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Archive for May, 2010

Die Kartoffel

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Kirchenstraße 3 68526 Ladenburg

One of the greatest problems confronting diners at a steakhouse or restaurant is when they order a steak cooked a certain way, but instead receive it overdone and simply not to their liking.  For instance, people oftentimes order their cut of meat cooked medium rare and wind up with a charred slab that’s dark throughout.  The end product is tough and disappointing.  When this happens, it’s easy to place blame on the chef in the kitchen.  Leave a steak on the grill a few seconds too long and you move up a notch on the steak cooking ladder.  But one restaurant in Germany takes all of this into consideration and turns the tables.  At Die Kartoffel, the only person held accountable for an overcooked steak is not the person laboring in the kitchen; it’s the diner who ordered the steak in the first place!

 

Die Kartoffel offers a truly unique, unforgettable dining experience.  Here, steaks are initially served raw, sizzling on a blistering hot stone.  The steaks can be left on the heat to cook for as long as you so desire, according to your own personal preferences, right in front of you.  This freedom is rather unique and innovative and gives diners complete control over their dining experience.  Enjoy rare steaks?  Medium rare the way you like it?  It’s up to you to decide how long you want to cook the meat on the stone.  Hungry and can’t wait?  Slice the meat thinly and sear small portions as you go.

Die Kartoffel’s menu features a good selection of meats served on hot stones – rump steak, filet mignon, lamb filet, deer filet, and shrimp.  A couple of fresh, seasonal salads are also included on the menu.  The meats are the center of attention, but the baked potatoes here are as deserving of the spotlight.  After all, the restaurant’s name literally means ‘The Potato.’  Potato specialties include baked potatoes stuffed with your choice of sauce – sour cream and herb, cocktail cream sauce with green peppers, remoulade sauce, or salmon cream with fresh dill, amongst others.

 

The beverage list is quite extensive and impressive.  Welde beer is the featured type of brew on tap.  Aside from the usual nonalcoholic and hot beverages, guests can find aperitifs and various spirits listed.  As far as the list of wines is concerned, there are various white and red wines from the surrounding region – from Württemberg, Rheinpfalz, and Baden.  There are also French wines and a few types of champagne to complement your meal or celebrate a grand occasion.

 

The dining areas here are separated from one another – the ground floor guest room is for nonsmokers, the cellar downstairs for smokers, and the beer garden outside for all guests during warm, sunny days.  Die Kartoffel has been operating under its current owners since 1998, but the building itself impressively dates back to the 17th century.

This clearly manifests itself in the décor.  Antique artifacts, including an ancient wagon from years passed, hang from the ceilings.  Old-fashioned chandeliers provide sufficient lighting.  Black and white portraits and photographs of childhood memories are affixed to the wooden walls.  Wooden dining tables and chairs match the wooden frames of the interior.  Although the place looks dated and unpretentious, the dining area exudes a warm and inviting feel, complemented by the friendly and graceful staff.

All of the meats on the menu are undoubtedly first-rate.  However, you can never go wrong with filet mignon.  The beef filet is so tender and worth savoring every bite.  Seasoned with black peppercorns on top and sea salt on the stone, the meat is incredible as is.  The accompanying sauces, particularly the garlic remoulade sauce, add so much depth and flavor and complement the meat well.

 

Each meat served on hot stones is served with a baked potato, loaded with a delightful sour cream and herb topping, and a small salad.  The side salad is fresh and clean.  It’s a standard German salad with lettuce, sliced cucumbers, grated carrots, corn, and kidney beans.   Salad dressing is creamy and goes well.

The potato is prepared impeccably; its appetizing flesh is delicate and smooth in texture.  With the sour cream and herb sauce, the side dish shines on its own; along with the filet mignon, it’s a perfect pairing.

Sure enough, potatoes make their way onto the dessert menu.  Two of the three desserts include spuds in them – Kartoffelkuchen and Kartoffeljoker.  The other is a standard on essentially all German restaurant menus – Apple Strudel (Apfelstrudel).  Kartoffeljoker – potato pancake topped with a sweet peach halve, a scoop of gourmet vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, and cranberries – works seamlessly.  The warm pancake is crisp and complements the cold vanilla ice cream extremely well.  Once the ice cream begins to melt and the potato absorbs its flavors, this dessert begins to shine.  The peach is syrupy; the softly whipped cream light and airy.  All together, the flavors dance to the beat.  It’s a delight that could easily go for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.  Who says potatoes can’t be used for dessert?

 

Die Kartoffel is an absolute must for any steak or potato lover.  Heck, it’s a definite must for anyone visiting Heidelberg or Mannheim, or even Baden-Württemberg for that matter.  The cook-it-yourself approach is quite rare in this region and certainly a welcome change to the everyday restaurant experience.  Die Kartoffel creatively brings out the culinarian in every one of us!

