[Rothenburg, Bavaria, Germany] Burgerkeller – No Burgers Here, Just Great German Cuisine

28 11 2013

More than midway into my exchange program in Germany, the German towns that have left the greatest impressions so far are the little towns dotted along the Romantic Road (a German invention of the post-war 1950s when the country was eager to rebuild its tourism industry) that stretches from Fussen in the South to Wurzburg in the North. This was also where I had my most memorable German meal to date, in a medieval-looking little town called Rothenburg ob der Tauber.

While the cuisine in Rothenburg is marketed as Fraconian (an independent region before it merged with Bavaria), I found it pretty similar to Bavarian cuisine, with staples such as Potato Dumplings instead of rice or potato mash.

Translated to mean Burger Cellar, I was initially highly skeptical about Burgerkeller’s abiliy to serve up authentic German dishes. We later found out that Burgerkeller was a slight misnomer. The restaurant was located in a cellar but no burgers were served here. The dim lighting and small-scale of about 10 tables added to the intimacy of the restaurant. Floor operations were handled by just 1 captain, which he did excellently. He patiently took our orders, never rushed nor gave us any dirty looks despite our incessant flow of questions regarding the dishes on the menu and still found time to go around the restaurant checking in on guests to ensure that everything was going smoothly. Kudos to the service!

Food here was exceptional as well. We took an adventurous leap and ordered the Bavarian Liver Dumpling Soup (3.80 Euros), which came as a liver meatball over a savory base. I didn’t take too much to the soup base but the liver meatball was pretty tasty and really delicate.

Our favourite main came rather unexpected – the Smoked Blood and Liver Sausages and Roast Sausages on Sauerkraut and Potatoes (9.30 Euros). I have had blood sausages before and thought I had a pretty good idea of how they should taste like but the ones here were really mind-blowing. Just when I thought that was it, I took a bite of the liver sausages and realized that it was even tastier, with a more mousse-like texture compared to the chunky texture of the blood sausages.

Coming in a close second was the Pork Knuckle on Sauerkraut and Potato Dumplings (12 Euros). I’m guessing the pork knuckle was boiled and perhaps baked given that the meat was awfully tender but with a light charred (but still moist) exterior. The taste reminded me much of canned stewed pork, just that the meat was much more tender and less fats had dissolved upon cooking (which I imagine was due to well-timed cooking).

I would have been more impressed by the Roast Pork in Dark Beer Sauce with Potato Dumplings and Red Cabbage (9 Euros) had it not been for the pork knuckle. It was pleasant initially but the meat became tougher after being left alone for some time.

Possibly the most uncharacteristically German (and least impressive) item we had was the Fried Pork Steak covered in Basil, Tomatoes and Melted Swiss Cheese on Potato Wedges (10.50 Euros). It felt like something we could have gotten at a Hong Kong Café. The only saving grace was the Wedges, which is definitely in the top 5 percentile from what I’m used to having.

Although we were stuffed and had initially agreed to skip desserts due to our heavy late lunch, we had enjoyed the food so much that we couldn’t possibly leave without at least sharing their dessert so we ordered the only dessert item on their menu which was the Fresh Warm Apple Strudel with Vanilla Ice Cream and Whipped Cream (4.50 Euros). Again, it was one of the better apple strudels we have tried so far in Germany.

For beverages, I ordered the Untereisenheimer Sonnenberg Kerner von leichter Sube (4.20 Euros), a semi-sweet wine. It really suited my tastes, so much so that I ordered a 2nd glass and will actively attempt to look out for it in Singapore.

My initial view on German cuisine was that it is unsophisticated and haphazard. Burgerkeller did much to change my perception and I’m truly grateful for the experience. Do take the chance to drop by if you are around the area.

PS: Later found out from a German friend that Burger actually means citizen. So, Burgerkeller should be translated to mean Citizen Cellar rather than Burger Cellar which I mentioned erroneously above.


Herrngasse 24, 91541 Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Bavaria, Germany

Tel: +49 9861 2126

[Amsterdam, Holland] – Of Pancakes, English Breakfasts and Chinese Roast Meats

20 11 2013

While there are many coffeeshops in Amsterdam, not many actually sell coffee so it was great that we managed to find a decent cafe called Greenwoods that served a proper English Breakfast. I’d imagine it would be a great way to perk yourself up after a visit to the coffeeshop that does not sell coffee.

Ground Floor of Greenwoods

I had the Full English Breakfast (9.95 Euros), comprising two eggs with bacon, sausages, grilled mushrooms & tomato, baked beans and toast while friend JS had the Eggs Royale (8.95 Euros), comprising two poached eggs with smoked salmon on toasted English muffins topped with Hollandaise.

