Saturday, May 29, 2010

Postcards from Germany: La Villeta, Dresden

with Evelyn W

I have been to this nice little place a few times in my previous trips to Dresden...and have always enjoyed it. The restaurant features a nice open kitchen and a grocery store, and I understand is related to the Villa Marie I had earlier written about by the Blue Wonder Bridge.

The cuisine is definitely Italian, with a touch of Germany.

I started with a pasta: spagetti with tomato sauce.

The pasta is fresh, from what I rekon...its a bit on the soft side, but I gather this is how the Germans prefer their pasta, instead of the al dente preferred by the Italians. I belong to the Italian camp here, preferring the bite of the al dente...perhaps if to err, would prefer to err on slightly under rather than overcooking. The tomato sauce was freshly made, very fragrant and nicely balanced.

I had a rack of pork ribs...

Nicely cooked...and perfectly done...the meat within was pink, and juicy. The exterior, as can be seen is a beautiful, golden brown. Excellent plus plus.

Nice place, never disappointed me in several visits.

La Villetta Alimentare-Osteria Feinkost-Restaurant
Augsburger Straße 43
01309 Dresden, Germany
0351 31599-0

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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Postcards from Germany: Estancia Steakhouse, Dresden

with A. Einhorn

When I think steakhouse, I typically think American, huge servings, nice cosy, and somewhat upmarket interior...perhaps dark wood, leather chairs. Huge servings of prime beef, marbled, charred...hmm...regulars get the picture...I love a good steak.

Situated in a nice suburb, just off the old town in Dreden, this steakhouse was in a hotel...

Touting Argentinian beef, the interior was a bit more regular hotel restaurant than a traditional US Steakhouse...nicely decorated, but no darkwood, or leather armchairs to slip into.

We shared an appetizer of grilled giant prawns:

Nice, huge, succulent prawns was served grilled on a skewer...the prawns were had a nice firm flesh, sweet, and very fragrant...reminds me of the best such prawns from Bangkok (see Krua Apsorn). The broccoli was quite nicely done too...not undercooked or overcooked like many restauarants tended to do, but just right...a bit firm, crunchy, and retaining the flavours.

We had a nice bottle of red wine...

Of Chilian origin, on the palate it packs a nice body, and the tannins provide the tongue with a light bite. Strong notes of cherries and berries. On the nose, nice bouquet of blackberries and citrus.

The steak...we both ordered a large 300g portion of the fillet steak:

I had requested for the outside to be charred and inside to be was delivered quite close to that request. Note the Maillard exterior, indicating a nice smokey flavour, and beautiful sweetness from the reactants and slight caramilization.

The inside was superbly pink and moist. The meat was less marbled than typical USDA Prime Black Angus, as this was Prime Argentinian beef...also of Black Angus, it was much leaner. The meat was rather firm in texture, but was tender, and though not quite wagyu melt in your mouth experience, the texture provided some masticulation and had good flavour. Nice steak, I must say.

Estancia Steakhaus
Fetscherstraße 30
01309 Dresden, Germany
0351 4416392

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Sunday, May 23, 2010

Postcards from Germany: Leipzig, Cafe Baum - Eurpoe's oldest cafe

I took a drive to Zwickau to visit the August Horch Museum...a treasurehouse of Eastern German carbuilding...from the early days of Horch, Audi and later the Trabant. From Zwickau...about 1hr40mins from Dippoldiswalde, Leipzig was another 1hr40mins I decided to go meet a friend there for a spot of the city.

I had to visit the famous Cafe Baum, reputed to be the oldest cafe in Europe...I had always thougt the Italians were the first to introduce coffee in Europe and hence the Venetians should have the oldest cafe, but the literature and fame of Cafe Baum in Leipzig takes this claim. They even have a 3 storey museum showing the history of coffee...from the Arabs to the Italians..and entry is free. The cafe is housed upstairs of the cafe and restaurant.

A Probat sample roaster was one of the exhibits, as were countless implements to roast, grind and brew coffee. I spotted this beautiful coffee machine at the highest level:

The inside of the cafe was those I saw in Venice, Milan or Rome...

I ordered an Apple Strudel and a cappucino.

The strudel was delicious. No vanilla ice cream, but just plain vanilla cream, with a dollop of fresh cream. The apple provided some tartness, but the concoction was sweet, and spicy (cinnamon, mainly, but also a bit of nutmeg and other spices). And ably suppported by the rich taste of the vanilla cream and fresh cream.

The cappucino was rather ordinary...

