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Havana

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Neckarstaden 24 69117 Heidelberg

Havana, the capital of Cuba, is famously known for its nightlife.  Clubs and bars, Cuban cigars, salsa music, dancing, and mojitos.  With the exception of the smokes, this same Cuban nightlife has been brought over thousands of miles to, of all places, Heidelberg, Germany.  Visitors visiting this romantic city can experience a bit of Cuban culture and cuisine at Havana bar and restaurant, an establishment overlooking the calming waters of the Neckar River.

Havana shares the Stadthalle convention center building with the city’s Kongresshaus (congress house).  The towering building, built in the early 20th century, is an impressive sight from a distance.

 

The interior, though, looks even more stunning.  Grandiose pillars and archways, as well as finely decorated ceilings and walls, combine elements of Renaissance and Art Nouveau architecture and design.  Various framed black and whites hang from the walls around.  There are plenty of dark oak tables and chairs inside, enough to accommodate hundreds of diners.  In the center of the dining room is a very huge bar, with stools all around.  There are also booths along the walls.  Aside from a few potted trees inside the establishment and the cocktail napkin featuring an image of Che, you will hardly find any indication of Cuban culture or of anything Cuban.

The list of drinks is as huge as the building and as remarkable as the restaurant’s design.  Not only can you find your typical soft drinks, you can also order draught beers, bottled beers (Corona and Desperados), milk shakes, juices, and hot drinks.  From white to red wines, to sangria, champagne, whiskey, rum, and tequila, the list of alcoholic drinks goes on and on.  There are also assorted rum cocktails, such as mojitos, caipirinha, tequila cocktails, margaritas, and coladas.  Too early for alcohol?  There are a handful of alcohol free cocktails that are just as refreshing and delicious.

The ‘Tropicalisimo’ is a mixture of pineapple and passion fruit juice, pineapple and passion fruit syrup, and lime juice.  Served in a cocktail glass with slices of pineapple and melon, it is a energizing and cool drink for a hot, summer day.

Considering the expensive looking dining room, it’s surprising to find that most of the main courses are under 15 euros.  On the menu, written in both German and English, are different types of beef and pork steaks, chicken skewers and chicken breast, a seafood platter with fish, prawns, and calamari, rollitos (filled tortilla rolls), taquitos, and rice dishes.  For dessert, there are four sweets to choose from.

The Arroz con Pollo is remarkably flavorful for such a simple dish.  At 10,50 €, it is also reasonably priced and quite satisfying.  In Havana’s version of Arroz con Pollo, basmati rice is mixed together with thinly sliced carrots, fine shreds of cabbage, strips of green peppers, and chopped mushrooms.  Large chunks of grilled chicken breast fillets are combined with the rice.  On the side of the plate is a small side salad of lettuce, dressed in a light honey Dijon dressing.  Yogurt sauce, served in a small ramekin, also accompanies the dish.

The chicken breast, incredibly moist and tender, is cooked and seasoned perfectly.  It makes the yogurt sauce completely unnecessary.  Mushrooms are also juicy and add an extra dimension.  The vegetables do not get lost in the dish – the carrots add a nice crunch, the peppers a nice hint of sweetness.  The greens are a nice accompaniment and complete the meal.

The place seems to be a bit understaffed at times.  On one lunch visit, there was only one server on hand, responsible for taking orders, preparing all of the drinks, and also serving the dishes.  At these times, tracking down the waiter to merely order dessert or pay the bill can drag on for quite some time.  Compounding the problem is the lengthy wait time for the food.  The Arroz con Pollo took around 15 minutes from order to service.  Despite the huge responsibility and pressure, though, the server was still polite and friendly.  Nonetheless, some adjustments should be made in this area of service.

Havana is a great place to enjoy a night out with friends or share a romantic meal with a loved one.  The interior is stunning and magnificent.  While the food is a mixture of Latin American cuisines and not quite focused on one specific type, the dishes are executed well.  Despite the frustrating service, Havana does merit a visit based on its exciting atmosphere, extensive list of alcoholic beverages, and salsa evenings in the basement.

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Summary:

Situated near the Heidelberg Kongresshaus along the Neckar River, Havana is a Cuban restaurant, cervecería, and salsa club serving up an enormous selection of cocktails and alcoholic drinks as well as a good listing of Latin American style cuisine.  Very impressive interior.  Outdoor terrace seating with a beautiful view of the Neckar River during the summer months.  Sunday brunch buffet featured every weekend.

Hours: Monday – Thursday: 12:00 PM – 1:00 AM
            Fridays: 12:00 PM – 3:00 AM
            Saturdays: 11:00 AM – 3:00 AM
            Sunday: 10:00 AM – 1:00 AM

 

Overall – 4 stars

  • Tropicalisimo – 4/5
  • Arroz con Pollo – 4.5/5
  • Service – 3/5

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

Written by geschmack

June 30th, 2010 at 11:55 pm

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MoschMosch

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Hauptstraße 136 69117 Heidelberg

The void created by the closure of Mr. Whang’s restaurant left the busy Heidelberg Hauptstraße without a good Japanese establishment for several months.  Only a few weeks ago, though, a new restaurant reopened the doors here for the first time in a while.  MoschMosch, a Japanese noodle bar franchise in Germany, has confidently stepped in and taken on the responsibility of providing locals and tourists an alternative choice to the often heavy meal options in the surrounding German restaurants.

