A Taste of Deutschland

Just another Geschmacks site

Archive for March, 2010

Vapiano

leave a comment

Friedrichsplatz 1 68165 Mannheim

Tired of the typical, dull dining experience?  Want something new and fun?  Then Vapiano’s innovative approach to casual restaurant dining is the perfect place to enjoy freshly prepared Italian dishes in a modern, upscale atmosphere!  At Vapiano, you are in complete control of how you want your next Italian meal to go.  Looking for pasta with extra garlic and spicy chili peppers in your dish?  Simply inform the cook preparing your meal.  Vapiano prides itself on using only the freshest ingredients, which is definitely a plus when eating out.

When you first enter a Vapiano restaurant, you are immediately greeted with a couple of cashiers sitting behind a desk.  This is something you would hardly find in a typical European restaurant!  The individuals operating the front desk will welcome you warmly and hand you a ‘chip card’ that is used to record everything you order.  The service staff will briefly explain how everything works and then you are let go to choose exactly what you wish to eat.

 

Once you have your card, you can grab a food tray along with silverware, napkins, and glass cups.  You won’t find any waiters here; Vapiano is all about self service.  Scattered around the restaurant are clearly marked stations where you can order pastas, pizzas, or salads (insalate).   There is also a bar station where you can order drinks and desserts.  At each food station, you simply tell the cook which item you want off the menu and he or she prepares it according to your own personal wishes, right before your eyes!  At the pasta station, for instance, you have an option of around twenty different homemade sauces / toppings to pair with about ten various varieties of pasta.  Here, they have pappardelle, spaghetti, penne, linguine, conchiglie, campanelle, tagliatelle, fusilli, as well as a couple of whole wheat pasta noodles.  All of the ingredients – the vegetables, the pasta, the pizza dough, and the cheeses – are fresh.  Once your dish is finished cooking, you simply hold up your ‘chip card’ to the scanner and the worker there records the items.  Payment takes place once you are done eating; simply present the card to the cashier at the front desk and pay.  This creative use of technology is quite interesting and a relatively new approach to casual dining.

The actual dining area is scattered between the various stations.  At this Vapiano location in Mannheim, there are two floors of seating.  During the beautiful spring and summer months, outdoor tables are also available.  The seating area near the bar is comfortable and typical of a café house.  Near the food preparation areas, the seating consists of bar stools around a wooden table.  At each dining table, there are bottles of various olive oils and pepper mills.

 

Some of the pasta sauces includes ones with meat, including chicken breast and strips of beef, and also seafood, such as scampi and crayfish.  The Granchi di Fiume is essentially chunks of crayfish meat in an exquisitely delectable lobster sauce.  Including the generous amount of crayfish, the pasta noodles are cooked with minced garlic, diced chili peppers (which are rather spicy), and a lively medley of vegetables including onions, sliced carrots, sweet green beans, and zucchini.  Parmesan cheese garnishes the top of the dish, creating a line through the center.  With pappardelle as my choice of pasta, the entire dish was very well presented and a wonderful meal.  The pasta is cooked al dente and absorbs the flavors of the sauce extremely well.  Moreover, the crayfish is delicate and firm and works well with the other flavors.

But then the entire meal ends disappointingly.  The desserts are not prepared or served by a specific pastry chef, rather, the sweets are plated by a server at the bar station – the same place you order hot and cold beverages.  Most of the desserts are what you would find in an Italian restaurant – tiramisu, panna cotta, ice cream, chocolate cake, and a Mascarpone Crème dessert.  The desserts have already been prepared well in advance; they are sitting in a glass display case, ready to be served.  Not only is this upsetting, but it clearly reminds you that this is also a corporate chain of restaurants.  The panna cotta, at 3,50 €, is a bargain.  Don’t be fooled by the inexpensive price, though – the taste is simply off.  The cooked cream is served in a glass flip storage jar usually reserved for keeping items for a long time.  This should have been a warning to begin with!  Although the panna cotta has bits of vanilla beans inside and is topped with a sweet strawberry sauce, the texture of the cream isn’t as smooth or creamy as it should be.  Rather than a light and delicate touch, the consistency is a tad rubbery and has a manufactured taste.  Even the strawberry sauce could use some work – where are the pieces of fresh strawberries?

 

Overall, Vapiano’s unique concept is fun and refreshing.  Instead of following the traditional tableside service restaurant approach, Vapiano allows for a lot of flexibility and certainly caters to the requests of the individual.  Having the choice between different types of pastas is certainly a good way to attract potential repeat customers as the pasta-sauce combinations are endless.  Fresh ingredients and made-to-order meals are what make Vapiano stand out.  Now, if they would only do something about the desserts…

.

Summary:

Utilizing an innovative and trendy approach, Vapiano is a worldwide chain of fast casual dining restaurants offering freshly prepared pizzas, pastas, and salads in a comfortable, upscale environment.  Combining self service with friendly assistance, Vapiano offers a truly unique dining experience.  Highlight: food is prepared fresh right in front of your eyes!

