Restaurant review: Starfish in Beijing, China

March 28, 2014

A restaurant I like to patronize in Beijing is Starfish, just across the street from the Australian and Canadian embassies.

A few weeks back, on a beautiful Sunday morning, I had lunch there again, a lunch which did not disappoint me.


Starfish menu and Coriole info

I was quite surprised to find an add on my table ecouraging the diner to order a wine from Australia. In this case it was from Coriole, a winey in South Australia which I had visited some years ago. I love Coriole wines. The place belomgs to the “must see” category if you travel in this part of Australia. However, the price was a bit on the high side (more than 300 Yuan RMB).

Starfish F

My fish dish

I ordered a white fish dish. The portion looked small, but was perfectly able to fill my stomach, and satify my taste buds.

I ordered a bottle of the house wine, a wine from Chile. Because of a free trade agreement between China and Chile, the bottle costs about half what the Coriole wine was priced.

Starfish W

Long Country, Sauvignon Blanc from Chile

The Sauvignon Blanc from Santa Carolina, one of the largest wine producers in Chile, is of course an “industrial wine”.

Nonetheless, it shows an aromatic nose with hints of lemon and tangerine. On the palate, there’s the characteristic grass hints and some citrus. It’s dry and light and matched my choice of a fish dish perfectly.

The restaurant was rather empty at themtime of the day I visited. As always the service was very attentive and professional. At Starfish you get quality for your money.

Check it our yourself when in Beijing.

Restaurant review: ‘Kirchstuebel’ in St Martin, Pfalz

November 23, 2011

The St Martin church, picture taken from the yard of ‘Kirchstuebel’

Just below the church of St Martin in the hamlet of St Martin, Pfalz, a very charming little restaurant is located, named ‘Kirchstuebel’, literally translated as ‘the little parlour of the church’.

The Adam brothers

My brother Wolfgang had taken me there for a reunion dinner, just the two of us, on a dark November night.

The wine village of St Martin, with about 200 ha under vines, is located right at the start of the foothills of the ‘Pfaelzer Wald’, the hilly forest of the Pfazl region.

What a jewel of a little place this is. The country inn ‘Kirchstuebel’ is a rustic, and very cozy family owned and operated restaurant which offers local and non-local food, and a wide variety of local wines.

I was hungry and chose tortellini with porcini mushrooms and parmesan cheese. My brother was less hungry and went for a plate of selected goats cheese which was served with local bread. Boy I tell you how delicious these two dishes were, incredible.

The goats cheese selection contained harder and softer cheeses, some were mellow and creamy, others burly and forceful.

My tortellini were just a dream. They used an excellent olive oil, and first quality parmesan cheese. I was in “Schlemmer”- (gourmet) heaven.

Tortellini ai funghi porcini

Selection of goats cheese

The bread basket

The wine selection is another treasure of the ‘Kirchstuebel’. The list includes many locally made wines from St. Martin and vicinity. There is lots of variety and lots of choice. I, of course, went for the truly local stuff. Where could I get a wine from St. Martin when living in Asia, I thought.

With my tortellini I had a ‘2010 Sauvignon Blanc’ by the Brothers Ziegler Estate (Weingut Gebrueder Ziegler). The Ziegler family looks back at 200 years of experience in grape growing and wine-making. Today, the family business is run be Ulrich (the viticulturalist) and Juergen Ziegler (the wine-maker).

The wine has 12% alcohol, residual sugar of 6.7 g and acidity of 6.8. I loved its freshness, with aromas of tropical fruit.

2010 Sauvignon Blanc by Weingut Ziegler

I somehow sensed that my brother would not finish the goats cheese, and therefore ordered after I had tasted the SB, a red wine. My choice was a ‘2008 Pinot Noir Spaetlese dry’ by Weingut Roessler-Schneider, a family winery also located in St Martin.

Also this wine was very fruity. Cherries and blackberries were the dominant tastes. The colour of the wine is dark red, not the murky red of other Pinot Noir wines. I found it a very feminine wine, round and soft, with a presence.

2008 Pinot Noir Spaetlese dry by Weingut Roessler-Schneider

Needless to say, we had a great time. I wish for some more of these reunions.

