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RESTAURANT TRAILS

Dine with a saint

WHAT does it feel like to dine with a saint? There is great ambiance but the taste of the food is beside the point. Could this be the case at 12 Apoštolov?
Whichever heavy wood booth you pick at this old-world style restaurant in Košice you dine with a portrait of one of the 12 Apostles. When I stopped in, I got Matthew, the sinner who left a comfy life as a tax gatherer to follow the teachings of the Messiah.


SAINTS watch you eat at 12 Apoštolov.
photo: Eric Smillie

WHAT does it feel like to dine with a saint? There is great ambiance but the taste of the food is beside the point. Could this be the case at 12 Apoštolov?

Whichever heavy wood booth you pick at this old-world style restaurant in Košice you dine with a portrait of one of the 12 Apostles. When I stopped in, I got Matthew, the sinner who left a comfy life as a tax gatherer to follow the teachings of the Messiah.

Modelled almost exactly after an older restaurant in the same location, the restaurant and its long, arched hall is lovely. The building was closed for 10 years before it came into the hands of the 12 Apoštolov's two owners, who secured its protection as a national historical monument and renovated it.

The restaurant opened in July of 2003. At its rear it opens onto a calm courtyard with a summer terrace. Here, large windows allow you to look into the kitchen at the cooks performing in their white aprons and hats.

Even for a late weekday lunch, the restaurant was crowded. Next to me, men in button-down shirts were having a lively discussion in Dutch. Ahead of me men in suits and prim-looking women were exchanging gifts and flowers.

Somehow I had stumbled in during the days of French gastronomy, and the tables were festooned with red, white, and blue ribbons; French music was playing on the speakers. Occasional roars of laughter erupted behind me. This was obviously a special restaurant.

Too bad the food I tried was nothing special. The waiters were hard to catch, but once I ordered they quickly brought a pretzel with garlic butter as a couvert. It was a nice touch but the combination was a little heavy. A subsequent garlic soup (Sk39) was no help. In another nicety, croutons came on a separate plate, but the garlic was so strong that it would have taken an iron stomach to finish the bowl.

The restaurant's pomp was maintained with the main dish, which arrived covered with a shiny metal dome. Drawn back a bit of steam escaped, clearing to reveal Gourmet Tofu with Asian Vegetables and an overbearing vegetable garnish. Ordered in the spirit of French gastronomy, it was more or less your standard Slovak Chinese food (after a few such meals in the country one comes to know exactly what to expect, leading one to suspect that all such restaurants are serviced by the same suppliers) but the sauce was thankfully a little lighter and thinner. Ultimately, however, it was unremarkable, as was a side dish of rice with almonds.

The problem might have been that I turned away from Matthew and the rest of the Apostles. Each of the restaurant's 12 specialties matches one of the saints. The dish of my saint that day, for example, is mint lamb medallions with broccoli puree (Sk480). St Peter is pegged with fish with estragon sauce and tagliatelle verde while St James serves up duck breast with almonds and cranberry and orange salsa. For those with a classic taste, the menu's top steak, clocking in at Sk755, which is quite a price for Košice, is chateaubriand with steamed vegetables. Order yourself one of these and between mouthfuls consider the pros and cons of abandoning the life of luxury.

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