Hours: Sunday – Thursday: 10:00 AM to Midnight.
            Friday, Saturday: 10:00 AM – 1:00 AM

 

Overall – 4 stars

  • Pasta Granchi di Fiume (Crayfish Pasta in Lobster Sauce) – 4.5/5
  • Panna Cotta – 2/5

.

www.vapiano.com/

Written by geschmack

March 30th, 2010 at 10:34 pm

Indian Palace

leave a comment

Kettengasse 11 69117 Heidelberg

One word sums up Indian Palace: majestic.  The elegant ambiance inside this restaurant is extraordinary.  The chairs are uniquely crafted and designed and simply exude royalty; merely sitting in one gives you a feeling of extravagance and nobility.   You probably won’t find chairs like these anywhere else in Germany.  The numerous sculptures decorating the room, from wooden elephants to religious deities, continuously remind you of the rich Indian history and heritage.  Even the ceiling panels feature beautifully carved designs.  Pleasing Indian music, humming from the speakers, completes the authentic Indian dining experience.

 

The dining room correctly sets the mood and the food smartly follows through.  The menu here at Indian Palace is authentic, featuring numerous traditional Indian dishes.  You will find a pretty good list of soups and appetizers, bread and side dishes, tandoori specialties (tandoori refers to the tandoor clay oven used in the cooking process), and several chicken, lamb, and fish dishes.  For vegetarians, there is also a good variety of entrées to choose from.  The menu is written in Romanized Hindi, German, and English.  For seasoned diners looking for spicy Indian food, the kitchen will surely oblige to your wishes.  In fact, when ordering, I was asked ‘scharf?’ (German for spicy).

As evident from the exquisite atmosphere, Indian Palace doesn’t do cheap.  Most of the main dishes hover around the 10 to 15 Euro price range.  Although the weekday lunch menu does include bargain prices, the portion sizes are a bit on the small side.  Don’t expect to share anything if ordering from this limited menu (which is offered during the week from 11:30 A.M. to 2:30 P.M.).

 

One of the items on the lunch menu is the Aloo Gosht.  At 7,00 €, this lamb and potato curry seems like a bargain compared to other items on the regular menu.  However, even with the accompanying basmati rice, the size of the dishes is less than ideal.  Both the curry and the rice are served in oval gratin dishes – not large at all.  Moreover, there are only a handful of lamb pieces and chunks of potatoes in the curry.

On the plus side, the lamb meat is quite flavorful and has a nice texture.  It isn’t extremely tender, yet isn’t very tough either.  Furthermore, the meat does not have a gamey taste (which can be a negative or positive, depending on your tastes!).  Although I asked for a slight hint of spiciness, there wasn’t even a trace of heat present.  Service shines here as the server brings out a food warmer with candles to keep both the curry and rice warm as you progress through your meal.

 

An order of the curry will more than likely satisfy your hunger, but I highly suggest considering one of the bread side dishes (such as the Tandoori Roti or Nan flatbreads) to accompany any curry in order to help soak up the sauce.  Priced at 1,50 €, the Tandoori Roti is an unleavened type of flatbread, made of whole wheat flour and baked in the tandoor oven.  The flatbread is crisp and flavorsome alone, but is a good staple accompaniment to the other dishes.  There is also a trace of butter on the bread upon service.

 

To drink, there are a couple of popular Indian tea specialties – Chai Masala and Kashmiri Tea.  The Chai Masala is spiced and aromatic.  Served in its own a tea pot and accompanied by a sugar dispenser, the chai is pleasant, though the spices can be intense.  The milk added in the Chai Masala adds a delightful taste in combination with the various spices.

 

To end your culinary journey into Indian cuisine, you may want to try one of the reasonably priced Indian desserts.  Whether it’s Firni (milk pudding) or Gulab Jamun (cheese balls), Indian Palace has it.  A popular dessert is Kulfi, a frozen treat similar to ice cream.  Unlike typical ice cream, however, Kulfi has a slightly different texture: it doesn’t melt so easily and remains fairly dense.  Here, this delight is homemade – the frozen dessert is cut into thin slices and served with sliced almonds, coconut flakes, and cream on the side.  Flavored with pistachio and cardamom, the Kulfi tastes wonderful.  Impressively, there are also red saffron threads hiding in the treat.  Can you say expensive?

Indian Palace may very well be one of the better Indian restaurants in the region.  With restaurants in Heidelberg and Mannheim, the owners and the chefs definitely know what they are doing.  Although Raja Rani has quick, inexpensive fast food Indian, Indian Palace does good, authentic, sit down and eat Indian.  Indian Palace captures the essence of Indian culture extremely well, from the ideal setting to the service, and concluding with the finely prepared food.  A pleasant overall experience can be had without traveling all the way to Southern Asia.

.

Summary:

Off one of the side streets along Heidelberg’s Hauptstraße, Indian Palace boasts tandoori and various Indian specialties.  Experience the exotic and enchanting tastes of truly authentic Indian cuisine in a very fancy and appealing dining room ambiance.  Prices are moderate.  Service is more than satisfying.

