Mandarin Oriental Prague Offers Fusion Dining with a Twist

By Paul Joseph

The concept of fusion cuisine, which combines elements of different culinary traditions, has become increasingly prevalent as restaurants strive to reflect the globalised world in which we now live.

For the Mandarin Oriental hotel group, the coalescing of cultures is nothing less than its modus operandi, with each of its properties featuring several nods towards the group’s Far East heritage, in both their gastronomic offerings and their general aesthetics and design.

At Mandarin Oriental Prague, which opened in 2006 in the city’s Malá Strana district, its flagship restaurant Essensia has given a fresh twist to fusion food by creating two distinctive Tasting Menus – one showcasing Asian cuisine and another offering traditional Czech fare.

Helmed by Executive Chef Jiří Štift, a Czech native considered one of the country’s most exciting culinary talents, it is a bold enterprise that requires a kitchen operating with military precision to pull off.

Standout dishes on the Asian menu included a fresh and tasty Thai beef salad with mango, papaya, mint and a chili dressing, and a perfectly cooked sea bass teriyaki and shrimp gyoza with asparagus tempura and king oyster mushrooms.

The Czech menu offered such local delights as a ‘kulajda’ creamy bohemian soup with egg, dill potatoes and wild mushrooms, and pan roasted perch with caraway butter kohlrabi cabbage and quinoa risotto.

Desserts, comprising chilled tapioca pearls with coconut milk, mango, pomegranate and lychee on the Asian side and cheesecake with strawberries, rhubarb and wine sabayon on the Czech, also hit high notes with their explosion of flavours and creative presentation.

Despite the Czech Republic being somewhat off the international wine map, Essensia takes its vino seriously too. Indeed, the restaurant itself takes its name from a dessert wine typically drunk across Eastern Europe, and each month a different local vineyard is chosen and its wines paired with specific food courses. Meanwhile an atmospheric wine cellar with seating for up to 16 guests and can be reserved for private wine tastings.

A word should also be reserved for the restaurant’s intimate and stylish setting. Inhabiting a series of rooms located beneath beautiful vaulted Renaissance ceilings, the décor is minimalist chic with cream hued walls and lightly coloured flooring providing the perfect backdrop for the elegant and enticing menu.

It is testament to the versatility of the Mandarin Oriental brand that it can translate its values so successfully to a country that for many years lived out in the gastronomic wilderness. This is a superb restaurant befitting of a hotel group that remains the benchmark for all competitors.

By Paul Joseph