Over the weekend we drove to Inverness, a tiny town near Point Reyes about an hour north of the San Francisco Bay Area. We had plans to rendezvous with friends to dine at Vladimir's Czech Restaurant. What a fun adventure, mainly due to the fascinating owner, Vladimir.
Vladimir proved to be quite an interesting character. Dressed in native Czech clothing and wearing a pair of knee high riding boots, he basically runs the restaurant single handedly. At 75 years old he still shows up early each morning to prepare the food himself. He also runs the full bar and serves the tables. He didn't hesitate to sit down and share some wine with us as he regaled us with his colorful history. At the age of 18 he skied across the Czech border into Germany to escape the new communist government. After many adventures including time spent in work camps, a year at wine school in Bordeaux and several years in Australia, he immigrated to the USA in 1958 and opened his eponymous restaurant at its current location in Inverness in 1960.
As we expected the food was hearty, well-prepared Czech fare. To start we were served freshly baked bread from the restaurant's ovens. One of the loaves was a tasty sour rye, the other an unbleached wheat.
Next an intriguing bowl of beef soup caused much debate at the table about what cut of beef it entailed. Turned out to be oxtail which explained the rich flavor and full body. It was one of the better oxtail soups I have encountered.
The hit dish of the night was definitely the stuffed cabbage roll. The huge roll consisted of veal, ham hocks and kraut stuffed into red cabbage leaves and topped with gravy. The stuffing was delicious and juicy. Definitely not to be missed.
A special of the night, pheasant, was a bit disappointing as it had been slightly over-cooked and tended to dryness.
The large half duckling was delicious with a tart-sweet plum sauce accented with caraway. An odd combination that worked very well.
Weinerschnitzel, breaded veal, was perfectly cooked and served without gravy.
All the dishes were served with a side of Czech-style dumpings which seemed very bland to me at start but the subtle flavor and texture grew on me and I quite enjoyed them. A tasty dish of sweet and sour red cabbage was served on the side to be shared by the table.
Only one dessert is offered, an cinnamony apple strudel with cream, made with apples that Vladimir grows himself.
We ended dinner by sharing the special Czech coffee made with a generous shot of Slivowitz, plum brandy.
If you are a fan of hearty, peasant style food you will enjoy Vladimir's Czech Restaurant. Make a point of asking Vladimir to share a glass of wine and you will be highly entertained in addition to being well fed.