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Vapiano

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Friedrichsplatz 1 68165 Mannheim

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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Summary:

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

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

 

Overall – 4 stars

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

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www.vapiano.com/

Written by geschmack

March 30th, 2010 at 10:34 pm

Ristorante Cavallino Bianco Weißes Rössel

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Hauptstraße 210 69117 Heidelberg

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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Summary:

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

Overall – 4 stars

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

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Written by geschmack

March 19th, 2010 at 8:13 pm