My toast was crisp but at the same time rather airy, the grilled mushrooms were flavourful, the eggs poached to perfection and the Hollandaise sauce rich and smooth. Nothing short of excellent.

Full English Breakfast

Eggs Royale

Another plus point was that while the cafe was pretty popular, the staff were uber friendly and I never once felt rushed during the meal.

Another cafe that’s hugely popular and also worth visiting is The Pancake Bakery, which has the widest selection of pancakes I have ever seen. Initially I was a little bummed, mainly because I perceive a restaurant with a wide menu selection as a jack of all trades but master of none. Thankfully, I was painfully mistaken this time around.

Question marks all around whenever someone asks about what foods are authentically Dutch. Well, something I learnt from this trip is that the Dutch invented a type of mini-pancake called Poffertjes. We had the Poffertjes with Honey, Nuts, Mandarins and Whipped Cream (7.10 Euros) and it was wonderful. Compared to the other pancakes we had here, this one was more on the fluffy side, with the texture of hotcakes but with a lighter body and less floury taste.

If you like Hawaiian Pizza, then you will surely love the Pineapple and Bacon Pancake (9.95 Euros). It was my favourite of the 3 pancakes we ordered. The bacon wasn’t overly salty and there was a pleasant smoky tinge (from the bacon) lingering within the batter.

Pancake with Apples, Cinnamon Ice Cream, Cinnamon Liquor and Whipped Cream (12.15 Euros)

Having had to skip lunch to make it for a bicycle tour of the city, we were pretty famished when it was over and couldn’t wait for our pancakes to arrive. So while waiting, we had some Taco Chips with Melted Cheese and Chili Sauce (4.65 Euros) to nibble on. Was appreciative that the cafe took the effort to toast the chips before serving.

For tourists, do remember to flash your Holland Pass to enjoy a drink on the house.

Zaanse Schans Windmill Village

PS: This advice is mainly for Asians in Europe hankering after a decent Roast Meat and Roast Duck Rice. Say goodbye to 4 Seasons in London, Amsterdam’s Nam Kee is the place to be for Roast Meats. It might just run some stalls out of business if it ever opened shop in Singapore.

Nam Kee

Zeedijk 113, 1012 AV Amsterdam, Netherlands

Tel: +31 20 624 3470

The Pancake Bakery

Prinsengracht 191, 1015 DS Amsterdam, Netherlands

Tel: +31 20 625 1333

Greenwoods English Tea Room & Restaurant

Keizersgracht 465, Amsterdam 1017 DK, Netherlands

Tel: +31 20 420 4330

[Paris, France] Au Petit Sud Ouest – Le Foie Gras & Duck Confit Specialist

26 10 2013

Thanks to JY’s recommendation, we chanced upon Au Petit Sud Ouest (google translated to mean “the small southwest”) in what turned out to be my most enjoyable meal in Paris. The restaurant specializes in everything duck, including an extensive foie gras selection cooked in 4 different ways (fresh, semi-cooked, bloc, pan-fried).

They take their foie gras seriously here and I say this because of the efforts to differentiate their goose liver dishes from duck liver dishes on the menu. Personally, I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference but I guess it definitely makes a difference to the foie gras connoisseur.

The restaurant interior exudes a rustic countryside charm and the dishes seem to reiterate this point. The plating is done simply with an emphasis on taste and texture.

We started by sharing a pan fried foie gras with caramelized apples (23.50 Euros) and a pan fried foie gras in truffle sauce (23.50 Euros). There was no clear winner between the two and I guess it really depends on the individual’s preference of sweet vs savoury. I felt that the tangy acidity of the apples provided good contrast and balance, cutting away at the cloying nature of the liver, whereas the savoury truffle sauce had the opposite intended effect of accentuating the fattiness of the liver further. Either way, they were both remarkable and left me speechless. I swear a tear was welling up in my eye. Damn ninjas cutting onions.

Most customers seem to opt for the duck confit as their main course, although other mains on the menu include a grilled duck breast and several duck stew variants. I had been going on a duck confit rampage so this was my 3rd or 4th confit in the span of 2-3 days. Glad to say that this one put the rest to shame and was easily the best duck confit I have had, though the ones at Ember and Skyve in Singapore do put up close fights.

The Duck Confit comes with either Thinly Fried Potatoes (15 Euros) or Wild Porcini Mushrooms (25.50 Euros) or both (22 Euros). Given that the duck was the highlight, I couldn’t comprehend why the mushrooms were so damn expensive. That said, there was nothing I could nit pick about the velvety porcini mushrooms (also known as Ceps in France or Penny Bun in UK) or the crisp potatoes. They were just too perfect. This dish was just too perfect.