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Summary:

Located in the charming little town of Ladenburg, Die Kartoffel (‘The Potato’) is a quaint, rustic German restaurant featuring high quality steaks on heated stones.  Of course, potatoes are also highlighted on the menu.  Boasting a building out of the 17th century, along with a cellar from the 14th century, Die Kartoffel is the place to go for a gratifying meal in a historic restaurant.  Very warm and welcoming service.  Menus offered in various languages.  Lunch menu also featured.  Prices reasonable to moderate.  Dinner reservations highly recommended.

Hours: Monday, Tuesday: 5:00 PMMidnight
            Wednesday – Sunday, Holidays: 11:00 AM – 3:00 PM,
                                      5:00 PMMidnight

 

Overall – 5 stars

  • Filet Mignon – 5/5
  • Gebakenen Kartoffeln mit Sauerrahm und Kräutern (Baked Potato with Sour Cream and Herbs) – 5/5
  • Kartoffeljoker (Potato Pancake with Vanilla Ice Cream, Peach Halve, Whipped Cream, and Cranberries) – 5/5

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http://www.gasthaus-kartoffel-ladenburg.de/

Written by geschmack

May 28th, 2010 at 9:29 pm

City Döner (Updated)

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City Döner

Willy-Brandt Platz 5 68161 Mannheim

Four huge döner roasts stand on rotating spits behind the counter.  The sheer amount of poultry meat is enough to feed an entire army.  Orders are taken three, four, even five at a time as the workers cooperate together and form an assembly line to get them taken care of in timely fashion.  Freshly made flatbread gets rolled out in one corner, döner meat is newly shaved from the spit, and crisp vegetables are scooped heavily onto bread – all happening simultaneously in the tight area behind the counter while another worker takes care of the orders.  The place is busy, but the employees don’t miss a beat.  This is the scene at City Döner in Mannheim.

Like any other establishment that sells pizza and döner (or any fast food establishment for that matter), City Döner has a large menu board displaying all the items available.  Aside from the standard döner plates, falafels, Lahmacun, Pide, and calzones, there are also grill specialties, including lamb cutlets and skewers.  Turkish specialties, including Börek and Sigara Böreği, also find their way onto the menu.  Vegetarian döners and plates can also be ordered.  Chilled beverages sit in a refrigerator next to the cashier and include standard sodas and the like.

 

At 4,50 €, the Yufka Döner is a definite must.  Containing essentially the same ingredients as a Döner Kebab, a Yufka Döner makes use of a round, thin flatbread instead of thick flatbread.  This thin flatbread, or Yufka, is similar to a tortilla.  The filling – sliced tomatoes, shredded red cabbage, green lettuce, raw onions, and chicken / turkey döner all topped with yogurt sauce – is placed inside the flatbread and wrapped like a burrito.  What makes the Yufka at City Döner stand out is the amount of filling – the thing almost weighs a pound and is about a foot long!  Eating this Goliath is a tricky task in itself as the seams basically burst open after the first bite.

The flavor inside the yufka is plain solid.  The chicken / turkey meat is juicy and packed with seasonings – exceptional and delicious.  Flatbread is soft and delicate, baked until slightly crisp.  Vegetables provide the right amount of crunch and texture.  The portion size of the meat and vegetables is more than generous.

Despite all of this meat, however, the Yufka suffers from a lack of sauce.  Maybe the meat and veggies soak it all up.   Each bite is dominated by the saltiness of the meat as opposed to a harmonic balance of flavors.  Yet, in spite of this minor setback, the Yufka is certainly worth ordering.  The messiness associated with eating such a huge wrap makes the meal fun and challenging at the same time.

 

You also can’t go wrong with the Dönerteller (Döner Plate).  Here at City Döner, you have the option of ordering a plate with either rice, fries, pasta noodles, or without any of the above starchy foods.  Each döner plate is served with a cool green salad consisting of chopped lettuce, shredded carrots, red cabbage, diced cucumbers, green and red bell peppers, and a slice of tomato.  Parsley is garnished over the vegetables.  Yogurt sauce is squeezed all over the top of the plate.

Each plate is also accompanied by a piece of flat bread served in a basket.  The complete Dönerteller amounts to 7,00 €; without rice, fries, or noodles, 6,50 €.  Clearly, 7 euros is slightly more expensive than a similar plate at other döner places.  However, this price difference is easily made up by the overly generous amount of meat piled high on the plate and the warm piece of bread on the side.

In terms of flavor, the Dönerteller with rice at City Döner is by far the best plate of döner and rice thus far.  The Turkish style rice pilaf consists of white rice and scant amounts of orzo.  Both the rice and döner glisten in the afternoon sun like expensive jewelry.  The pearls of rice are delicate, creamy, and have a distinct, slightly sticky nature.  Combined with the dangerously addicting and succulent pieces of poultry, this plate works like a charm.  It’s sort of reminiscent of a delicious bowl of teriyaki chicken and rice (but, of course, without the teriyaki!).  Include the refreshing side salad and the impressive amount of yogurt sauce on top and you have yourself a completely satisfying meal.  Although presentation is lacking (the dish looks like a colorful snow covered mountain), the flavors work wonderfully on all levels.