Anyway, I will have to come back to this place in the daytime. The village of St Martin seemed so charming in the night, with its narrow little lanes, the old stone and timber framed houses. One must have a great view over the flats of the Pfalz.

If you visit the Pfalz region, you should definitely make time for St Martin and explore its wineries and country inns.

Weinstube Kirchstuebel (wine bar and restaurant)
Kirchstrasse 9
67487 St Martin/Pfalz
For opening hours, please visit the website!

Restaurant review: Tablo – Turkish restaurant in Essen, Germany

October 2, 2011

Tablo restaurant in Essen

I had some business in Essen the other day, and my good old friend Uli Hillejan came to meet me for a dinner reunion.

Years ago, Uli had worked in this city at the heart of the Ruhr region which was once famous for its mines.

He also had a recommendation regarding the restaurant we should go to. It was the “Tablo – tuerkisch essen” restaurant owned by Yilmaz Dogan and his family.

I must apologize here for the low quality of my photos. I don’t know why I did not get it together that night. Maybe I was too excited? Who knows. Fact is, the following four photos of the food are all blurry.

We had a starter each and then a main course. Only much later did we learn that Tablo restaurant is famous for it’s ‘mercimek corbasi’ or in German ‘Linsensuppe’ (lentil soup), according to the waiter the “best in town”.

Baked goats cheese

Some cold vegetables

Lamb cutlets

Baked zucchini under cheese

It was a good meal. The food was very tasty, the service efficient and the waiter was very helpful, advising us also on the wine.

We wanted to drink a wine from Turkey with our meal. He suggested to take a bottle of ‘2007 Selection Öküzgözü-Boğazkere’ by the award winning Kavaklidere Winery.

‘2007 Selection Öküzgözü-Boğazkere’ by Kavaklidere Wines

Kavaklidere Wines is one of the big wine businesses in Anatolia, Turkey with as astonishing tradition. The enterprise is more than 82 years old and has about 562 ha under vines.

The selected wine was a blend of two indigenous grape varieties Öküzgözü (also called “ox-eye”) and Boğazkere. The latter usually displays dried fruit and fig flavour; the “ox-eye” grape shows some red berry taste of raspberries and cherries.

What a beautiful dark red colour

We both liked the wine. It has a strong body and a long finish. It’s alcohol content is rather low (12.5%). It had some oak but it was not overwhelming. All in all, a very good and very enjoyable wine. The price of 32 Euro was reasonable, I thought.

If you visit Essen look out for Tablo, the Turkish restaurant.

Tablo tuerkisch essen Restaurant
Huyssenallee 5
D-45128 Essen
Tel: +49-201-8119585
Fax: +49-201-8119584

Restaurant Review: Capital M, Beijing, China

June 7, 2011

I am reading “Justice for hedgehogs” by Ronald Dworkin at the moment. The book makes the point that one of our cardinal interests, ambitions and responsibilities is to make our lives good lives.

“We must find the value of living – the meaning of life – in living well”, says Dworking. He also states that dignity and self-respect are “indispensable conditions of living well”.

So what does that mean if you are sitting in Beijing, China at a beautiful Sunday morning with time on your hands? Well get up early and go to the National Museum to see the German sponsored exhibition “The enlightenment”, a unique show of a selection of art pieces from that era of our history which mattered so much for the freedom of the individual and rationality.

After that it’s downhill all the way. More of Dworking’s good life is to come. After fine art, one needs fine food and drink.

I suggest you stroll down to the South end of the Tian-an-men Square and have lunch at Capital M, one of my favourite restaurants in Beijing.

Capital M in Beijing, view from the terrace

One has a wonderful view from the restaurant. It is located at the third floor of a newly reconstructed building, a kind of replica so to speak, of an older house. Capital M has a wonderful terrace with a grand view of the square.

I got there much too early; the kitchen was still closed. The kind waiter offered me a table at the window, and I ordered a glass of house white, a Sauvignon Blanc by the South Australian family winery Angoves. Newspapers were brought to me and I indulged in the pleasure of reading in quiet. I was the only customer at that early hour.

Tasteful crockery for morning tea

I was still full from breakfast and unsure if I should lunch at Capital M. Then I though of Dworkin and my responsibility towards the good life in dignity and decided to move to the table the kind waiter had reserved for me. in the meantime the first guests had arrived, casually dressed most of them. In this relaxing atmosphere, I felt at ease.

