SLOVAK Nouveau surfaces in the Old Town.
photo: Eric Smillie
Where: Klariská 8, Bratislava
When: Monday-Thursday 9:00-24:00,
English menu: Yes
Rating: 4 out of 10
SLOVAK Nouveau is the tag a friend of mine gives the style of food now served at many new restaurants, and it is fitting. In these cases, the usual Slovak pub or restaurant food is brushed up. Gone are the deep-fried cheese, vegetables, meat fillets, and salads. Well, deep-fried salad is an exaggeration, but the dishes like chicken stuffed with ham and sausage are also pushed to the edges of the menu. In their place, diners find more fish, fancier dishes, and combinations influenced by foreign cuisines.
As a prime example, U Hada offers appetisers like smoked trout fillet or goose pate with roasted bread, and full plates such as pork in plum sauce and chicken skewer with sesame seeds and soy sauce. Even whole rice has found its way onto the selection of side dishes.
But for all these changes to the standard menu, I have yet to have a good meal here. The fusilli with pesto, for example, came out too chewy to be "al dente". And the eggplant with cheese was very oily. Perhaps I was hoping for too much.
Other diners have fared better. The results of a test of the daily menu, for example, came back with a quite nice cauliflower soup and a good chicken sauté - one of the cornerstones of Slovak Nouveau cuisine.
This restaurant has its company in the likes of Red Café on Trnavské mýto.
In addition to having similarly tweaked (though not identical) menus, both are brightly decorated with a unique form of kitsch. In the case of U Hada (At the Snake's), the theme is snakes. One is set into the dark stone floor and matches a large wooden sculpture that hangs over the bar. Many more squirm on the pink walls. Up front are dark tables to match the floor and the bar, while in the back there is a long leather couch and a café-lounge area. Still farther back is a courtyard with outside seating well protected from rain and sun.
For the new look and style of food it offers, U Hada is relatively cheap. Certainly, you pay extra to be in the Old Town, but still less than at similar restaurants nearby. The daily menu is Sk89, and the cost of a dish averages at around Sk200.
Even with its unique look, however, the restaurant seems boring. It has a franchise feel, which is reinforced, among other things, by the waiters' uniforms. Black bow ties have given way to red and white checker shirts in the half-year it has been open, but the atmosphere has retained a contrived feeling.
Could it also be the style of cuisine that makes this restaurant feel ordinary? The answer is yes and no. Slovak Nouveau can be done poorly or it can be done well, and I take that as a positive sign for the future.