Serving up colossal döners at competitor’s prices, City Döner may very well be one of the best in the city.  With essentially round the clock hours, this kebab joint can be relied on for that quick döner fix.  But it also has you wondering – who would want döner or pizza in the morning?  Maybe they should come out with some sort of breakfast Yufka Döner, one with scrambled eggs, döner meat, and cheese in Turkish flatbread – sort of like a breakfast burrito – or a Breakfast Dönerteller with pancakes.  Now that would be something to see!

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Summary:

With its excellent location directly across from the Mannheim main train station, City Döner is a popular fast food joint serving up gigantic portions of delicious döner and pizza.  Practically open day and night.  Only poultry döner available.  Outdoor seating available during the spring and summer.  Extremely quick and efficient service.

Hours: Monday – Thursday, Sunday: 6:00 AM – 4:00 AM
            Friday, Saturday:6:00 AM – 5:00 AM 

 

Overall – 4.5 stars

  • Yufka Döner – 4.5/5
  • Dönerteller mit Reis (Döner Plate with Rice) – 5/5
  • Service – 5/5

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Written by geschmack

May 25th, 2010 at 7:15 pm

Persepolis

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Zwingerstraße 21 69117 Heidelberg

Königstuhl.  Schloß Heidelberger.  Persepolis?  Sure, the actual Persepolis is now an archaeological site in Iran, some 2000 miles away.  But after venturing up to the Königstuhl summit and visiting Heidelberg’s landmark structure, a fantastic Persian restaurant – Persepolis – awaits you at the bottom, directly across from the entrance to the Bergbahn.

From the outside, Persepolis restaurant looks like anything but the majestic ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid Empire.  Instead, it simply looks like a tiny home converted into a restaurant.  The place is as spacious as a one person room; the dining area as large as a walk-in closet.  The kitchen can be seen in the back and appears to be even smaller.  Seating is limited to black bar height stools.  Tables are more like the top part of storage shelves.   Due to the limited amount of space, assorted drinks and beverages are stored all around, notably under the tables.  There are bags of various ingredients located everywhere.  The restaurant isn’t messy; it’s just not the most attractive place.  Then again, being a tiny restaurant translates to lower prices on the menu – a definite plus for any visitor.  In terms of décor, there are spectacular images of monuments framed on the walls.  Adding to the Persian ambiance, pleasant music plays from the speakers.

 

The menu at Persepolis is restricted to only 6 items everyday.  However, the choices vary on a daily basis.  Most of the dishes include some variation of meat – chicken, lamb, or fish.  But there is also at least one vegetarian option.  Each plate can be ordered either as normal or large – prices for normal plates range from 3,50 € for vegetarian dishes, meat entrées around 5,00 €.  Large plates start from 5,50 €.  Side dishes can be had for around 1 euro.  Hot drinks, such as tea and coffee, are also listed at 1 euro and are a good deal.

The only constant offered each day is Zereshk Polo – shredded chicken served on a combination of basmati and saffron rice, with red barberry berries (Zereshk) mixed in.  Also supplied on the plate is a golden crispy piece of rice taken from the bottom of the pot in which the grains are cooked.  A flavorful and textural wonder, this brittle slice of rice is hands down the best part of the dish.  The saffron rice is prepared to order by mixing basmati rice with saffron infused liquid in one of the warming trays until it has attained its distinctive yellow color.   The rice has a unique aroma while the berries provide a distinctive tart component to the otherwise salty elements.  A striking balance is achieved through the use of saffron.  The chicken is moist and much needed in contrast to the rice.  Overall, this dish is another variation of chicken and rice.  At 4,90 € for a normal sized plate, the Zereshk polo is one of the cheaper meat dishes on the menu and worth a try.

On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, Persepolis features Sabzi Polo Mahi on the menu – lightly fried fish fillets served on a bed of dill infused basmati rice, topped with a scoop of saffron rice.  Again, berberis berries are mixed in with the saffron.  A slice of crusted rice is also served on the side.  The white fish is delicate and flaky, flawlessly cooked and seasoned to perfection.  Alone, the fish tastes marvelous; in conjunction with the rice, it makes one delicious, satisfying meal.  Dill is generously combined with the basmati rice and provides a refreshing herbal touch.  Simply put, this dish is straightforward and executed extremely well.  Crunchy rice crust, flaky fish, aromatic rice – what more can you ask for?

Finish off your venture into Persian cuisine with a glass of hot tea.  Sugar cubes are offered to sweeten up your drink to your liking.  On the side of the cup is a dried date that is enough to satisfy your sweet tooth.

Open since 1997, Persepolis has slowly become a popular establishment here in Heidelberg, particularly amongst the younger crowd.  Many students and young adults pop in to enjoy a quick meal that’s not only appetizing, but also easy on the pocket.  The owners are very friendly and continually have smiles on their faces.  With its changing daily menu, it’s no wonder that Persepolis has been able to attract repeat customers and remain here so long.  What limited dishes they do offer are refined and served with utmost care.  With its Persian cuisine, Persepolis offers something different and unique in this part of town.

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Summary:

Ideally located across the Heidelberg Bergbahn, Persepolis is a tiny mom & pop restaurant serving up the finest Persian cuisine at extremely affordable prices.  Menu varies each day, featuring 6 different dishes (including at least 1 vegetarian option).  Very limited amount of seating.  Takeout available.  Very friendly owners.

