One of the great travel joys is seeking out the best food that a place has to offer—regardless of price! It’s been said better and with more elegance by others, but truly discovering where you are require fearless seeking out of things to eat and drink. How a people expresses itself is deeply reflected in its cuisine. We had the opportunity to visit and experience some wonderful food moments while in Czechia, so stay tuned for more profiles and vignettes.
The history of the Czech people is fascinating and utterly unique in the world—about which I continue to learn. One of the most beautiful capitals and cultural centers in Europe, Prague was spared much of the physical destruction of World War II only to suffer decades under the boot-heel of brutal authoritarian Soviet Union autocrats, who saw to the destruction and dulling of much of the country’s character and passions, as well as the installation of brutalist architecture and food.
Also during this period, an influx of Vietnamese nationals traveled here (one of the communist countries to where they were allowed mostly free movement), which resulted in a substantial expat Vietnamese community, who brought with them, of course, customs and cuisine. Volumes could be (and have been) written about the many faces of the Czech Republic, and I look forward to exploring these stories more.
Czech culture and pride are widely on display since its independence in 1993, and the food scene is embracing both the rebirth and rediscovery of its national traditions as well as the exploding influence of global food culture.
On the recommendation of the wonderful Prague Foodie Map from the folks at A Taste of Prague (which is worth every penny and more, so if you’re heading there, buy it!) and a hearty seconding by friend, world-class writer and Prague resident Evan Rail, we visited Eska, a relatively new but exciting food hub in Prague 8 - Karlín. The restaurant/bakery lives within a renovated/reborn industrial block a brisk 30-minute walk from the city center. As noted in a great recent article in the New York Times by the above mentioned ever-talented Mr. Rail, there’s a wonderful rebirth of old industrial/military/abandoned spaces, and this entire block seems to be reveling in that renaissance.
The team at Eska blends Czech ingredients with modern techniques and presentation within an elevated “industrial” space that is comfortable and extremely satisfying on all levels. The team there is multi-lingual, attentive, friendly and authentically enthusiastic about what they’re sharing with their guests, whether it’s a multi-course tasting menu and wine paring or one of its traditional baked breads. The experience highlights the changing face of Prague and its food scene, which is comforting and exciting. It’s a must-visit spot!