After months of hearing a friend of mine rave about Sumi Garden, I felt it was high time I tried the place out for myself. She had visited the establishment with her husband on several occasions recently and has always given the establishment a glowing reference. I felt a little sceptical, especially as restaurants serving sushi in Prague have had a bad rap lately, but I was equally intrigued to see what all the fuss was about.
Sumi Garden is nestled within the streets between the trendy areas of Jiřího z Poděbrad and Riegrovy Sady. It is known for being a cosy and inviting Japanese street food restaurant that hosts a healthy mix of locals and tourists – which is always a good sign!
Upon entering Sumi Garden with three of my friends, we were greeted by a smartly dressed waitress with a big smile and the expression “irasshaimase” meaning “welcome, please come in”. She immediately led us to our table and provided a menu before asking if we would like anything to drink. I asked the waitress if she could recommend something cold and refreshing since it was a hot summer evening. She advised me to order a jasmine iced tea, and it really hit the spot. It was fresh, thirst-quenching and, despite the restaurant being almost full, the service was fast too.
The stylish sushi-ya can host around 50 guests and has a charming and unpretentious atmosphere that is perfect for any type of occasion from lunch dates with colleagues to special occasions with the family. The décor is in keeping with traditional Japanese style, with chōchin (paper lanterns) illuminating the space to create a warm ambience and hand-painted cherry blossom murals adorning the walls. Dark wooden tables are well spaced in the mid-sized restaurant, allowing diners a generous amount of room to relax and enjoy their experience without feeling cramped.
The menu has an impressive variety of mouth-watering options. There were appetizing choices catering to all dietary requirements from healthy vegan meals to meat-filled platters for the full-on carnivore. The staff was knowledgeable about the dishes too and able to describe the tastes and textures in surprising detail, even providing food and drink pairing tips.
Sushi features predominantly on the menu at Sumi Garden, but I was pleasantly surprised to see the emphasis that was placed on a variety of other traditional Japanese dishes too. Examples include Miso Shiru – a soup made with soybean, tofu, seaweed, shitake mushrooms, and green onions, Okonomiyaki – a teppanyaki pancake with squid, bacon and vegetable mix, and Tako Yaki, – a typical Japanese street food of batter balls filled with octopus, cabbage and spring onion.
My friends and I decided to order several dishes that we would share. We decided on the previously mentioned Okonomiyaki and Tako Yaki, along with the S/M Garden Sushi Rolls, and a selection of Nigiri to begin with. These dishes were followed with the main courses of Sashimi – which comprised slices of several kinds of supreme-quality fish including deliciously tender and exotic tuna – and the chef’s recommendation Sake Raisubaga – a rice burger with salmon, king shrimp, cheese, fresh avocado, and creamy crab along with warm sesame dressing, teriyaki sauce, rice with caviar on the top and nori chips.
Shortly after ordering our meals, our waitress brought each of us an oshibori (a hot towel) and a small dish of bean sprouts with sesame seeds and Japanese soya sauce to whet our appetites.
The food arrived in good time and my first thought was that the presentation was on par with what you might expect in a Michelin star restaurant. Each dish showed amazing attention to detail; beautiful colours and elegantly garnished with flowers and other edible decorations. The portion size was very generous – which doesn’t always go hand-in-hand with high-quality food. But all of the dishes were insanely good! Every plate seemed like an artistic expression of a chef and owners that put great care into every aspect of their business. The ingredients tasted very fresh and each dish was bursting with delicious flavours that wonderfully complemented one another. The Sake Raisubaga and S/M Garden sushi rolls were particularly tasty, and for those who don’t like to share, I’d highly recommend ordering either option.
Prices at Sumi Garden may be a little higher than in your typical Asian fusion restaurant here in Prague, but there is nothing typical about this establishment and the value for money was outstanding. Customers can expect to pay around 400-600 CZK for two courses and a drink which is not bad at all considering the quality of both food and service in an aesthetically pleasing interior.
The only criticism I have would have, albeit a small and perhaps relatively insignificant one, is the standard of some of the tableware. Instead of disposable paper placemats and one-use wooden chopsticks, Sumi Garden could really benefit from investing in the kind of soft furnishings and utensils that are worthy of a restaurant which boasts excellence in every other department.
Upon leaving the restaurant, the staff showcased the same incredible hospitality as when entering. We were offered candies by the waitress who was still sporting a smile from ear to ear despite being toward the end of a long and busy shift. I was massively impressed from start to finish and left with the same feelings about Sumi Garden as my friend who couldn’t stop talking about it. Now I can’t!
Sumi Garden offers its patrons a unique and delicious dining experience in the centre of one of Prague’s most popular residential areas. In terms of freshness and flavour, it serves up some of the best Asian cuisine that I’ve ever experienced in the city. Despite labelling itself a “Japanese street food” restaurant, the quality of the food is far superior to what you might expect to pick up from a vendor on the bustling streets of Tokyo. It is a fantastic choice of restaurant for all types of visitors looking for a little slice of Japan in the Czech Republic.