Let's go to Hospoda on the upper East Side for some wonderful beer and Czech food on Friday April 5th starting at 6:30pm -- we'll be seated at 7pm.
Hospoda offers New Yorkers a unique culinary experience:Seasonal, farm-to-table Czech-inspired dishes paired with the purest and freshest Pilsner Urquell beer available in the United States served in a landmark Upper East Side dining room.
Review from the New York Daily News January 2013
More salon than saloon, this sleek, handsome room has the indulgent feeling of an international business-class lounge where tables are acres apart and conversation does not require shouting.
Meals here begin (and most end) with beer. One is greeted with a goblet of pure, icy Pilsner Urquell foam. The house dotes on its beer, giving it the attention typically reserved for vintage wine. The main attraction is the national pride — Urquell — served four distinct ways depending on the amount of air pumped in. A flight is a good way to discover the nuances of each.
A basket of fragrant, dense rye bread follows, paired with house-made cottage cheese. But there is nothing abstemious about these impossibly creamy, faintly sour curds. They are what your doting babicka (grandmother) might slather on to fatten you up. I could have contentedly made a meal of them.
Chef Katie Busch’s concise seasonal menus may begin in Prague, but her culinary wanderlust is revealed in dishes drawing inspiration from across the EU. On any given evening, there may be a dozen selections offered in three courses. Portions are ample, so, unless you’ve just completed a marathon, any two would suffice.
JOHN TAGGART/FOR NEW YORK DAILY NEWS Grilled branzino with broccolini, wheatberries, medjool dates and red verjus reduction from Hospoda.
“Still Life in Orange and Green” would be an apt title for a seasonal salad ($15) of artfully arranged nuggets of roasted pattypan squash, pumpkin, and baby zucchini. Accompanied by a dollop of spiced paprika crème fraiche and chunks of molasses cake, these seemingly disparate components somehow meld in harmony. A clunkier rendition on this same theme is the composed heirloom carrot salad ($15). While equally photogenic, its preening stars lacked depth, and salt for that matter.
Less visually arresting, but far more seductive, is the Parmesan poached egg ($18). It wobbles gently as it arrives nested among the roasted, nearly caramelized hen of the woods, braised kale and a chicken jus so concentrated it borders on demi-glace. In a bowl already brimming with concentrated flavor, the act of piercing that silken, glistening yolk feels positively hedonistic. I highly recommend it.
No less pleasurable is the Duck Confit Risotto ($20). This entrée-sized mid course playfully snatches ingredients from the whole of Europe: dates, turnips, walnuts, poppy seeds, yet assembles a coherent coalition of deeply satisfying flavors.
The menu’s most traditional dishes are, oddly, among its rare missteps.
Fried Egg Bread ($18), a traditional Czech peasant dish, is reimagined here as a sort of decadent Mittel-European Monte Cristo. The jam is swapped with minced pickle and a slather of hearty mustard. The sandwich, while tasty, is a black hole of butter that rapidly tips from luxurious to leaden. Unless you plan to nap at the table, this is a dish best shared, if ordered at all.
A thick plank of Veal Schnitzel ($29) straddles a colossal mound of Yukon mashed potatoes studded with colorful pickled beets. A carnivore’s catnip, its golden breading glistens and crunches satisfyingly to yield the juicy meat beneath. Your heart races anticipating Technicolor flavors, but sinks as it encounters wan monochrome instead. Any semblance of seasoning or salt seems to have taken the night off.
In contrast, seafood is handled impeccably (albeit somewhat ironically from a land-locked country). Beautifully roasted halibut ($36) perches atop a raft of tender white asparagus amid a plate-sized sea of smoky paprika tomato broth. An inspired surf and turf of seared scallops and braised pork shank ($35) makes a strong case for leaving beef out of this marriage. Despite the lumberjack-sized portion, it is hard to resist finishing.
The list of desserts is short and satisfying, but could be culled to one: the Czech Pancake ($10). This fluffy pancake practically floats above poached apples on an ethereal cloud of sweetened, concentrated beer foam whipped with an eggy sabayon. The combination is dazzling, drawing your spoon back over and over, and is a lasting reminder that Hospoda is no common ale house.
Hours: Mon.-Sat., 4 p.m. - midnight: Sun.: 4 p.m. - 10 p.m.
DON’T MISS… Duck Confit Risotto, $20; Grilled Hen of the Woods, $18; Wild Striped Bass, $34; Day Boat Sea Scallops, $35; Czech Pancake, $10
PASS ON… Fried Egg Bread, $18; Veal Schnitzel, $29
SUGGESTION… Sample the surprisingly nuanced beer flight,
Here are some comments by other diners, "What a nice surprise tucked away on East 73rd Street! A luminous atmosphere, bonanza of beer and great fall/winter menu. Loved the fig salad and the halibut. Yum! The service was the perfect balance of being attentive without being obtrusive. And their explanation of the beer options made me look at beer in a whole new light. We'll be back!!" Another writes, "Almost perfect from start to finish. A little late for our res but seated quickly. Pleasantly disarmed by the mesmerizing room. A nice vibe without ear-splitting din. Enjoyed the rundown on the different pours. Food was also great: steak tartare and squash starters, eggbread, ham, pickles, mustard, horseradish combo then shifted gears and went for the Nova halibut. Not the most Bohemian of mains, but was perfectly cooked. Perfect early winter supper. Food and drinks came out quickly. Never felt rushed. Waiter made some great recommendations (e.g. the halibut) and we enjoyed the schpiel on the pilsener preparations. My wife picked the dessert and I was on my fourth beer so all I remember is that it was good."
One more says, "This is my go-to on the UES. The food is excellent. Giant seared scallops with braised pork is the best. The room is unusual... A long communal table doubles as a bar and is surrounded by well-spaced tables so you are not elbowing strangers, which is unique for New York! The schnitzel looks good, but this and some of the other Eastern European specialties are a bit too heavy for me. At $10 a half-liter the beer is a bit pricey, but it is terrific. If you like beer you will understand the difference between this and what you get elsewhere."
I will make a reservation for six at 7pm -- please arrive at 6:30 so we can meet in the bar and get our drinks.. $5 deposit required... will increase reservation if needed.. see you there!