Eastern European food gets precious little representation in the Manhattan food scene. Aside from Seasonal and a handful of lesser-known eateries, dedicated foodies might have to venture into the deep outer boroughs. Does it deserve this kind of cold shoulder? After tonight, I think not.
Hospoda is a casual-feeling, beer-oriented restaurant that is associated with the Czech Consulate next to it. The second week into operation, this restaurant was doing the motherland proud. Walking in, the space is open and lined with a beautifully carved and lit wall.
In place of a traditional bar, you’ll see a beer master standing behind 4 kegs in a complex piece of machinery. In front of him, a piece of clear glass lets you see into the cellar where there is….. more kegs of beer. Drink away.
Delightfully, the first to arrive at the table with our dashing waiter was a refreshing drink of beer, the “milk” version of their only Pilsner. There are four variations on a theme, with an increasingly sparse amount of foam. They can be ordered individually, or as a test flight brought up in succession.
Our complementary amuse-bouche then followed with cottage cheese bites of bread, topped with radish. The wonderful creamy texture was a great opener…the radish wasn’t at all intrusive. Soon after came steak tartar, hugged by two crisps. I assumed there were some capers in there, and it was fantastic, better the most.
The prix-fixe menu of a first and second dish is well worth the price. My first dish featured a pseudo sunny side up. I say this because the egg white is brilliantly replaced by buttermilk foam. It laid on two slices of Prague-style ham, a fancy name, but fell slightly short of expectation as it was just…ham.
My brother had a chilled duck breast, stuffed with celery hairs and topped celery foam. The celery foam goes down with a fascinating sensation. Somehow, greens you tried to avoid in your childhood, in foam-form, become a much more delightful way to go down.
Our second courses were just as impressive. The lamb was phenomenal. The sweet carrot puree, almost like yam, was a shockingly good pairing. After that, the course across the table was much less impressive. A creamy sauce doused what the menu called a piece of beef oyster blade, which is off the shoulder. Not a bad dish, but slightly lackluster after the lamb, especially with the barley dumplings which were a little bland.
Dessert, Czech style. This also changes every night and our waiter told us this was one of the less impressive. The poppy shortbread cake did end up losing out to the more American coffee meringues (amazing). The hazelnut ice cream that came with the poppy seed though, was a nice balance to everything, which was all a little too sweet for me.
In conclusion, my brother and I decided to give this a 3.3/5 for regular diners, and a 3.5/5 if you heart beer. I toast the whimsical and creative Czech Consulate for sanctioning and supporting such a project and I hope that the others follow-suit soon.
I bet it’s all tax exempt.
What does this rating mean?
Hospoda (Make a Reservation)
321 East 73rd Street
New York City, NY 10028