MAY 8, 2018 / foody
Ten years ago, laborers hammering away at Prague’s cobblestone streets would probably break for lunch with bag of fluffy rohliky bread rolls and some sliced ham, if they couldn’t make it to a pub for goulash and dumplings. Flash-forward to 2018 and the same stonemasons — as well as local shopkeepers, students and chief executives — are likely to prefer bun bo nam bo or pho soup for lunch at one of the city’s fast and cheap Vietnamese noodle restaurants, which have appeared by the dozens in the Czech capital over the past decade.
What hadn’t shown up, however, was the idea that Vietnamese cuisine can be taken seriously, with complex techniques and in a fancier setting. That changed with last December’s opening of Taro, a surprisingly chic bistro in the forever up-and-coming Smichov neighborhood southwest of Old Town. Run by two brothers, Khanh and Giang Ta, Taro has no evening à la carte menu (there is one at lunch), instead offering just two options for dinner: a four-course tasting menu at 890 koruna (about $40) or a seven-course menu at 1,290 koruna per person, not including drinks. Cheap noodles this ain’t.
A deconstructed gyoza started things off on my visit, topping a crisp won ton cracker with sweet and spicy candied ginger, a tender bite of smoky Peking duck and an aromatic cucumber gel for a crunchy and fragrant amuse bouche. Seven equally creative courses followed, often balancing sweet notes with bracing acidity.
A sweet-and-sour sea bass tartare, decorated with apple chips, mango chunks and creamy avocado purée, tasted more like a ceviche, while a green mango salad bathed in crisp passion fruit dressing contrasted tropical fruit flavors with juicy chunks of slow-cooked beef tenderloin.