Overall – 4.5 stars

  • Chai Masala – 4/5
  • Tandoori Roti (Tandoori Flatbread) – 4.5/5
  • Aloo Gosht (Lamb and Potato Curry) – 4/5
  • Kulfi (Frozen dessert) – 4.5/5
  • Service – 5/5

.

www.indian-palace.net/

Written by geschmack

March 26th, 2010 at 7:10 pm

Speisegaststätte Hemmlein

leave a comment

S 2,2 68161 Mannheim

A friend of mine, a fellow culinary enthusiast, asked yesterday when I would try the top rated overall restaurant in Mannheim, according to several online outlets.   She’s been there numerous times and keeps idolizing it as the ultimate place to enjoy German cuisine.  It just so happens that I had planned on visiting this establishment on my next restaurant excursion, which happens to be today.  After all, I was in the mood for some delicious German food and Speisegaststätte Hemmlein perfectly fits the bill.

Hemmlein is ideally situated in the Mannheim city centre, a short walking distance from the spacious Mannheim Marktplatz.  The restaurant does not stand along the busy streets, but close enough to them to attract hungry patrons and curious visitors alike.  The menu, which changes practically everyday, covers a good deal of authentic German food – the kind a traditional German mother would make for her family.  The entire place, ranging from the seating to the walls, the menu and the servers, are all old-fashioned.  Taking a simple glance at the single page menu (which is put inside a plastic sheet protector), you get the feeling that it has been done on an old typewriter.  Nothing fancy about it, but it gets the job done.  Heck, even the prices seem dated, which is a good thing.  This is probably one of the least expensive German restaurants in town, considering the portion sizes and quality of ingredients.

The front of the house is adorned with a combination of old black & white photos, framed in antique picture frames, along with recently taken colored group photos.  There’s even a framed list of signatures – an obvious sign of the restaurant’s popularity.  Above the bar area, there are countless trophies – the mark of a champion.  Overall, Hemmlein is not the most eye-candy place to be, but that’s not the main focus here.

 

The food at Hemmlein certainly represents Germany well.  Here, you will find a variety of traditional and authentic German dishes – schnitzel, spätzle, sauerbraten, roasted meat dishes, etc… It’s always interesting to see how different restaurants serve up a simplistic, traditional dish that is schnitzel.

Priced at 8,80 €, the Jägerschnitzel is certainly a bargain.  Two thick slices of meaty pork cutlets, coated in breadcrumbs and fried, are served in a delightfully rich brown mushroom sauce.  The pork pieces are well seasoned and massive enough to make up for the price itself.  A generous, but not overwhelming, amount of sliced mushrooms, browned and tender, top each piece of pork.  The combination of mushrooms and pork is, not surprisingly, tasty.  The juicy pork meat shines here and doesn’t get overshadowed by the mushrooms or gravy.

 

An order of schnitzel comes with a side dish of potatoes and a plate of salad.  Normally, you would be served fries with schnitzel here, but I highly recommend substituting them for Bratkartoffeln (Fried Potatoes).  They are better than most, simply dissolving upon entering your mouth.  The edges of the potatoes are crunchy and crisp, while the insides are buttery and delightful.  A completely simple side dish done right.  The salad isn’t anything special, merely small portions of various veggies to meet your daily requirements.  A salad at Hemmlein consists of bite-sized pieces of green lettuce, white and red shredded cabbage, crisp shredded carrots, and corn and red kidney beans that seem to have come out of a can.   I’ve seen this assortment multiple times at other restaurants.

 

If you happen to still have room for dessert (which most people won’t due to the mammoth portions here), I highly suggest the apple sweets.  The 3,50 € Apfelstrudel (Apple Strudel) comes with a generous amount of whipped cream and three small scoops of vanilla ice cream.  Simply put, it looks like something that belongs in an ice cream parlor.  The apple strudel is warm and smells great, the pastry jacket is probably the best part.  The filling needs some work as the slices of apple weren’t necessarily sweet.  Eaten together with the cold ice cream, however, the apple pastry is such a pleasurable experience.

Mannheim seems to have some of the best restaurants in Baden-Württemberg.  Not only are the portion sizes more than generous, the price ranges are on the low end and the quality of the dishes is kept at a sophisticated level.  Hemmlein perfectly fits this model.  Even though the owners take a simplistic approach to the other aspects of the restaurant, the food remains the core focus here.

.

Summary:

Despite taking a no-frills, simple approach, Hemmlein is one of the best overall German restaurants in the Rhein-Neckar region serving up a large selection of German dishes that are traditionally cooked and served fresh.  Rustic and old-fashioned, Hemmlein features a nice dining atmosphere.  Extremely inexpensive.  Very friendly, warm service.  Reservations recommended.