I read through the menu and decided on a two course meal. My choice of entrée was white asparagus which is just in season in Beijing. What a good choice that was. The asparagus was firm and succulent, it melted in my mouth.

I also had another glass of the house wine, the SB by the Angove Family winery.

Asparagus with a poached egg on top and olive oil

For my main course, a white snapper on a bed of vegetables, I selected a ‘2008 Dry Riesling’ by Dr. Buerklin-Wolf, in Wachenheim, Palatinate in South-West Germany. Riesling is one of my favourite white. Although just one of their starting wines, this Riesling was exactly what I needed, a beautiful accomplishment with my meal.

2008 Dr. Buerklin-Wolf dry Riesling shows an intense colour

The main course was so jummy, I could not believe it. I took it bite by bite, slowly exposing my taste buds to the food. I wanted it to last as long as possible. The veggie selection interspersed with flower petals and a nut mix, was just amazing, awesome stuff.

The main course

Unfortunately, the battery of my camera did not last and gave up her service right in the middle of my meal so that I cannot show you more pictures from the restaurant, the view and the people.

The service at Capital M is exceptional, hard to find in China this kind of concern for the customer. Prices are also decent. I paid for three glasses of wine and a two course meal 42 EURO, which is not bad.

Apart from the Forbidden City and the Great Wall lunch or dinner at Capital M in Beijing is a must if you visit China.

Capital M Beijing
3/F, No.2 Qianmen Pedestrian Street
(just south of Tian’anmen Square)
Beijing 100051 China
邮编 100051
Tel: +86-10- 6702-2727
Fax: +86-10- 6702-3737

Restaurant review: Taverna Cestia, Rome, Italy

August 25, 2010

While working at FAO and living in Rome at the end of the 1980ies, our main restaurant was Taverna Cestia, near Piramide, just a couple of blocks from the United Nations. We went often and all the waiters knew us very well. Usually that meant that we did not have to look at the menu (they knew what we liked to eat), and if we stayed longer than the opening hours permitted, we were somehow accommodated (usually the offering of burning ‘Sambuca’ signaled that it was time to go home).

So it was clear that when in Rome, we would go and eat there. And that’s what we did during our summer vacation 2010 as well. It was a very hot day. We had shown our daughters the Terme di Caracalla. We were thirsty and needed refreshment. ‘Melon with prosciutto’ and ‘bruschetta di pomodori’ are just the right stuff to start a meal.

Ham and melon

Tomatoes on grilled bread

Olives in a coat

Taverna Cestia is famous for it’s ‘spaghetti alle vongole’, but I always liked also the ‘penne al arrabiata’.

Penne al ragu

Spaghetti alle vongole

In the past we always ordered a liter of house wine, usually a white wine in summer (a refreshing Frascati) and a red one in winter. Also this time we had a bottle of this divine liquid. We did not regret our choice.

Frascati wine by Casalgentile

The back label of the Frascati by Casalgentile

That the food at Taverna Cestia is very good is proven by the next picture. Tripadvisor awards four out of five stars.

Taverna Cestia Di Salvi Gioacchino C.
Viale della Piramide Cestia, 67
00153 Roma, Italia
Tel.: +39-6-5743754
Subway: Piramide

Restaurant review: Waroeng Shanghai Blue 1920 in Jakarta

November 15, 2009

Shanghai Blue1

When discussing with my friends in Jakarta where to meet for dinner, Jasmin suggested “Waroeng Shanghai Blue 1920” right in the center of Jakarta.

The restaurant belongs to the Tugu Hotel group, owned by the family of Anhar Setjadibrata, a famous art collector from Malang, East Java. The family has two more restaurants in Jakarta, “Dapur Baba” and “Lara Djonggrang”, both exotic places with wonderful decorations of Indonesian and other antiques where we had spent memorable evenings with family and friends while living in Jakarta.

“Waroeng Shanghai Blue 1920” is no exception. The interior is just stunning. Apart from dining one can also listen to Jazz music which is performed on a large stage. It was my first visit, and I was in a nostalgic and elated mood: back in Jakarta and out with old friends.