Hours: Monday – Friday: 11:00 AM – 8:00 PM
            Saturday, Sunday: 12:00 PM – 8:00 PM

 

Overall – 5 stars

  • Sereshk Polo – 4/5
  • Sabsipolo-Mahi – 5/5
  • Service – 5/5

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http://www.persepolis-heidelberg.de/

Written by geschmack

May 21st, 2010 at 11:55 pm

Medocs

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Sofienstraße 7B 69115 Heidelberg

Having lived in Germany for many months now, and after visiting countless restaurants, it’s easy to become addicted to schnitzel.  Simple yet flavorful, schnitzel is the standard dish not only featured on German menus, but also restaurants with an international flair.  One such establishment, Medocs, has a terrific label for this breaded pork obsession – ‘Schnitzel Fever.’  It’s one of the many specials featured at this classic café and restaurant in Heidelberg.

 

Through the two glass door entrance, you are immediately met with the bar area.  The cozy dining area extends from the front entrance all the way to the back end of the restaurant.  Appearing along the way are corner areas, ideal for groups or private conversation.  The modern décor perfectly fits into that distinctive café setting.  All around the white walls are various framed images of random objects and people – coffee cups brimming with brew, couples smooching one another, dancers in a pose with their shadows, and distant views of a construction site.  There are also large blackboards featuring dinner specials – tempting during lunch hours, but just a tease and a reminder to come back during the evening.  The black, white, and red color scheme here seems to be the trend.  Black cushioned booth style seating line the walls and offer an alternative to the polished, round wooden chairs.  Tables are sturdy marble and come with a lit candle to provide that romantic touch.

Awaiting you at each table are a handful of various brochures, including the standard everyday menu, a card listing evening dishes (available after 5 PM), special seasonal offerings, and another one advertising weekday specials.  Although it may seem a bit cluttered and confusing at first, it’s worth the time to glance through each one to become aware of any discounts.  The specials at Medocs are what make the place unique and quite popular amongst the locals.  For instance, Medocs features a weekday lunch menu with 5 different dishes, including a pasta, salad, meat, and vegetarian dish, each for only 5 €.  Add the fact that the choices vary each week and you have an excellent reason to keep coming back for more.  Other specials include ‘Green Monday’ (all salads are 5,90 € after 5 PM), ‘Tropical Thursdays’ (cocktails 3,90 € each after 8 PM), and ‘Schnitzel Fever’ every Saturday, Sunday, and holidays after 12 PM (all schnitzels at a reduced price).

 

Written in both German and English, the standard menu at Medocs forays into different types of cuisine.  In addition to German breakfast items, you can find a mixture of international dishes – baguettes, soups, salads, and pastas.  After 5 PM, the selection becomes even larger as you can order burgers, steaks, and other grilled specialties.  Highlighting the menu is a fairly impressive list of schnitzels.  Aside from the typical “Wiener Art,” you can get 8 different varieties of schnitzel, including “Gorgonzola-Schnitzel,” “Texas” style schnitzel with BBQ sauce, and a salad with strips of breaded pork.  There are also 4 unique types with cheese baked on top.

 

Listed amongst the schnitzels is Schnitzel ‘Madagaskar’ – pork schnitzel, breaded extremely well, served in an orange cream sauce with green peppercorns.  On the side are home fried potatoes.  Considering the large portion sizes, the price tag of 8,20 € is very reasonable.  The small green Madagascar peppercorns add a nice zing to the pork.  It gives the dish a slight spicy sensation – that much needed kick.  The peppercorns infuse a uniquely exotic flavor into the sauce; the taste refined and rich.  The breading on the schnitzel is also remarkable.  A thick layer of breading, compact and crisp, covers the surface of the pork and provides a great texture that contrasts nicely with the meat.  Together with the cream sauce and the tightly packed breading, the flavor combination makes every bite a delight.

Consistency at Medocs appears to be the only issue.  On one visit, the breaded pork was graciously doused with cream sauce, along with a nice heaping of green peppercorns.  The potatoes were cooked perfectly, seasoned and buttered flawlessly.  On another visit, a number of home fries were burnt on the surface.  Although visually unappealing, the charred potatoes were given an even crispier outer coating that contrasted sharply with the delicate flesh.  Additionally, the given amount of cream sauce was sparse.

 

Desserts are rather limited.  Aside from typical apple strudel, you can find various cakes and pies as well as a good crêpe dish.  Rolled up crêpe, filled with warm chocolate sauce and dusted with cocoa powder, is a delight.  A scoop of vanilla ice cream, along with a mound of whipped cream, sliced almonds, and slices of fresh fruits, all bring the dish together.  The dish isn’t overly sweet; rather, the balance is just right.  The warm sensations of the delicate crêpe contrast well with the cold and creamy nature of the ice cream and whipped topping.  The slices of orange are sweet and work wonderfully with the chocolate.  Overall, it’s a great finish to the meal.

