I met Richard for the first time five or six years ago when he was a sous chef at Bottega Tusarova. His big smile and genuine passion for food made me think he was special.
I was not wrong. At AGEXX, Richard Bielik is the head chef of ZEM, the new restaurant of the new Hyatt Andaz hotel in Senovazne Namesti, 3 minutes from Vaclavske Namesti.
Balance and harmony and flavors
Richard studied at the Hotelova Akademia in Slovakia, then started working in the catering business as a waiter, barman, and coordinator. He moved to Prague and decided to perfect his skills as a chef. He worked at Mandarin Oriental, Augustin, and Taro and spent 9 months in London at Kitchen W8, a Michelin-starred restaurant in the heart of London.
Richard’s philosophy has not changed over the years. “What I want to achieve,” he says, “is a balance and a harmony and flavors.”
Zem: Czech bistronomy with an Asian twist
Richard’s new adventure is truly a balance of Czech and Asian cuisine. The menu has two sections: “Izakaya,” a Japanese pub, and “Czech avant-garde.”
The restaurant has a local clientele who enjoy traditional food with a modern approach and are curious to try something different. At Zem, it is possible to taste Kulajda and yakitori in the same meal.
Crazy? Not at all. The result is not a schizophrenic menu but a representation of Richard’s personality: modern Czech and very Asian. On the Izakaya menu, you can find gyoza, okonomiyaki, and a wakame salad, while in the Czech section, you must try the grilled pork belly, the hand-cut tartare, and the famous “svičkova.”
This dish makes Richard particularly proud. “I got this recipe from my Grandmother in Moravia,” says Richard. “At family meetings, everybody loved it and now it became a signature dish of Zem.”
Svičkova is one of the most famous Czech dishes. Braised beef is cooked in a rich sauce and served with bread dumplings, cranberry jam and cream. It is a tasty dish but is also on the heavy side and visually not too appealing. Richard’s version is much more interesting to see: the braised meat is contained in a thin bread sheet, the sauce is light and delicate, and the acidic note is given by a reduction of black currants.
Don’t be scared of the hotel: ZEM is a friendly, welcoming and exciting restaurant
“I want my cuisine to be simple, healthy, easy to prepare and serve. I want my clients to feel good when they come to the restaurant, not intimidated by the hotel or the prices.”
And indeed, prices are fair and lunch menus are a bargain. At lunch, you can sample new dishes being tested before they are officially in the menu at smaller prices.
We can add that all the dishes look delicious; shiny, glossy, crunchy and crispy. The staff is friendly and knowledgeable and go the extra mile to explain dishes, wines and to make you feel welcome. Everybody speaks English.
The décor is modern and refreshing but has something eclectic and positive like in the hall of the neighboring hotel Andaz.
I love gastronomy and this is why my job and my passions are food and hospitality marketing. I am happy to support chefs and restaurateurs who decide to undertake this career. When I see someone as passionate as Richard, I can only admire his enthusiasm and clarity of vision and wish him and his team all the best for the future.