*Taken February 5, 2008.
TL and I were both pretty full from Shanghai Mong, but after a long afternoon of walking around, running errands, hanging out at Starbucks and Borders, and seeing Slumdog Millionaire, it was time for dinner and both of us were at a loss. Nothing in particular called out, and even the suggestion of going home and ordering something didn't spark up an appealing fallback. On the N train headed to Astoria, we were almost at the stop for TL's apartment when I remembered the Czech place a block away from the 30th Avenue station.
"Zlata Praha," I said. "Let's go there."
I'd been wanting to try the restaurant for a long time, and so had TL; both of us had heard good things. A friend of mine had called it one of the most authentic Czech places around.
Despite its slightly forbidding exterior (no windows aside from two covered by curtains), the interior was welcoming and Czech tchotchkes lined the walls. A quick look at the menu revealed that in February the place was also organizing a "Czech and Slovak Ball" at the Astoria World Manor as well as hosting a multi-day "Venison Feast" in the restaurant. Too bad I was leaving before then!
Both of us had spotted the potato pancakes on the menu, and I'm glad we ordered them. They were crisp all over and pleasantly chewy in the centers, with an uncommon lightness and great flavor.
I had the pork goulash, which was rich with sour cream and thick with sauerkraut. The pieces of pork were perfectly tender. This one definitely fell into the comfort food category.
TL ordered the bohemian sauerbraten, slices of roasted beef in a sweet, creamy sauce that TL commented was almost like a pumpkin or butternut squash soup. Dollops of jellied cranberry sauce sat on top, and I couldn't help dipping from time to time into his dish, too.
If you thought both of our entrees look mainly like plates of sauce, you're be correct. Luckily, a large plate of "dumplings" came out with them—and these weren't dumplings like any I'd seen before. Instead of little parcels of meat and dough, Czech dumplings are sliced rounds of fluffy steamed bread, unexpectedly similar to mantou. They made a great foil for the rich, creamy sauces and sopped up the flavors nicely.
Afterward, we were stuffed. I wish I had gotten around to trying this place while I was actually still living in Astoria, but I guess it's just as well, since its offerings aren't light fare. If you're seeking something hearty and warm in cold weather, Zlata Praha is the spot.