Medocs may very well be considered a local cult.  Not only will you find couples enjoying a romantic meal, students taking a break from their busy schedules, and elderly women chit-chatting over coffee, but also businessmen taking full advantage of the inexpensive lunch menu.  Essentially everyone comes to Medocs to unwind from the chaos outside and relax in the casual, inviting atmosphere.  With its perfect location, sensible prices, pleasant service, sensational specials, and tremendous food, Medocs is here to stay.

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Summary:

Medocs is a café and restaurant perfectly situated at Heidelberg’s Bismarckplatz.  Serving up a mixture of international cuisines, including American, Italian, and German dishes, Medocs is very reasonably priced and certainly worthy of a visit (and repeat visits thereafter!).  Various specials throughout the week, including schnitzel fever on the weekends.  5 € weekday lunch menu dishes, varying each week.  Friendly, affable service.  Outdoor seating available.

Overall – 4 stars

  • Schnitzel ‘Madagaskar’ – 4.5/5
  • Crêpe Schokolade – 4/5
  • Service – 5/5

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http://www.medocs-cafe.de/

Written by geschmack

May 18th, 2010 at 9:55 pm

Ristorante Da Vinci

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Bahnhofstraße 29 69115 Heidelberg

Da Vinci is synonymous with innovation, creativity, and artistic genius.  Any Italian restaurant that adopts the name of this true Renaissance man immediately assumes high expectations on all fronts.  The ambiance, service, presentation, and, most importantly, the food needs to be topnotch.  Although Ristorante Da Vinci in Heidelberg offers creative dishes on its changing menu, not everything here is a work of art.

 

The interior is simple and modern, yet cozy and pleasant.  Upon entering the doors, you are met with two Roman style pillars essentially directing you to the wide bar area.  Diverging out on each side, dining tables fill up the rest of the area.  Brown cushioned booth style seating line the walls.  Red padded seats provide an alternative.  The tablecloth covered tables are clean and set up with white folded napkins and utensils awaiting each diner.  Red roses sit at each table, accompanied by a lit candle.  The flower matches the red, black, and white color scheme of the interior.  The walls are bare white, clean and straightforward.  There is plenty of lighting coming from the outside and the ceiling lights.  Aside from some plants and round silver ornaments along the window sills, furnishings are nonexistent.  The simplistic nature of the restaurant creates this relaxed and calming ambiance.

On the menu are various salads, an assortment of pastas (spaghetti and tagliatelle, to name a few), pizzas, oven baked items including lasagnas, and hearty meat dishes.  Specials are included as a separate attachment inside the booklet.  There are also daily specialties written on chalkboards both inside and outside of the restaurant.  The wine list is extensive and there are quite a few wine bottles and alcoholic containers sitting behind the bar counter.  Drinks include your standard selection of warm and cold beverages.

 

Like several Italian restaurants, you are given a complimentary starter at Da Vinci.  Today, it was Italian bread in a basket.  The rustic bread has a thick, crunchy crust; the inside a spongy texture that’s perfect for soaking up sauce.  Whatever you are given, it’s undoubtedly a good way to begin any meal at Da Vinci.

 

But instead of an artistic masterpiece, the Lasagne de Pesce is a gooey mess.  Lasagna is supposed to be hearty and thick.  The size of the dish here leaves a lot to be desired.  What happened to the traditional method of making lasagna?  Alternating layers of noodles, cheese, sauce, and filling seems to have been replaced with basic layers of pasta and filling.   Sadly, even the filling is neglected.  Tiny pieces of salmon and chopped spinach are unevenly distributed amongst the many layers of pasta.

At times, all you get are empty sheets of noodle.  The cheese and sauce are on the outside looking in, pleading to help.  In order to fully enjoy the flavors, you have to coat each lasagna bite in the cheese sauce.  Yet, the flavor combinations don’t dance as well as they should.  The salmon takes a back seat; the pasta and cheeses dominate the dish like Mac & Cheese.  During today’s visit, there was even a startling discovery hidden under the thick cheese topping – an entire bay leaf that survived the cooking process.  At 11,50 €, the Lasagne de Pesce definitely deserves a makeover.

 

Luckily, the desserts shine at Da Vinci.  There is a good selection of traditional Italian sweets – tiramisu, panna cotta, gelato, and cassata sicillana.  The cassata sicillana, priced at 5,00 €, is not made traditional style.  Instead of cake, this decadent sweet is made up of Italian ice cream and cream, with pieces of candied fruit sparsely scattered throughout, and topped with milk chocolate.  Presentation is fantastic.  Da Vinci would surely be proud.  Sliced fresh fruits create a perimeter around the dessert and add a nice contrast to the candied pieces within.  Not overly sweet, the cassata is a dreamy way to put an end to your Italian meal.

With its posh interior, efficient service, and recognizable name, you would expect a lot more from this restaurant.  With a few minor adjustments, Da Vinci could easily become one of the better Italian restaurants in Heidelberg.

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Summary:

Hidden behind the Bauhaus in Heidelberg, Da Vinci serves up decent Italian cuisine at reasonable prices.  Outdoor seating available on beautiful days.  Look for daily specials on the chalkboards.

