Review: Room Tapas Bar
New tapas bar Room takes the spotlight in drab surroundings
Posted: January 2, 2013
Room's fried calamari are tiny bites of perfectly crispy, squishy bites of goodness served in wax paper.
It can be hard to get everything just right in a restaurant, and the space that a place occupies can greatly affect the experience of dining there, from the first impression of walking in, straight through to what you're looking at when not staring at your plate. If the room is lacking in atmosphere, it can stifle a good kitchen's efforts. At the new tapas bar called Room that opened on V Jámě street in November, the namesake space goes a considerable way toward taking away from the food, as the open back area is dark and loungey, with couches and low tables (it used to be a cocktail bar). But the small, nonsmoking area up front has windows onto the street, and, happily, the tapas dishes are surprisingly excellent and more than make up for the slightly odd atmosphere.
Almost everything sampled on two recent visits was hard to fault, with fresh ingredients, top presentation and stellar service. Plates came out in quick succession, and there were many appetizing options to choose from. My dining companion and I started with a half-liter jug of sangria, which came with enough bobbing fruit to warrant a liter jug. Both red and white sangria are on offer, and the red, which we tasted, was zesty and refreshing, with chunks of apple, orange and grapes and a hint of clove that turned the summery drink into an equally seasonable tipple. It was good enough to be a reason to visit Room in and of itself, but it truly shone alongside the tapas plates.
The only two tapas dishes that lacked the wow factor were among the simplest: the Serrano ham and the Manchego cheese. While each was fine, they both came across as a bit bland; they were better wrapped together on a wedge of fresh baguette served alongside. They might have just paled in comparison next to the cold plate of marinated sardines, which was fantastic: three or four large super fresh-tasting briny chunks in an incredibly bright citrus vinaigrette that awoke the senses. Also from the cold tapas, the Spanish omelet was memorable, served on a slab of slate with a drizzling of chili-flecked lemony mayonnaise.
From the warm tapas, one of the most expensive items, the beef skewer, left the least impression. Served at room temperature, the hunks of quality Argentinean beef were small and called for a bit of salt to bring the flavor to the surface. The bean salad spread below the hanging skewer was also a bit forgettable, a pile of fava beans, which fared much better when paired with the grilled tentacle of Spanish octopus, a meaty, dusky tube with nice bits of char on the edges and a wonderful snappy texture. Here the fava beans had a light, lemony dressing that well complemented the meat and were gladly scooped up in large spoonfuls even by themselves.
V Jámě 6, Prague 1-New Town
Tel: 221 634 100
Open every day, 7 a.m.-1 a.m.
Serrano ham 70 Kč
Manchego cheese 70 Kč
Sardines vinaigrette 50 Kč
Spanish omelet 50 Kč
Marinated beef skewer with bean salad 170 Kč
Fried calamari with aioli sauce 150 Kč
Clams and sausage in cider sauce 120 Kč
Grilled Spanish octopus with bean salad 170 Kč
Spicy potatoes 60 Kč
Arroz a la Valenciana 190 Kč
Churros with chocolate 55 Kč
0.5 L Sangria 140 Kč
Fried calamari proved to be one of the stars. Served in a wax-paper cone in a jam jar with a pot of homemade aioli and wedge of lemon, the calamari were tiny rings, low on tentacley bits, and were quickly snapped up. The batter was just light enough to give a hint without taking away from the bursts of calamari, and the aioli, lightly herbed, was a good side note.
Another plate, that of patatas bravas, or spicy potatoes, was so good on our first visit that we ordered it again on the second, although the quality was not consistent. On the first try, they were perfectly cooked: dusted with chili and lightly roasted on the outside, and soft in the middle, served with a piquant chili mayo for dipping. When cooked well, they were a nice bite between the other tapas items. The second time around, though, the wedges were not cooked all the way through, making for some unpleasantly hard bites.
Room does a great chorizo, which appears in several dishes, including the clams and sausage in cider sauce. The clams were pretty good, served in open shells, but the sauce, combined with the powerful chorizo, overwhelmed the dainty flavor of the mollusks. The sausage, however, reveled in the rich sauce, which had gleaned a slight brininess from the clams.
The chorizo also made a shining cameo in one of the restaurant's entrées, the Valencian-style rice, which proved a hearty and rich portion. The large grains of al dente rice had been stewed with tomatoes and carrots, and there were two hefty thighs of chicken; the dark meat fell off the bone into the mix, mingling comfortably with the plentiful diced chorizo.
Another entrée, the chicken breast with Serrano ham and vegetables, for 230 Kč, was quite tasty but became a bit tiresome, if only for the sheer amount of ratatouille-style eggplant, zucchini and bell peppers mounded underneath the large piece of meat. The chicken itself was juicy and zesty, and benefited from the saltiness of the ham on top.
Although we were stuffed, we made room for Room's churros, which we were told come with a free coffee. They were a great finish to an already good meal: chewy and sugary crinkled rolls of fried dough with a warm chocolate sauce for dipping.
Room surprised with the quality of its tapas, and, based on our visits, can even give La Terrassa, another newcomer in 2012, a run for its money. It may never be able to compete with the latter's airy, nautical atmosphere, but the food is, after all, what matters most.
Fiona Gaze can be reached at