 

MoschMosch maintains a modern, stylish look that makes it seem almost out of place in comparison to some of the rustic establishments nearby.  Upon entering the place, guests are immediately drawn to the calming neutral color scheme inside.  Seating arrangements are dominated by natural wood fixtures – wooden tables and square stools.  Contemporary light fixtures further add to the chic and trendy design.  A bar area towards the back of the restaurant will also attract your eye’s attention, as will the large colorful caricature of a Japanese geisha – MoschMosch’s mascot.  The dining atmosphere itself is nonchalant and casual.

A good number of staff workers are always on hand, even when the place isn’t teeming with patrons, which is certainly a positive since you are almost immediately served.  Disposable chopsticks are provided, but standard utensils are also available.  A high level of cleanliness is maintained at MoschMosch.

Tables are all set with paper-thin menu placemats awaiting visitors at each seat.  While waiting for service, guests can learn a little bit of the Japanese language from the tiny phrase book section on the sheet.  The food and drink listings aren’t overly large by any means.  Rather, it is smartly focused on particularly popular noodle bar items.

 

For appetizers, one can order Japanese potstickers (gyoza) with various fillings, yakitori sticks, edamame, miso soup, and summer and egg rolls, among other things.  For main dishes, there are a few salad items, a handful of different types of ramen noodle soups with varying accompaniments, rice bowl dishes (donburi), and fried noodle dishes such as yakisoba and yakiudon.  Also on the menu are meals ideal for the summer, rightfully labeled summer dishes.  Drinks include a short list of wines and beers (including Sapporo Japanese brand beer).  MoschMosch also features its own homemade ice tea and lemonade, which are both refreshing.  The iced tea, though, is tastier and the sweeter of the two.

 

Despite a few minor drawbacks, yakisoba – ramen style noodles stir fried in yakisoba sauce – is worth ordering.  A truly versatile dish, the fried noodles are accompanied by an interesting medley of fresh vegetables, including carrots, green onion, cabbage, sliced mushrooms, and bean sprouts.  Sesame seeds and strips of seaweed top off the dish.  A small lime wedge is also given.  Meat can be added for a small extra fee.  For instance, adding chicken to the dish will add an additional 1,75 € to the 6,75 € price tag for a standard yakisoba.

There is a generous amount of meat and vegetables in the dish, more than the noodles will allow for.  With the large assortment of vegetables featured, there is quite a colorful amount of textures and flavors going on.  Crunchy bean sprouts and carrots complement the spongy noodles and the moist, juicy pieces of chicken.  The sesame seeds add a great nutty flavor, the seaweed a wonderful, nutritious dimension.  In an order of chicken yakisoba, the chicken is really well seasoned and a tad bit spicy.  The tiny pieces of meat offer another brilliant burst of flavor.

Consistency, though, appears to be a problem.  On one visit, the noodles were not flavored well with the yakisoba sauce.  At times, the noodles would be concentrated and full of flavor; in other areas of the dish, tasteless.  But fortunately, you can find condiments at each table to add flavor to the dish.  There is soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, sesame oil, as well as seasoning powder with chili flakes (not really spicy).

 

The Katsudon is a great choice for diners just diving into Japanese cuisine.  Katsudon is essentially Japanese style schnitzel on rice.  The dish is served in a large bowl filled with white rice and topped with various grilled vegetables – cabbage, sliced carrots, red bell peppers, and mushrooms – and pork cutlet.  The pork is breaded wonderfully with panko breadcrumbs, deep-fried until crisp, and topped with a chili soy sauce.  Sprinkled on top are sesame seeds.  The pork is tender and very flavorful.  Rice is also cooked well.  Unfortunately, the given amount of pork is insufficient for the quantity of rice.  Fortunately, the grilled vegetables make up for it.

Five different desserts can be ordered, each priced at 4 euros.  The Ti-La-Mi-Su is nothing to write home about.  Instead of lady finger biscuits, layers of cake are sandwiched between layers of cream.  Cocoa powder is dusted on top and the cold dessert is served with refreshing mint leaves.  The cake has bits of nuts within, providing a nice texture.  But as far as flavor is concerned, the tiramisu is merely a yawn.

 

A better option might be the Bananen-Frühlingsrollen, which are essentially banana spring rolls.  Drizzled on top of the hot, crisp rolls is a generous serving of viscous honey.  The banana rolls are sweet and have a delicate outer layer that works perfectly with the fruit.  It tastes like corn flakes with bananas and warm honey.  The honey adds an extra amount of sweetness to the dish and brings it all together.  Although the rolls are slightly greasy, the dish is a delightful snack and a fine way to end your meal.

 

Though far from serving up truly authentic and traditional dishes, MoschMosch makes a fine attempt at introducing a portion of Japanese cuisine into the mainstream.  After all, most Europeans associate sushi with Japanese and not much else.  With its simple, yet modern, interior, fresh ingredients, and its enjoyable number of noodle and rice entrées, MoschMosch is a good indication of the growing appreciation for international cuisine here in Germany.

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Summary:

With a handful of locations all around Germany, MoschMosch is a successful franchise of Japanese noodle bar restaurants serving up a number of appetizing noodle and rice dishes at moderate prices.  Most main dishes under 10 euros.  Service with a smile.

