Maitrea Vegetarian Restaurant, Prague – Czech Republic

When we arrived in Prague train station, we needed a taxi straight away but the taxi situation was scary. The signs led us to a wrong spot and the real taxi rank had a long queue already. We rang the guy who rented us an apartment in Old Town Square (Thomas) and asked what to do. He sent us a taxi immediately and we helped two ladies from California to call their hotel for their own transportation by allowing them to use our phone. It was all sorted in the end, however, we couldn’t help but thinking where the hell are were?

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Astronomical Clock, Old Town Square, Prague – Czech Republic.

When we got to the apartment, Thomas was waiting for us. We took over the keys to the apartment and after a brief orientation to the place we asked the ultimate question of vegetarian places to eat in Prague. The answer was brief: Maitrea. He said: “You can’t go wrong with Maitrea. Besides, it’s just around the corner.” And he showed us the exact location on our city map.

I did a little research around Czech food at the time of planning for this trip and was hoping to find some interesting Jewish vegetarian dishes around town. When you think about the number of Jews living in Prague, there’s bound to be some restaurants but we didn’t need any of that in the end. Because, Maitrea was enough and it really was “just around the corner” as we spotted the place when we were out and about for the first time.

The place looks like a dark cave decorated with Zen principles -check out the water feature video which was right next to our table. It is even darker downstairs (check out the photos taken downstairs) but it feels cozy because of it.

The menu at Maitrea is quite international. However, on our first night, we decided to try some original Czech dishes which have been vegetarianised. Here’s what we had on our first visit to Maitrea:

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Czech special: Spicy goulash with vegetarian “meat” pieces, served with wholemeal dumplings/or baked potatoes 175 CZK The seitan in this dish was exquisite; the size, texture and flavour were like no other seitan I have ever had in my life. Apparently, they make their own.

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Another Czech special: Traditional “Svíčková“ – vegetarian “meat” slices seitan with a tangy vegetable cream sauce, served with wholemeal dumplings, lime, whipped cream, and cranberries 170 CZK

The second time we visited Maitrea, we tried Paella a la Barcelona (it was by far the best vegetarian paella we have ever had!) and Meatless “chicken“and mushroom balls.

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Paella a la Barcelona with sun-dried tomatoes, champignons, and shiitake mushrooms, onion, stir-fry sauce, vegetarian “chicken” pieces and parmesan. 175 CZK

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Meatless “chicken“and mushroom balls with oven-roasted vegetables, basil pesto and homemade tofunnaise 175 CZK

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Maitrea Vegetarian Restaurant
Týnská ulička 1064/6,
110 00 Praha 1, Czech Republic

Maitrea has a complete spiritual center right next door with a bookstore. If you are interested in books and workshops in spirituality, you might like to check it out too. Their working hours are different to the restaurant, though.

Corn Omelette with Tomato and Cucumber Salad

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Corn Omelette with Tomato and Cucumber Salad is perfect lunch for 2. I make this omelette in an electric non-stick pan, then cut it in half. Serving an omelette with a little bit of salad lightens things up a great deal. It is also nice with a dollop of mayonnaise mixed with Dijon mustard on the side.

Corn Omelette with Tomato and Cucumber Salad
Ingredients:

4 eggs
½ cup frozen corn kernels
1 spring onion
2 twigs continental parsley
1 tbsp or 2 vegetable oil
Salt
½ teaspoon sweet paprika
A pinch black pepper

For Tomato and Cucumber Salad:
6 cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 cucumber (Lebanese), chopped
2 twigs fresh dill, chopped
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
Salt to taste

Method:
• To make the salad: Mix together the tomatoes, cucumber and dill. Whisk together olive oil, vinegar and salt and drizzle over the salad.
• Cook corn kernels in a small pot. Remove from the heat and rinse under cold water. Drain well and set aside.
• In a bowl, lightly whisk eggs with a pinch of salt. Add sweet paprika and black pepper. Add chopped spring onion and parsley.
• Heat the oil in a pan. Whisk the egg mixture one more time and add it to your pan. Swirl it around for even distribution. Sprinkle the cooked corn around and make sure they are submerged in the mixture well.
• When one side of your omelette is browned well, flip it over –you might like to use 2 spatulas for the job. Once it is all browned well, cut it into two with one of the spatulas in the frying pan. Serve immediately with the salad.

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Tabouleh, VegFusion style

Since spring is just around the corner, I thought this salad would freshen things up a little.

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This is a sharp and refreshing salad which makes a good side dish to falafels. My version of is slightly different. It is more on the kısır side than tabouleh. Hope you enjoy it.

