Saturday, August 19, 2017

Samowar: Offering delicious Russian food in Weil der Stadt!

My dog, Zane, had surgery on August 10th.  Because he was recovering, we decided to keep last weekend's activities low key.  This weekend, we decided to make up for last weekend.  I asked members of Stuttgart food and wine lovers what restaurants they'd like to see reviewed.  A few ladies offered up suggestions.  The first suggestion came from group member, Stephanie, who lives in Weil der Stadt and often frequents a tiny Russian restaurant called Samowar.


A shot of the front of the restaurant.

Some readers may know that I lived in the former Soviet Republic of Armenia.  Armenian food is not necessarily like Russian food, but they do like their borscht.  I happened to live there from 1995-97, which was just after the Soviet Union fell.  Russia was still pretty heavy in the culture there--  for all I know, it still is.  I haven't been back since I left, though I do hope to visit sometime very soon.


Bill poses outside the King's Gate in Weil der Stadt.  Looks like a cool town.  We need to explore it more.

Anyway, I thought Samowar would make a nice entry to this blog as well as an exciting change of pace for Bill and me.  There's only so much excitement one can muster for Italian, German, and Greek food on the regular, as much as I love all three cuisines.  Every once in awhile, it's fun to try something out of the ordinary.  Out of the ordinary is definitely how I would characterize Samowar, especially in these parts.

Because the restaurant is tiny, we took Stephanie's advice and booked ahead for a table at 1:00pm.  This time of year, there are also a few tables outside, but it was a little chilly today (so strange to say that in August).  We arrived about fifteen minutes early and were warmly welcomed.  The dining room is, indeed, very tiny.  However, there were only a few people dining, so there were plenty of tables to choose from and a reservation wasn't necessary after all.

We took a seat at a round table at the back of the restaurant, right next to the very interesting toilet.  I will explain why it's interesting later.  For now, I want to focus on lunch.  Samowar offers a lot of Russian delights-- everything from stuffed peppers to blinis, with soups, salads, and sides that will suit the discerning Russian palate.


A terrible side shot of Bill.  Sorry.


This is about half of the dining room.  It's small.


This is most of the other half.


Cute Russian touches abound.


I took a look at the drinks list and was delighted when I noticed they offered a few wines from the Republic of Georgia.  Georgian wines are fantastic and I haven't found any locally, so it was great to order a glass of Alte Tiflis (Old Tbilisi), a smokey and slightly sweet red with an interesting dry finish.  Bill ordered a Russian beer, which turned out to be rather bland and ordinary.  Russia is not known for its beer, but Bill wanted to try one.  It wasn't terrible, but he might have been happier with a German brew, some Georgian wine, or even better, a shot of vodka.


Yummy Georgian wine!  This alone was worth the trip!


Russian beer is rather unremarkable as a whole, but it was fun to try it anyway.


For lunch, I went with today's special, an avocado and shrimp salad.  It sounded really appealing, even if it's not particularly Russian.  Also, I noticed a lot of the choices on the menu included mushrooms and I hate mushrooms.  I didn't want to risk a bad impression on the first visit.  Bill decided to have stuffed peppers, which came with a side of bulgur wheat.  Both dishes came with fresh bread, which tasted like honey wheat.  It was very hearty.

My salad, which was absolutely beautiful, came out well before Bill's stuffed peppers.  I dug in while he waited.  I don't usually go for salads, but this one was delicious.  The shrimps were warm, surrounded by perfect slices of avocado, cucumber slices, cherry tomatoes, red and yellow peppers, rucola, radishes, corn, and a zesty dressing.


This salad was so good.  Not only was it delicious, it was so pretty!  I almost hated to destroy it!  This was priced at 11,50 euros.  There were plenty of shrimps to go with the perfectly ripe and flavorful avocado.  And no mushrooms were to be found!  


Bill's dish consisted of two peppers, one red and the other green, stuffed with ground beef and rice and smothered in a tomato vegetable sauce.


Bill enjoyed his stuffed peppers.  So did I.  When I was in Armenia, I did try stuffed peppers a couple of times, but in the 90s, the quality of beef in Armenia wasn't very good.  I shied away from beef while I lived there, though I did enjoy chicken, fish, and pork.  These stuffed peppers were authentic and tasted great.  The bulgur wheat was a nice touch.


After we finished eating, our waiter, who spoke perfect English once he realized we weren't Germans, asked if we wanted dessert.  Bill was too full, but I decided to try a blini.  I went with a half portion filled with quark and covered with chocolate sauce (probably Hershey's).  There were a few other varieties available, including apple filling with vanilla sauce or cinnamon and sugar.  And then... another pleasant surprise...


This is a "half portion" of dessert blinis.  It was plenty.  The quark tasted a little like cream cheese with just a hint of "barnyard"... you know, that tangy sharpness you might taste in raw cheeses or milk.  It was just the right size.



And this was my favorite part of the meal... Armenian brandy!  I was super impressed to find it on the menu.  It comes in .2 or .4 cl sizes.  I went with a large and Bill went with a small, since he was driving.  The brandy came with chocolate.  Armenia is well known for its brandies, but it's not necessarily easy to find them outside of the country or areas where there is a large Armenian population.  I was very excited to find out that this little restaurant had Armenian brandy available, although I got the sense they don't sell much of it.  The waiter had to come back and ask us which sizes we wanted.

 
Now for a word on the bathroom.  Samowar's WC is a tiny affair.  There's a little unisex room with a sink and two stalls, one for the guys and one for the ladies.  When you open the stall door, a little bear with a speaker in its belly says something in German.  I didn't understand what it said, but I did get it on video.  Check it out if you're curious.


I'm sure someone can enlighten us all...


Bill also alerted me to the presence of this sign in the men's stall...  ;-)


And there's a toilet with a pump on its tank... I don't know what this is, but I was intrigued.

All told, we spent a little over fifty euros for an absolutely delightful meal.  If you're tired of the usual fare at local restaurants, I highly recommend trying Samowar.  You might want to make a reservation, especially if you're going for dinner.  The dining room is very small and I get the feeling this is a popular place.  If it's not, it really should be.  And if you like brandy and have never tried any from Armenia, I recommend trying some at Samowar.  




A few shots of Weil der Stadt I took before we headed home...  We will definitely have to go back and see more of this very charming and unique town.  I can see why so many Americans love it.

Weil der Stadt is also home to an enormous and very nice Edeka.  We stopped in to pick up some beer, wine, and stuff for breakfast and dinner.  While we were in there, I noticed a few interesting things for sale.  I get a kick out of finding stuff in German grocery stores.



Dolls with bags of noodles for heads...

We were accosted by a very persistent wine saleslady, who got us to buy a bottle of her rose after having us try some.  We also found a couple of Belgian beers and some locally produced IPAs.  Bill loves IPAs and is always game to try them, even if they're made in Germany.  While we were waiting to pay, I got a load of the packaging on cigarettes.  I know I have mentioned this phenomenon before, but today I actually got pictures of some of the labels.  The Germans don't mess around with their warnings.  If you buy cigarettes here, you WILL know that smoking is deadly... although I notice plenty of people still smoke.



Yikes!

Tomorrow, we have plans to have Turkish food for lunch.  Turkey is another country with which I became familiar and managed to visit when I lived in Armenia.  Stay tuned!

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