Hospoda: Czech Please

The Upper East Side--a new nabe for Bohemians

Unless you're an old fogey or roll with the Hewitt/Spence set, you won't find much excitement in the 10021 zip code. Dining, too, can be a snooze, since restaurateurs often shun the leafy Upper East Side for trendier stretches of concrete further south. But Hospoda—a vibrant, new Czech restaurant located on the ground floor of the Bohemian National Hall—is breathing culinary life into East 73rd Street.

The space feels appropriately Euro: streamlined and sleek, but with an intellectual, arty vibe—it would have been Bohumil Hrabal's New York stomping grounds. Backlit wall panels stenciled with abstract graffiti depict pseudo-pastoral scenes. Simple wood tables and chairs add to the relaxed setting. Although quiet on weekdays, the place is bustling on Fridays and Saturdays as guests—arguably an older crowd—dive into complimentary steak tartare bites, and toasts topped with cottage cheese and sliced radishes.

Chefs Oldrich Sahajdak and Marek Sada have divided their menu into "green market," "chef's," and "Czech" subsections. For $32 you can get any two plates, which, with a dessert ($9), should satisfy most diners. Hungry folk may want to bolster up with an additional dish, though ($13).

Do not ask this man for a Sam Adams.
Liz Barclay
Do not ask this man for a Sam Adams.

Location Info

Map

Hospoda

321 E. 73rd St.
New York, NY 10021

Category: Restaurant > Czech

Region: East 70s

Details

Hospoda
321 East 73rd Street
212-861-1038, hospodanyc.com

Slideshow: Inside Hospoda: Czech Please!

Related Stories

More About

The beautifully presented offerings change regularly, but many are variations on a theme: One day, pickled carrot adds a tart crunch to a block of shredded rabbit encased in a savory, wobbly aspic. The following week, white cabbage and apple top the gelatinous brick. Similarly, cauliflower purée and chanterelles garnish a single ravioli oozing a yellow-hued yolk, only to be replaced later with a deep-fried whole egg.

Don't miss a bounty of market veggies, glossed with "celery essence" and studded with earthy morels. The somewhat pretentiously named potato "variation" showcases every treatment the tater can handle: mashing, boiling, frying, and chipping. While starch-heavy, it works.

Skip over the slightly less impressive chef's selections for the decidedly tastier Czech dishes. Supple and fork-tender poached-beef flatiron steak comes covered in a cream sauce flecked with dill oil, creamy potatoes guarding alongside. Cabbage and dumplings accompany a succulent marbled pork belly. And a swoosh of split-yellow-pea purée (made with white beans at a subsequent meal) meets its match, surprisingly a slab of smoked tongue. All are outstanding examples of how to modernize classic Slavic flavor pairings—but do you want to eat them on 95-degree evenings? If not, file Hospoda away till autumn.

Another very minor quibble: desserts. Thank God the potato noodles—mashed spuds coated in bread crumbs, soaking in a vanilla crème Anglaise—have been banished from the bill of fare. A recent visit featured a well-executed cheesecake, though its peach-sorbet topping won the real accolades. Sweet buns also make a respectable showing, if not a totally memorable one.

European vintages dominate the short wine list, with a few American ones thrown in for good measure, but beer is the leading libation here. Specifically, Pilsner Urquell, the Czech Republic's unofficial beer. Made in Plzen since 1842, the world's first pilsner is the only brew available at Hospoda. But draught master Lukas Svoboda draws the drink in four distinct styles: creme Urquell (classic and balanced, with a thick head), slice (slightly bitter with a four-finger foam), sweet (milky, all mousse), and neat (sharp and headless). Don't order it neat, though—"It's not the Czech way," you'll learn. Rather, opt for the $19 sampling—several swigs in, or maybe in the throes of drunken glee, you'll understand why the Czech Republic tops the charts when it comes to world per-capita beer consumption.

lshockey@villagevoice.com

For more restaurant coverage, check out our food blog, Fork in the Road, at voicefoodblog.com. Follow us on Twitter @ForkintheRoadVV.

 
My Voice Nation Help
3 comments
Dr Gecko
Dr Gecko

Couldn't the editors write a headline for a Czech restaurant without the stupid pun that we all thought was clever when we were six years old, but not since then? The point of a clever headline is to be clever, not to follow a stale formula.

Czech this off my list
Czech this off my list

This review reads like so many from professional reviewers who eat out every night of the week and become so jaded that they can no longer distinguish a good restaurant from a mediocre one. I ate here the other night and the place was so pretentious it was ridiculous. The other commenters' remarks about the way the beer is served - paying $19 for foam, and only one beer is served - are correct. The food, while tasty, was served in minuscule portions. I ordered "lamb leg," which should have been called "lamb toe" - the piece of lamb would literally have filled about half of a shot glass. A piece of trout could hardly be found, hidden under vegetables. $32 for this? Immigrants and people of an older generation must be disgusted to see that hearty peasant fare has given way to such overpriced nouvelle cuisine in such small amounts. Don't go here if you're hungry. If you want to eat Czech, you're better off with the huge barbecue at the Bohemian Hall & Beer Garden in Astoria.

DJW
DJW

No beer is designed to be drunk "neat" as defined by Hospoda, but it's absolutely retarded to not only order a mug of all foam, but to pay extra for the "privilege". A finger or two of head, yes, but only stupid people will spend $9 for effectively two ounces of beer.

 
Loading...