggering 1,000 whiskeys representing practically every notable distiller in the world. Classic Irish and Scottish distillers as well as craft distillers from Israel, India, Japan, and, the Czech Republic can be sampled via themed “tasting journeys.” Diners can purchase bottles to take home.

The restaurant aims to create a bridge not only between cultures but between food and whiskey, even incorporating the spirit into desserts and aioli. “It’s rare to find someone who won’t like at least one of these whiskeys,” says Koblianidze, who adds, “If you come for the food stay for the whiskey, if you come from the whiskey stay for the food.”

Hummus by way of Jerusalem

The nearby Hummus Bar at Široká and Maiselova occupies one of the Jewish quarter’s busiest tourist junctions. The space is owned by Kafka Food Snob but was taken over by Avi Ben Perets in late 2019. The Hummus Bar founder and former owner of Nofech Patisserie in Vršovice, says location was everything for his second venture.

“After Nofech, we knew we wanted to have something in the center of Prague,” he says. “In the meantime we [opened a stand] at Manifesto and it was a big success, and then this place opened and it’s perfect because its right in the middle of the Jewish quarter.” While tourists make up a sizeable part of its clientele a number of locals know The Hummus Bar from Manifesto Market.

Shakshuka at the Hummus Bar

“About 60-70 percent of our customers are tourists but at least 30 percent are locals so we didn’t want to exaggerate with the prices,” says Perets.

The rebuilt kitchen, bar, and new sign weren’t the only adjustments to the Kafka space. Perets has created a vibrant menu of Mediterranean flavors that feel right at home amid the Italian-designed decor.

Interior via thehummusbar.cz

The mainstay menu item is ten different varieties of hummus, including a signature Jerusalem hummus with fresh parsley and zesty lemon, all served with pillowy pita halves and pickles. Six kinds of shakshuka, baked cauliflower, and eggplant with pine nuts and pomegranate aren’t exactly your average tourist-zone fare.

Vegetarians and vegan options abound as do Moroccan sausage, and a spicy Jerusalem kebab of beef and lamb. A traditional Israeli breakfast of eggs, salad, olives, and labneh cheese is also on the menu; Friday evenings bring complementary shots of arak, an Israeli spirit similar to Ouzo. Food is discounted daily between 4pm-8pm.

Hummus with falafel / photo via Facebook @thehummusbar

“Israelis and Jewish people who come to us will immediately recognize these flavors,” says Perets, who adds that he ate many of these dishes as a child. “But of course the food is for everyone.”

Whiskey Restaurant, Bar & Museum
Maiselova 14/1
Open Monday-Friday 11:30pm-12am; Saturday 6pm-12pm

The Hummus Bar 
Široká 12
Open Monday-Friday 10am-8pm; Saturday-Sunday from 10am-8pm

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