Hospoda made waves when it first made its entrance a couple of years back; the Czech restaurant, housed in the Bohemian National Hall, served intricate renditions of the cuisine of that Eastern European nation plus Pilsner Urquell poured four different ways, each with a different amount of foamy head.
The beer lives on, but the food has undergone a couple of transformations, and the menu recently morphed into “New American beer-inspired” fare under the eye of a new chef, Rene Stein.
Stein grew up in Germany, where he spent time in fine-dining restaurants. Three and a half years ago, he moved to the U.S., where he worked first at Liberty National Golf Course in New Jersey and then became the chef de cuisine at Seäsonal, the lauded Austrian and German fine dining spot on 58th Street. “I did all the creative work,” he explains. He also earned a Michelin star two years in a row.
When he decided it was time to move on, it took little time to land at Hospoda, where he started working in June. And he quickly got to work re-imagining the menu under that somewhat baffling theme.
Why the move from Czech fare? “It’s Czech enough with the beer,” he explains. “We’ll continue doing that. But, food-wise, we’ll go away from the Czech cuisine. I’d call it more like a New American cuisine: a beautiful mix of different cultures.” The beer-inspired bit comes in because he’s dreaming up dishes to pair with beer, of course, but he’s also using a lot of beer in his cooking. “There are dishes where I use beer in the sauce or marinades, and there are dishes where I use ingredients from beer like malts and hops.” And then there are things he just likes to eat with beer, like the beef tartare.
The menu will change seasonally; Stein cites summer highlights that include sea scallops with summer onions and peaches, tomato gazpacho, and shrimp with pickled cipollini onions. And now that he has the dinner list in order, he’s taking a whack at the bar food, too.
Stein also says the beer program may change a bit to go with the food. “We’ll bring in a couple more European beers,” he says, as well as pair more to the food. Urquell enthusiasts shouldn’t fret, though: The pilsner will remain a staple.
Above all, says Stein, “We’re taking the quality up to put Hospoda on the map.” Just not the Czech map.
Hit the next page for photos of some of Stein’s new dishes.