Overall – 3.5 stars

  • Lasagne de Pesce – 2.5/5
  • Cassata Sicillana – 4.5/5
  • Service – 5/5

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Written by geschmack

May 15th, 2010 at 7:51 pm

Avatar Foods

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Hauptstraße 171 69117 Heidelberg

Considering that Kebab Haus next door was superior in virtually all aspects, it was only a matter of time before Super Fast Food packed up and left the Hauptstraße.  A few months later, a new fast food establishment took up shop in its place – Avatar Foods.  A completely renovated dining area, a new touch of paint, and the addition of Indian cuisine to the menu all make this recent addition to Heidelberg’s main street worth a visit for a quick meal.

Outside, elements of its predecessor still linger.  The place still looks bare.  The same white and orange shades remain; the name Super Fast Food merely blotched out.  The only restaurant sign, very tiny and hard to discern, can be seen through the windows.  Upon entering the single door entrance, the ordering counter is still the first thing you see.  Further inside, the place has been given a nice beige coating – a definite improvement over the ghastly orange hue of its predecessor.  The dining area has also been smartly refurbished.  The contemporary, marbled tables are a step up from the ancient wooden slabs.  Seating is either crimson red booths along the walls or cushioned wooden chairs.  Pink blossoms and green flora liven up the place.  Candles at each table also add a nice touch.  The flat screen television still remains, along with the hip hop tunes blasting from the speakers.

In regards to the food, Avatar still curiously retains components of its predecessor.  You can still find döner and other typical German fast food items here (again, why come here when its next door neighbor does it better?).  However, the menu is chiefly dominated by Indian specialties – curries, gosht, and Tandoori items, amongst others.  Drinks include Indian lassis with mango, banana, and cocoa.  Instead of offering student discounts, as Super Fast Food was known for, Avatar offers a special ‘Happy Hour’ after 7 PM.  During this evening exclusive, you can have any Indian dish (outside of the tandoori specialties) for only 5,00 €!  As many of the dishes normally range from five to seven euros, this is definitely a good deal.

 

The chicken tikka masala on basmati rice is a must.  In this dish, roasted chunks of chicken breast marvelously absorb the rich, orange colored tomato sauce curry.  The chicken possesses a striking amount of flavor; the sauce thick and creamy.  The fragrant aroma and delicate nature of the basmati rice is also a perfect complement to the bold flavors of the tikka masala.  You certainly won’t be complaining about the lack of meat – there is probably enough chicken to share the dish among two people.  Although the presentation is nothing to be excited about, the dazzling orange and red on the chicken is enough to make any fan of masala happy.

It’s hard to say whether this restaurant took full advantage of the Avatar craze by using it namesake.  Regardless, the buzz generated by the name alone doesn’t seem to have accomplished much as the place is seemingly empty on a weekday evening during their ‘Happy Hour’ special.  It’s too bad because Avatar Foods serves up enjoyable Indian food at very affordable prices.  Although the selection isn’t as large as other Indian fast food places in the city, the food they do offer is executed well.

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Summary:

Located along Heidelberg’s Hauptstraße, Avatar is a good Indian fast food restaurant with a fairly limited number of items on the menu.   ‘Happy Hour’ past 7 PM – all Indian dishes are 5,00 €.  Outdoor seating available.  Quick and efficient service.

Overall – 4 stars

  • Chicken Tikka Masala – 4.5/5
  • Service – 5/5

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Written by geschmack

May 12th, 2010 at 11:55 pm

Phuket Thai-Restaurant

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Steingasse 1 69117 Heidelberg

Heidelberg’s Alte Brücke – a historic old bridge that takes visitors over the lengthy Neckar river.  With picturesque views of the Heidelberg castle and surrounding hills, the Old Bridge is surely one of the many tourist attractions in this romantic city.  One end leads out to a residential part of the city, marked by gorgeously constructed structures overlooking the water.  The other takes visitors through an old gate into the charming city.  Following the cobblestone pathway, through the large gateway, down towards the church, you will come across souvenir shops, restaurants, and bars.  One such restaurant, conveniently situated a few paces from the gate, is Phuket Thai Restaurant.

Phuket is named after possibly the most popular tourist destination in Thailand.  A coastal city and island in the southern part of the country, Phuket is synonymous with beautiful scenery and beaches.  Phuket Thai Restaurant’s location, only a few steps away from the Neckar River, captures this idea.

 

Inside, the place looks expensive.  Although the dining room is quite small, fine attention to detail is given to the décor.  Glass placed on top of an intricately carved wooden surface makes up the dining tables.  Each is furnished with a gentle burning candle and vibrant bud in a vase.  Bamboo placemats and gold colored silverware await diners at each setting.  The polished wooden chairs are comfortably cushioned with green blue colored padding.  On the walls are framed portraits of Thai monarchy as well as an artistic portrayal of a beach littered with palm trees.  A Thai flag is proudly displayed and greets visitors near the entrance.  Even the wallpaper has repeating images of the Thai Buddha.  Modern Thai music softly plays in the background.  The atmosphere is serene and relaxed.  Complementing the ambiance is the affable service.  Service is offered with that characteristically welcoming Thai smile.