Hours: Monday – Saturday: 11:00 AM to 9:30 P.M.
               Closed Sundays and Holidays

 

Overall – 5 stars

  • Jägerschnitzel – 4.5/5
  • Bratkartoffeln (Pan-Fried Potatoes) – 5/5
  • Apfelstrudel mit Eis und Sahne (Apple Strudel with Ice Cream and Whipped Cream) – 4.5/5
  • Service – 5/5

.

Written by geschmack

March 23rd, 2010 at 11:55 pm

Ristorante Cavallino Bianco Weißes Rössel

one comment

Hauptstraße 210 69117 Heidelberg

Don’t judge a book by its cover.  This very common idiom certainly applies to restaurants too.  A simple glance at Ristorante Cavallino Bianco and you may think this place sells Christmas decorations or holiday ornaments.  The green, white, and red exterior gives off quite a festive feeling not commonly associated with fine dining.  But take a closer look at the glass display case and you will find a menu – an Italian menu.  It immediately becomes apparent that the color scheme is exclaiming Italian national colors as opposed to Santa Claus!

 

Take a step inside and you immediately feel welcomed.  Soothing Italian music transports you to Venice, sitting in a gondola, taking in the beautiful scenery.  The dining room walls are a sharp contrast to the childish exterior – they are a mature, warm, and friendly peach hue.  Tables are draped in clean, white tablecloths, surrounded by cushioned wooden chairs.  Each table is further decorated with a beautiful flower in a vase and a candle.  Wine bottles and olive oil containers line the walls all around.  Overall, the dining room is sophisticated, orderly, and elegant.  Completing this superb dining setting are the professionally dressed and attentive servers.

The menu at Ristorante Cavallino Bianco is typical Italian.  You will find various pastas, as well as grilled meat specialties.  There is also an extensive selection of seafood dishes.  As it’s currently nearing the springtime, fresh mussels and seafood are featured items.  Compared to past experiences at Italian restaurants in Germany, Ristorante Cavallino Bianco does not provide guests with the complete Italian dining experience.  No complimentary bread or salad accompanies the meal, which can be disappointing.  Instead, you simply get what you order.

 

The Risotto frutti di Mare, priced at 10,50 €, is a delicious seafood risotto.  The rice is cooked well – the grains are creamy and slightly chewy.  This creamy texture goes great with the varied textural combination of the seafood.  You will find countless chunks of clam meat, squid, a baby octopus, four mussels, and tiny shrimp scattered throughout the risotto.

Whether it’s the luxurious, smooth texture of the octopus tentacles, the firmness of the shrimp, or the slightly chewy consistency of the squid, the seafood greatly complements the soft and creamy nature of the risotto rice.  The flavors of the sea get absorbed into the rice quite well, creating a rich overall flavor.  Also hidden among the grains of rice are slices of softened garlic, providing bursts of tang to the dish.  Unfortunately, you will also find some of the seafood slightly gritty – certainly unappealing.

 

Desserts are also your standard Italian delights – tiramisu, Italian ice cream, and panna cotta.  Many of the desserts seem overpriced, such as the panna cotta at 5,50 €.  But how could you not be tempted by Italian desserts?   The panna cotta is a delectable treat.  It has a rich and smooth texture.  Served simple and direct with a wild berry sauce, the combination of the cream, milk, and sugar is perfect.  For me, the seeds in the berry sauce were off-putting.  But aside from that, the panna cotta is a delightfully refreshing way to end any meal.

Of course, Ristorante Cavallino Bianco offers a selected number of wines to go along your meal.  Unsure of wine pairings?  Just ask the waiting staff for some advice.  As an alternative, there are hot drinks, in addition to cold beverages.  What’s a classic Italian dining experience without cappuccino?

It’s such a shame that, on a gorgeous Friday afternoon in Heidelberg, there was no one else present at the restaurant.  Maybe it’s the location near the end of the Hauptstraße that makes it unattractive to diners.  Nonetheless, Ristorante Cavallino is a decent choice for Italian food in the Heidelberg Altstadt.   The service is excellent and attentive; the food flavorful.

.

Summary:

One of the few Italian restaurants along Heidelberg’s Hauptstraße, Ristorante Cavallino Bianco is a great Italian eatery serving up a respectable amount of true Italian dishes.  Cozy dining environment, good attentive service.  Prices are moderate.

Overall – 4 stars

  • Risotto frutti di Mare (Seafood Risotto) – 4/5
  • Panna Cotta – 5/5
  • Service – 5/5

.

Written by geschmack

March 19th, 2010 at 8:13 pm

Restaurant Dionysos

leave a comment

N 2,4 68161 Mannheim

The beef gyros come, swamped in a creamy, red Metaxa sauce and enveloped in bubbling cheese on top, sizzling in a cast iron skillet – the aroma simply irresistible.  The black pan is so hot that the edges continue to sputter for a good few minutes after being placed on the table.  The waiter cautions not to touch the scorching skillet.  Accompanying the main star of the meal is a small side dish filled with house cut fries, crunchy and perfectly cooked, and a scoop of tomato vegetable rice, soft and bursting with flavor.  Finishing off the meal comes a slice of house made cake for dessert, a wonderful end to a dreamy meal.