The other mains sadly, were not as remarkable.

The Grilled Duck Breast with Fried Thin Potatoes (18 Euros) and the Duck Stew with Red Wine Sauce (15 Euros) had an unexpectedly tough rubbery texture.

As for desserts, we all adored the Creme Brulee (6.40 Euros) but I found the Thin Apple Chips Tart Perfumed with Armagnac (6.50 Euros) to possess a slightly heavy taste of flour.

Nothing I say here would do justice to such an exceptional meal. No doubt, a visit here will surely level up one’s palate for foie gras and duck confit.

PS: The Eiffel tower is just a stone’s throw from the restaurant and it makes for a lovely post-dinner stroll.

Au Petit Sud Ouest

46 Avenue de la Bourdonnais, Paris

Tel: +33 145555959

[Paris, France] L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon Etoile – A Slight Disappointment

16 10 2013

If you are on the streets using googlemaps, the entrance to Joel Robuchon Etoile couldn’t be harder to find. We were looking out for some indications of a posh looking restaurant but there was nothing that even vaguely hinted to where the restaurant was. We finally discovered it was inside a bookstore, very much like how there used to be a cafe inside the now-defunct Borders bookstore at Wheelock place. Truly an unexpected location for a restaurant holding two Michelin Stars.

Lounge area

Set lunches are priced fairly at 42 Euros / 62 Euros / 82 Euros for 3, 4 and 5 courses (exclusive of the amuse bouche course) respectively.

The kitchen operates on an open concept to allow patrons to better appreciate the efforts taken to prepare their food. It also allows for easier interaction with the friendly servers.

One of the few noteworthy dishes of the meal was our amuse bouche, a 3 layered shot of warm foie gras mousse topped with port wine sauce and parmesan foam. Definitely a winning combination with a well thought out layering sequence for a perfect transition of flavours. As the spoon entered my mouth, I first detected the rich fatty liver mousse, subsequently complemented by sweet port sauce, with the journey ending off with a savoury airy foam. One of the most blissful few seconds in recent years.

The Mackerel appetizer was one of our server’s recommendations and that’s what I got. My friends took quite a liking to it but personally, I was severely disappointed. While the flesh was rather tender, the skin lacked an adequate sear and turned out soggy. The belly portion wasn’t as fatty as I would have liked either and the fish was rather cold by the time I dug in (which could also be the reason why the skin was soggy). I guess the plus points for the dish was the delicious mustard sauce and visual vibrancy.

M got himself the Maine Lobster with Sugar Lettuce (11 Euros supplement). I preferred this to the fish but again, it didn’t stand out much.

I also had a side order of the Foie Gras with French Sourdough (29 Euros). I found the texture of the foie gras pretty smooth compared to the ones I have at more casual diners during my trip but I didn’t fancy the accompanying compote.

For main, I had the Chicken with Tuna Sauce. The chicken breast was sliced thinly and awfully tender. The tuna sauce was unexpectedly smooth as well. While the execution was flawless, it did seem a little simplistic for such a reputable French restaurant.

M had the Iberico Pork (11 Euros supplement) which was extremely tough. He feedbacked that the sauce was marvelous though.

Another well-executed but simplistic dish was the Deep-Fried Whiting Fish. It was the best “Fish without the Chips” that I have had with outstanding freshness of the fish and extraordinarily light batter.

All mains were served with a heavenly velvety mash.

Desserts as a whole was very meh, especially the Mango Mousse and Yoghurt with Papaya Coulis.

I made the correct choice picking the Coffee dessert, comprising of a Coffee Jelly base, Cocoa Crumble, Chantilly Coffee and Coffee Ice Cream. What I liked most was the playful integration of textures.

Mango Mousse

Yoghurt with Papaya Coulis

Frankly, I’m on the fence about this one. The food is by no means terrible but my elevated expectations were not met during this luncheon. In my humble opinion, for the same price paid, there are better alternatives in Paris. On the other hand, raising the pot and opting for their degustation menu might produce significantly better results.

PS: There is a small booth near the restaurant entrance selling Pierre Herme macarons which perhaps warrants dropping by if your desserts don’t turn out as well as planned. The Arc de Triomphe is a 3 minutes walk from the restaurant, so plan your itinerary accordingly if you are a visiting tourist.

