Dinner in Hell

Our first day in Prague we walked (and walked, and walked) to the “Lesser” part of the city known as Petrin Hill. We took the funicular up the hill, looked at the sun and moon at the observatory, walked through a mirror maze, and hiked up a gazillion steps (okay, it was really only 299) to the top of a smaller-sized replica of the Eiffel Tower. From this observation point we could see Prague, the city of red roofs. It was cold up there, but it was an amazing view on a sunny winter day and was well worth the effort. After that, we checked out the Muzeum Miniatur, a secret gem of a museum near the Strahov Monastery, which displays the incredible work of artist Anatoly Konenko. From 10 mm X 10 mm – sized mini-copies of the works of Botticelli and Dali to the Lord’s Prayer written on a human hair to a caravan of camels in the eye of a needle. You can check it out at the website, but there was something truly awesome about looking at his works through the dozens of wooden microscopes set up for that very purpose.

But this is a food blog. We asked the only museum worker if there was place nearby that he would recommend for dinner. He didn’t mention a name, but gave clear directions that we easily followed. When we reached the place, I couldn’t believe this was a restaurant, but I was in the Czech Republic, so I let my sense of adventure take over. The name of the restaurant was Peklo, which we later learned means “Hell.” The small door led to a descending staircase and red lights flickered in a kitschy attempt to play up the theme. We were led inside an underground grotto which had been transformed into a dark Czech eatery. It was early and the waiter/bartender did not seem at all pleased to see us. Having waited tables for thirteen years, I could totally sense his vibe. So I played up the eager tourist in me, gushing, “It’s our first night in Prague and we can’t wait to try some traditional Czech cuisine, you have a beautiful city, the guy at Muzeum Minatur suggested we come here…” etc. etc. His body language completely changed, and next we knew, we were sampling wines and eating pork knee, pronounced with the K by our now friendly server. The k-nee comes on its own serving platter, with its own serving utensils instead of a regular fork and k-nife. A little pickle, mustard and horseradish are the garnishes of choice. Now, I never thought I’d be eating a pig's knee in the former Czechoslovakia, but this thing was roasted to a perfect tenderness the likes of which I may never have again. Suffice it to say, our first dinner in Prague left us wondering what else was in store.

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