After our extensive tour through Prague’s Jewish Quarter it was only fitting to cap off this experience with a nice meal in a kosher restaurant. Owner Michal Günsberger welcomed us at the King Solomon Restaurant, Prague’s oldest kosher restaurant. We sat down in the light-flooded winter garden and enjoyed the sun’s rays after our walk on this cool and windy day.
The King Solomon Restaurant
Michal indicated that his restaurant started as a family business that used to produce kosher meat and supply the Jewish community. The King Solomon specializes in Ashkenazi-style Jewish cuisine – the cuisine of the Eastern European Jewish People. With the planned introduction of falafels to the menu, the King Solomon will also be able to offer some Sephardic cooking in the near future.
Michal Günsberger of the King Solomon Restaurant
Most of the dishes at the King Solomon Restaurant are based on the Austro-Hungarian Jewish traditions of cooking which originated before the world wars of the last century. Main dishes include Gefilte Fish, which are essentially poached fish patties or fish balls made of ground deboned fish, usually carp or pike. Other popular items include Kishka, a traditional Jewish sausage dish that is made here of veal intestine and stuffed with matzo meal and ground vegetables. The King Solomon also offers matzo balls with mandeln, a type of Jewish pasta, lamb stew with carrots and potatoes, different types of pasta, and various organic items.
The winter garden, a great place on a cool windy day
The restaurant’s delicacies include venison goulash and venison steak. Michal added that his company produces the only kosher venison in the world as it is very difficult to produce. According to Kosher food preparation requirements game cannot be shot, it must instead be farmed to comply with Jewish dietary laws.
The Kosher Certificate
In line with hearty Eastern European foods, the King Solomon Restaurant also offers a wide variety of soups: Krupnik, for example, is a vegetable soup made of beans, barley, mushrooms and potatoes. That’s what I was going to taste for lunch to warm me up. Desserts include various Middle Eastern treats such as Baklava and other sweet temptations.
Interior of the King Solomon Restaurant
As I wanted to learn more about kosher food production, Michal explained that the term kosher essentially means “clean, proper”. He went on to say that there are 65 special rules that are rather complicated to explain. Meats and dairy must be separate and only meat from suckling mammals is allowed. Meat from predatory animals is forbidden. Kosher food products are widely available in the United States and Canada, all countries with a large Jewish population. However, the Czech Republic has a very small Jewish community and real kosher food is in short supply.
A big wine collection awaits at the King Solomon Restaurant
During the post-war years it was impossible to buy anything kosher in the local retail shops. Michal and his family decided that they needed to get involved in kosher food production themselves if they wanted to have access to kosher food. His company also supplies Pilsner Urquell with the kosher certificate for export to Israel. To do so, Michal and his family had to bring in a rabbi from abroad to help them with the kosher inspections. This rabbi also supervises food production at the King Solomon Restaurant, a 100% kosher establishment, where even the cooking utensils comply with kosher rules.
Jewish cuisine is known for its hearty soups
The majority of the clients at the King Solomon are tourists and business people. Interestingly, Michal added, 90% of his customers are not Jewish. They often ask why there is no milk for the coffee and only whitener, which can be explained by the restrictions on dairy products, another example of kosher dietary laws. But in addition to complying with kosher rules, Michal also focuses on high culinary quality.
Many photos on the wall show the Jewish Quarter before its reconstruction
As I was sitting down to taste my krupnik vegetable soup, Michal described the surrounding area to me. Right opposite the King Solomon is the Old Jewish Cemetery whose museum features a wall of names of Holocaust victims who were born in the Czech country. The famous Charles Bridge is about five minutes from the restaurant, and the Vltava River surrounds the Jewish Quarter. The biggest castle in the world, Prague Castle, is just on the other side of the River. The Old New Synagogue, the Maisel Synagogue and the Spanish Synagogue are also just steps away from the restaurant. Also close by is Parisian Street, Prague’s luxury shopping street. Old black and white photos in the main restaurant reveal a look at Prague’s Jewish Quarter before it was razed and reconstructed in the 1890s.
After my hearty soup my main dish had arrived: Gefilte Fish, made of a carp or whitefish paté that was mixed up with vegetables, honey and lemon and baked inside carp skin, accompanied by a sweet sauce of horseradish, beet root, honey and raisins. My walking tour guide Richard was enjoying a kishka, a dish which used to be popular among poorer Jewish residents. I had never had kosher food before and I am generally not much of a fish-eater, but I was pleasantly surprised by the delicate texture and the sweet note of the Gefilte Fish.
Kishka, another traditional Jewish dish
After this foray into kosher cuisine, it was time to continue my explorations of Prague. The next item on my itinerary was Municipal House, Prague’s Art Nouveau
Michal explains kosher food
Tour and surroundings of the King Solomon Restaurant
The culinary experience at the King Solomon Restaurant