Magazine article The New Yorker

Hospoda

Magazine article The New Yorker

Hospoda

Article excerpt

Czechs like a nice big head on their beer, and as soon as you sit down at Hospoda, in the Bohemian National Hall, you are welcomed with a small glass of beer that is almost all head. The bubbles of froth are tiny, as in a cappuccino, and the effect is like a sweet, thin cream, with a sour edge of grain buried somewhere in the flavor. It's called mliko, meaning milk, and normally comes only from a keg's first or last glass; here it's produced by a special attachment on the tap that controls how much air enters the pour. This high-tech rendering of something traditional typifies the enterprise at Hospoda. The name means "pub," but the room eschews nostalgia for something sparer. The walls feature a long, continuous mural cut into dark wood and lit from behind. Made by a Prague graffiti artist named Masker, it whimsically references national cliches--overflowing beer mugs, Skodas--that the restaurant itself seems anxious to avoid.

The menu, which changes monthly, curbs the stodgy, dumpling-prone proclivities of Czech fare, aiming at something sleekly international, albeit with one foot still in Central Europe. In early fall, it featured Hawaiian opah, possibly the world's most un-Czech fish. The chef, Katie Busch, is attracted to unusual, slightly extreme flavors. Goat cheese on a green salad is not baked or grilled but deliberately singed. Often somewhat conventional elements are given a surreal twist. Slow-cooked chicken breast comes with black-currant foam, pea shoots, and a millet cake doused in acacia honey. …

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