Hours: Monday – Saturday: 11:00 AM – 11:00 PM
            Sundays and Holidays: 1:00 PM – 11:00 PM

 

Overall – 4 stars

  • Yakisoba mit Hühnchen – 4/5
  • Katsudon – 4.5/5
  • Ti-La-Mi-Su – 3/5
  • Bananen-Frühlingsrollen – 4.5/5
  • Service – 5/5

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http://www.moschmosch.com/

Written by geschmack

June 28th, 2010 at 11:40 pm

Andalucia Spanisches Restaurant

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U 6, 8 68161 Mannheim

As I step into Andalucia Spanish Restaurant a few minutes before they official open, I kindly ask out loud, using my newly found Spanish skills, ¿está abierto?  A Spanish gentleman standing behind the bar smiles and replies ¿por qué no?  He leads me to a prime table next to the windows, ample light streaming through, lights a candle resting on the table, and immediately brings a menu.  Whereas some restaurants would demand that you wait until they open, the casual attitude and welcoming hospitality shines here at Andalucia.

 

Inside, the ambiance is rustic Spanish with hints of modernity mixed in.  Posters of singers and dancers are plastered all around on the walls.  Tiny bottles of spirits are stringed together and hung on the ceiling.  Different postcards and foreign currency are attached near the bar area.  Various souvenirs and antiques, including ancient typewriters, radios, musical instruments, and fine tapestry, add a unique touch to the room, but also create a somewhat cluttered and fussy mess.

To put it in perspective, all of the decorations greatly contrast with the elegant, white tablecloth covered dining tables.  It’s a sure head-scratcher.  The tables are positioned around an elevated stage in the front corner of the restaurant, where live entertainment is performed at night.  Sort of reminds you of a modern version of the nightclub in I Love Lucy.  When there isn’t a show going on, Spanish language canciones play throughout the dining room and add that authentic flair.  Sitting in here, it’s easy to forget you are in Germany.

 

On the menu is a huge selection of tapas, including chorizo, gambas, calamares, mussels, sardines, and artichokes.  Gazpacho can also be found.  Paella and different types of seafood highlight the list of main dishes here, but meat lovers can also find chicken, lamb, and steaks here.  An entire page devoted to Spanish regional wines is featured in the back of the menu (you can also see countless bottles of wine stored throughout the restaurant).  After all, what’s Spanish comida without vino?

A complimentary bread basket, paired with allioli (Spanish aioli), is presented to each table, providing guests with an excellent precursor to the main meal.  Good complimentary items are always a good indication of superb food.  The white bread is fresh, soft, and absolutely amazing when paired with the garlic and olive oil sauce.  The allioli has such an intense, concentrated flavor that it leaves you wanting more, and more.  It is so potent that, hours after you leave the restaurant, you will still have this delectable garlic taste lingering in your mouth.

 

A potato egg omelet, Tortilla de Patatas seems like a rather simple dish.  But the flavor and texture is unbeatable.  The vibrant yellow omelet is as delicate as a slice of cake – the potatoes and eggs just dissolve in your mouth upon contact.  Eggs are fluffy like flawlessly scrambled eggs; potatoes are cooked until soft and are buttery.  Although the outer layer appears burnt, you wouldn’t even notice it in the taste.  Also on the dish are slices of cucumbers and a lettuce leaf that also go well with the potato omelet.  Tortilla de Patatas is an excellent starter, hands down.

 

Pechuga de Pollo a la Plancha – grilled chicken breasts – is a breathtaking presentation served with perfectly fried potatoes and a medley of colorful vegetables – bell peppers, onions, green peas, as well as a side salad of shredded carrots, raw onions, cucumbers, and lettuce.  The chicken breasts are superb, every bite juicy and succulent.  Well seasoned and perfectly grilled, the meat is to die for and matches with the potatoes and vegetables extremely well.  The thick slices of melt-in-your-mouth potatoes are masterfully prepared.  The salad is rather austere, though the carrots add a nice hint of sweetness.  Each element dances the flamenco, or the salsa, or the tango in your mouth, depending on how you coordinate it.  Price for the entire dish is a tad steep (13,90 €), but the flavors are on par and presentation is picture perfect.

The service is exquisite and utterly attentive.  Very courteous and friendly, the Spanish staff further adds to the brilliant dining experience and make for a relaxed evening.  The only shortcoming about the restaurant is possibly the long wait time.  The chefs prepare each dish to order and ensure beautiful presentation so finely that it may take fifteen to twenty minutes for your entrée to arrive at your table.  However, regardless of what you order, your patience will certainly be rewarded.

If you are unable to afford a flight to the southern region of Spain for a taste of authentic Spanish cuisine, Andalucia Spanish Restaurant in Mannheim is quite possibly the next best thing.  All of the dishes, from the tapas to the main entrées, are superbly executed, delicious by any measure.  Add in the extraordinary selection of dishes, live entertainment, and outstanding service and you have a successful restaurant.  Andalucia represents Spain extremely well and deserves a visit.  ¡Buen provecho!

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Summary:

Andalucia is THE Spanish restaurant to go for traditional Spanish cuisine.  From a wide selection of tapas, to freshly prepared seafood and meats, to mouthwatering desserts, along with live Flamenco dancing on specific nights, Andalucia offers a truly authentic Spanish flair in a cozy dining environment.  Pleasant dining area outside, in front of the restaurant.  Prices reasonable.  Service extremely friendly and amiable.  Spanish spoken.  Highly recommended.

