Repost of my review of Der Zauberlehrling in Stuttgart, Germany…

Bill and I dined at this restaurant last time we lived in Germany.  I’m reposting it for the curious and those looking for a nice place for dinner in the Stuttgart area.

Kitchen sorcery at Der Zauberlehrling Restaurant

Mar 24, 2008 (Updated Apr 9, 2008)
Review by   

Rated a Very Helpful Review
  • User Rating: Excellent

  • Food and Presentation:  
  • Ambiance and Decor: 
  • Quality of Service: 

Pros:Excellent food. OpenTable.com subscriber. Good service. TV in the men’s room.

Cons:A bit expensive.

The Bottom Line: If you have the means, Der Zauberlehrling can offer you a truly magical meal.

Since my husband Bill and I moved to Germany, we’ve really missed eating out at fine restaurants. It’s not because fine restaurants don’t exist in Germany; it’s just that we have a harder time finding them here than we did in the U.S. In the States, Bill and I used OpenTable.com to discover places to eat fine food. I was pretty sure I’d be giving up OpenTable.com once we moved to Europe.

What is OpenTable.com?

OpenTable.com is an online service that allows diners to reserve tables at restaurants that accept reservations. I discovered OpenTable.com in 2002, when I turned 30. I wanted to find a nice place to celebrate my birthday and searched on the Internet for restaurants in the Washington, DC area. OpenTable.com came up first on my search. I liked what I saw and have been faithfully using it ever since. OpenTable.com is still not available everywhere, but new restaurants are catching on to the service and it’s now expanding internationally.

I recently discovered that OpenTable.com is available on a limited basis in Germany. That’s what led me to try out Der Zauberlehrling, a wonderful fine restaurant in Stuttgart. At this writing, Der Zauberlehring is the lone restaurant in the Stuttgart area that is a member of OpenTable.

What is Der Zauberlehrling?

Der Zauberlehrling translates to “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” and is a reference to an old ballad by the German writer, Goethe.  Der Zauberlehrling is also the name of a small boutique hotel and restaurant in central Stuttgart, Germany owned and operated by Karen and Axel Heldmann. Although we were tempted, Bill and I did not get a chance to stay at the hotel because we live fairly close to Stuttgart. Instead, we went to Der Zauberlehrling on Saturday, February 16, 2008, looking for good food and good times.

First impressions

The restaurant and hotel are located near the Charlottenplatz area of Stuttgart. Though parking is available nearby, we decided to park our car in a parking garage on the outskirts of Stuttgart and take the U-bahn to the restaurant so we could digest our meals and process our wine a bit before the drive home.

The hotel’s lobby is warm and welcoming, with a beautiful fireplace, a flat screen television, and a couple of modern looking couches. A pleasant young man named Brian greeted us and took our coats. It was 7:00pm and we were the first ones to arrive for dinner. We were seated in the restaurant’s one tiny dining room. As we sat down at our table, Bill and I noticed the very cool looking eternal flame next to one of the walls. Brian gave us menus, which were in German and English.

The food

Despite the German name Der Zauberlehrling, serves international fare. Both tasting and a la carte menus are available. I was slightly perplexed by the menu because it wasn’t obviously divided into sections. Luckily Brian, who spoke some English, was able to tell us about the four course daily special, which Bill and I both ended up ordering. I made one substitution, because the main course for the special was veal and I don’t like veal. I opted to substitute a skray (a type of cod fish) entree for the veal and was very happy with my choice. Bill also ordered a very fancy bottle of sparkling water and some Spanish red wine. While we waited for the first course, we nibbled on rolls garnished with very light olive oil.

Our meal began with a very small portion of octopus pepper salad and a tiny cup of soup made with Thai curry. The salad was about two forkfuls worth, with one little piece of octopus on top. The soup, which was absolutely delicious, was served in a demitasse sized cup. It looked like a cappuccino, complete with white foam on top and tasted slightly salty, with a wonderful zesty spice that was a great touch with the salad. Normally, I wouldn’t want to eat octopus, but this little amuse was suprisingly good.