A huge head of foam...nice, with a sprinkle of cocoa powder. The coffee was regular espresso...and typical in Germany, which is larger in volume of water than those served in Italy. I guess some traditional cafes in Italy would call this a lungo (long) instead of espresso.

Interesting visit, Cafe Baum.

Cafe Baum
Kleine Fleischergasse 4
04109 Leipzig, Germany
0178 8592199

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Thursday, May 20, 2010

Postcards from Germany: Heidehof 4

Yet another excellent dinner in Heidehof...this time, steak.

The sirloin cut was lean...with the tiniest layer of fat at the edge to give the steak a bit of umami punch. The lean meat is much firmer than we usually get in Singapore, but by no means tough. It was tender, juicy and had a wonderful beefy flavour.

The doneness is perfect, pink and juicy inside. And nice brown outside, though not charred Chicago style, it was still very good.

Landhaus Heidehof
Hohestrasse 2, Dippoldiswalde 1744, Germany

Monday, May 17, 2010

Postcards from Germany: Schindler's Restaurant, Paulsdorf

Having eaten often at the Heidehof, I ventured into the neighbouring villages in search for different cuisines...I took a drive around the dam, which was constructed around Germany each village, or town belongs to a city...or an administrative region. Heidehof, is part of the Dippoldiswalde city, as is the village of Paulsdorf just 4 km from the hotel.

There is a large water park just by the Pausldorf village...camping grounds, swimming pools, etc. Nice.

The area is just spectacular scenery.

Driving a bit further, I chanced upon Schindler's Restaurant. A quaint little place...the notice board just outside the door had a picture of the chef, hin his uniform, proudly beaming. This should be interesting. I stepped inside, and there was a large family having their dinner...I ordered my Erdinger beer...and had the pork steak. While waiting, the chef came up to me to talk...but we immediately hit the language barrier...both smiled, and he retreated into his kitchen.

When it came, it looked really interesting. A frothy kind of sauce, the pork looked beautifully browned till Maillard has set in.

Cutting it open, it was perfectly done.

Meat in Germany, at least in Saxony seem to be leaner than the ones we get in Singapore. Also, I find the meats firmer...not as soft and um, flabby. This pork was firm, lean, and hardly any marbling. But it was tender, and while it provided resistance to the bite, it was very tender and juicy. Beautiful. The sauce contained small bits of perhaps crispy lard, and crispy garlic. The champignons were also very flavourful. The french fries, though not as wonderful as my benchmark set by La Bourse au la vie in Paris, was nice. What a wonderful concoction. Really enjoyed this.

I did say that I truly enjoyed the cuisine on this part of Germany a lot. On my second week here, I hardly miss the wonderful hawker stuff from home...I wouldn't mind having a char kway teow or laksa, but I did not crave for it.

Schindler's Restaurant
Am Stausee 1
01744 Dippoldiswalde ot Paulsdorf
tel: 03504-614329

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Friday, May 14, 2010

Postcards from Germany: Zum Barern

with Walter Lange and Tino Bobe

Walter Lange is a grand old gentleman, and patron of his old family firm of A. Lange & Sohne. I always take great pleasure when meeting animated gentleman, he is wonderful in recollecting old memories, and beautiful things. I wish my German was more developed to converse better, but even through an interpreter, it is always such a great joy. Tino, the Head of Technical in ALS had the duties as interpreter this evening, and we ate at the hotel Walter was staying...Zum Baren at Oberbarenburg, a village near the Czech border. Another quaint village in this part of Germany, this was a the sports capital for winter sports in the region.

The village has almost 7, 8 hotels and guesthouses, but the Zum Baren is the grandest of them all. I spied a Michelin tag on the door leading into the hotel...promising. I arrived at was still rather bright.

The hotel is rated 4 stars. It was rather quiet when I arrived...this being spring, though a cold one...8C, with fog and light drizzle outside...the winter sports fans were absent.

We ordered our dinners...I had the zitroenengras curry soup with prawns in a stick. Interesting description. When it came it was rather interesting too...very fragrant, light curry flavour.

The prawns were truly spectacular in taste. Sweet with a light salty flavour, very beautiful fragrance...this was lake or river prawns...but it has a fresh smell. Crunchy, and very nicely done. The curry was a bit mild for a curry, but it was flavourful and very nice. Loved every drop.

My main course was 3 fishes, in a lobster sauce with wild rice.

Almost worthy of a Michelin star on its it was not as exquisite as Guy's sea bass with skin and scales I had in Paris, but we don't pay those prices either. For E13.90, you get this beautiful plate.

