Last week I was talking to a good friend about a topic that has been on the spotlight for many years now: is it necessary to eat meat to live? There are many opinions, variables to consider, but the scientific community has not yet reached a consensus. What is undeniable is that flesh has played a fundamental role throughout the history of mankind, consolidating a food model that is far from ideal. There we all agree.
Today I woke up playful and want to be a bit naughty: is it necessary to eat meat to enjoy a tasty meal? Flatly no. And as I don’t like to speak without evidence, without arguments, I will accompany you to Dobra Karma, a must stop for anyone who suffers when a calf goes to the slaughterhouse or simply prefers to eat healthier products and with less impact on the environment.
-Black beer Litovel (Czech Republic) with chocolate liqueur
-Potato and cheese pierogi with caramelized onion
-Cucumber, onion, garlic, mushrooms and tomato pizza
It’s difficult to describe Dobra Karma. In fact, the first impression is that it’s not a real restaurant. The gray, sober facade, is not exactly encouraging. But everything changes once inside, where we find one of the places with more personality that I remember. The wooden floor gives way to some walls where a totally bare brick predominates, without any unnecessary flourish or element. Only some shelves with dozens of books break this doctrine.
Space’s configuration is another of the points to highlight, as it gives the impression that Dobra Karma is an old two-story house refurbished to a restaurant. The enormous amount of walls is a good example of it, to the point that it’s not uncommon to miss some of the rooms if you don’t explore a little bit; as if it were a mazed museum of innumerable lounges. The presence of a grand piano remembers someone was living there in the past, someone whose presence is still felt.
It looks like that an important part of the restaurant income comes from a regular and consolidated clientele. It’s two o’clock on Wednesday afternoon and the place is crowded. People arrive, look at the board to confirm that their favorite dish is still on the menu, ask at the counter and sit down. It works like this until four o’clock.
There’re all kind of diners, from young students —probably from the music conservatory, which is really close— to neatly dressed executives with English as their main language. This gives a slight idea of how good the place is.
We are not inspired, so we gladly accept chef’s recommendations. The first surprise comes with the drink, as Czech beers predominate over Polish brands as popular as Warka or Zywiec. I don’t think it’s a bad option at all, considering how close we are to cities like Ostrava and how much Czechs know about beer —they drink more than germans or belgians, for example—. We choose a black Litovel, perhaps too strong for a meal. The waiter recommends adding a splash of chocolate liquor; “it’s the most popular,” he says. We agree and verify that he doesn’t lie.
After a twenty minute wait that seems an eternity, here comes the pierogi. They are considerably larger than the ones I had previously tried, which makes them even more appetizing. Once in mouth, it’s confirmed that the chef has been generous with the filling, which looks like a mix between potato and cheese. They are soft, creamy, but at the same time dense and blunt. The onion, essential to give them a sweet spot, is well caramelized. I wouldn’t mind eating these pierogi every day, although I probably don’t need more than three or four to get completely full up.
Good sensations of Pierogi moves to pizza, which has a green dough that reminds me that there will be no trace of meat. Green as the generous amount of oregano, whose characteristic aroma penetrates the nostrils and makes you feel that you are in Italy. Maybe too much. In fact, oregano and cucumbers act as kings of the track, to the point that it gives the impression that they can mask the rest of the flavors present. The doubts fade away with the first bite, which feels unusually little crunchy. The taste, however, is potent, partly because of the acidic point that cucumbers grant. This doesn’t prevent the rest of the ingredients from feeling fresh and present, with a cheese that is well above average. Generally speaking, a great pizza.
Without any room left for dessert, I’m about to leave the restaurant. It’s then when I realized how comfortable I was, how calm was the environment, the homelikeness of the proposal. I go out and I miss the brick walls, the wooden floor that craks at every step, the hundreds of books arranged throughout the whole place. What I don’t miss, surprisingly, is meat.