Hours: Daily: 5:00 PM – 5:00 AM

 

Overall – 5 stars

  • Tortilla de Patatas – 5/5
  • Pechuga de Pollo a la Plancha – 4.5/5
  • Service – 5/5

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http://www.andalucia1.de/

Written by geschmack

June 19th, 2010 at 11:55 pm

Food Corner

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Neugasse 21 69117 Heidelberg

Keep in mind that Heidelberg is not only a popular tourist destination, but also home to one of Europe’s oldest educational institutions, the Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg.  That being said, it is home to a lot of students, both local and foreign exchange.  Thus, in addition to the touristy restaurants catering to the traveler along the Hauptstraße, Heidelberg also offers a few eateries that accommodate budget-minded students.  Food Corner, situated across from a discount supermarket chain, is one of these economically friendly places to eat.

Food Corner is another typical German fast food eatery.  Visitors will find döner kebab, yufka, lahmacun, falafel, calzones and pizzas on the menu.  Pastas topped with various sauces, along with schnitzel and cordon bleu plates, can also be had.  Salads with different types of condiments and meats can be found.  Prices are very reasonable in comparison to rival fast food joints around town.  A large döner sandwich, for instance, costs 3,70 €.  Beverage prices are also unbeatable.  Many people stop by merely to purchase a beer and relax outside.  Costs are kept low due in part to the no-frills approach here.

 

At 5,50 €, the Döner Teller (Döner Plate) here is arguably the cheapest döner dish you will find in Heidelberg.  The plate comes with a small salad and your choice of either fries or rice.  The salad consists of white cabbage, lettuce, a couple slices of cucumbers, and a few diced tomatoes, dressed in a creamy, white yogurt sauce.  Presentation is simple, with each element occupying its own area on the bare, white plate.

Nothing about the dish stands out.  Döner meat is tougher and chewier than other places, though it has good flavor.  The meat is shaved from the spit with a machine, as opposed to being hand sliced using large knives.  Unusual here at Food Corner is the extraordinarily large strips of döner meat served on the plate, rather than smaller, bite sized pieces.  Fries are crisp and cooked to order, receiving a nice sprinkle of seasoning that improves the taste.  However, they are a tad salty.  Overall, considering the price tag, this plate is good for a quick lunch that won’t break the bank.

 

Unfortunately, the cordon bleu is another story.  The concept for a chicken cordon bleu is relatively simple – pounded chicken breast, filled with ham and cheese, and then folded over.  But during one visit here, they managed to fumble up the most important aspect of any dish – the flavor.  The chicken is horrendously bad, as it tastes more sour than salty.  Even the presence of the ham or the gooey cheese can’t seem to hide the disgustingly odd taste.  The rice doesn’t help matters at all.  Bland and uninteresting, the rice desperately needs some sort of seasoning to even be bearable.  Fortunately, there are salt and pepper shakers at each table.  At 6,00 €, you would be better off ordering the döner plate or anything else for that matter.

A decent, quick meal that’s easy on the pocket can easily be found here at Food Corner.  Just don’t expect anything remarkable.

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Summary:

Food Corner is precisely what its name describes – a fast food establishment at a street corner.  Typical of other German fast food restaurants, Food Corner features a decent selection of döner kebabs, yufkas, lahmacun, falafel, and pizzas.  Other items include schnitzel, salads, calzones, and pastas, as well as calamari rings, a chicken sandwich, and baked potato.  All items, including drinks, are very reasonably priced.  A few tables outside.  Service is standard.

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Overall – 3 stars

  • Döner Teller mit Pommes dazu Salat und Joghurtsauce (Döner Plate with Fries, Salad, and Yogurt Sauce) – 3.5/5
  • Cordon Bleu – 1/5
  • Service – 5/5

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Written by geschmack

June 15th, 2010 at 11:55 pm

Kulturbrauerei Heidelberg AG

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Leyergasse 6 69117 Heidelberg

When it comes to beer, Heidelberg has a handful of options.  Found in numerous restaurants, bars, and cafés on tap, Heidelberger beer is probably the most recognizable as the local Heidelberger Brauerei bottles it for distribution worldwide (particularly the Heidelberger 1603 Pilsener).  But there are also individual brewhouses around town that feature their own unique brew.  In addition to Brauhaus Vetter, there is a brewery east of the Old Bridge called Kulturbrauerei Heidelberg AG.

 

With its long history, Kulturbrauerei (translated: cultural brewery) is a cultural experience in itself.  The establishment is gigantic.  Not only is it grounds for a brewhouse, but it’s also a hotel and restaurant.  There are multiple options for seating here – inside, at the massive dining hall, next door in a cozy, quaint dining room, upstairs in the gallery overlooking the brewhouse, or outside under the warm sun at the beer garden.  Each offers a different dining experience.  Inside the rustic dining room, located adjacent to the large hall, guests will find old wooden tables with small, cozy chairs.  The décor in here makes reference to historic times – black and white framed photographs of the old city buildings conjure up memories of days gone by.

 

 

The menu will not bombard you with a large selection of dishes, which can be both a good thing and a bad thing.  Diners will find a decent number of regional as well as national German dishes on the paper menu, including Leberkäse and Pfälzer Bratwürste, as well as Schweinebraten and Sauerbraten.  Vegetarians will only find one main dish on the menu – Schafskäse – but there are also salads and soups.

Highlighting the list of drinks is, of course, the house brewed beer.  Three different types of the beer, named Scheffel’s, are available: Kräusen naturtrüb (naturally cloudy), Hefeweizen, and Bier der Jahreszeit (seasonal beer).  A large glass (0,5 liters) will set you back 3,60 €; a small (0,3 liters) 2,70 € (Kräusen costs 2,50 €).  Also on the list are a few red and white wines, along with a small number of hot drinks and alcohol free beverages.  The listings aren’t extensive, but why order anything else besides beer at a brewhouse?

