Friday, July 5, 2013

Restaurant Review: Urban Vital, Kaiserslautern, Germany

Am Altenhof 8-10, Kaiserslautern

I had been eying this restaurant since I moved here, since it's one of the few restaurants in Kaiserslautern that is rather clear that it offers vegetarian options, and daily specials including such options, as well. However, their hours aren't super conducive to dinner dining (at least for those who work and for those who wish to meet their friends who work for dinner) so it wasn't until May that I had a chance to try the restaurant.

On Memorial Day, I stopped by Urban for lunch. I sat outside and was greeted by a friendly waitress who was willing to take my drink order but told me that to order food, I needed to stop by the cash register inside and place my order and pay there. At the counter, I placed the order and asked about the ice cream that was advertised. The cashier was happy to describe it and even took me across the restaurant to see where I could order ice cream to go. I was impressed by this; in the US, we always wanted our staff to walk our customers to what they were seeking, but I have never seen that while I've been here in Germany.

After placing my order, I was given a card with my order number. The waitress brought my food to the table quite quickly and took the card with her. I ordered the "Arabische Vorspeisenvariation," which is the Arabian variety appetizer. It was a lot of food for around 7 euros; it included hummus, a yogurt and mint salad, a salad (made from bulgar, I believe), an eggplant/scallions salad, a tomato salsa/salad type thing, and a piece of bread. Everything was quite tasty, but "Arabian" it was not! I am always amused, and sometimes disappointed, by German restaurants' take on "ethnic" food if the restaurant owners aren't from that country. I wouldn't say that I was disappointed by this meal, but it wasn't authentic. That's okay, though; one just needs to understand that one will receive some Italian bread instead of pita with one's Arabian platter. I really liked the tomato salad stuff; it seemed like it would be really good on pasta and was tasty on its own. It was actually a bit spicy (which German food usually isn't), and was very fresh and vibrant tasting with tomatoes that actually taste like tomatoes. The hummus was not what I'm used to as it was rather salty with seemingly no garlic or lemon juice and a spice that tasted out of place; it seemed more appropriate for Indian cooking. I also enjoyed the other items on the platter. They weren't authentic but tasted good in their own right, were fresh, and the price was right.

I made another visit to Urban in June for lunch following a night of indulging in a little bit too much wine and dancing. I was trying to dispel the malaise I was feeling after the festivities and I felt like pizza was the only thing that could make me feel human again. However, I was a bit cynical of finding such pizza because I haven't had good luck finding pizza in Germany that I like. It usually doesn't taste like much, and I've heard similar comments from my other countrymen.

I figured I'd give Urban a try. I snagged a seat outside again and I trotted inside to place my order. A pleasant waitress told me that someone would come by to take my order outside. I was a bit confused by this because it was opposite of what had happened in May. The only thing that's different is that this visit was on a weekend vs. the weekday visit before. Strange.

I ordered the "Calzone Popeye," a calzone with spinach, tomatoes, and cheese. It was served within about 10 minutes and came to me warm and accompanied with a tomato-cream sauce on the side. It was quite tasty and the sauce on the side was quite delicious, too. I was pleased by the calzone so I look forward to trying the pizza there some day; I hope it's as good.

I hope to visit Urban more often. There's a standard menu, which is very international and vegetarian-friendly, too, with many pasta, pizza, and salad dishes that offer vegetarian options without being boring. There are even some burritos. The restaurant also has on offer many fresh and seasonal dishes with a special daily menu. Meat eaters aren't left out either; there are always gourmet meat dishes available. The meals are very reasonable; most non-meat meals are in the 7-10 euro range and are filling. The meat dishes are more expensive, but they seem to be on the gourmet end so prices reflect that. I've found the staff to be friendly and approachable. The outside seating is rather pleasant, located in a courtyard near the Kreissparkasse. There is an indoor seating area that's much bigger than what it looks from outside. Keep in mind that the restaurant closes at 7 pm, so those wishing for a dinner must aim to arrive earlier. I hope to make this a somewhat regular place to dine.

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