Monday, October 17, 2011

eating out - la mano verde, berlin

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Exactly three months ago - on a day when I climbed an golden angle and thus fulfilled a little dream of mine - I had one of the best, if not THE best, meals I've ever had. And it was vegan.

Admittedly, my experience of vegan food up until that moment have not been all that good, from presentation to texture to flavours, I have not been impressed. My experience have been that vegetarian food is just that much easier to add that little extra something something to. Yes, I have had reasonably decent vegan meal, but they have always lacked that special thing that makes one's tastebuds sing. And often been quite heavy, greasy and with a surprising lack of fresh vegetables. Until that moment in July 2011, in Berlin.

Now I know how vegan food (that goes for any food, not only vegan of course) can taste, should taste and I absolutely adore it. Alas it will probably be a long long time until I'll have the uttermost pleasure of trying such amazing vegan food again, but on the other hand would this type of gourmet food (vegan or not) be an everyday meal kind of thing I would not appreciate and savour it in memory as much as I now do. Because such is human nature, along with its tastebuds.

One thing I keep going on about is the appaling lack of classy vegetarian/vegan eating in Stockholm, sure you can get decent vegetarian options at gourmet restaurants here, but they're not inventive and made by someone who solely care and cater for vegetarians. The food you get at the vegetarian/vegan restaurants can be lovely, but the presentation most often is slovenly and the milieu of the lieu lacks a lot to be desired, if you don't fall into the category of happy hippie (which I don't, at least not everyday).

If vegetarian/vegan restaurants themselves so obviously lack in respect of vegetarianism as a lifestyle, then why should the rest of the society take it seriously? To be able to convince the sad majority of non-vegetarians/vegans about the one decent and obvious way to meet the future one need to parcel the message and food with class.

Of course this hasn't, or shouldn't, be the case of the everyday vegetarian/vegan meal. But at least there must be fine dining options, places that know how to cater for both the eye as well as the palate in both vegetarians as well as non-vegetarians. In 2008 I had a rather lovely overall experience with this at David Bann vegetarian restaurant in Edinburgh.

Last summer I had quite a few nice vegan experiences in Berlin. But none that came even remotely close to lifting my spirits to the palate chanting heights that our dinner at La Mano Verde this past summer did. In fact, I don't think my palate has sung like this since that day we stumbled over an Indian restaurant with a Michelin star in England in the early 90ies (oh how time flies).

La Mano Verde is an organic vegan and gourmet restaurant - the only one in Europe if my information is correct - that offers both raw food as well as regular vegan dishes. I'm sure you can make appetizing raw food main courses, but neither of us were that keen on trying that this time around. Thus we both opted for different pasta dishes. Due to poor lighting conditions the photos leave a lot to be desired, but still, I think they give a general idea of the wonderfulness of this dinner.

I have to admit though, that after having my first bite of food, which made me borderline delirious with its deliciousness I forget about most of the ingredients. Today I simply can't recall most of the ones mentioned in the menu, other than that they played together oh so well, those textures and flavours, the delight of rarely eaten perfectness.

My choice was the spagetti plate in the picture above, I think some of the ingredients were cashewnuts, sundried tomatoes, ruccola, mushrooms, garlic and possibly asparagus. It was wonderful and strong in flavours. I can't stand neither sundried tomatoes or ruccola in general, but here we obviously had high quality ingredients and then suddenly they did their perfect part in the dish.

july 15, 2011 II - la mano verde

M chose this ravioli style dish and I got to taste it. Doing that I immediately realised I'd chosen the wrong dish. This was pure heaven. Heaven. I think it was stuffed with pureed pumpkin and sage, served in a light sauce with oil, possibly garlic and poppyseed. I have never tasted anything so seemingly simple, yet so elaborate and just perfect. In every little flavour and texture way. Every forkful in my mouth was an utter delight and when the plate was empty (too soon) I think I was as near shedding a tear as I'll ever be over a plate of eaten food.

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M's dessert consisted of a rhubarb vanilla strawberry compote which was superb in most every detail - if one could fault this dish in some way it would be the shortcrust biscuits that filled no obvious purpose in the dish, other than looking pretty on the plate.

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I went with the La Mano Verde raw cheesecake. Made with cashewnuts and fruit served on a strawberry coulis. My first raw food experience and it was - you've guessed it! - nothing less than divine. Loved every spoonful, I could have licked the plate afterwards. But no I didn't. I was just starry-eyed, completely satisfied and full, without having that bloated feeling one often get after an ordinary meal. This was however no ordinary meal, far from, it was a meal and an overall experience that left me energized - and of course saddened by the thought that it wasn't an experience one would return to anytime soon - and utterly happy.

The premises - situated a stone's throw from Kurfürstendamm - were of understated, relaxed elegance, the service excellent - if I could fault it it would be for the lack of a pitcher with ice water, which I feel is essential in any meal without the dinner guests having to ask for it - the prices given the quality of the food were very reasonable I think.

We had a most pleasant chat with the General Manager, talking about vegan, vegetarian food and the lack of really good restaurants serving that. We got to thank the (female) chef - I can only imagine how much talent, ingenuity and fingerspitzengefühl that's gone into the creating of these dishes - for one of the best meals we've ever had  - yes, I am pleased to say that even M, not even a vegetarian, thought the vegan food experience at La Mano Verde was one of the best food encounters he'd had too -, then left feeling pampered, satiated and blissful.

So when in Berlin, a dinner experience at La Mano Verde, being a vegan or not, is simply a must. A must.

Food - 5/5
Service - 4/5
Ambiance - 4/5
Value for money - 5/5

La Mano Verde,
Kempinski Plaza, Uhlandstrasse 181-183

D-106 23 Berlin, Germany
contact (at) lamanoverdeberlin.com
nb website unfortunately not available in English

7 comments:

Fuzzy Tales said...

Mmm, you've made me so hungry! Both dishes look wonderful.

I'm actually having difficulty finding "pasta" alternatives for my gluten and corn-free diet. The rice "pasta" I've tried making has been disgusting, frankly. Good thing I'm not a big lover of pasta in general.

Though if I had even tried either of the vegan dishes you're reviewing I might be! :-)

Sienna said...

Looks wonderful, which is half the battle when eating anything. I have tried Vegan and liked it, but eat both ways at home, depending on mood and availability.
There has been a lot of information out there, about eating wheat, and why too much isn't good for you....very much something to look in to....

Karen Martin Sampson said...

We have been vegetarians for years but switched to vegan last year (we decided we could no longer participate in the factory farming (read concentration camp type conditions) methods for raising animals. Even so called free range animals end up on the slaughterhouse floor and often only have minimal "free range" to be out in...We bought over a dozen vegan cookbooks and have been having a divine time learning to make incredible vegan dishes - they are out there if you are willing to take a little time to learn. Fortunately we do not have a gluten problem to deal with. I do miss cheese sometimes.

Jacqueline said...

It all looks good Pia, but I know what you mean. It isn't often you are catered for well as a veggie. It is usually an afterthought.

The Elephant's Child said...

And vegetarians get a poor deal over here too. I imagine vegans do worse. I was once served (I kid you not) baked potato stuffed with mashed potato. No other flavours. Aaaargh.

Expats Again said...

I think any diner would appreciate this quality of food, vegan or not. A must do on our trip to Berlin. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

It's one of my favorite restaurants anywhere. But for accuracy's sake, I must mention that it's not the only restaurant, as you quote, serving both raw and vegan food in Europe; there's also this: www.safrestaurant.co.uk - try both and see which you prefer. I have made up my mind...

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