Tabouleh, VegFusion style
Ingredients:
½ cup fine bulghur (bulgar)
1 spring onion (scallion), thinly sliced
½ Lebanese cucumber, diced
½ cup fresh parsley, chopped
½ cup fresh mint, chopped
1 small tomato, chopped
Salt and pepper

Dressing:
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
½ lemon, squeezed

Method:
• To prepare bulgur: Place bulgur in a bowl and add boiled water just enough to cover it all. Put a flat place on top the bowl and let it swell for a while. Fluff it up with a fork.
• Whisk together olive oil and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
• Mix dressing with bulgur and chill overnight.
• Stir in chopped tomatoes, cucumber, fresh mint and parsley immediately before serving.

Macéo, Paris

A postcard from Paris. Sacré-Cœur in Montmartre.

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Macéo was one of the greatest culinary experiences we had in Europe. It is a place I would go back in a heartbeat. Although it is not a fully vegetarian restaurant, they have many interesting vegetarian starters as well as main dishes on their menu. But first –Willi’s Wine Bar.

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Here, we had the best wine before dinner.  Willi’s Wine Bar is Macéo’s sister place. Apparently it is the hip and edgy thing to do although Macéo have one of the best wine lists. Actually, I’m hoping that one day John will write about wine in general here. Is that too subtle?

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When we arrived it was quiet but soon it started to fill up. Parisians are like Sydneysiders; they eat late. We had the nicest waitress, Dana, who is studying hospitality and doing her apprenticeship at Macéo at the same time. She was just lovely. I wish I took a photo of her.

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And the food… Mind-Blowing in a very classy way. Here’s what we had:

Starters:
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Asparagus were in season at the time and they are nothing like what we get here in Australia. John has become a huge fan. I personally like the wild asparagus which are more delicate both in shape and taste department. Here’s a grocery store scene for you from Montmartre (below).

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As a starter I had Caviar of Smoked Baby Broad Beans, Seasonal Vegetables Bouquet. I love the artistic presentation.

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Mains:

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Berlingots meuniere caramelised in Xeres, pears, roquette and radish. This was basically pan-fried gnocchi with lightly cooked pears and fresh wild roquette (arugula) and radish.

Desserts:

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Poached Pear Façon

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Guanaja Mousse & Coco Snap, Pistachio Ice Cream

Macéo
15 rue des Petits Champs
75001, Paris
Website

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Prinz Myshkin, Munich

A postcard from Munich. Rathaus (town hall) minus the rats.

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This place was recommended by two girls (really nice girls) we met on the train from Paris to Munich. We thought it was worth checking out. We did drop in for a late lunch after taking a few photos around Altstadt and doing some shopping but we didn’t get lunch because we were late. Their pedantic waiter said they stopped serving lunch although they had plenty of food in their buffet. It was weird not being able to get lunch while they had so much food on display (photo below).

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In the end, we decided to have a slice of cake to keep us going and book a table for dinner while we were there. Well, the cakes were nice but the attitude wasn’t.

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We thought we might have better luck when we came back for dinner, hoping that Mr Pedantic wouldn’t be there but he was. He gave us the menu in English with a slimy smirk on his face as if to say “I remember you” but luckily we had someone else to serve us for the night. And she was nicer. After we deliberately broke the ice, though.

Here’s what we had, considering:

I had Nansei (stir-fried vegetables with oyster mushrooms, bamboo shoots, carrots, scallions, broccoli and smoked tofu in teriyaki sauce)

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John had Koh Samui (wok-roasted peppers, mushrooms, scallions, bean sprouts, snow peas, pineapple and banana in a Thai coconut-curry-lemongrass sauce)

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These two mains we ordered are served with either white or brown Basmati rice but we weren’t told that. So, we ended up with white rice (below).

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I didn’t have a dessert but John had Crème Brulee (below).

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We had high hopes for this place as it is one of the best vegetarian restaurants of Munich. The food was OK; nothing special but the service was unfriendly and a little hostile. If you still want to go, here’s the details:
Prinz Myshkin
Hackenstraße 2, 80331
München, Germany

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Le Potager du Marais, revisited

We were at Le Potager du Marais in 2007 and it was a tiny little, long and narrow place back then. They seem to have moved next door which is bigger. It is still recommended to book before you go though.

For those of you who didn’t read my 2007 review, Le Potager du Marias is a Parisian vegan restaurant located on Rambuteau Street in an area called Marais. It was a vegetarian restaurant back when we were in Paris in 2007, now it is fully vegan. They do vegan versions of French dishes however, they have other international ones on their menu too. And yes Peoples, this is the place where Anne Hathaway was seen in 2013.

Now, let’s talk about food, shall we?