Three kinds of fish, wild Norwegean salmon, and a white fish I don't quite recognise and two large pieces of scallops, but quickly devoured. The sauce was quite exceptional. Very creamy, a punchy crustecean flavour, and goes perfectly with the al dente cooked wild rice. Amazing dish.

Tino and Walter had the asparagus:

These asparagus was described in the menu as Konig Spargel...king asparagus...white, thick, huge. They looked wonderful. I didn't taste, but both Tino and Walter enjoyed the asparagus. But having tasted slightly smaller samples of the giant king asparagus at the Heidehof, I can imagine it is quite fantastic.

It is interesting that restaurants in the middle of nearly nowhere, we were about 9 km from the Czech border, in a mountain some 700m above sea level, and the chef and team took great care with their cuisine. Exceptional cooking with wonderful ingredients. The cuisine at Zum Baren is a bit more developed and finer than the more homey food I get in Heidehof. But both are very pleasing. Worth a visit.

Restaurant at the Hotel Zum Baren
Talblick 6
01773 Altenberg, Germany

Get Directions
035052 61-0

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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Postcards from Germany: Heidehof 3

The cuisine at the Heidehof is quite the Germans will say. Its a curious local cuisine...Saxon mainly, but also with the heavy influence of the Italian kitchen. The chef is quite a master at master cooks need to be...control of the fire/oven/flame, control of the use of spices and ingredients. And one of balance.

I will have the opportunity to sample almost the entire menu. I thought of having fish, but the only fish they serve are catfish, trout and herring. None of which I am particularly fond of...readers of this blog would probably know I prefer ocean fish, preferably large, meaty tuna, cod, salmon, garoupa. So I have still not worked up the courage to order fish at the Heidehof.

The amuse bouche for the evening, and a fairly standard offering is two slices of rather freshly baked French baguette with home made pesto sauce.

The pesto sauce shows the skill of the chef. Home made, and very tasty.

Anyway, I stayed in for yet another night, and dined at the Hiedehof. This evening...goose. An unusual fowl for my dinner plate, that's for sure...this is probably the first blog post about goose.

Gansekeule mit apfelrotkohl und kartofelklossen, says the menu. Loosely translated...leg of goose with apple red cabbage and potato dumplings.

A whole leg of goose...well, geese are larger fowls than ducks...a leg of duck, as in a confit du canard is quite a dish on its own. But the larger leg of goose is a rather large meal.

The skin was crispy, cracking with each knife thrust, and opening to yield the soft, juicy, tender meat within. Compared to duck, goose meat is more gamey, with a more rough texture, but very tasty.

The red cabbages cooked with apple juice is a typical German dish...and goes very well with the heavy, greasy meats (the Germans call meat fleisch - reminds me of the English word flesh...probably a derivative from the German. The red cabbages go well with Schweinhaxe - their version of ter ka.

The potato dumplings were springy, almost bouncy...but tasted nice...good mouth feel...processed, but not so much, the texture of the potatos can still be felt as one chews the dumplings.

I washed it down with a large (grosse) glass of white beer (weiss bier). Nice and smooth.

Landhaus Heidehof
HoheStrasse 2
1744, Dippoldiswalde

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Postcards from Germany: Villa Marie

with A. Einhorn

The Blue Wonder Bridge, or Blaues Wunder (in German) is one of the bridges which criss cross the Elbe River near Dresden. So called, because firstly it was painted blue, and when it was opened in 1893, it was considered a technical masterpiece to be able to build a truss bridge with no supporting columns...a span of 142m. The bridge was one of the few which was saved from bombing during the second world war, where the rest of Dresden was practically leveled by Allied bombing.

By the side of this beautiful and much loved bridge, on the Aldstadt (old town) side, sits a beautiful, quaint villa...known as Villa Marie. In it is housed a very nice restaurant, when the weather is fine, you can sit outside and admire the bridge. We were there in Spring, but it was a bit cold, and we opted for a table upstairs. I had some years back sat on a table outside, and indeed it was a nice table. But inside was nice, we had a good view of the landscape.

The table next to us sat the former Prime Minister of Saxony. So I guess we were in good company.

We started with the Pasta with this was a kind of Italian styled kitchen. They also own the very nice Piazza Nova at Quartier Frauenkirche.

This was a delightful dish! The pasta was firm, al-dente, and the prawns, were oh-so fresh...I wish we could get this quality prawns in Singapore. Fresh, sweet, crunchy but resillient, springy even to the bite. Excellent.

We ordered the Italian wine Langhe...

