Sunday, March 6, 2016

Fabulous date night in Tübingen!

Bill and I decided to go out to dinner tonight.  We made the decision yesterday, after we couldn't get a table at our favorite local haunt in Nagold, Osteria da Gino.  I wanted some really nice food and good wine and I wanted to try a different place other than our usual favorite restaurants.  I finally turned to OpenTable.de, where I spotted an interesting listing for a restaurant in Tübingen called Refugio at La Casa.  Refugio is actually a hotel restaurant, which made me a bit wary.  Hotel restaurants can be hit or miss.  When I noticed that Refugio at La Casa got mostly good reviews and had a look at their menu, I decided to book us a 6:30pm reservation.

We arrived at the hotel just a little bit early after lucking into a parking spot directly outside the front door.  When we walked through the revolving door, a very proper receptionist was standing at the ready to greet us, as if she was expecting us.  She probably was, since there were no other restaurant patrons until about an hour later.  Hotel La Casa is located in a residential part of Tübingen.  Though we used to live near the city, tonight was the first time we ever ventured in the southern residential area.  We noticed a parking garage near the hotel.  I'm not sure if it's public or private.  Limited street parking is around the hotel as well.


Hotel La Casa's front door.

After helping us with our coats, the lady sent us with a sommelier to our table.  I was immediately impressed by how beautifully decorated the dining room was, with its Spanish and Moroccan accents.  Whoever decorated the lobby, restaurant, and bar has good taste!  There are lots of tables with colorful, scattered throw pillows and exotic light fixtures.  The hand railings are made of brass.  The steps leading into the sunken dining room are covered with some type of silvery metal that I thought was striking.  La Casa is family owned and operated and opened in 2008, which was during the time we were living here the first time.

We were seated at a four top next to a small marble fountain that peacefully dripped water droplets that blended in with the Muzak.  I don't usually like Muzak very much, but I must admit that I got a kick out of what was playing in the restaurant... lots of hits from the 70s, everything from "The Logical Song" by Supertramp to "Time" by The Alan Parson's Project.  The sommelier helped me into a very comfortable chair and offered us an aperitif.  I asked for a glass of sekt.  Bill ordered spruedel (mineral water with gas) and asked for the wine list.  Meanwhile, they brought us some wonderful bread with olive oil, salt, and butter.


Bill checks out the menu.


The bread was delicious.  Very fresh!  Went well with the sekt, which was semi-sweet, but not too cloying.


Very good local red...

I ventured to the ladies room while Bill chose a wine to go with our dinner.  The waiter, a young, friendly lad who spoke excellent English, helped Bill pick a local red.  In the past, we were a bit wary of German wines.  I'm pleased to announce that the waiter's suggestion was outstanding. 


Then he brought out a very impressive amuse.  I don't usually like beets much, but this little teaser from the kitchen was excellent, with its cauliflower mousse and perfectly grilled prawn...  The waiter told us that Refugio Chef Jonas Oest has a lot of creative ideas and that's why they were so glad to get to work with him.

At first, I thought the cauliflower mousse might be potato with lots of garlic.  Then I realized it was cauliflower very creatively presented.  I probably enjoy cauliflower less than beets under normal conditions, but tonight I was impressed.


A blurry shot of Bill.  I wish I had waited just a second to get a clearer picture.  Oh well...


The dining room is very pretty, with lots of personal yet exotic touches.  I loved the fountain.


I started with a velvety Topinambur soup, served with two sea scallops and garnished with herb oil.  This soup was delicious.  The scallops were perfectly seared, just so they were cooked but not rubbery.  And it's always a pleasure to find scallops in southern Germany, especially when they are properly prepared.


Bill had Kaninchen Ravioli-- rabbit ravioli-- which consisted of rabbit, black olives, pine nuts, herbs, and Parmesan cheese.  I didn't try his starter because I don't want to develop a taste for rabbit.  He loved it, though.  Must be his Arkansas roots.


My main course was rinderfilet (beef tenderloin), cooked to medium and served with a mustard sauce, bread dumplings, and vegetables.  The meat was so tender you could cut it with a spoon.  Given my preference, I would have liked the mustard on the side.  It was a little too intense for my taste.  A lighter touch would have made it easier to taste the beef.  I still enjoyed it very much.


Bill had roast saddle of lamb served with carrots and parsley root.  I did try the lamb.  I don't usually like lamb, but I will admit that this was very good.  Not gamey at all and very tender.


For dessert, I had creme brulee, which came with a red berry compote and currant sorbet.  I probably would have been happy enough with just the sorbet, but I am always up for burnt custard when I can get it.


Bill had pannacotta of oat, a vegan sweet with quince ice cream and oat crumbles.   I did notice that there were a few options for non meat eaters, though the selection is not very large.

As we were enjoying our dinners, I couldn't help but remember the crappy experience we had at the fancy Swiss hotel restaurant we tried back in December.  At Refugio, the wait staff was genuinely helpful and service oriented.  There was no egregious attempt at upselling.  It was clear to me that they were hoping we enjoyed ourselves.  In fact, when we mentioned we live in Germany and might be tempted to come spend a night, the waiter was sincerely happy and invited us to speak to the receptionist about their specials.  I can see this is a family owned business; that would account for the very professional, courteous, and genuinely kind service we received tonight.  I was very impressed.

I visited the ladies room again to process the wine and water and noticed that the restroom was spotlessly clean and stocked with high end toiletries, as well as thick washcloths.  I couldn't help but wish we were spending the night.  I bet the rooms are beautiful.  I also noticed the spa.  I'm kind of hoping Bill and I can sneak away for a weekend in Tübingen sometime.  I know we live only about 40 minutes away, but we both love that town and would enjoy the chance to take in the nightlife.  It was easier to do that when we lived in Pfaeffingen the first time we were here.  

Total damage for tonight's beautiful dinner was 181 euros and 30 cents.  It was definitely worth it and we were allowed to pay by credit card.  We will have to go back another time and spend the night.  I'm sure it goes without saying that this restaurant is not kid friendly.

I think Refugio is well worth a visit and, even though it's a hotel restaurant, offers great potential for a nice adult oriented date night outside of Stuttgart.  I highly recommend it.


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