It’s date night in Brno. You want a special experience, and can’t decide where to go. Which restaurant will it be? You can throw cash around and go to Il Mercato but that would be ill-advised. Go the traditional route and go with Stopkova? Snooze. What you really want is a place that is elegant, and unique. You want to show you have some sophistication.
That is where Koishi comes in. If I had to distill the entire Koishi experience down to one word, that word would be “sophistication.” From the moment you walk in, the decor, ambiance, menu, service and food exude sophistication. Class and elegance is a given for such a quality place. I liked the understated decor and ambiance, and the layout and lighting were superb. Even with a full house you have privacy, and the din is nothing but subdued murmurs. An ideal setting for a business conversation or romantic date.
We had no reservation, but managed to snag a table (quick tip: they don’t book a table more than once for the night, so if they have 5/6pm reservations, there should be free tables after 8). The staff were friendly and accomodating (and everyone spoke English fluently).
We started off our night with the scallops and suckling pig to go with a salmon avocado roll from the sushi menu. Lets get the obvious out of the way; no one in Brno can match Chef Saito’s sushi skills. The fish quality was unparalleled, and the presentation was as well prepped (cut and rolled) as any sushi joint I’ve been in around the world. I wanted to order a few rolls as appetizers, but I can’t resist scallops. Fortunately they did not disappoint.
Sushi aside, I was surprised to find a menu with more European influence than Japanese. Nevertheless, the entrees were a study in perfection. I ordered the decidedly Italian sweetbreads and cod while my friend went the French vegetarian (quite the oxymoron) route with the roasted eggplant and mushroom beignet. I apologize for going full-foodie on you with these descriptions, but these dishes deserve it.
Both dishes were contrasted, yet balanced. The components of the cod and sweetbreads dish were well thought out. I wish every restaurant in Brno would study this dish. Garnish and sauces are not for appearances sake. The presentation was interesting and colorful, but everything on the plate served a purpose. The artichoke puree was light and airy to cut the boldness of the sweetbreads, the chicken jus brought out the flavor of the cod as the raisins added sweetness as the hazelnuts gave you a little crunch. Realizing that raisin texture doesn’t pair well with these foods, the chefs made a raisin puree. These are the little things fine dining restaurants should excel at.
While roasted eggplant may sound boring, this dish was anything but. I couldn’t put a finger on the seasoning of the eggplant, but it really brought out the flavor. The acidity and sweetness added by the shallot vinaigrette balanced the mild flavor. After all the fantastic flavors we experienced, it shocked me that my favorite component was the mushroom beignet. I am not the biggest fan of mushrooms, but the flavor combination of the mushrooms and fried onions blew me away.
Too often, fine dining establishments disappoint where it counts. It seems that many of the higher priced venues are charging for pretentiousness and stuffiness. This isn’t 1985 anymore; people don’t equate dinner jackets to quality anymore. They should take a page from Koishi’s book and focus on the gastronomical experience, not the trappings. The exception to the rule is Koishi. They have mastered the balance between class and comfort, in the dining area as well as the kitchen.
So how does Koishi stack up to the competition? I think they are looking down on the field. They stand head and shoulders above the Il Mercatos, Borgo Agneses and Pavilons of Brno. You will shell out a nice chunk of change for a meal there, but at least you get your money’s worth. I think they are nose to nose with La Bouchee in the ‘best bang for your buck’ discussion.