One of the hearty entrées out of the oven is Großmutters Schweinebraten mit Rotkraut und Semmelknödel (Grandma’s German pork roast with red cabbage and bread dumplings).  In this dish, two slices of roasted pork are served in a thick brown gravy with two Knödel dumpling balls.  Red cabbage is also served on the side.  The pork and the accompanying gravy sauce are merely okay.  However, the red cabbage is overwhelmingly tart.  Instead of a balance of sweet and sour, the cabbage dominates the saltiness of the pork and the neutral flavor of the dumpling.

Though red cabbage and dumplings are traditionally paired with German pork roast, the flavor combination here just doesn’t seem to work.  Maybe it’s an acquired taste, but the cabbage hampers any development of flavor as you progress through the meal.  Moreover, the quality of the protein just isn’t up to par.  The pork roast lacks the ideal level of tenderness.  Quality isn’t consistent throughout in the meat.  Although the Knödel includes pieces of bacon, it still maintains a dull, neutral taste.  Even when soaking up the gravy sauce, it just doesn’t do much aside from providing a slight bread-like texture and taste.  Grandmother can’t be pleased with the way her pork roast meal is turning out…

 

Unfortunately, guests looking for something sweet will only have two options here – chocolate mousse or apple strudel.  Each dessert is unreasonably priced at 6,80 €.  Apfelstrudel is a snore.  The dessert is uncreative, unappetizing, and uninspiring.  The apple filling appears dry; the pastry jacket humdrum.  While the apple strudel is warm, it doesn’t taste fresh.  That is, it’s easy to tell that it hadn’t been baked the same day.  Although the vanilla cream sauce and the scoop of vanilla ice cream, as well as the dusted powder sugar on top, try to inject life into the dish, the flavors simply don’t justify the extravagant price tag.  Such a disheartening finisher.

The service at Kulturbrauerei is a little bit shaky.  Despite having multiple workers on staff, getting a server’s attention may take some effort.  Keep in mind the various seating areas, so the staff will be all over the place.  Food out of the kitchen also requires a moderate waiting time.

Kulturbrauerei is one of the few breweries located in Heidelberg.  It’s not a bad place to go to relax and enjoy a taste of local brew and enjoy the pleasant weather outside.  Tourists and locals alike can be seen at this establishment, particularly for said house brewed beer.  But the food remains stuck in the beer’s shadows.  Even with its limited menu selection, the dishes at Kulturbrauerei aren’t executed as well as one would expect.  The flavors don’t shine, the portion sizes and prices don’t match, and the quality just isn’t there.

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Summary:

Kulturbrauerei Heidelberg is a German restaurant, hotel, and brewhouse located on a narrow street off of the Heidelberg Hauptstraße, featuring its own Scheffel’s house brewed beer.   Limited selection of food items on the menu.  Spacious and open dining area.  Plenty of seating options.  Beer garden available outdoors.  House brewed beer available for purchase in 1 or 2 Liter containers.  Prices moderate.  Credit cards not accepted.

Hours: Monday – Thursday, Sunday: 7:00 AM – 1:00 AM
            Friday, Saturday: 7:00 AM – 3:00 AM

 

Overall – 2.5 stars

  • Großmutters Schweinebraten mit Rotkraut und Semmelknödel – 3/5
  • Warmer Apfelstrudel mit Vanille Eis – 1.5/5
  • Service – 4/5

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

Written by geschmack

June 11th, 2010 at 11:55 pm

Enchilada

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S 4, 17 – 22 68161 Mannheim

Mexican cuisine has a poor reputation in Germany.  You won’t find any popular Mexican style fast food joints.   There aren’t any Taco Bells (except on selected army bases), Del Tacos, or Chipotle Mexican Grills.  Surprisingly, though, there is one franchise chain of Mexican restaurants, located throughout Germany, called Enchilada.  Considering that it has 25 locations in several major German cities, the food there has to be great, right?

Enchilada’s dining area has sort of an old, pueblo style / southwestern type of architecture that fits the Mexican theme.  With wooden tables and chairs, the seating isn’t overly spectacular.  The overall mood here is casual and relaxed, suitable for such an establishment.  A few plants add color and life to the place.  There are a few Aztec style objects decorating the spacious room.  Plenty of seating is available inside.  Beats from Spanish canciones play throughout the dining area and brings that rhythmic excitement.

 

As Enchilada is not only a restaurant, but also a bar, there are a good number of drinks to be found.  A separate drinks menu features an extraordinary list of cocktails and beverages.  A variety of margaritas, coladas, caipi drinks, rum drinks, tequilas, vodkas, and jumbos can all be found.  Popular here is the special Happy Hour every evening from 6 to 8 PM when all cocktails are half off.   Unique beers can also be ordered, including Mexico’s top selling beer – Corona.  There is also a homemade beer as well as a Spanish imported beer, aside from the usual Pils.

The menu is quintessential Tex-Mex.  On the list of appetizers are chips and dip, nachos, potato skins, breads, and taquitos.  There are chimichangas, chili con carne, steaks, Buffalo wings, baked potatoes, and fajitas.  Naturally, enchiladas are listed.  Quesadillas, tacos, and burritos are also featured.  After all, what’s a Mexican restaurant without tacos and burritos?