L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon Etoile

133 Avenue des Champs-Elysees

Tel: +33 0147237575

[Paris, France] – Pierre Herme vs Laduree

15 10 2013

Laduree or Pierre Herme? Truly a question for the ages that I sought to solve whilst visiting Paris. There are multiple branches scattered around town for both iconic names but if you are short on time as I was, I would suggest heading to Rue Bonapart, located in the 6th arrondissement (aka district) of Paris, where both names are present within walking distance.

Inside Laduree

Flavours available at Laduree

Pierre Herme had a much longer queue

Inside Pierre Herme

I conducted a simple taste test with 3 other friends whom I was traveling with to determine who we should crown king but we encountered one problem; the 2 brands didn’t have that many identical flavours! Well, we carried out our taste test anyway with a few more commonly found flavours that both brands carried.

Rose – We voted unanimously for Laduree because it carried a more distinct rose flavor that wasn’t overpowering. We also preferred its crispier shell (which was more brittle and sadly more prone to cracks) compared to the slightly more chewy shell of Pierre Herme (shall refer to it as PH from here on).

Dark Chocolate – We voted unanimously for Laduree. We liked that both PH’s and Laduree’s macaron shells were crisp but preferred the slightly deeper flavour of Laduree’s. Overall, we still thought there was room for improvement for the chocolate fillings and their flavours could have been made more aggressive.

Salted Caramel – 3 votes Laduree, 1 vote PH. I personally preferred Laduree because the caramel flavour was way more intense with a chewy shell in this instance.

While it seems to me that Laduree does better in “common” flavoured macarons, PH stands out with its list of flavours that are seemingly more “creative”. For example, instead of having just a simple Pistachio macaron, PH has one that is also spiced with Ceylon cinnamon and Griottine (Cherries steeped in Kirsch). What emerges is a pistachio macaron that has a hint of what tastes like mocha, overshadowing the “basic” pistachio macaron from Laduree.

Other macaron flavours that we found remarkable were the Coconut from Laduree and the Jasmine from PH.

Macarons are one of the most photogenic desserts, period.

Still, at almost 2 Euros a pop, I would say that macarons are an indulgence I can live without. Give me a 50 cents Euro Magnum anyday (yes Magnums are that cheap in Germany) or KFC.


21 Rue Bonaparte

Tel: +33 144076487

Pierre Herme

72 Rue Bonaparte

Tel: +33 143544777

[Munich, Bavaria, Germany] – Oktoberfest 2013

9 10 2013

I was in Munich for the weekend to catch the World’s Largest Beer Festival – Oktoberfest! Despite its name, Oktoberfest actually starts in late September and lasts till mid-October and just like the other beer and wine festivals in Germany, the festival is made inclusive for the whole family with the beer tents surrounded by amusement park rides and street food vendors. It’s quite impressive how all the buildings and rides are assembled just for the short duration of the festival.

While it’s almost impossible to get hold of tickets to enter the beer tents, do not fret. You can still enjoy the experience as a walk-in customer if you get to the tents early enough, especially if it’s a weekday. I visited the festival on a Friday and Saturday afternoon and what a difference a day makes as you can see from the pictures below.

Oktoberfest “Crowd” on a Friday afternoon

Oktoberfest Crowd on a Saturday afternoon

Entrance area to Oktoberfest

There are 34 tents of varying sizes, most carrying beers from one particular brewery. The one I visited was called Fisher Vroni and carried Augustiner beer.

Anyway to sidetrack a bit, to be considered an official Oktoberfest brew, there are some standards that breweries must conform to; the beer must be brewed within city limits and possess a minimum alcohol percentage of about 6.5%. Only 6 breweries meet these criteria and are allowed to sell their beers within the beer tents. According to the locals sitting next to me, Augustiner and Hacker seems to be more popular amongst the local and having tried both, my vote goes to Augustiner, as it has a light feel despite having a higher than average alcohol content and wasn’t too carbonated.

A peek inside one of the beer tents (Fischer Vroni)

Apart from carrying different beers, the tents also specialize in different types of food. The one I was in had quite an extensive menu but what stood out was the grilled fish dishes. The whole Grilled Mackerel (28 Euros) we ordered was reminiscent of a huge Grilled Saba Fish (approx 600g-800g) from a decent Japanese restaurant and the saltiness and fattiness from the fish complemented the chilled beer perfectly.

Beers are all sold in litre mugs for around 10 Euros each and the typical German downs probably between 3-5 mugs on average per sitting. Even the grandma and middle-aged lady sitting next to me shared 5 mugs between them.

Standard Oktoberfest Grub – Litre beers and Pork Knuckles.

When it isn’t Oktoberfest, visitors can still visit the permanent residence of the various brew houses. The interior and atmosphere were pretty similar to what we experienced at the Oktoberfest tents.

