Beef Sha Bhakleb
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What: Pečené vepřové koleno is roast pork knee, or knuckle, an almost comically large hunk of meat—ostensibly it serves one person, but in reality it could feed a small family. Also common in German cuisine, koleno is a pretty rustic cut, always bone-in and often served here on a little spit or with a big serrated knife. It looks like something a caveman might eat, but don’t be fooled: A great koleno is as simple as it is unapologetically oversize. It’s usually marinated in dark beer and herbs, roasted, and then served with a number of accompaniments, the most essential being horseradish, pickles, and bread (and Czech beer, of course). At turns tender and juicy, crispy and fatty, koleno is a guaranteed memorable meal, and one you’ll probably want to repeat.
Where: On the well-groomed grounds of Břevnov Monastery—the Czech Republic’s oldest Benedictine monastery, founded in the 10th century—Klášterní šenk (Markétská 1/28, Praha 6) is a cozy space for a good meal, all wooden tables, stone walls, crackling fireplace, and family-friendly vibe. The food is classic Czech pub grub, elevated in both presentation and taste (and price, it’s true)—you can tell the kitchen cares. On tap are Lobcowicz premium 12°, Klášter 11° light, and Černá Hora 12° dark; the latter two can be mixed to excellent effect.
When: Daily, 11:30am-11pm. Reservations are often recommended here, though we had no trouble getting in without one during our visit.
Good to know: You’d be wise to familiarize yourself with Prague’s excellent public transport system—between the metro and the trams, you can get yourself anywhere for cheap. Take tram 15, 22, or 25 to stop Břevnovský klášter, and the compound is just across the street.
Order: The koleno (325 CZK) was excellent here, perfectly cooked so that the fat under the deliciously crispy skin is easily picked around (should you wish), revealing massive amounts of moist, fall-off-the-bone pork—about 1.5 pounds altogether, to be exact. The knee is served on a giant cutting board with a small pile of pickles, pearl onions, peppers, shredded carrot, and cabbage, as well as a side of mustard, horseradish, and sour cherries, which makes a tasty dipping sauce for the meat when mixed together. The dish takes about 45 minutes to come out, as it’s roasted just before service.
So does a table of two order additional food here? Of course! The rest of the menu looks so good, we just had to taste some more dishes, though we could have filled up on the delicious homemade bread alone. We enjoyed a side of bramborák, traditional potato pancakes, and a plate of super rich, gnocchi-like halušky, Slovakia’s national dish, made with sheep’s cheese and speck—and we nearly ate ourselves sick. But happily so. Show up hungry!
Alternatively: You can find koleno at just about any pub, but next time we’ll head down to Prague 4 and U Čejpů (U strže 1/150, Praha 4, map), where it’s celebrated as the house specialty, or we’ll pair it with an unusual beer at Pivovarský klub (Křižíkova 272/17, Praha 8-Karlín, map), which offers the rare choice of 240 bottles and six taps alongside its traditional Czech menu (including koleno served whole, sold by weight, or carved and boneless). Closer to the center of the city is Sokolovna (Slezská 22/821, Praha 2, map), where the food’s generally pretty good and koleno costs only 189 CZK, or you might join the office workers and tourists lunching at Bředovský dvůr (Politických vězňů 13, Praha 1, map), where it’s recommended you wash down your knuckle with an unpasteurized Pilsner Urquell, fresh from the tank.
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