It’s the baked gyros dish at Restaurant Dionysos, an item listed on their daily lunch menu for a mere 8,50 €.  Each item on this day menu, offered from 11 A.M to 5 P.M, is also served with a cool mixed salad that invigorates diners before the main entrée comes to the table.  All of the items served here are typical Greek dishes, traditionally prepared with Mediterranean flair.  Not only does the food capture the taste of Greece, the restaurant itself is a sight to see.

 

From the outside, Restaurant Dionysos looks expensive – like a Michelin quality, fine dining restaurant.  The wall sized glass windows are simply inviting and welcoming; it plainly screams to people to take a peak inside at the impressive décor and dining area.  Inside, the atmosphere is impressive and pleasing.  The open spaced area is highlighted by the Greek style columns, reminiscent of Ancient Greece.  There are countless statues throughout the dining area, as well as green vegetation that bring life to the entire area.  Near the back of the restaurant is a grand piece of artwork depicting an old Greek tale.  Okay, maybe not, but it’s beautiful nonetheless.  Each table is finely equipped with a calm blue tablecloth, in addition to a single burning candle.  The polished, crafted wooden chairs are padded and comfortable and relaxing.  Overhead chandeliers provide additional light to the room.  Adding to the Greek experience is soothing music playing from the speakers.  Hearing tunes from a bouzouki brings back memories of good times I had with a Greek friend.  It feels like Athens and you can’t help but smile.  Heck, even the napkins are finely decorated and provide a quick lesson in the Greek language for curious diners.

 

Overall, the food itself is likewise impressive.  For starters, the salad is crunchy and refreshing, although not characteristic Greek.  Missing are the olive oil dressing and feta cheese you would normally associate with Greek salad.  Instead, the mixed salad comes with white cabbage, freshly shredded carrots, red kidney beans, corn, and a single unpitted green olive in a creamy dressing sauce.  The white cabbage glistens in the afternoon light, the carrots also a vibrant orange.  Probably more German than Greek, but, hey, it’s eye candy and delicious at the same time.  Plus, the portion size is decent.

 

Next come the gyros, baked in the Metaxa sauce.  Metaxa is a distilled spirit, a blend of brandy and wine.  The sauce itself does wonders to the meat, providing extra flavor to the tender beef.  If you thought gyros and tzatziki was a good combination, wait until you try it with the Metaxa sauce!  At Dionysos, the Metaxa sauce is creamy and slightly peppery – but not spicy at all.  The flavor is definitely concentrated and very effective.

Alone, the gyros are wonderfully cooked and seasoned well.  Each piece of meat is juicy and extremely tender.   But the sauce takes it to an entirely new thrilling level.  The cheese adds that thick, gooey texture, complementing the pleasant taste of the sauce and meat.  Hidden in the dish are chopped onions and green peppers, perfectly softened by the baking process.  Of course, the best part is the crusty little bits of cheese and sauce stuck on the side of the skillet.  It takes effort to scrape them off, but it’s well worth the struggle.  Simply put, the gyros dish is simply to die for!  The portion size is more than generous, with a good amount of meat; you will be savoring each piece until the very last bite.

 

To end the day menu meal is a respectable sized slice of house made cake.  There is a thin layer of chocolate on top and a layer of fruit pudding sandwiched between two levels of delicate cake.  It is somewhat difficult to discern exactly what the middle layer consists of.  Asking the waiter for the name of the cake yielded no definite answer – it is merely a cake made by the kitchen staff.  Although it is not exactly Greek, it is a great end to a grand Greek meal.

If you’re unfamiliar with Greek cuisine, the lunch menu is probably the best way to experience the Mediterranean flavors.  Reasonably priced and generous in size, it’s as if you’ve died and gone… to Athens!  Καλή όρεξη!

.

Summary:

Located in the Mannheim city center near city hall, Restaurant Dionysos is a fabulous Greek restaurant offering a wide assortment of traditional Greek dishes.  Quality selection of Greek wines, in addition to a handful of beverages.  Pleasant atmosphere, impressive dining room.  Outdoor seating during the summer months.  Great service.

Hours: Everyday: 11:00 AMMidnight

Overall – 5 stars

  • Gyros überbacken nach Dionysos-Art (Gyros baked with Cheese and Metaxa Sauce) – 5/5
  • Fries – 5/5
  • Rice – 4/5
  • Salad – 4/5
  • Service – 5/5

.

http://www.dionysos-mannheim.de/

Written by geschmack

March 16th, 2010 at 7:28 pm

Posted in Mannheim

Tagged with , , ,

Restaurant Korea

leave a comment

Heiliggeiststraße 3 69117 Heidelberg

So with the recent closure of Mr.Whang Restaurant along the Hauptstraße, Heidelberg is down one respectable Korean restaurant.  Fortunately, however, there is still a traditional Korean restaurant hidden behind Heidelberg City Hall (Rathaus), duly named Restaurant Korea.  Even though the restaurant’s name isn’t exactly a creative one, the food is authentic and certainly does not cater to westerners’ taste buds.