 

The variety of fajitas is rather striking.  You can order fajitas with prawns, beef strips, strips of chicken breast, turkey, or even lamb medallions.  Additionally, there is a vegetarian fajita featuring seasonal vegetables.  Each grilled specialty comes with a stack of 5 flour tortillas and a condiment platter consisting of coleslaw, shredded cheese, jalapeños, sour cream, salsa, and guacamole in small containers, and diced tomatoes, cucumbers, and green lettuce.

The Fajita Parilla includes strips of South American beef in a medley of green, yellow, and red bell peppers and onions.  Served sizzling on a thin cast iron skillet pan, it is sure to turn heads from other curious diners.  The fajitas have excellent flavor and aroma; they’re well seasoned, the peppers are sweet and crunchy, and the beef is juicy and tender and isn’t chewy.  The only negative is the abysmal portion size.  The star of the meal fails to make its presence known.

 

Tortillas, made from wheat flour, are served in a beautiful woven basket with lid, kept warm by a small heated plate turned upside down at the bottom of the basket.  Though not made fresh in the kitchens, the tortillas are soft and have great flavor.

Condiments accompanying the fajitas and tortillas are a huge letdown.  With its large array of colors, the platter certainly looks appealing.  It screams Mexico’s colors (red, white, and green – salsa, sour cream, and guacamole).

 

But aside from the tomatoes and cucumbers, the items on the plate appear far from fresh.  The green leaf lettuce is extremely dry and simply looks old.  The white shredded cheese is beginning to melt – a clear sign of improper storage.  Health inspector, anyone?  The coleslaw has way too much mayonnaise and is overly creamy.  It tastes more like German kraut than summertime slaw.  Simply adding carrots to the cabbage doesn’t qualify it as coleslaw.  Jalapeños are also dry and obviously come from a can.  The guacamole has seen better days – it was probably made at corporate kitchen headquarters and transported days ago.  Moreover, there aren’t any chunks of avocado inside; it’s only a smooth, pale green dip.  The sour cream is served in the same container as the salsa, making it runny.  The salsa, though, has a decent amount of heat.  Taken as a whole, the condiment platter is a disgrace to Mexican cuisine.

By the way, what kind of Mexican restaurant serves coleslaw with fajitas?  Rice and beans can be ordered separately, but with the steep price of the fajita plate – 14,70 € – you would have expected these classic Mexican staples to be served with the grilled meat.  The condiment platter, as is, invites diners to build their own mini burrito.  However, the miserable amount of meat makes it extremely difficult to fully enjoy the meal.  With the cheese melting a bit, though, it does make for a good quesadilla!

 

Desserts warrant applause.  Despite only offering 3 postres on the menu – churros, a sweet chimichanga with ice cream, and flautas plátanos – they are executed quite well.  The Flautas Plátano consists of a wheat flour tortilla, wrapped around a sweet banana, and lightly baked until crisp.  Served with delicate whipped cream, a scoop of smooth Mövenpick vanilla ice cream, a fruity strawberry ragout, topped with powdered sugar, and drizzled with chocolate sauce, the dish looks marvelous.  The tortilla tastes like a shortbread crust for pie; the heavenly combination of bananas and strawberries makes it even more dazzling.  This dessert is not only creative and luscious, but also makes you forget about the lackluster main dish.  At 4,30 €, it is also reasonably priced.

Enchilada deserves credit for becoming a reasonably successful franchise throughout Germany.  With its daily Happy Hour specials, a cozy and spacious dining room, and commendable service, Enchilada is a great place to go with friends and enjoy cocktails.  But, at the same time, the restaurant tries too hard to be truly Mexican.  Enchilada already has the blueprints for a thriving establishment – the menu is exciting, the drinks plenty, and the atmosphere admirable.  Only the food needs significant improvement.  Once Enchilada brings in a seasoned chef to change up the cooking techniques and freshen up the ingredients, it will continue serving up sub par Mexican cuisine to mostly unseasoned diners.

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Summary:

With more than 20 restaurants located all over Germany, Enchilada is a successful franchise chain of Mexican themed restaurants.  Although not truly authentic Mexican cuisine, Enchilada makes a reasonable attempt at cooking up Tex-Mex dishes that will adequately satiate your hungry for tacos, burritos, and fajitas.  Overall prices moderate.  Specials: Happy Hour every evening from 6 to 8 PM – all cocktails at half price.  Special Enchilada Hour beginning at 11 PM – all margaritas and jumbos at half price.

Hours: Daily: 6:00 PM – 1:00 AM

 

Overall – 3.5 stars

  • Fajitas Parilla – 3/5
    • Beef Fajitas with Onions & Bell Peppers – 4/5
    • Flour Tortillas – 4/5
    • Side Platter – 1/5
  • Flautas Plátano – 4.5/5
  • Service – 5/5

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http://www.enchilada.de/

Written by geschmack

June 8th, 2010 at 11:55 pm

Posted in Mannheim

Tagged with , , , ,

China Restaurant Pavillon

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China Restaurant Pavillon

Augustaanlage 59 68165 Mannheim                              CLOSED

Small matching plates and steamer baskets of hot, delectable delights arrive one after another – radish cakes, rice noodles rolls, delicate dumplings, and fluffy steamed buns.  Fiery chili sauce comes on a saucer.  Hot Chinese tea is delivered in a tiny pot and accompanied by a cute teacup and sugar bowl.  Soon, the once bare table is brimming with mouth-watering excitement.  It’s the experience at China Restaurant Pavillon – one of the few Chinese restaurants in the area offering dim sum on the menu.

