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Cerveny Jelen - A Unique Place on the Prague Dining Scene

Updated: Jul 20, 2023

Krysti Brice: Author of Prague Restaurant Guide wrote about us. Here is the article

Červený Jelen Prague

New restaurants open in Prague all the time, and though I'm a major foodie, it's impossible for me to try them all. Then the pandemic really put a dent in my dining lifestyle. But one new restaurant especially caught my eye – perhaps it was the very big, very red stag suspended between two buildings at the entrance to an alley near Prague’s Marriott Hotel – a location I pass by often. But I never got a chance to try it before things shut down. I did peer inside the windows once, though, as the red sculpture had drawn me in, but I never made it there for a meal. I put it on my list of places to try, though.

When travel to Prague finally began to resume, a friend from Switzerland who used to live in Prague visited, and we met for lunch at one of our favorite places, an old standby that we both love. She had already been in Prague for a few days when we met, so she’d been trying some of the many new restaurants that had appeared since she’d moved away. When we sat down for lunch at the old standby, we started talking about restaurants, and out of the blue she asked, “Have you been to Červený Jelen?” “No,” I said, “but it’s on my list.” She then added: “It’s great.” This only confirmed my hunch that it must be a pretty good place and moved it to the top of my list.

An Impressively Large Space

So I finally tried it. Entering the restaurant, one is immediately impressed with the size of the space: It’s cavernous. Waiters in white shirts and servers dressed in black were buzzing around serving a crowd that was impressive in that it filled such a large space, which also included an open-style kitchen and a bar area where drinks were prepared and beer was poured.

Though many Prague restaurants use an open-style kitchen these days, there was something unique about the size, layout and décor of Červený Jelen (the name means “Red Stag”). While the color scheme naturally contains red, overall the colors were muted – a unique palette in new Prague eateries. The décor is simple while managing to be modern and stylish at the same time. I’d never been in a place quite like it in Prague.

I wasn’t surprised to learn when I did some research later that this space was originally designed as a bank in a Cubist-Modernist style by famous Czech architect Josef Gočár during former Czechoslovakia’s so-called “First Republic,” its heyday between the World Wars. The building’s transformation into a modern dining space only adds to the uniqueness of the interior and atmosphere.

One thing that usually goes with a space so large, however, is noise. The volume level in Červený Jelen was quite high, but surprisingly it was not a problem: it actually was just right for the space and was not grating at all. Rather, it reminds the dinner that a good time is being had by all. That said, while this would tend to put Červený Jelen in a category for a young crowd, it is certainly suitable for older diners as well. Though the crowd on the night I visited was mostly young, there were diners of other ages there, too.

Variety in All Things: Food, Wine and Price

My dining companion and I were led to our table and given menus. We spent a few minutes taking it all in – the space, the atmosphere, the menu – and before long our waiter appeared and asked if we’d like to order something to drink. Our waiter took good care of us during our meal: he was knowledgeable, friendly and helpful, and despite the filled to (almost) capacity crowd and the large number of guests and tables he was serving, managed to be there when we needed him.

One of the first things I noted was how varied the menu is (even though it’s heavy on meat, which is fine by me!). As I’d never been there, nor had I seen the menu (I didn’t “peek” online beforehand), this meant it took me some time to get a sense of the cuisine and what I wanted to have.

The variations in the menu come not just from the different items on offer, but also from the fact that many of them are also offered in small, interesting combinations, presumably for people like me who either want to try everything or have trouble making up their minds!

The menu has a very wide price range, too, which was also quite new to me in Prague and a nice touch: It makes Červený Jelen a place for everybody with something for everybody. So you can spend the equivalent of $130 (CZK 2900) on Wagyu tenderloin or a budget-friendly $15 (CZK 345) on a braised deer leg. The menu’s price range explains why such a young crowd could enjoy it, too.

And they serve lots of varieties of beer which also, no doubt, appeals to the young crowd. Importantly, Červený Jelen has a respectable wine list (including lots of by-theglass offerings) to go with all the wonderful steaks and other meats they serve.

