Sunday, June 17, 2018

Russian lunch at Veranda Restaurant in Holzgerlingen...

This morning, Bill was occupied bottling his latest homebrew, while I was occupied by a nap and a nightmare.  When I woke up, it was early afternoon and there were a lot of clouds in the sky.  Bill asked me what I wanted to do today.  I took a look at the clouds and decided today was the day to try Veranda Restaurant in Holzgerlingen.


The sign out front.  On Sundays, there's plenty of parking.

Although today was the first time we'd ever tried this restaurant, we have actually eaten in the venue before.  In May 2016, Bill and I went there when it was called Ocean's First.  It was a seafood restaurant in those days and boasted a very nice looking terrace.  Since it's on the third floor of an office building, it has kind of a nice view of a rather industrial part of Holzgerlingen.  Ocean's First abruptly ceased operations a few months after our visit, though, much to our chagrin.  We really enjoyed our one dinner there.

A few months ago, my German friend Susanne alerted me to the restaurant's new incarnation.  Veranda Restaurant specializes in Russian cuisine...  Well, if I'm honest, it's more like cuisines of the former Soviet Union.  There are Russian, Ukranian, Georgian, and even Uzbek specialties on the menu.  During the workweek, it appears that they also offer some choices that are more for German businesspeople.  I checked their Facebook and noticed that they are open on Sundays from 11:00am until 10:00pm.  Since it was getting a little late for lunch, I suggested that we visit.


Come on in!

We arrived at the restaurant at about 2:30pm or so.  There were a few folks there, including one guy who used to work in Bill's office, but was later moved.  It was a little awkward when we first walked in.  A young lady was sitting by a computer and seemed surprised to see us.  Then an older lady who didn't speak any English came out of the kitchen.  They both encouraged us to get the brunch buffet, which runs 23 euros and is all you can eat, complete with drinks.  But I looked at what was on the tables and decided I'd rather order off the menu.

The older lady seemed a little concerned at that, although it was permissible.  I think she was worried we wouldn't understand the menu, although they had one in English.  Then she handed us the barbecue menu, which is offered at certain times during the week (after 2:00pm on Sundays and after 5:00pm on weekdays).  I said, "Shashlik!" and her eyes lit up.  She asked if I speak Russian.  I don't... only a few words, mostly consisting of curse words I learned in Armenia.  I learned Armenian in Armenia, which even seemed to confuse Armenians, who wondered why I'd learn Armenian when Russian is so much more portable.  But I do know a few words of Russian... and it turned out that made a difference.

So we sat down inside, only because it looked like it might rain.  I probably would have preferred to sit outside, since they were playing manic electro dance music in English that lent little to the ambiance.  If it had been Russian dance music, maybe it would have been slightly more authentic.


Bill makes a decision... the menu is quite extensive, with all kinds of choices.  They had everything from Russian to Uzbek specialties.

I'm always a little nervous about new restaurants, especially when there are a lot of selections on the menu that include the dreaded mushroom.  I figured I was pretty safe with pork BBQ (shashlik), which came with lavash (flatbread, kind of like very thin tortilla) and raw onions.  I got a side of shashlik sauce to go with it (extra charge of two euros).  Bill went with a Georgian chicken dish that came with a spicy pepper sauce.  He also got a side of roasted potatoes, which we shared.  

We also split a bottle of Spanish red wine and sparkling water.  I was a little surprised that they didn't have any Georgian or Armenian wines on the menu, but then they can be kind of hard to get and probably wouldn't sell that well anyway.  People in the west are only now learning how good Caucasian wines are.  Because Bill was chatting with his former co-worker, the proprietor had me try the wine.  She lit up when I said, "Spasiba" (Russian for "thank you").

It took awhile for lunch to be ready, but it was well worth the wait... 


This was a complimentary "amuse".  Basically like a very fancy style tuna salad, with potatoes, carrots, peppers, fish, eggs, and a very light application of mayonnaise.  It was very good, albeit a little filling.  

While we waited for our main courses, Bill and I discussed a possible trip to Armenia soon.  A friend of mine has been visiting this week and has me all excited about how much Yerevan has changed since I lived there from 1995-97.  My former Peace Corps student is now a director at Peace Corps Armenia and my very first Armenian teacher is now in charge of language training for the new Volunteers.  Naturally, I want to go back and see them, but I also want to see how much Yerevan has changed... and maybe show Bill where I spent two difficult but worthwhile years in my youth.  Maybe we will be able to go in October.  We'll see.


Bill's delicious Georgian chicken... it was perfectly roasted, very moist, and so different!  And the sauce that came with it was delightful!  The roasted potatoes were extra, but worth the addition, especially since we shared them.  


My shashlik... I saw the chef take the pork out on the veranda to grill it.  It was plenty of pork, perfectly cooked and juicy.  If I'd wanted to, I could have ordered pork with vegetables, barbecued chicken, lamb or beef.  They also had barbecued vegetables.

There were a few tempting looking desserts on the menu, but I was too full to consider them.  Also, by the time we finished eating, we were the only ones left in the restaurant.  Our total bill came to about 62 euros before the tip, but one can certainly get in and out of there for significantly less money.  Prices are very reasonable.  I do hope more people discover this gem in Holzgerlingen.  The food is good; the service is attentive and warm; and it's such a nice change from Greek, Italian, and German food.  

I think Veranda might have a better chance at staying in business than Ocean's First did, mainly because Ocean's First was selling fish and didn't have freezers; therefore they depended on what could be delivered locally.  The food was very good--especially the huge lobster I had there-- but I think it didn't offer enough different stuff to attract people from all over and business was too slow.  Veranda is truly different because it's Russian/ former Soviet Union food.  That makes it unique and, perhaps, gives it more of a chance at long term success.

If you're looking for a change and don't mind a drive to Holzgerlingen, I would highly recommend Veranda.  And if you speak a little Russian, you will score points!  The proprietor lit up again as I said "Do svidaniya!" on the way out.  I may have to add to my vocabulary besides Russian cuss words.  Incidentally, the young lady we saw behind the computer waited on us and spoke some English, so really, language should not be a barrier!  I just think maybe that restaurant doesn't get a lot of Americans... yet.



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