Other attractions in Munich worth visiting include English Garden, where there are a few Chinese/Japanese shrines and a beer garden. Most importantly, remember to visit the pond area to check out the ducks and swans!

The BMW showroom & museum is also worth the trip in my view. As the parent company of Rolls-Royce and Mini, the showroom displays cars from these brands as well. Visitors can take pictures sitting inside most of the cars on display, except for those from Rolls-Royce.

Whilst having ticked off one more item off my bucket list, I wouldn’t say that Oktoberfest lived up to expectations. On weekends, it’s almost impossible to enter the beer tents without getting up to queue at 7am and unless you like squeezing your way through a crowd with no beer to brighten up your day, you will be in for a tough time. I found the atmosphere and activities similar to the wine festival at Bad Durkheim, but the latter was way far less commercialized, genuine and had a greater variety of German street food.

[Bad Durkheim, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany] Wurstmarkt Bad Durkheim – Largest Wine Festival in the World

25 09 2013

While most of us are familiar with Oktoberfest, the largest beer festival in the world, much less attention is paid to its lesser cousin Wurstmarkt, the largest wine festival in the world. It’s held on the 2nd and 3rd weekend of September in a small town called Bad Durkheim, drawing a crowd of over 600,000 visitors annually, many of whom are repeat visitors who come by every year to participate in the festivities. I was lucky to be just an hour’s tram ride away from this festival and decided to drop by…twice.

Contrary to popular belief, the highlight of the festival isn’t solely to get pissed drunk. There’s an entire traveling carnival that surrounds the wine tents, promising a day of fun for the whole family. I was quite amazed at the scale and intensity of some of the rides, many of which are comparable to those found in permanent theme parks.

I took a ferris wheel to get a birds eye view of the scale of the festival and as you can see, it’s quite massive.

There are 3 main options where you can purchase and enjoy the wines; at the small wine tents that only sells wine (but you can bring in food from the various food stalls around), at the large wine tents that sells both food and wines and provides live entertainment, and at the classy wine tents which are a little less rowdy where you get your own table rather than sharing a bench with others.

On my first visit there, I only spent time in the small wine tents but I believe that’s where you get the most interaction with locals since the benches are quite cramped and you will inevitably start talking to nearby patrons. I spotted a guy with a huge wine glass and wanted to get one for myself too for cheap thrills and photo opportunities but found out later that he was a glass maker and custom-made his own gigantic wine glass for occasions like this.

Bigger is better for most Germans it seems, as almost everyone drinks their wines out of 500ml glasses within the festival. Instead of having it pure, I noticed that it’s quite popular to opt for Spritzers (or Schorle as referred to by Germans) instead which are half wine and half sparkling water. For the Singaporean in me, in my mind I was going “siao! pay the same price, might as well have the wine pure.”.

I have always thought of myself as an above average drinker so as I was going on to my 3rd 250ml glass, I asked an elderly couple sitting next to me how much do they usually drink at these festivals. Their answer: 5 glasses of 500ml (though I believe they might have been having spritzers).

What I love about this wine festival is that prices of the wines are incredibly affordable, starting from about 3 Euros for a 250ml glass to about 5-6 Euros for a 500ml glass.

Surrounding the small wine tents are food stalls, selling an array of German “pasar malam” foods. Surprisingly, I didn’t manage to try any remarkable roasted pork knuckles there but I did stumble across the boiled ones which in my view, taste way better and are much more tender. Other notable foods that I tried but didn’t take photos of are a German-variant of the 生煎包 with an accompanying Vanilla Sauce dip which was really awesome (I bought it again on my second visit), the Flammkuchen which is a German-style pizza that uses crème fraîche instead of cheese and of course the German Sausages.

Boiled Pork Knuckle

Roasted Pork Knuckle

Potato Cakes with Garlic Sauce

During my second visit to the festival, I decided to check out the large wine tents as well, which comes with live music. Different large wine tents play different music genres and I settled with one that played retro English and German music. Unsurprisingly, this was more popular with the older generation and my group seemed to be the youngest one there. Still the atmostphere was lively and when a popular German song was played, the dance floor still ended up packed.

Whether or not you are an avid wine drinker, I would strongly encourage you to visit this festival if you have the chance. I had an amazing time and seriously considered heading back for a 3rd time in that week. It was a perfect prelude to Oktoberfest (which I’m heading to this weekend, excited max!) and the Stuttgart Beer Festival (the 2nd largest beer festival in the world which I’m considering heading to in the 2nd week of October). More updates then!

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