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Phuket’s menu selection isn’t overly impressive.  There are four course meals designed for two, three, or four guests.  This makes ordering a lot easier.  Aside from these sets, the menu offerings include pretty standard Thai dishes.  That is, there aren’t any unique dishes that you wouldn’t be able to find at the other Thai restaurants in the city.

Drinks are also typical for any restaurant, except for the Thai Singha beer and Thai tea.  Here, the Thai tea is served in a chilled glass with ice cubes and a wedge of lemon.  Unexpectedly, no milk is added.  Refreshingly sweet, the tea’s unique flavor is augmented by the hint of lemon.

 

 

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Satay Moo – pork satay – is common Thai street food.  At Phuket, this appetizer can be had for 5,50 €.  An order comes with 5 skewers, a small amount of peanut dipping sauce, and a beautifully carved carrot rose on a bed of cabbage.  The pork satay here is dry and isn’t marinated as well as it could be.  The meat is sliced quite thin, so it’s a bit curious why the pork isn’t as flavorful.  The tasty, chunky peanut sauce, however, works well with the dry pork and enhances the taste marvelously.  The only setback is the harsh amount of sauce given – more is definitely required to fully enjoy the true taste of the dish.  Missing is a slice of toasted bread on the side and the cucumber vinegar sauce that usually accompanies such a dish.

 

Spicy is where Thai cuisine shines.  At 11,50, the Phad Kaprow Gai (Chicken with Thai basil) is a good choice to test your tolerance for heat.  Request the dish to be made as spicy as a Thai person would eat it for that adventurous rush of fire.  Of course, if you aren’t able to withstand spicy foods, simply order the dish as listed.

 

Phad Kaprow is customarily made with chopped or ground meat and lots of Thai basil and chili peppers.  At Phuket, the dish also includes finely diced red and green bell peppers, garlic, bamboo shoots, and onions, stir-fried together with the meat.  It may seem like a simple list of ingredients, but the combination of flavors is intense.  A brilliant balance of salty, spicy, and a faint hint of sweetness produces a great sensory experience.  The meat is served on a lovely ceramic platter in the shape of a turkey.  This platter is kept on a warmer to maintain its heat throughout your meal.

Accompanying the dish is a generous amount of Thai jasmine white rice.  Perfectly cooked and fluffy, the steamed rice is best mixed with the meat and enjoyed all together to ensure that the saltiness and spiciness of the main dish is cut down by the subtle flavor of the rice.  On the whole, the dish is extremely well executed.

With an expensive location, exquisite dining environment, extraordinary service, and exceptional food, Phuket represents everything Thai extremely well.  Despite the spot being characteristically touristy, Phuket is top-notch Thai cuisine.  Make special requests to ensure you get the food prepared as Thai people enjoy it.  If you haven’t tried Thai food before, or experienced Thai culture, Phuket is the perfect place to dive in.  สวัสดีครับ!

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Summary:

Suitably located steps away from Heidelberg’s Old Bridge, Phuket is a charming, luxurious restaurant serving up traditional, appetizing Thai cuisine in an authentic dining environment.  Prices moderate.  Lunch menu featured on weekdays.  Outstanding service.

Overall – 4.5 stars

  • Eistee mit Zitrone (Thai Tea with Lemon) – 5/5
  • Satay Moo – 3.5/5
  • Phad Kaprow Gai – 5/5
  • Service – 5/5

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Written by geschmack

May 7th, 2010 at 11:55 pm

Posted in Heidelberg

Tagged with , , ,

Augustiner-Keller

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Arnulfstrasse 52 80335 München

Hundreds of pairs of eyes are fixed upon the playing field as the action starts picking up.  The pro Bayern München crowd erupts out of their seats in a gigantic roar as they loudly applaud an amazing goal scored by Thomas Müller.  Minutes later, another goal is scored in dramatic fashion as the team takes a commanding lead.  No, it’s not the scene at the Allianz Arena – rather it’s the energetic atmosphere at Augustiner-Keller inside the main beer hall.  What better way to spend a cold, rainy Saturday afternoon in Munich than sitting amongst a bunch of local Bayern München fans, eating traditional Bavarian cuisine, drinking some Augustiner beer, and watching arguably the most popular German football club on the big screen.

 

Augustiner-Keller is conveniently located a few blocks away from the Munich Hauptbahnhof.  The space is quite large and the establishment has its own parking lot.  There are various areas to sit here, including the outdoor beer garden and a large beer hall inside.  Downstairs, you can also sit in the cellar (hence, the name Augustiner-Keller).  Seating inside the main hall is uniquely different from the standard wooden benches and tables you would find at other beer halls.  Here you will find polished wooden tables and dark brown wood chairs.  Along the outer rim, under the windows, you can take in the festivities at a distance, sitting along the wooden wall benches.  The décor is quite old fashioned with a few framed oil paintings of famous individuals on one side of the wall.  Large, aged circular chandeliers provide ample lighting in the hall.  The curved ceilings are marked with several signs and logos.

