THE PERFECT patio for the palate.
photo: Eric Smillie
Where: Akademická 4, Banská Štiavnica
When: Monday-Friday 11:45-23:00,
Saturday 11:00-24:00, Sunday 11:45-23:00
English menu: Yes
Rating: 6 out of 10
FOR A SMALL town, Banská Štiavnica has numerous restaurants, and of these many spots, Reštaurácia Matej has the most attractive patio. The freshly painted exterior wall is flush with red and green flowering vines and flower boxes, and the thick pine shrubs add a lush, shady intimacy. The tranquil spot catches the eye and, without any consultation with the stomach, tells the mind that the body must stop in.
Actually, that is not completely honest. In retrospect it is hard to say if my companion and I, passing Matej on a first tour of the hillside town's narrow streets in the still-sharp afternoon sun, were not hooked by the perfect black and tan beers waiting on one table.
Though we continued our little walk, it was with only half our attention and we did not long struggle with our desire for a rezané pivo, as it is called in Slovak, before we circled back.
We were not the only ones. Like most of the restaurants in town, this place is busy during the tourist season, so do not be surprised if someone asks to share your table.
Once the drinks are taken care of, a meal here starts off well with a strong, thin garlic soup on which float a shipwreck of croutons (Sk19). The Italian soup, meanwhile, is sprinkled liberally with tasty herbs and supports a rather tough raft of bread topped with shredded cheese - a knife is helpful.
The main menu is full of curious-sounding dishes. Our eyes were drawn to the turkey fillet in wine and ginger sauce, though its taste proved too subtle for my companion, who found it boring. Some more successful flavours, however, are sure to lie among the many other choices that play variations on traditional meals.
The baked broccoli (Sk99), surprisingly, is not cooked to the point of sogginess, and two fried eggs are hidden under its melted cheese blanket. Also thrown in is the usual Slovak veggie mix of peas, chopped carrots, and corn, but a few chunks of celery root add an occasional taste of excitement.
Another unusual offering is the generous heaped helping of finely chopped vegetables sautéed lightly with little bits of soy meat. Accompanied by a side of boiled potatoes, this is so filling it would silence even the staunchest believer that vegetarian food cannot satisfy the stomach as meat does.
A successful solution for desert is the banana in chocolate (Sk35). Its sauce is a treat without being too sweet, and the whipped cream topping is enough to satisfy, but not smother, the humble banana.
As we tucked into our final meal at Matej, and in Banská Štiavnica, the same couple we had split a table with the day before strolled up and sat down beside us for another round of Slovakia's signature potato dumplings with sheep cheese, bryndzové halušky.
Though the food here is not extraordinary, it is exciting enough to awaken the palate, and something about the setting calls diners back for a second visit.
16. Aug 2004 at 0:00 | Eric Smillie