Restaurant Korea is not exactly the most visible of restaurants.  It is situated next to a hotel, concealed out of sight by the large governmental building at market square.  The only indication of its location is a minute sign jutting out from the building, tagged with the restaurant name and Korean characters.  The menu covers a good deal of popular and traditional dishes, as well as price ranges.  For a great value, the weekday lunch menu offers a handful of Korean dishes all less than ten euros.  Not only are they easy on the pocket, but all of them will surely fill you up for a good part of the day, while also appealing to your taste buds.

 

Although the food served is Korean, the interior of the restaurant is anything but.  Every nook and cranny is practically decorated with some unique antique – decorative plates, wooden figurines, a model ship, and old sliver spoons.  The bar area is impressively stocked with a plethora of shiny glasses and beer steins.  There are ornamental Asian paper fans, along with traditional artwork adorning the walls.  In all, there are 9 polished, wooden tables with plenty of seats at each one.  Seating consists of cushioned wooden chairs or seats lined along the wooden walls.   The place can get quiet at times as there is no music playing at all.  You may hear the occasional Korean being spoken from the workers, but aside from that it makes for a pleasant, meditating dining atmosphere.

 

The menu doesn’t exactly reveal everything in its descriptions, which is shockingly a good thing.  Although the lunch menu describes the Bulgogi as being marinated beef served with rice and kimchi, the order was surprisingly accompanied by five other small dishes containing various items – small cubes of daikon in a spicy sauce, served cold, cold boiled bean sprouts with sliced carrots and chopped green onions, thin slices of tofu in a red chili sauce, lightly battered and fried seaweed with sesame seeds, and slices of cucumbers soaked in the red sauce.  In Korean cuisine, these small dishes are referred to as ‘Banchan.’  Collectively, the banchan are delicious side dishes to the main course of the meal.

Bulgogi is thin slices of beef, marinated in soy sauce and other ingredients and grilled.  At Restaurant Korea, the beef is flavored extremely well and tastes expensive.  At times, however, the meat can be slightly chewy and tough, but other parts are tender and simply melt in your mouth.  Personally, I would have liked the meat to be browned even more to get the nice bits of caramelization, but the beef is good nonetheless. The sesame seeds garnished on top provide additional aroma and texture.  Together with the small bowl of rice, which is slightly sticky and easy to scoop, the beef is marvelous and a meal in itself.

The banchan, however, adds wonders to the Bulgogi and rice.  Kimchi (pickled cabbage), the most common and most popular type of banchan, is particularly flavorful and spicy, maybe too fiery for the average eater.  It is crunchy and cold, spicy and sensational.  Other highlights are the spicy tofu (though not as spicy as the kimchi) and the fried seaweed.  Both are exceptional and enjoyable with the rice or simply by itself.  The sliced cucumbers are fresh and a good palate cleanser at the end of the meal.  They are only lightly tossed in the red chili sauce and thus only a slight tickle on your tongue.

To drink, there is Korean beer (OB) and Japanese alcoholic beverages, including sake.  In addition to the normal soft drinks and such, there are some spirits and wines.  For a healthy alternative, there are also hot drinks like Japanese and Korean Ginseng teas.

Restaurant Korea is open everyday from 11:30 P.M. to 3 P.M., and again from 5:30 P.M. to 10:30 P.M.  Definitely worth paying a visit.  It’s as close to Korean as you can get.  Annyeong haseyo!

.

Summary:

Restaurant Korea is a cozy Korean establishment next to the Rathaus in Heidelberg at Marktplatz.  Traditional, genuine Korean dishes as well as sushi offered.  Friendly service.

Overall – 5 stars

  • Bulgogi – 4.5/5
  • Banchan (Kimchi, Daikon, Bean Sprouts, Seaweed, Cucumbers, and Tofu) – 5/5
  • Service – 5/5

.

Written by geschmack

March 12th, 2010 at 5:52 pm

Sudpfanne

leave a comment

Hauptstraße 223 69117 Heidelberg

I’ve always been fascinated by these combination hostel and restaurant spots in Germany.  Do they serve warm, tasty, and delectable meals that a German mother would serve to her family?  Or does the food cater to foreign tourists and guests staying in the rooms neighboring the eatery?  At the far end of the Hauptstraße, away from the hustle and bustle of the city,  sits a cozy, pleasant restaurant, bar, and hostel called Sudpfanne.

 

Venturing into the restaurant, you will immediately be met with the bar room area, where there are several bar stools awaiting guests looking for a quick refreshment.  In the next room over is the inviting guest dining room.  Adorning the aged walls are exquisite, framed oil paintings, as well as various sculpted decorations.  The seating here primarily consists of padded seats along the walls, in addition to small wooden chairs.  The tables are also made of wood.  Each dining arrangement is decorated with a lone flower in a vase (though somewhat sad looking) along with a lighted candle.  Overall, the dining environment is comfortable and exudes a rustic, home feeling – perfect for a hostel operation.