Starters

Pate Forestier (mushroom pate)
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Tartare d’algues (seaweed tartare)
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Main
As for the main, we both had Bourguignon de Seitan which is seitan stew with red wine and mushrooms served with mashed potatoes and garlic olive oil.

Main courses are served with a choice of:

  • Brown rice with almonds
  • Buckwheat or mashed potatoes with garlic olive oil

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Bourguignon de Seitan (seitan stew with red wine and mushrooms with mashed potatoes and garlic olive oil)

Desserts

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Crumble aux Fruits Rouge (red berry crumble with chestnut flour)

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Crème Brulee au Gingembre (crème brulee with ginger)

Wine
We a small flask of their house wine and I must admit, it wasn’t all that memorable.

One thing that hasn’t changed here is you still wind up talking to people sitting next to you. We ended up talking to a really nice guy, Reginald, from the US and exchanged a few words with a teacher and her student too.

Le Potager du Marais
24 Rue Rambuteau
Paris
Website

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Turkish Coffee Machine

Every time I go back to Turkey, I bring back cooking magazines, my favourite authors’ new books, cookbooks and kitchen gadgets I cannot get in Australia. One of the kitchen gadgets I brought back with me this time around is a Turkish coffee maker.

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I actually had the intention of buying a cezve-style one which is also an electric Turkish coffee maker, just smaller and more compact. However, my friends in Istanbul convinced me to buy this one instead. I noticed that this style and this brand was what everyone is using over there these days. After the decision was made, all I had to do was to pick a colour.

I experimented with a pack of coffee I was given by Uğur Atik from Galeri Set after I got back but the machine itself came with a pack too. At some stage I will have to go out and hunt for real Turkish coffee though.

This coffee machine is a darling. You just put your coffee, your sugar and water in it and press the button and go and save the world if you want while you’re coffee is being made. It beeps when it’s all done and you have a cup of foamy Turkish coffee, just like Ottomans intended!

How to make Turkish coffee with Turkish coffee machine

Ingredients:
1 level coffee spoon Turkish coffee (measuring spoon comes with the machine)
1 level tsp sugar
1 cup of water (the same Turkish coffee cup)

Method:
• Place the sugar and coffee in your cezve (it comes with the machine and it is the red thing in the photo with a handle) part of the machine, add water and stir.
• Place the cezve  on top of the circle. It should go all the way in otherwise the machine will not start.
• Press the button on top. It’ll automatically switches itself off when the coffee is ready.
• Once you hear the beep, pour it into your cup and afiyet olsun (enjoy in Turkish).

Note: Turkish coffee is served with rose flavoured Turkish delight and a glass of water. You drink the water to cleanse your palate and have your coffee with the Turkish delight. This is the Ottoman way Peoples.

Here’s the sugar levels in Turkish coffee making business:
• Şekersiz or sade: no sugar at all
• Az şekerli: with little sugar (½ Turkish teaspoon)
• Orta şekerli: medium (1 Turkish teaspoon)
• Şekerli: 2 Turkish teaspoon

Note: 1 Turkish teaspoon equals 1 level teaspoon.

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I was also given a nice set of coffee cups by a dear friend of mine (the one in the photo above) which makes my coffee experience more special.

Note: I promised this post to our hairdresser Nathan Yazbek from Salon Yazbek long time ago. Sorry for the delay, Nathan :)

Quilon, London – UK

After Istanbul, our first stop was London. Just before we left Sydney, we asked Ajoy Joshi of Nilgiri’s and Tellicherry if he could recommend any Indian restaurants in London and he came back with three!
1. Quilon
2. Rasoi
3. Benaras

So, we started off with the first one on the list: Quilon. Quilon is actually a Michelin starred restaurant. It is located near Buckingham Palace and St. James’s Park and the whole place is decorated with artwork created for Quilon by an acclaimed artist; Paresh Maity.

Chef of Quilon, Sriram Aylur, is a good friend of Ajoy’s. So we mentioned that we were actually sent there by their chef’s good friend from Sydney to our waiter, Mr Aylur came out toward the end of our dinner to say hi which was very nice of him.

The menu at Quilon is based on South-west coastal region of India which sounds incredibly traditional however, everything is created with a contemporary flair while keeping the foundations intact. It may still sound like the whole focus would be on fish and seafood but If you let your waiter/waitress know, their chef is more than happy to put together a tasting menu which is designed to cater for your requirements. In our case, it was a vegetarian tasting menu.

Let’s begin with starters:

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Mains:

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Crispy okra thinly sliced okra, batter fried, tossed in onion, tomato and crushed pepper.