A Meat Lover’s Paradise

Although vegetarian dishes are available, the menu is mostly about meat. To start, my dining companion and I had the wild boar salsiccia (Italian sausage) with black truffle and the duck liver paté with sea buckthorn jelly. The paté was gentle and made an interesting taste combination with the jelly. The salsiccia was simply delicious: The next time I go to Červený Jelen, I will have it for my main dish. It was fresh and incredibly tasty.

Our waiter had recommended a glass of Czech white Palava wine to go with our starters. The dry freshness of the wine complimented the rich flavors of the starters well. We waited until after our first course to decide on our main courses, and the waiter gave us all the time – and help – we needed. We both ordered different steaks from Argentina as main dishes, and both were cooked to (medium) perfection, just as we had ordered. Too many Prague eateries believe that medium is more done than it should be, but not Červený Jelen.

An Award-Winning Chef

That's a good thing because Červený Jelen also serves Wagyu beef, and it would be a shame indeed to overcook such a piece of meat. Wagyu is a breed of cattle native to Japan, and the beef is renowned for being highly marbled. Executive chef Marek Fichtner's training has obviously prepared him for the role of bringing superbly cooked cuts of meat to Prague. It’s not a surprise that he was awarded the “Golden Chef” award in 2022.

Of course, a cut of Wagyu will set your wallet back a bit, but if you can handle it, go for it. Otherwise, Červený Jelen also has great cuts of meat from all over the world, which, while pricey, are much more affordable: Argentina, Uruguay, the United States, New Zealand, Germany, Spain and, of course, the Czech Republic.

Fine Wine and More

Our knowledgeable waiter recommended two different excellent wines to go with our different Argentine steaks – an Italian red for my tenderloin and a French red for her flap steak. Both wines were fabulous.

While all orders from the grill come with a serving of roasted carrots, potatoes and snap peas, Červený Jelen’s menu also offers an interesting array of sides (which the menu notes are all vegetarian). Even though we knew our steaks with the included sides would be more than enough food, we couldn’t resist trying the smoked mashed potatoes with garlic confit and the grilled green asparagus with butter crumble and egg! Both were not only good but introduced each of us to interesting new flavors. The butter crumble on the asparagus was especially interesting and good. The included sides were standard fare. We were tempted by the extra side of bok choy, as well, but … we had to leave room for dessert, of course!

Next it was time for one of my favorite parts of any meal: dessert and coffee, and this part "took the cake," so to speak. Looking at the descriptions of the desserts on the menu, it was hard to choose one because they all sounded not only delicious but interesting. We asked the waiter for advice, and he said they were all good! But he did name his three favorites, two of which were among my top three picks, and he also added that the best way to pick one would be to look at them in the dessert case. So, I had a look, but this only made my decision more difficult, as I wanted them all! We finally decided on the dark chocolate beer cake for me and the pistachio profiterole for my friend. I also ordered an expresso.

The desserts were simply fantastic. The chocolate cake was dark, dense and rich. It was so thick and creamy that it was almost like a flourless cake. But the unique combination of flavors in the profiterole stole the show. It’s hard to describe the unique burst of flavor that the combination of the salty pistachio in the sweet cream filling made. If you go to Červený Jelen, you must order it!

When my espresso arrived, I could tell immediately that it was of good quality by the color and foam on top. A closer look at the logo on the cup confirmed this, as it was a good brand that I recognized. This is an important touch, as too many restaurants skimp on their brand of coffee, or they don’t know better. But Červený Jelen got it right. It was also prepared well and served hot with a bit of steamed milk on the side. A nice touch was a shot of Bailey’s that came with it.

Overall, I was very pleased and very impressed with Červený Jelen – its atmosphere, food, décor and staff. I’m really happy that I finally got to try it, and it’s wonderful to have a new – and unique – restaurant on Prague’s already wonderful but ever improving dining scene. I will definitely go back!" By Krysti Brice Author of Prague Restaurant Guide: From Goulash to Gourmet


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