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The atmosphere is vivacious and spirited.  Before the football match, a live band plays music to the delight of the guests.  Many diners stand proudly and raise their beer glasses to toast.  There are people dancing merrily and drinking with one another.  Some are deep in conversation.  Others enjoy the afternoon as part of a weekly group meeting.  Surprisingly, one of the band leaders downs an entire Maß of beer in spectacular fashion at center stage – clearly reminiscent of a scene from Hollywood.  The excitement pervades throughout the entire hall.

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On the menu is a good selection of Bavarian specialties. Naturally, you will find Augustiner beer featured in the drinks section.  At 7,20 € a liter, the price is comparable to other beer halls.  For a good Bavarian delicacy, try the Augustiner O’bazda.  Priced at 6,90 €, an order comes with 2 scoops of this unique mixture of cheese, butter, spicy paprika, and other spices, along with a single slice of Landbrot bread.  Garnished on top of the Obatzda are sliced raw red onions and chopped green onions.  At Augustiner-Keller, they use Frischkäse (cream cheese) in their Obatzda.  This creates such a smooth and creamy texture that pairs well with the crunchy onions.  Obazda tastes both buttery and cheesy, with the ideal amount of spices added in.  Ideally spread on the bread, the dish is a good accompaniment to beer.  The only downside to this starter is the amount of bread given.  1 piece of Landbrot is simply not enough.  Be sure to order more bread or a pretzel to finish up the cheese spread!

 

Main courses are a mixture of traditional German and Bavarian cuisine.  You will find standard fare such as Schweinshaxe, Schnitzel, roasted meats, and sausages.  Weißwurst is also featured on the menu.  Duck and other poultry can also be had.  There is a mixed platter (Schmankerlplatte – 18,50 €) featuring sliced duck, a piece of schweinshaxe, as well as other meats.  For something simple, yet appetizing, get the 11,20 € Schweinebraten (roasted pork).  A slice of slow roasted pork neck (Halsgrat) is served in its own natural juices, accompanied by a potato dumpling (Kartoffelknödel).  On the side is a small bowl of Blaukraut (red cabbage).  The roasted pork is executed well, succulent and delicious, and holds a lot of flavor.  Typical of pork neck, there is a relatively large section of fat on one side – avoidable if you’re watching your intake, but tasty and having a good consistency when eaten in conjunction with the meat.  Pork skin is good too, initially crisp and then mellow after soaking in the juices.  The knödel has only a slight taste of potato, barely recognizable.  Like the meat, it’s a good item to use to soak up the natural juices of the pork.

Desserts are limited to a few items.  However, you can’t go wrong with the Apfelstrudel (5,30 €).  Topped with powdered sugar and served with a generous amount of warm vanilla cream sauce, the pastry is such a pleasurable experience.  The layers of apples inside the strudel pastry are so flavorful and sweet; the vanilla cream adds that extra dimension.  Eaten all together, the Apfelstrudel and cream explodes in your mouth with flavor.

 

For something different and regional, try the Frische Dampfnudel.  At 5,90 €, it’s a little more expensive than the Apfelstrudel, but it is also a typical southern German dessert and a great way to complete an all Bavarian meal.  Dampfnudel is essentially a type of yeast dough bread – here it is sweetened a bit.  Light and airy, the dampfnudel is akin to a sweet bread roll.  As with the Apfelstrudel, the bread is served in a warm vanilla sauce that gets absorbed well, creating a sweet, dreamy experience.

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During the early afternoon lunch hours, the service is fantastic.  On this day, our polite waiter, Herr Maier, always had a smile on his face.  Extremely attentive, confident, and jolly, he made the dining experience so much better.  Although the hall wasn’t overly busy, Herr Maier’s patience and demeanor throughout the afternoon was superb and top-notch.  Our drink and food orders were taken with care and brought in due time.

Augustiner-Keller is well worth a visit.  Great food, excellent service, and a spirited atmosphere – factors that create a perfect dining experience.  And the final score?  FC Bayern München 3 – VfL Bochum 1848 1 as Müller scored all three goals for an impressive hat-trick.  With the win, FC Bayern secured the top spot in the Bundesliga standings and won the season title.  What a perfect way to end a meal in Munich!

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Summary:

Featuring one of the oldest and largest beer gardens in the city, Augustiner-Keller is an outstanding German restaurant only a few minutes away from the Munich Hauptbahnhof.  Serving up its own Augustiner brew, Augustiner-Keller is a great place to enjoy authentic Bavarian cuisine without encountering the huge number of tourists.  Great service.  Prices reasonable.

Hours: Monday – Sunday, 10:00 AM – 1:00 AM 

 

Overall – 5 stars

  • Augustiner O’bazda mit Frischkäse pikant angemacht, Landbrot – 5/5
  • Jungschweinebraten vom Halsgrat mit Kruste, Kartoffelknödel und Blaukraut – 4.5/5
  • Frische Dampfnudel mit Vanillerahmsauce – 5/5
  • Service – 5/5

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www.augustinerkeller.de/

Written by geschmack

May 1st, 2010 at 11:55 pm