Restaurant Review: Vegetaria

I’ve been so excited to try Vegetaria, a relatively new gourmet vegetarian restaurant located near the Starnberger See. We made use of a lovely autumn evening (and a Groupon) to eat there last night, listening to an interview with Dan Barber on the drive down.

The restaurant is part of an organic farm complex that is smaller but not unlike Herrmannsdorf, where we held our wedding. We were a few minutes early and took a stroll around the farm in the gorgeous evening light, where we met this shy fellow:

We were the first couple in the dining room, so we had the undivided attention of the lovely and attentive husband and wife duo who run the restaurant. They were extraordinarily welcoming and gracious – I felt like I was being entertained in someone’s home (only much better, of course, because there was no obligation to offer to help with the dishes). The room I found a bit sparsely decorated, but we were seated next to an open window with a view out into onto a hillside and, later, a fabulous sunset.

Enough chatter! On to the food!

The teaser was an espresso shot of banana-chili soup, a delicious and enticing balance of sweet and hot, grounded by an earthy undertone (miso paste?). An intruiging start.

First course: an autumn salad. Roasted beets and shallots and fresh figs had an earthy sweetness, pleasantly interrupted by some very salty, spicy rucola and balanced by creamy goat cheese wrapped in crispy philo. I especially loved the note of bitter pungency added by the sprouts – but, oh wait, I just love sprouts. It was simply gorgeous and tasted just as divine.

Second course: a corn crepe with a creamy leek and parsnip filling and topped with a fennel and cherry tomato salsa. This made me think immediately of elevated Mexican street food (with its lick-your-fingers salty oiliness) – reinterpreted with traditional German vegetables and yet retaining the salty, spicy, smokiness of the original. This was by far the highlight of the evening for me: local ingredients transformed into a dish that was at once deeply familiar and enticingly exotic.

Main course: an “Einheit” of fresh sweet corn, pumpkin, and leeks, spiced with thyme and dijon, and topped with a crunchy hazelnut crust. It came floating in a small sea of cream, white wine and aged sharp gouda.  (An Einheit is something like “entity” or “unit”… not really a sexy name for a dish, huh? ;))  My compliment to this dish is that it should wholly convince any meat eater that a vegetarian dinner can be deeply nourishing. My Einheit was comforting, earthy, creamy, substantial, and satisfying, although to be honest it lacked the imaginative wow of the corn tortilla thing.

Dessert: An “seductive and opulent chocolate dream” on a (very) crunchy hazelnut biscuit base. I have to admit that at the end of a deeply seasonal and produce-centric menu, I was hoping for a dessert in kind, especially since the fall fruits are so rich and lucious: figs, apples, pears, dark grapes ….. *dreamy sigh*. In comparison, the chocolate tart seemed a bit seasonless, although it certainly was delicious. In fact, I forgot to take a picture before it disappeared!

Final Verdict:

Three cheers for an emphasis on quality local produce, lovingly prepared and allowed to shine. Nothing was overpowered with gooey starches or drowned in a lake of cheese – hallelujah!  That makes this restaurant a real singularity in Bavaria!

I think with time this will become a truly fantastic place. For now, it’s wholly satisfying and lovely with moments of real inspiration. I think I’ll give it some time and then pay another visit. Anyone care to join?

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