China Restaurant Jasmin Tee_SM

Dim sum is a specialty of Chinese cuisine (a Cantonese invention).  Usually eaten during the midday hours as a light snack, it consists of a collection of small dishes intended to be shared amongst family and friends.  Each plate typically includes about three or four small servings; thus, a variety of dishes is generally ordered.  Tea is an integral part of this meal and aids in digestion.  Dim sum is about eating, sharing, and enjoying the company of others.  It’s more than just a meal, it’s an experience.  In frequently visited Chinese restaurants, attendees roll carts carrying hot plates of dim sum and diners pick and choose dishes from the wagons as they pass along.  At other places, dim sum is ordered off a menu and cooked to order.

At China Restaurant Pavillon (German for pavilion) in Mannheim, and basically in all of Germany, the latter approach is taken.  Unfortunately, as there isn’t a large Chinese presence here, dim sum isn’t as popular as it is in the United States or in Asian countries.  Chinatowns are also nonexistent.

 

 

However, China Restaurant Pavillon does an excellent job in capturing the essence of Chinese architecture and décor.  The restaurant’s exterior is something one would typically find in a Chinatown – the arches and lanterns are classic examples.  Inside, the bar area is again decorated with the fine-looking pavilion arches.  Greeting guests upon entrance is a colorful panel impressively depicting beautiful scenery.  Blue is prominently used throughout the dining room, from the light blue colored carpets, to the cushioned armless chairs, the elegant candles, the tiled ceiling panels, and the fine tablecloth covers.  Reaffirming the idea of a relaxing pavilion, the blue color scheme exudes a feeling of calmness, relaxation, and revitalization.

Written in Romanized Chinese, Chinese, and with German descriptions, the dim sum menu here is on a separate laminated folio inside the core menu booklet.  There is an impressive array of dim sum dishes to be had, including dumplings filled with shrimp or pork, both savory and sweet steamed buns, rice noodle rolls containing various fillings, and baked sesame balls for dessert.  Chicken feet – a culinary delicacy in many parts of the world – can also be ordered.  Each dim sum plate averages around 3 to 4 euros, which is grossly overpriced.

The luó bo gāo (radish cakes) are unexpectedly pan-fried crisp.  Although the resulting crunchy outer layer provides a nice texture, the interior is overly gummy and soft, like a paste.  Missing from the radish mixture are the additional ingredients normally found elsewhere, chopped up pieces of dried shrimp in particular.  These radish cakes taste more like hash browns than good Chinese radish cakes.

 

The Cha Shao Hua Cheong Fun (rice noodle rolls with BBQ pork) are too greasy and poorly constructed.  Typically, the rolls would be swimming in sweetened soy sauce; here, they are soaking in oil.  The BBQ pork is also disappointing.  The complex, intense flavor of Chinese barbequed pork is absent in the pieces of meat.  Only hints of it are present.  Adding to the mess are the overcooked rice noodles themselves.  The result is a gooey clutter of rice sheets and bite sized pork pieces in a scant amount of soy sauce that will have you yearning for better days.

 

Fortunately, the items served in bamboo steamer baskets are vast improvements and are well executed.  Shao Mai – a Chinese dumpling with ground pork, shrimp, and mushrooms – is moist and flavorful.

 

The 2 buns – Cha Shao Bau and Nai Huang Bao – are fluffy and irresistible.  The buns themselves are delicately soft and a pleasure to eat alone.  Cha Shao Bau has the BBQ pork filling, which is a lot better than the pork inside the noodle rolls.  It makes you wonder if the same pork is used is both dishes.  This filling is very tasty.  The Nai Huang Bao is filled with sweet yellow custard (made from egg and dried milk) and is a fantastic finish to a dim sum meal.

The standard menu here is well-conceived.  Boasting over a hundred different items, China Restaurant Pavillon has a menu that offers many house specialties, from roasted duck to hot pots.  Multi-course items can be ordered for entire families or groups of two.  The weekday lunch menu is a good value, as is the daily lunch buffet.  The list of drinks is fairly impressive, with many teas, wines, and alcoholic beverages.  Unexpected is the large number of wines from around Europe, from Spain, France, and Germany.

 

Waitresses are soft-spoken, but very accommodating.  The service is smooth and prompt.

Despite the mixed bag of flavors and the dim sum’s steep prices, China Restaurant Pavillon deserves credit for even putting dim sum on the menu.  In this Rhein-Neckar region, you will be hard pressed merely finding a Chinese restaurant serving up these unique dishes.  With its exquisite and elegant dining room, hospitable service, and large selection of menu items, China Restaurant Pavillon merits a visit from anyone yearning for a venture into traditional Chinese cuisine.

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Summary:

Located in Mannheim’s business district, not far from the Planetarium, China Restaurant Pavillon is a classic Chinese restaurant featuring a plethora of traditional Chinese dishes, including dim sum.  The weekday lunch buffet, as well as the special lunch menu, is good value.  Overall prices (aside from the dim sum) are reasonable.  Outdoor seating available during those beautiful, sunny days.

