Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Fish Market, Rybi Trh

Off  to Prague to see  the Christmas or Easter Market or  make a pub crawl for Czech Brews?  Although famous for beer, you can find fish here, too.  Hidden behind  the Tyn  Church is an old courtyard where fine restaurants can be found at modest prices. The Fish Market is one of them.


The Ungelt was established in the 12th century as a fortified courtyard to protect the merchants travelling through Prague. It is located directly behind the Tyn Church and hence is also called the Tyn Courtyard.  The courtyard was originally protected by ditches and walls and under the protection of the  king. "Tyn" means "protected."  The later German  term "Ungelt" refers to the area as customs zone where the merchants paid a duty for entry. It had a third name s the "Cheerful Court"  Laeta curia, because of the socializing and festive atmosphere that surrounds  large market places and trading. The Ungelt flourished during   the time  of Charles IV and  Wenceslas IV during the 14th century. As trade broadened through centuries, the Ungelt lost importance and by 20th  century, the Ungelt was a circle of dilapidated buildings that gave refuge to poor people and rundown offices and work places. In 1996, the Tyn Courtyard was renovated and Renaissance Granovsky Palace restored. The palace dates from 1558 and is decorated with beautiful Renaissance sgraffiti with an arcade loggia decorated in illustrations of Bible  stories and Greek mythology. Across from it is the  Black Bear  at No. 642 already established  in 1428.  The Black Bear  has a Baroque facade with 18th century  statues of St. John of Nepomuk, St. Wenceslas and Florian. The building is named after a black bear in chains. Inside this hourse is the Indian Jewel Restauarant, but across the  courtyard is the Rybi Trh, Fish Market. 

On a cold winter's day when heavy clouds smother Prague, fresh fish over in the Fish Market  brings back the warmth of the Mediterranean  sun  Fish is delivered regularly and  the menu varies accordingly. The bream comes from Croatia, the salmon from Norway, the mussels, clams, oysters and prawns from France and the octopus from Morocco. The Atlantic halibut and monkfish from Norway and the turbot form Croatia, but the lobster is Canadian. Red Snapper comes from Italy. Unlike the tourists, this is their final destination and their appearance is exclusive for you.

There's fish I know and fish I've never met before, but they're here for your pleasure. The bream is stacked  on ice alongside the red rockfish. The rockfish laments  every day of the week as Monday.  His face shows the  intimate displeasure of being caught. The bream are still gasping their last breath,  their mouths wide open with eyes pallid. They make a tasty dish.

The restaurant swims in pleasant  aquamarine  pastels of tourquoise and sea-green. Lobsters patrol their tank with their giant  claws taped so to discourage anti-social behavior. Nearby swim domesticated small fry in brilliant orange and pink, happy to escape the kitchen and dart away into their broken pots and scallop shells whenever anybody looks at them. They apparently comprehend the significance of the piled bream on ice and find their tank a more secure place. They're all for the spectator sport but not for participation.

The manager, Tomas Plechata arrives. He's friendly person who sees that the  restaurant is well-stocked, efficient, clean and hospitable. The dining area is modest and comfy—a good choice for an intimate chat or romantic dinner. The décor is simple. In a window is  beautiful model of tall-masted ship and over the doorway a swordfish arched in an eternal leap.


The kitchen staff are friendly, amiable and courteous. I watch the chef  select  my bream and filet it expertly. His fingers  are swift in their execution and the fish is cleanly cut in neat ribbons  with admirable skill. His assistant prepares the vegetables. In minutes,  their hands arrange  the vegetables on the plate, settle the fish, set the garnish and make the final artistic touches. It's cinematic watching them prepare the food so precisely; but much more enjoyable to eat it. There's no waiting about for the ship to come into harbor and dock.

The bream is perfect. I'm in heaven. It's everything fish should be: delicate, succulent, smooth, airy and delectable. It falls apart with a prick of my fork. It's  perfectly moist without being soggy or mushy. The tender bits float about in my mouth like  small bits of paradise.  Only a cat can purr more loudly than my stomach. It's indescribably good. The bream is accompanied by fresh vegetables that have been sauteed on hot fire. They are tender, but still have texture and crunch so important to making carrots and broccoli attractive and delectable.

The food is well-prepared.  There's no need for huge servings, heavy fats or salty fried carbohydrates.  A modest portion satisfies the mouth and stomach with healthy nutrition and fabulous high-definition flavor. The broccoli is crisp with fresh sweetness. The carrot slices are delicate as  almond slivers. Crispy is mixed with succulent zucchini in all its glorious richness. If my tongue were only a bit longer, I'd be licking my face and nose to catch the small splatters of food caught on the cat's whiskers.  Outside, winter brought icy snow; but inside my stomach is one warm fish that won't be returning to the sunny Mediterranean clime. 

Vlasatice Chardonnay accompanied the  bream. It was a good choice made by the manager. The wine was light, a bit fruity, but not dry or excessively sweet. It tasted like the first drops of spring rain after a cruel winter. Although Czech wines are not so well known on the market, the area close to the Austrian border near Slovakia is rich in vineyards that are making a stunning revival into the international market. They are smooth and pour easily, particularly around the time of the late harvest when the new wine arrives in Prague in large kegs and  sold on the streets in frothy glory. 

Fish Market  dishes are  meticulouosly  prepared and artistically arranged. It's a shame to eat such food. The entree of  salmon, prawn and yellowfin tuna are as artfully designed and presented as the finest Swiss  after dinner chocolates. They are miniature works of art delivered by expert hands. The manager is totally aware of presentation—it's not just the  careful selection of fresh fish and its origin, but the details of service; the colors and shapes that are important. 

It's food art and because I lack words for the skill involved, I leave some images of the  artwork from Rybi Trh.

There's two important words to repeat: it's good  and secondly, go there.

Restaurant Rybí trh

 Týnský dvůr 5
Praha 1 - Staré město
110 00

Phone: +420 224 895 447
Fax: +420 2 24 89 54 49
Tomas Plechata,   Manager


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