On hindsight, I didn’t really appreciate the creativity and the vast possibilities for the culinary arts until I had a six-course dinner at La Degustation in Prague.
And it was during this particular Europe trip (Budapest-Vienna-Prague) that I discovered non-alcoholic beverage pairings. Why hadn’t American restaurants conceived this? It’s so obvious.
And it’s actually the non-alcoholic beverage pairings that expanded my mind, not the food (though it was excellent and beautiful and amazing).
The first course of snails was accompanied by a perfectly transparent and colorless apple and leek juice.
The second course of pumpkin and pork cracklings, apple and elderflower juice.
The third course of fish, kohlrabi and cauliflower consommé.
Read that again: Kohlrabi (a vegetable) and cauliflower (also a vegetable) in a drink. I was astounded by how delicious it was.
Foie gras with pistachios was served with grape juice with lemon balm.
Calf sweetbreads with egg, mushrooms and white truffles with cherry juice.
I don’t think I can impress on you this fact: each of these juices weren’t just pressed through a juicer and served. They were topped with foams, they were enhanced with essences of other vegetables and fruit, they were lightly colored or totally colorless and transparent—they were the result of a determined effort to give diners a wine-like experience without the alcohol.
The staff learned of my lactose sensitivity at the beginning of the meal. Amidst the creation of my meal and the meals for all the other patrons, the kitchen whipped up a new dessert just for me! Maybe they had the dessert on backup and maybe they created it on the spot, but I like to think that I caught them off guard and the kitchen came up with a solution fast.
For dessert, I was served pumpkin peach granité topped with dehydrated raspberries, frozen strawberry purée and fresh huckleberries. Its non-alcoholic accompaniment, a red grape soda.
If you’d been expecting this to be a food review, #sorrynotsorry for disappointing you.
THE VERDICT: Is the food extraordinary? Yes, of course. The service was absolutely impeccable without being stuffy. But come here to change what you think you know about what the “fine dining experience” could be.