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Asparagus and snow peas sauteed with mustard seeds, curry leaves, green chillies and grated coconut and potato and cauliflower with crushed cashew nuts potato and cauliflower florets cooked with onion, tomato, roasted spices and crushed cashew nuts.

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Raw Jack Fruit Pulao (raw jack fruit, lentil dumplings with herbs and spices cooked with basmati rice served with fruit pachadi).

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Bebinca. It is a traditional pudding from Goa. Not many Indian restaurants make it. In Sydney, there was only one place where they did bebinca which is shut down. This was a real treat for me because I LOVE my bebinca!

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John’s dessert.

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Masala chai

Quilon
41 Buckingham Gate
London, SW1E 6AF
Phone: +44 (0) 20 7821 1899
Website

Çiya, Istanbul

There are three things I LOVE when it comes to Çiya; vegetarian kebab, mezes and pumpkin dessert. Although Çiya restaurants are specialised in kebabs, pide, lahmacun and every other Anatolian specialty, they have a vegetarian version of each one of those dishes.

There are three restaurants; two on one side of the road and one on the other side, Çiya Kebap, Çiya Kebap II, and Çiya Sofrası. They call it “memory kitchen” because they keep traditional dishes alive; the dishes us Turks have been brought up with, the dishes our mothers or grandmothers cooked for us when we were so young and therefore, our childhood memories come back to us when we have our first bite.

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Meze buffet at Çiya Kebab

I have had great memories at Ciya before but this time around we tried a different branch and was really disappointed. I don’t normally say negative things about a restaurant, I choose silence over negativity, but this recent experience was appalling and I want to say something about it. Here, I’m saying it… I was downstairs, taking photos of starters (mezes) and wanted to let the lady know who was behind the counter that it was for my food blog. “I’ll make you famous,” I said smiling and her reply was “We’re famous enough!” That was really off-putting. Yes, they are quite famous, no doubt about that. They have been featured in Yotam Ottolenghi’s TV program called Mediterranean Feasts and in The New Yorker article by Elif Batuman. Does it get better than that? No, it doesn’t but, can you actually be famous enough when every customer is a brand new showcase for the restaurant? Here I am writing about this experience in my Sydney home for followers of VegFusion who are mainly from the US and Australia. Americans love to visit Istanbul and Australians go to Turkey at least once in their life to visit Gallipoli. I also wonder what Musa Dağdeviren (the owner) would think if he found out. I wasn’t impressed at all so I pinched their menu. However, my disappointment didn’t end there…

Examples of daily menu (below):

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Sıkma Köfte (Bulghur, onion and yoghurt)

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Enginar Tavası (Pan-fried artichokes with onion, garlic and olive oil)

Another disappointing situation related to this particular branch was the fact that they don’t serve alcohol! You could have it at Çiya Sofrası –we did 4 years ago!—but not at Çiya Kebab and you find out about it after you’ve already started to nibble on your mezes. Anyway, the waiter told us that they had a bottle left by a group of tourists and we could have it. Great! However, it was nothing what we would’ve ordered. It was a terrible wine with more vinegar qualities than actual fermentation of grapes which is unique to wine making. And on top of that, it was served in water glasses not to attract suspicion.

We have had many meals at Çiya before but this is the first time I have photos for you and be blogging about it. Let’s start with how things work at Çiya restaurants: You pick a table and go to the area downstairs and choose your starters whether it be mezes, salads or other cold dishes we call ‘zeytinyağlılar’. They weigh them up and then you sit down and order your kebab or other dishes from their daily menu at your table, and your drinks. And later on; your dessert, of course if you’re having any.

Here’s a combination of mezes I picked for everyone that night:

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Çiya restaurants are specialised in kebabs but they have been doing a vegetarian one for years and that’s what we have every time as a main course. The kebab part is made of bulghur (cracked wheat), onion, mushroom, parsley, mint, olive oil and cheddar-like cheese and is served with onion and sumac salad, grilled tomato, fresh parsley, yoghurt and bread.

Vegetarian Kebab (above)

As for a dessert we always have Kabak Tatlısı (pumpkin dessert) drizzled with tahini and topped with crushed walnuts (below). They serve sherbets with desserts (2 different flavours: tamarind or sumac) if you ask. These sherbets are the Ottoman equivalent for dessert wine, I guess :)

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Pumpkin in this dessert is marinated in quicklimey water (quicklime is calcium oxide actually) which sounds just as weird in English as it does in Turkish. It is a long process: quicklime is mixed with water overnight, solids sink down the bottom and the clear water on top is what’s being used. They call it “cream of quicklime” and the pumpkin is marinated for at least 5 hours in that water before it is cooked with sugar and lemon juice. For some reason, it turns out crunchy on the outside and soft and syrupy on the inside unlike your usual pumpkin dessert.