The menu at Sudpfanne is unfortunately strictly limited.  In comparison to other German restaurants, the selections are few.  You will recognize common German dishes – schnitzel, rumpsteak, and spätzle – plus some regional offerings such as Maultaschen.  Sudpfanne offers a daily menu in addition to the normal items.  Drinks are typical.

 

Interesting about this place are the slight twists and variations added to traditional favorites.  One of the featured items here is the Schweineschnitzel Sudpfanne mit Kartoffelbrei und einer Knoblauchsoße (Pork cutlet, Sudpfanne style, with mashed potatoes and garlic sauce).  The dish comes with three pork cutlets, breaded and fried, served with a heaping amount of potatoes and a generous portion of garlic gravy sauce.  At 9,80 €, it is moderately priced.  And the dish is only partly well executed.  The schnitzel cutlets are well breaded, though not well seasoned.  The pork could definitely use some more salt.  Adding a squeeze of lemon does help improve the flavor, as does dipping the meat in the garlic sauce, but alone it leaves a lot to be desired.  Outperforming the main star of the dish are the mashed potatoes and garlic sauce.  The supporting actor wins the award while the lead fails to even get a nomination.  Together, the combination is delightful – the way garlic mashed potatoes should taste.  The spuds are mashed quite well, not to the point of being a purée, but smooth nonetheless.  The garlic sauce also speaks wonders.  Packed with flavor, it’s simply enjoyable.

 

Sudpfanne is conveniently located in the heart of Heidelberg.  The famous Heidelberg castle, as well as the infamous old bridge, is only a short distance away.  A bus stop nearby provides guests with further opportunities for exploration in this magnificent, charming city.  Although Sudpfanne offers an extremely limited number of entrées on their menu, the dishes are cooked decently.  The food portion to price ratio is slightly unfavorable, though.  Overall, Sudpfanne is a good place to enjoy a beer or a warm German meal to end your day.  After all, it’s located near the end of the main Hauptstraße.

.

Summary:

Sudpfanne is a restaurant, bar, and hostel situated in a prime location in the center of Heidelberg’s Altstadt.  Extremely limited selection of menu items.  Traditional German dishes including schnitzel, spätzle, and Maultaschen.  Wine tasting events (see website).  Quaint, lovely atmosphere.  Good service.

Overall – 4 stars

  • Schnitzel Sudpfanne – 3.5/5
  • Kartoffelbrei und einer Knoblauchsoße (Mashed Potatoes and Garlic Sauce) – 5/5
  • Service – 5/5

.

http://www.heidelberger-sudpfanne.de/

Written by geschmack

March 9th, 2010 at 11:59 pm

Gaststätte Essighaus (Updated)

leave a comment

Plöck 97 69117 Heidelberg

After scouring countless restaurants for weeks, looking for one that lists an admired national dish on the menu, and after asking several local residents in Heidelberg, I finally find it back at GaststätteEssighaus.  Surprisingly, sauerbraten, one of Germany’s national dishes, cannot be found in every German restaurant in this touristy city.  As soon as I tasted it, however, the reason for it immediately became apparent.

Sauerbraten is a unique twist to traditional style pot roast – it consists of beef (rump steak) marinated for days in a mixture of vinegar, spices, and seasonings.  Sauerbraten is, for some people, an acquired taste.  Those accustomed to pot roast may have a difficult time adjusting to the nice hint of sourness in this dish.  The tanginess is by no means overwhelming, but it is present in every part of the meat.  This sensory experience can be repulsive at first, but eventually grows on you with each and every bite.

 

The Sauerbraten meal at Essighaus, priced at 10,50 €, is served with the soup of the day (Tagessuppe), a side salad, and homemade Spätzle.  On this day, the featured soup is noodle soup.  As before, the warm soup is individually poured by the server from a medium sized container into your bowl.  The bite sized strings of noodle are soft, but the flavor is pretty standard.  Again, the salad is served with an appetizing herb cream sauce that is slightly reminiscent of pesto.  The carrots, cabbage, kraut, and lettuce are all fresh and enjoyable.

 

Three slices of slow cooked beef is anchored in a generous amount of tasty, home-style brown gravy sauce.  Garnished on top of the meat is chopped parsley; on the side is a leaf of lettuce with sliced radishes gingerly sleeping aboard.  The flavorful gravy sauce clearly intensifies the flavor of the dish.  Eating a piece of tender, succulent beef with the sauce creates a balance of sour and salty.  Unfortunately, the texture of the beef is not consistent throughout – some parts are tough and chewy, while other portions of the meat simply melt in your mouth.  In spite of this, the meal tastes delicious once you get used to the flavor of the beef.