We ordered a round of starters, in fact we ordered the whole menu of starters, followed by main courses. To say it from the outset: the starters were stunning, the main courses could not keep up with it and were mediocre at best. This did not prevent us from having a great time. We had a bottle of white wine from Western Australia. When selecting it together with my friend Flo, I thought that I would not forget the brand. Writing this blog entry a couple of days later, I must submit to the vagaries of life once again. Never assume the obvious. Memory will have its little victories. usually I take a photo of the wine bottles I consume, not this time. Maybe the reunion was just so much more important. Anyway, the started (see some in the pctures below) were wonderful and the wine was just right.

Shanghai Blue2

Shanghai Blue3

Shanghai Blue4

Shanghai Blue5

For us the evening ended in the Buddha Bar, a trendy hangout in Menteng. We were not deterred by a function for Cartier which occupied the interior of the bar but instead sat on the wide back-terrace with the garden view (also nice in the night).

I highly recommend to the casual traveler to visit the restaurants of Anhar Setjadibrata in Jakarta. The atmosphere in the three places – Waroeng Shanghai Blue 1920, Dapur Baba and Lara Djonggrang – is wonderful but unique, the exhibits are breathtaking, they bear witness to Java’s glorious past.

PS: I never stayed at one of the Tugu Hotels but friends of mine rave about the one in Malang. From the website you might get a glimpse what it might be all about. Breathtaking, spectacular come to mind. I promised myself that one day I will visit one of them and enjoy a night delving in Javas past and in a “Tugu bed”.

Warong Shanghai Blue 1920 Restaurant
Kebon Sirih Raya 79
Jakarta Pusat
DKI Jakarta – Indonesia
PH 1: +62-21-391-8690
PH 2: +62-21-7088-3366

Restaurant review: Schlosshotel Cecilienhof, Potsdam

October 1, 2009


Schlosshotel Cecilienhof

I had the great pleasure to participate in a formal dinner at Schlosshotel Cecilienhof in Potsdam. This hotel is part of a historic castle of great significance: it was the site for the Potsdam Conference which brought peace to Europe at the end of World War II. It was in this building that Truman, Churchill and Stalin (among others) negotiated the fate of Germany in 1945. But I will not bore you with too much history today.

The dinner was a very enjoyable affair: I had great company, the food was excellent, the wines were very, very drinkable and the service was eminently suitable. I went for the seafood choice below: first a salmon starter followed by a “Zander” (pike perch) fillet.


The starter made of salmon


“Zander”/pike perch fillet for main course

I also tried both wines on offer. The choice for white consisted of a ‘2007 Weingut Schloss Sommerhausen Riesling dry’ from Frankonia in Germany and was an excellent pairing with the starter. Schloss Sommerhausen is located between Ochsenfurt and Wuerzburg, the home of my maternal grandfather who introduced me to the wines from Frankonia.

I just love Riesling and Silvaner wines from Frankonia, but they also produce excellent Spaetburgunder and many other wines. The shape of the Frankonian wine bottles is unique (only the sweet Meteus wines from Portugal can also be found in such bottles), they are called “Bocksbeutel”.

Sommerhausen Riesling

But I also wanted to taste the Pinot Noir, a young wine from 2008, ‘Alde Gott Spaetburgunder dry’ from Baden. This was my second Pinot Noir from Baden since I arrived in Germany and I must say, both wines (the other one was from Affental) were excellent.

Both are produced by wine co-operatives. “Alde Gott” is located in Sasbachwalden, a village near the cities of Buehl and Baden-Baden were also the wine co-operative of Affental can be found.


Weingut Schloss Sommerhausen
Familie Steinmann
Ochsenfurter Straße 17–19
97286 Sommerhausen
Tel. 0 93 33/2 60
Fax 0 93 33/14 88

Wine sales at Schloss Sommerhausen
Steinmann family
Hauptstraße 25
97286 Sommerhausen
Tel. +49 – 93 33/2 60
Fax +49 – 93 33/14 88

Opening hours:
Mo. – Fr. von 9.00 – 18.00 Uhr
Sa. von 10.00 – 16.00 Uhr
Public holidays 10.00 – 14.00 Uhr

Wine Co-operative Sasbachwalden
Talstraße 2
D-77887 Sasbachwalden
Tel.: +49-07841 – 20 29 – 0
Fax: +49-7841 – 20 29 18