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Pumpkin dessert before they are dressed and served (above).

The other unusual desserts (above) like raw walnut, eggplant (aubergine), tomato and olive.

Ciya Sofrasi can be found at this address:
Caferağa, Güneşli Bahçe Sk.
No:43
Turkey
Website

Cookies Cream, Berlin

Cookies Cream is a classy, high-end vegetarian restaurant in the heart of Berlin and it has been one of those interesting experiences we’ve had while travelling around Europe. With it’s exposed brick walls with interesting art pieces on them, it truly is an amazing place in an unusual way. It’s so underground and the place doesn’t even look like a restaurant until you are upstairs and facing a huge wall art saying “ficken” in the middle and American Express logo at the bottom right corner. Well, I’m guessing you know what “ficken” means in German.

The tricky part with Cookies Cream is finding it. Having the address in this situation won’t cut it Peoples and there are no flowers to follow —or breadcrumbs for that matter — like they have on their website. We knew that it would be difficult to find, we decided to have a test run during the day —actually it was John’s idea —and the exercise was well worth it. It really is tricky to find. To get there, you have to walk down a couple of alleyways with big dumpsters and wooden planks behind Westin Grand Hotel which makes you feel like you’re in a movie and you might be attacked by a villain any minute. I think it’s a loading dock for the hotel. Anyway, you walk until you see that huge, glamorous chandelier which is totally out of place, hanging from a concrete slab in the ceiling. You are then very close because it is now easy to spot the doors. It’s the one on the left with bulbs above it (see photo at the end of this post). Now, you need to hit that nondescript buzzer and wait for someone to open the door and take you upstairs to the restaurant.

Let’s talk about food now… Cookies Cream offers an innovative and contemporary menu. It may not be a big menu nevertheless it is an interesting one. We love the tasting menu option with wine pairing so we went for the Classic Menu. For 48 € per person, you get two starters, one main and a dessert and 32 € extra per person for wine pairing option. You might find the prices a little steep, however, this is pretty normal for a place like this.

Now, let me show you what we had:

Starter number 1: Seaweed caviar and ricotta cheese, bergamot, dill and buckwheat

Seaweed caviar and ricotta cheese, bergamot, dill and buckwheat

This is seriously the best vegetarian caviar I have ever tried in my life. Even the texture was like real caviar as if a Russian mob smuggled it into the country. Bergamot drops were extra refreshing.
Wine: Samuel Billard Le Grands Terroirs Chablis from France.

Starter number 2: Quail egg in brioche, port wine shallot, potato foam, truffle jus

IMG_4881 (1024x901)Quail egg in brioche with port wine shallot, potato foam and truffle jus was quite a complex dish. Here you have a tangy and sweet port wine shallot with a rich, soft and creamy brioche on top. The interesting part of this dish a lightly cooked quail egg was hidden inside the brioche. The dish was finished off with a fluffy potato foam on top and truffle jus drizzled around it. Surprisingly, the whole ensemble looked a lot richer than it actually was. I loved it!
Wine: Geiger & Sohne Grauer Burgunder 2014 Franken, Germany

Main Course: Parmesan dumplings with crème of artichokes, tomatoes, tandoori herbs

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The dumplings were soft and fluffy, sitting on a bed of crème of artichokes. There was an extra tandoori tomato sauce which came in a carafe. The sauce itself was very much like tomato rasam and wasn’t too overpowering. The whole dish was topped up with an interesting bouquet of herbs: fennel, mint, basil.
Wine: Chateau de Luc Corbieres Corbieres U. V. from Languedoc-Roussillon, France

Dessert: White bubble chocolate and pistachio, homemade cassis ice cream and mascarpone

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And, we finished off with white chocolate and pistachio with homemade cassis ice cream and mascarpone as a dessert. It wasn’t a heavy dessert and the presentation was great.
Dessert Wine: Charles Hours Jurançon Uroulat 2012 from Sud-Ouest, France (south-west France)

Overall, the food at Cookies Cream is well presented, flavours are well balanced and wines are well matched. The service at Cookies Cream was great, too. Our English-spoken waitress, Stef was quite attentive, efficient and incredibly helpful. She even let us try an extra glass of dessert wine with no extra charge.

Brandenburg Gate

Brandenburg Gate

When you’re in Berlin, try Cookies Cream. You now even know how to get there…

Cookies Cream
55 Behrenstrasse
10117 Berlin, Mitte
Germany
Phone: +49 30 27 49 29 40
Website: www.cookiescream.com

The door.