Friday, April 22, 2016

Swabian delights at Zum Reussenstein in Böblingen

I promised some friends on Facebook that this week there would be a deluge of restaurant reviews.  Last night, Bill and I went to the second of three restaurants we have booked this week.  When I booked the family owned Zum Reussenstein restaurant and hotel in Böblingen, I had no idea that the place had any notoriety.  I just noticed that reservations on OpenTable.de were kind of hard to come by.   I had to book our Thursday night table several days in advance.  Weekend reservations demanded even more notice.  I figured that must mean the food is very good.  What I didn't know is that Zum Reussenstein is owned by TV chef Timo Böckle, which may be one major reason why reservations are a must.

I used to work at The Trellis, a restaurant in Williamsburg, Virginia that, for years, was owned by TV chef and cookbook author Marcel Desaulniers.  The Trellis has since been sold and Marcel now owns Mad About Chocolate, a cafe in Williamsburg where he sells light lunches and desserts. When I waited tables at Marcel's restaurant, I frequently ran into people who had traveled from far flung places simply to have lunch or dinner at The Trellis.  A lot of people bought cookbooks, which we kept stocked in the restaurant and all of which were autographed.

I don't know how famous  Timo Böckle is, but I did notice a number of what looked like gourmet items for sale.  Indeed, I see on his restaurant's very musical Web site, I see there is a gourmet shop there that appears to be open during lunch and dinner hours.

As we were getting ready to leave for our 8:00pm reservation, I got the news that world famous recording artist Prince died.  Having grown up in the 70s and 80s, I shared a love for Prince's music with many others in my age group.  As we headed toward Böblingen, I started thinking about how whenever I'm in Europe, it seems like someone legendary dies.  I was on a train between Vienna and Venice when Princess Diana died.  I lived in Germany when Michael Jackson died.  And now we've lost Prince, along with a number of other amazing celebrities.  2016 is turning out to be a terrible year to be famous and a Baby Boomer.


Bill enjoys a moment before looking at the menu.  Through the curtain dividing the room, I spotted a TV monitor on the wall that showed a fireplace with a perpetually flickering flame.  I'm not sure what the point of those things are, but I guess some people think they make a dining room seem "homey".

We arrived at the restaurant a few minutes before our reservation.  It took a little time to find street parking and we ended up having to walk about ten minutes.  That would have been fine, except I was wearing heels, which I rarely wear unless I'm dressed up.  Although I probably didn't need to get too spiffy for Zum Reussenstein, I like to look nice when we're eating at a nice place.  Zum Reussenstein has sort of a homey feel to it and it's not as fancy or expensive as Gasthof Krone is.  However, I did notice that there were quite a few locals there who seemed to be celebrating.  I was glad I wore a skirt and Bill wore his trusty sport jacket from Saks.


These little cards say "We're glad you're here." in German and English.

The restaurant was almost full last night and the ambience was definitely energetic.  Our waiter offered us menus that highlighted very traditional Swabian delights.  There was also a monthly special and a evening special.  At first, I was a little confused by what we had to choose from; I think the presence of the monthly special menu, the evening special, and the regular menu overwhelmed me.  Fortunately, our waiter spoke pretty good English.


Bill ordered us a nice local red.  This particular wine was very inky and tannic, with flavors of dark berries.  I liked it.  I must admit, during this tour in Germany, we're learning that not all German wines are sweet.  We're becoming fans of local vino.

I was torn between several appealing choices.  Zum Reussenstein offers a schnitzel that they prepare with apple.  They also had a chicken dish that looked good, as well as several very hearty sounding entrees that included venison and wild boar (Bill usually goes for those).  In the end, I went with a bowl of Flädlessubb, which is strips of crepes seasoned with herbs and served with a clear beef broth.  Then I had last night's special, which was ham, white asparagus with Hollandaise Sauce, and boiled new potatoes.  Bill ordered a colorful house salad, pork cheeks that were slow cooked in mustard sauce, and spaetzle.


This was the amuse.  It was a very pleasant but piping hot shot of soup.  I'm not sure what it was called because the waiter never told us.  However, it tasted like it had a chicken stock base infused with peppers.  Unfortunately, I burned my tongue... but it was still really good.  I would order that soup if it was offered on a menu. 


This was my "pancake" soup-- the local speciality Flädlessubb-- which was very comforting and not too filling.  The last time I had this was in August 2014, right around the time we first moved back to Germany.  I remarked to Bill that it would be a great soup for unclogging a stuffy head.


Bill's very fresh salad was made with field greens and topped with sunflower seeds.  He really seemed to enjoy it.


My colorful ham and asparagus dish...


With a side of parsleyed potatoes...


Bill's pork cheeks...


And a big dish of spaetzle...

I opted for the ham and asparagus because this is the time of year to eat such a dish.  Asparagus is in season right now and while we didn't eat a whole lot of ham the first time we lived here, we have come to realize that spring is the time to pair ham with asparagus and Hollandaise sauce.  The version I had last night was perfectly prepared, though it was a lot of food.  The ham wasn't too much, but I couldn't finish the asparagus or potatoes.  I definitely did not go hungry last night!

Bill really enjoyed the very tender and tasty pork cheeks.  He said the spaetzle was very fresh and appealing as well.  But, like me, he had to cry uncle at some point.  We knew we wanted dessert.


Bill had vanilla ice cream with apple balsam syrup...


I had sinful chocolate mousse made with chocolate from Rittersport.  

I think dessert was my favorite part of last night's meal.  The chocolate mousse was fantastic and really satisfying.  I thought I was full, but I managed to enjoy the whole thing with no problem.  Bill also loved his dessert.  The ice cream was regular vanilla, but it was very good quality and the apple balsam syrup was a nice touch.

Vegans and vegetarians may have a somewhat tough time at Zum Reussenstein, though I did notice that there were a couple of vegetarian options and several dishes that could be made vegetarian on request.  They were marked in the menu.  ETA: A vegetarian who read this review says that if you tell the staff you are a vegetarian, they will bring a special vegetarian menu.  In the menu there was also a note explaining that smaller portions are available on request.  I thought that was a nice touch.  I did not see any children dining last night, but I imagine they are catered to.  The restaurant is nice, but definitely has a family friendly vibe.  

I also noticed that the ladies room was thoughtfully appointed with hairspray, high quality hand soap, and tastefully presented feminine supplies.  

Our bill came to about 80 euros before the tip.  It was presented to us, along with a couple of bon bons, in a wooden box that resembled a small treasure chest.  

Overall, Bill and I liked Zum Reussenstein.  Bill told me that it's a favorite of one of his U.S. based bosses and he likes to eat there whenever he's in town.  I can see why people like this local gem.  If you're into traditional Swabian food, it's definitely a good choice.  I don't mind Swabian food, though if I'm honest, it's not my favorite cuisine.  I do think Zum Reussenstein is a great place to go if you have guests who want to try something authentic to Baden-Württemberg.  Reservations are a must, though, and you may want to plan for the parking situation.  On a busy night, you may have to walk a ways, although the restaurant is very close to the Böblingen S-Bahn station.   

Now that I know the restaurant is owned by a TV chef, I kind of wish I had access to German TV...

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