We both enjoyed a delicious salad made of turbot, a buttery, flavorful fish. The fish was served with greens bundled by a very thin piece of crispy potato that had been shaped into a ring. The potato had the texture of a potato chip. The fish was drizzled with light orange and garnished with a heavenly basil/herb butter. I’m not usually much of a salad eater, but this was really delicious and beautifully presented.

Next came the main courses. Bill had veal set atop roasted vegetables. I had the skray, roasted with mustard and served with spicy white beans, black bean paste, and two topinambur stroudels. I’m not really sure what the stroudels were made of– at first, they looked like white asparagus stalks, but they were actually more like fried piroshkis. Bill and I enjoyed our dinners, even though it occurred to me that my entree alone, priced at 33 euros, cost about the equivalent of 50 US dollars!

Dessert was also excellent, consisting of a small plate of chocolate, white chocolate, and vanilla sweets. There was a tiny chocolate molten cake dusted with powdered sugar, a little sliver of flourless chocolate cake garnished with gold flecks, two mini pieces of vanilla ice cream, a small scoop of chocolate ice cream, and a tiny dollop of white chocolate mousse. I know the dessert sounds like it was a lot, but it was actually just enough to leave us full and contented.

Vegetarian selections are also available.

The other patrons

On the night we visited Der Zauberlehrling, Bill and I were the only Americans in the very small dining room. At 7:00, we were the only ones seated, but within the hour, the place was packed. Noting how many people showed up for dinner that night, I was glad I’d made reservations. As we were eating, a man dressed in a chef’s outfit (the owner, I presume), was schmoozing with everyone. He spoke English and was nice to Bill and me.

Although the food is very fine, Der Zauberlehrling doesn’t seem to have a dress code. Bill and I were dressed up, but we saw other people who were dressed in jeans. The restaurant’s emphasis appears to be on the food, not so much on the ambiance or being seen. We did not see any children or dogs in this restaurant, though I’m sure either would have been accommodated. I think this restaurant is suitable for a romantic evening, but keep in mind that the dining room is very small and it can get noisy when it’s packed. In any case, I noticed mostly couples eating dinner the night we were there.

TV in the men’s room?

The ladies room was clean, well lit, and well stocked. Bill also visited the men’s room, and when he came back, he was shaking his head in disbelief, explaining that there was a small flatscreen TV mounted over the urinals playing a black and white movie with the sound muted. I can only guess the owners decided to give the guys something to look at as they tended to business, though the ladies room did not have a TV in it.

The bill

Our two dinners cost about 180 euros, which is over $200 by today’s exchange rate. Admittedly, it wasn’t a cheap meal, but we did have wine and sparkling water that came to us in a fancy bottle. The water alone cost over $10. I noticed that we were the only ones who had water that looked like it was in a perfume bottle; everyone else had bottled water that came in plainer containers.  Der Zauberlehrling accepts credit cards, but we paid in cash.

Final impressions

Bill and I had a very nice time at Der Zauberlehrling and will probably visit again, especially since the restaurant offers cooking classes and special packages that include a night’s stay in the hotel. I’m a big fan of OpenTable.com and want to reward the owners for subscribing, especially since I’d like to see more restaurants in Germany jump on the OpenTable bandwagon. The food at Der Zauberlehrling is very expensive, but we thought it was worth the extra cost because it was among the best meals we’ve had since we moved to Germany. If you’re in Stuttgart and you like fine food, you might want to check out Der Zauberlehrling.

Der Zauberlehrling’s official Web site: http://www.zauberlehrling.de/

Recommend this product? Yes

Kid Friendliness: No
Vegetarian Friendly: Yes
Notes, Tips or Menu Recommendations Turbot salad, skray, dessert
Best Suited For: Romantic Evening

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