Traditionally served with Sauerbraten is a German egg noodle side dish known as Spätzle.  The noodles have a soft, delicate texture that goes well with the juicy, succulent meat.  Alone, the noodles taste bland (this is not Käsespätzle, which would be noodles with cheese).  Adding a little salt or dipping the Spätzle in the gravy sauce gives the noodles flavor.  The combination of the Sauerbraten and Spätzle works really well together.

Gaststätte Essighaus is an ideal place to escape Heidelberg’s Hauptstraße and enjoy a delicious, hearty meal.  With generous portions, a pleasant staff, traditional meals, and deliciously cooked food, Essighaus is one of the best overall German restaurants in Heidelberg.

.

Summary:

Located on a street parallel to the busy Heidelberg Hauptstraße, Gaststätte Essighaus is a quaint, quiet restaurant serving up authentic German dishes including schnitzel, steaks, and fish dishes, amongst others.   Great, quick service.  Inexpensive, hefty portions.

Overall – 4.5 stars

  • Noodle Soup – 4/5
  • Salad – 4/5
  • Sauerbraten – 4/5
  • Spätzle – 4/5
  • Service – 5/5

.

Written by geschmack

March 3rd, 2010 at 6:20 pm

Ristorante Da Mario

leave a comment

Rohrbacher Straße 3 69115 Heidelberg

Taking an extremely narrow escalator up to the second story of a corner building, without having any idea what to expect, can be a frightening thought.  Sure, there are signs outside indicating an Italian restaurant and pizzeria, as well as a German bank, up there.  However, you can’t really see what’s actually at the top until you get there.  Surprisingly, a life sized figure of a waiter stands waiting at the top, in front of double doors, providing assurance that you are at the right place!

Once you step through the doors at Da Mario, you are immediately taken back by how open and spacious the restaurant is.  Simply put, the place is enormous.  Eye-catching is the extensive bakery style display case featuring an assortment of mouthwatering cakes and desserts.  Behind the counter are coffee and espresso machines, in addition to various wine bottles.  The ambiance is elegant and impressive.  Seating consists of padded booth style seating surrounding clean, table cloth covered wooden tables.  There are also comfortable black cushioned sofa chairs, in addition to wooden seats.  The small tables are enough for two people; put together they can accompany larger groups.  Each is fitted with a beautiful flower in a vase and a black pepper mill.  The service at Da Mario matches the elegant design – the servers are smartly dressed in white collared shirts with ties.  The staff is polite and courteous, attentive to your needs.

 

The menu includes typical Italian entrées – antipasto, salads, pizzas, pastas, and various meat dishes.  As with practically every restaurant in the area, Da Mario offers a special lunchtime menu featuring a selection of dishes at a reduced price.  There are also a few complete meals, each including a small side salad and dessert.  One of the daily specials is a Tagespizza (pizza of the day) with ham and mushrooms as toppings.  Included are a small salad and two slices of fresh, crisp, and flavorful Italian bread.  At 6,50 €, this meal is certainly a bargain.

 

It’s easy to see that the pizzas here are hand-tossed, as they aren’t exactly uniformly disc shaped.  The pizzas are flat and extremely thin – roughly having a 2 mm base.  However, they are approximately 12 inches in diameter – easily shared amongst two people (making it an even better deal!).  Of course, these pizzas are traditionally prepared with mozzarella and tomato sauce topping the base.  On a positive note, the tomato sauce isn’t too aggressive and doesn’t overshadow the other toppings.  The amount of cheese and tomato sauce, in comparison to the number of toppings, seems just right.  Although it’s a matter of personal preference, it would have been better with more mozzarella bubbling on the surface.  A hint of oregano flourishes on top of the pizza.  As far as the toppings are concerned, the large slices of ham are not overly salty.  It provides a good flavor overall, though the taste eventually becomes boring.  The mushrooms are succulent and provide a different taste.  Taken as a whole, however, the combination of ham and mushrooms on the pizza isn’t anything new.  The pizza is great and the price is super, but it isn’t going to make headlines.

Ristorante Da Mario is a terrific place to relax and unwind from a busy day on the job, or a long day of shopping.  During the daytime, it’s a great place for a business lunch meeting; during the evening a perfect romantic dinner.  Come grab a quick, inexpensive lunch off the daily menu, while reading one of the current popular magazines or daily newspapers offered in the front.  In the summertime, seating outside on the terrace provides guests with a wonderful view of the boisterous street below.

.

Summary:

Da Mario is an Italian restaurant and pizzeria located in the heart of Bismarckplatz in Heidelberg.  Traditional Italian dishes, including pizzas, a variety of pastas, risotto, and assorted meat entrées.  Dessert display cases featuring scrumptious cakes.  Impressive, pleasant dining environment.  Excellent, attentive professional service.  Outdoor terrace seating available.  Prices ranging from extremely affordable to moderate.

Overall – 4 stars

  • Tagespizza (Pizza of the Day with Ham and Sausage) – 3.5/5
  • Small Salad – 3.5/5
  • Service – 5/5

.

Written by geschmack

March 2nd, 2010 at 10:13 pm