Hours: Weekdays: 11:30 AM – 3:00 PM and 5:30 – 11:30 PM
            Saturday, Sunday, Holidays: 11:30 AM – 11:30 PM

 

Overall – 4.5 stars

  • Luó Bo Gāo – 2.5/5
  • Cha Shao Hua Cheong Fun – 3/5
  • Shao Mai – 4/5
  • Cha Shao Bao – 4.5/5
  • Nai Huang Bao – 5/5
  • Service – 5/5

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http://www.chinapavillon.net/

Written by geschmack

June 5th, 2010 at 11:55 pm

Goldener Stern

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Lauerstraße 16 69117 Heidelberg

Wandering down the streets off of the Heidelberg Hauptstraße, you will surely come across many hidden restaurants and shops, each offering something unique.  After all, many tourists do not dare venture down these paths and risk being lost.  On a street parallel to the main street, one such restaurant, Goldener Stern, merely begs the question – does it truly live up to its name ‘Golden Star’?

 

At first glance, Goldener Stern does not merit any star whatsoever.  The place lacks any appeal and simply looks outdated.  From the old wooden tables and booth seats, to the lackluster yellow paint on the walls, the interior could use a fresh makeover.  Light supplied from ceiling fixtures is also an eyesore.  The interior isn’t entirely bad, though; blue drapes add a contemporary splash, while green plants on the window sills liven up the place.  Roses sit in glass containers at each table and await guests for a romantic evening.  Candles placed at the tables also add a nice effect.  White tablecloths are arranged over a pink colored cloth in an attempt to hide the aged bench.  The only indication of Greek culture here, aside from the food, is the enjoyable music playing throughout the restaurant.

 

Fortunately, the food is miles better.  The menu is fairly large and offers a considerable selection of traditional Greek dishes.  Appetizers feature many Greek classics, from dolmades and tarama to feta cheese and horiatiki (Greek salad).  The main menu is stocked with meat dishes, including Cevapici and Souvlaki.  There are pork, lamb, and beef steaks, as well as fish delights straight from the grill.  Gyros made from chicken are highlighted in many dishes.  Numerous combination plates provide you with a small sample of different types of meats.  Many of the entrées include thick cut steakhouse fries and a side salad.  Portions are substantial and will easily satiate your appetite.  A respectable number of Greek wines are listed in the drinks menu.  There are also a few Greek spirits.  Traditional Greek mocha is also featured in the list of hot beverages.  Beers are standard German.

 

One of the featured specialties is the Gyros au Gratin.  At 10,80 €, it’s one of the higher priced items on the menu.  In this dish, sliced pieces of chicken gyro are mixed with strips of onions and drenched in an orange Metaxa cream sauce, topped with a layer of white cheese and baked until bubbly.

The result is a wonderfully aromatic dish that sizzles upon service to your table.  The thick layer of cheese on top beautifully insulates the meat and keeps it warm throughout the meal.  The gyro, after baking under the cheese, becomes even more moist and delicate.  Absorbing the flavors of the Metaxa cream sauce, the gyro tastes far from regular chicken meat.  Instead, it has a unique, intense flavor.  The cheese is wonderfully gooey.

The accompanying side salad is refreshingly different from typical salads at other restaurants.  Aside from the usual greens, shredded carrots, white cabbage, and slice of tomato, there are also white beans and a banana pepper.  The salad is coated with a confident dressing in just the right amount.

Also complementing the Gyros au Gratin is a generous amount of steakhouse fries.  Although the potatoes are a much needed accompaniment to the meat and a wonderful medium to soak up the cream sauce, the fries need work.  They aren’t piping hot upon service.  Moreover, they aren’t uniformly cooked – some pieces are browned darker than others while a few are quite soggy.

 

Goldener Stern’s large portions make it difficult to even think about ordering dessert.  But if you can still manage, the menu features 3 indulgences – 2 traditional Greek treats (Galaktoboureko and Halva) and a standard ice cream delight.  Galaktoboureko is a traditional Greek dessert consisting of semolina custard that’s baked inside filo dough.  The custard is firm and creamy, but only slightly sweet.  Served soaking in a light, clear syrup and accompanied by two scoops of vanilla ice cream, the dish altogether has a delicate sweetness.  The warm pastry works marvelously with the chilled ice cream and, after a while, absorbs the melted cream (yes, it becomes even creamier!) and syrup extremely well.

Service at Goldener Stern is top-notch.  The wait staff is extremely cordial and welcoming.  Food is served in a reasonable amount of time and plates are taken away promptly.  Questions concerning the various dishes will be happily answered.  The server even suggested an ouzo (popular Greek aperitif).

Goldener Stern rightly lives up to its name; it certainly earns its golden star.  But does it reach the platinum or diamond levels?  Not quite.  The ambiance could use a new look and the food is great overall, but not overly impressive.  Goldener Stern is a solid Greek restaurant; with some improvements it could become so much more.  As is, Goldener Stern is a suitable place to enjoy a taste of the Mediterranean, considering Heidelberg’s limited options when it comes to Greek food.

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Summary:

Situated in the heart of the Heidelberg Altstadt, Goldener Stern is an old-fashioned restaurant that specializes in Greek cuisine.  Fairly extensive selection of classic Greek dishes.  Attentive and admirable service.  Prices reasonable.  Reservations suggested.  Outdoor seating available.

Hours: Daily 5:00 PMMidnight

 

Overall – 4.5 stars

  • Gyros au Gratin – 4/5
  • Galaktoboureko – 4.5/5
  • Service – 5/5

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http://www.stern-hd.de/

Written by geschmack

June 1st, 2010 at 11:55 pm

Posted in Heidelberg

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