Solid Czech food with an artistic finesse: Jacy Meyer dines at this Old Town venue

Jacy Meyer

Written by Jacy Meyer Published on 15.07.2009 15:53:23 (updated on 15.07.2009) Reading time: 6 minutes

Století means century in Czech, and that seems about how long it took me to get there. It wasn´t the first restaurant I planned to review. Nor the second, third, or even fourth. It probably ended up being number ten or something. For a while I thought this review was cursed, as after wandering around for 2 hours (with a list of possibilities in hand), unsuccessfully trying to find a place to eat, we gave up and went home. This was the third restaurant on our second day of attempt.

I´d read about Století before: nice Czech food, good prices, central location. And it´s true. While nothing exciting, it is recommendable, and would bear a second visit; if in the area, or with out of town guests. It must be popular on the guidebook circuit, as two people with guidebooks were lurking outside the front door when we arrived, and a variety of languages, not often Czech, was heard inside. Interestingly enough, while the restaurant is very centrally located, near the National Theater and off the river, most tourists probably won´t be wandering by. And the prices and service are definitely not tourist zone.

Dining Companion (DC) and I walked through the front door and I immediately turned and went out the side door to where about six tables were arranged on the sidewalk. I love to eat outside, but preferably not street side. However, it was so dark in there, and felt so stuffy; I knew I would not enjoy my meal. The restaurant is situated on a quiet corner, and catty-corner from it is the Rotunda Church of Holy Cross. It gives the sidewalk seating some atmosphere. Drink orders were promptly taken, and received, but then a bit longer than necessary wait occurred until the server returned for our food orders. That was really the only annoyance in the serving procedure. Food came out promptly enough; with adequate time between the appetizer and main course. Servers were courteous and present, though not overbearing.

Století‘s most memorable feature, in my opinion, is the creativity and freedom given to the sauce chef. Is there such a thing? Most likely not, but the sauces are what make the meals here a bit different and give a unique flair to typical Czech meats. I´m not a sauce person. I never put gravy on my mashed potatoes, or dressing on my salad. Only exception is pasta, which of course must have a sauce.

The appetizer list is a short, but adequate – no section on the menu overwhelms you with choices. I chose the grilled feta with lettuce and tomato (98 CZK). It was a lovely presentation: three firm pieces of grilled feta, atop a rather bland layer of lettuce, three tomato wedges and four olives. Crowning glory was the two peppercinis perched on top. I love hot peppercinis. Much to my disappointed, the fire had been put out of these. The dressing was a light oil and basil, and thankfully for me, not put on by a heavy hand. The dish did get a bit rich towards the end and the dressing heavier. A bread basket with brown and white slices had been put on the table, so I sampled a piece of brown with some feta. The bread had an unusual and not pleasant sweetness to it. This meal would make an excellent lunch though with a nicer type of bread and cool white wine. It´s a keeper.

DC, going with a last minute game time decision, switched his order from the originally decided upon Schwarzwald ham with cottage cheese, to the cheese nuggets with African tomato sauce (98 CZK). This is not actually an appetizer, but a dish on the vegetarian menu. He can be a renegade at times. Three pieces of cheese nuggets, along with two potato medallions were accompanied by a muted reddish, burnt orange looking “sauce.”  It was more of a paste actually. DC´s first taste verdict? “Yea, that´s a bit strange.” My initial reaction was baby food as it had no discernable taste. Nothing was wrong with it, except the lack of flavor. DC did proceeded to eat it with his cheese nuggets, though finished the potato medallions simply with salt. The nuggets were more the size of a deck of cards, and lightly fried. The cheese was flavorful and stringy, so recommendable and satisfying.

When going through the menu, you´ll most likely base your meal decision on what type of sauce you are in the mood for. Sirloin, pork and chicken are all here; and even a turkey option. This one is the lone skewer listed; with Prague ham and apple horseradish. A rump steak is decorated with pepper sauce and banana slices; while some pork is treated to an orange and peanut sauce. DC and I went the plainer route, coincidently both ordering the porcini mushroom sauce – his on pork medallions, (139 CZK) mine on potato-polenta (98 CZK.)

Polenta is very bland. Potatoes don´t jazz it up. The dish came out with two nice sized polenta circles, only half covered in the sauce, which was appreciated. Dousing an entire dish in liquid is something I don´t understand. The polenta was flavorless. The sauce however was fresh and mushroomy – excellent flavor. Not enough though to compensate though for the polenta. I tried salt on a bite – mistake; it wasn´t needed; nor was pepper. I couldn´t improve a bit on the sauce – except to change its partner.

DC fared better with his pork. He too enjoyed the sauce and thought the grilled pork was acceptable. He agreed that the meat too needed the sauce, and he wouldn´t have enjoyed it without it. His side of potato wedges (40 CZK) was done right; crispy on the outside, soft inside.

We chose to forego dessert this time around. The menu was ice cream heavy, and didn´t have any particular standouts. Each was only priced at 79 CZK though, so a post-dinner coffee and dessert wouldn´t break the bank.

Století has a separate wine list. Czech and Italian offerings dominate the whites, though there are a couple French, Spanish and a South African. Prices by the glass are 6o CZK for the Czech/75 for the imports. Bottles range from 220-650 CZK. Reds from Czech Republic, Italy and France make up the flipside of the list. Again, by the glass it´s 6o CZK for the Czech/75 for the imports. Bottles range from 380-690 CZK. On the food menu, cheaper Czech wine can be had for 35 CZK for a glass/265 CZK for a bottle. Beer is Krušovice; a .4L glass is 39 CZK.

Also interesting to note is the salad bar. It´s self-service and costs 65 CZK for a small bowl/95 CZK for a large one. As we were outside and I hadn´t seen it, I chose something different. However, I scoped it out later, and although small, looked very fresh. Lots of bright tomatoes and peppers; plus beets, green and black olives and crumbled feta. Definitely a consideration for a future trip.

While inside (note on the bathrooms: girls, you are the queen of hearts; boys, the jack of spades) I put down my initial impression of dark and oppressive due to the change in light from outside to inside. It is a bit too dark for my liking, especially in the summer, but is softly and warmly decorated. The main dining area is a large room with dark wood tables; I felt the front bar area a bit cozier.

For the location, service and food, Století is a standout. All the salads are 139 CZK. The most expensive item on the list is the beefsteak with feta at 355 CZK. While we probably won´t make a special trip back; if in the neighborhood, with friends, or even as a recommendation, Století will head to the top of the list.

Karolíny Světlé 21, Prague 1
222 220 008
Open daily 12:00-24:00

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