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Thursday, June 17, 2010

Karavan Seraj

It's getting on for a full 24 hours since my recent visit to Karavan Seraj now, and regretfully I am still suffering the gastronomic consequences.

Not because the food was bad by any means, oh no. Rather, because it was so very very good, and yes, I did (uncharacteristically for me) totally and utterly gorge.

I’ve been to this laidback Middle Eastern restaurant on Masarykovo nábřeží several times in the last couple of years, and yesterday headed back for another visit with friend and fellow gastronome Mr Meatballs (so-called after his excellent recipe in this regard, no innuendo intended…).

Open under the umbrella of the Czech Klub cestovatelů (“Traveller’s Club” in English), the interior is decorated with a mish-mash of backpacking paraphernalia, with the main walls lined with regularly updated photo exhibits from all around the world. Apparently they also offer a travellers’ library as well as weekly travel-themed presentations / lectures / films etc – kind of like the Lonely Planet but in restaurant form. I probably would have been drawn to that side of the place had I been living here a few years ago in my backpacking days, but these days for me it’s obviously all about the food... ;-)) That said, one way or the other, the place certainly seems to strike a chord with a lot of people at any rate, and evening reservations are definitely advised.

I personally love their unique menu, which, with its international foodie photos every other page and expansive range of Lebanese, Iraqi, Syrian and occasional Indian dishes and drinks, usually takes me a good half an hour to peruse through before actually getting round to ordering anything… The menu also playfully features a section for old-school Czech nostalgics, offering, among other things, Canned Luncheon Meat with Bread served in a Mess-tin, Müsli Stick Flattened through Sitting Down on It, and Water from the Vltava River, Chemically Purified and Served in a Czech Cup. I always wonder every time I come here if anyone actually orders from this bit…

To kick off, I went for my usual Sauvignon Blanc at 48kč per glass (I should really stop photographing my glasses of white wine now – they all look pretty much the same after all…), while Mr M virtuously went for the masala tea. The tea came out on this occasion served in a large mug, while I had had it served in a proper pot when I’d popped in as part of my ongoing chai reconnaissance mission a couple of afternoons’ previously.

Either way, it certainly compared well to the various masala chais I documented back in my very first blog entry (has it really only been a month…???).

For the sake of simplicity on this occasion, Mr M and I decided to share the Lebanese Set Menu at 589kč for two. This consisted of a selection of several of my favourite starters (houmous, baba ghanouj, sambusek lahme, tabouleh salad), followed by a mixed grill of lamb cubes, minced lamb meat and chicken meat with onion and tomato grilled on skewer, all served of course with copious pita bread.

First came the starters:

These were all excellent, in particular the houmous (one of my all-time favourite foodstuffs ever) and the sambusek lahme (pastry shells filled with minced lamb meat, onion and pine nuts – kind of like mini Cornish pasties of the desert).

We had barely made a start on the starters, however, when the mixed grill also emerged from the kitchen. It would have been nice to have the meal more paced out, from my point of view, rather than having everything brought from the kitchen all at once.

That said, while it might have arrived a little prematurely, when it came to quality the mixed grill was just divine, with tender chunks of marinated chicken and lamb that just seemed to melt in your mouth... I’m not normally a massive meat eater, but these delicious pieces of tasty kebab for once rendered me well and truly carnivorous for the evening! In my enthusiasm for the dish, however, I somehow forgot to take a picture of the meat itself without the bread on top of it, so I borrowed one from the website instead – it’s a pretty accurate depiction.

By this point I was getting pretty damn full, but yet somehow just couldn’t seem to keep myself from compulsively eating until the remainder of the oh-so-delicious starters were cleared…

Unsurprisingly then, by the time it came round to contemplating dessert, I was nurturing a near full-term food baby, and even my usual secondary dessert stomach literally couldn’t manage anything more ample than a (not very minty nor particularly icy) “Dew of the Sahara” iced Moroccan mint tea. Mr M, however, nobly stepped up on the dessert front, opting for the Egyptian Sundae (pistachio and chocolate ice-cream with chocolate sauce, walnuts, honey and whipped cream). I’m not sure quite what was Egyptian about it other than the name, but Mr M was definitely a fan. In the past I’ve also tried the baklava and halva here, which were both pretty good as well.

In the end the bill came to 852kč for two large wines, two teas, two soft drinks, the set menu and dessert, which we both considered pretty good value for what essentially had been a pretty much perfect meal. My only preferences would, like I say, be for a more measured pace in the serving of the various dishes of the set menu, and possibly for a softer, warmer version of the pita bread served here, which I found rather dry and brittle for my taste.

Incidentally, I was reminded by a leaflet on the table here that Karavan Seraj also has a sister restaurant near Charles Bridge called Kardamon Café, which I also really want to try some time for its themed Iranian, Yemeni, Lebenese, Zanzibari and southern Indian menus (all marketed under the guise of some daft King Kardamon culinary quest…). According to their website though, they also do dhosas there, which until now I thought could only be obtained at Palladium mall restaurant Chanchala. Definitely one to add to the blog “to do” list at any rate!

Now please do excuse me while I return to suffering the digestive consequences of my extreme culinary over-indulgence… Until next time that is… ;-))


  1. Again, great review!
    Just wish the pictures could replicate the amazing smell of the meat.
    I would add that Karavan Seraj offers a choice of water pipe flavors for those who fancy them, when you hang around long after dinner.

  2. Another fun review! I always find your style of writing very amusing, irreverent and fun. I can't wait to visit Karavan Seraj with my girlfriend!

  3. musicshavedmywife2June 18, 2010 at 3:39 AM

    love your reviews. i never seem to want to check out the places brewsta goes to but i will heading north to prague soon and will be checking out most of the places you go to . now go and try and that new dhosa place for me please.

  4. I was at this place once, aprox. 2 years ago and my experience was really bad. Most of the food was from cans that I can buy myself at Myslikova street. The service was poor and chaotic, their freezer wasn't working and the meals tasted really lame.
    So now when I read your review I wonder if they got better ;-)

  5. agree with musicshavedmywife2 about brewsta, always read his reviews but after reading them i never want to go the place, after yours though.......hmmmmmmmmmm