The nebbiolo is a finicky type of grape...pale, tannic, but some of the most perfumed and richly flavoured wines. A bit medium bodied, so went well with the pasta and my pork.

and the pork...

A kind of seasoned, barbecued pork...nice cut, lean, flavourful, but tender. The beans provided some oomph, but overall the dish lackluster and character. It is nice, no doubt, subtle, and easy.

For dessert, tiramisu...what else

Whoa! this was no holds barred tiramisu. Rich, exuberant, with a kick of liquor and coffee. Nice.

For the visitor to Dresden, this is a worthwhile place to dine...the food is good - my pasta was brilliant, the tiramisu was exceptional.

Villa Marie
Fährgäßchen 1
01309 Dresden, Germany
0351 31544-0

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Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Postcards from Germany: Heidehof again...

As Heidehof is my home for the next 3 weeks, and we are a bit away from the great city of Dresden (19km), I spend most dinners when I do not have company in Heidehof's own award winning restaurant.

The wall of awards, including from Gault Millau and Michelin. Not bad for a little hotel in the middle of nowhere...from the vantage point of the hotel's garden, its basically miles of plains.

This evening, the amuse bouche was a tortellini of spinach.

Quite well done...I can tell that the chef is trained in an Italian kitchen. The tortellini is totally made from scratch. The pasta was just nicely done...with a minutest of bite like fresh pasta can be, and the filling was creamy, and bursting with flavour.

My main course was a pork schnitzel, with white asparagus:

The asparagus was superb. Fresh, as it is asparagus season now. Blanched just right, and smothered with an orange cream sauce. Shiok. The schnitzel was a rather large slice of lean pork, breaded, and fried golden brown...perfectly done. The pork was lean, but flavourful, and sufficiently tender not to be sinewy or tough, and the bread crust was wonderful, crispy golden brown.

My dessert was two scoops of vanilla ice cream with balsamic cream sauce:

The vanilla is regular vanilla ice, a bit less sweet than many, but not unusually so. The balsamic cream made all the difference. It had a sharp, almost tart bite, and provided the perfect foil for the rich vanilla ice cream. Superb.

Landhaus Heidehof
Hohe Strasse 2

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Monday, May 3, 2010

Value for money Peranakan: Ivins

Ivins is an old favourite. Kin and I used to frequent Ivins, at their original outlet in Binjai Park for years, and then, for no reason other tha perhaps boredom, we stopped going and almost forgot about them for some years. We recently rediscovered them, and have been going back for several visits in a couple of months.

The restaurant has been around for many years, and for me, they serve quite authentic peranakan food, unebelished by the modernities and fashions of the day. Smallish portions, but suffient for sharing with 2/3 persons, and very reasonably priced.

Here are some of my favourites:

Ayam Rendang

Two pieces of chicken...what seemed to be about a quarter a small chicken...perhaps spring chicken, well marinated, and served in a claypot. I can tell that the chicken is not cooked in the claypot, but the claypot is used more as a presentation than a cooking vessel. It did not impart any smokey flavour characteristic of claypots, but allowed the contents to remain hot for a longer period.

The rendang is quite well done. A bit more spicy would cater to the taste of the Baba more, but as it was served, it was mildly hot, but the spices were very nice and flavourful. The chicken is rendered almost to a state where it fell off the bone and was super tender.

Fishcake lemak is also a favourite.

Fishcake, cooked in a gorgeous, thick, rich, yellow curry. Not a typical nyonya dish, but cooked in an inspired way which is true to the peranakan spirit. I always find this dish to be very appealing.

Otah is also a must order:

Not the tpyical peranakan otah, which tends to be steamed rather than broiled. But this version is very tasty, and made with the right balance of spices. I could have wished for more fish, as the taste of the fish was barely discernable. My mum makes the typical Penang Nyonya with coconut milk, huge chunks of fish, wrapped in a banana leaf, steamed, and if desired, then broiled for the smokey flavour.

The kangkong is also typical...

Young kangkong, stir fried in a very hot wok, with spices and seasoning, and in double quick time, so as to thouroughly cook the vegetable, but not overcook it. Young kangkong is crucial, and many a times, the chef spoils this dish by being less fastidious on the selection of the vegetable. Old kangkong is tough, and unappetizing.

A venerable bastion of peranakan cooking tempered with good sense in value pricing. I highly recommend this restaurant.

19 Binjai Park
Tel: +65 6468 3060
Mon–Wed, Fri–Sun
11.30am – 3pm, 5pm – 9pm
Closed on Thursdays