Eating with kids
G-girl and I are spending a rather wet and dreary vacation up on Germany’s Baltic coast, trying to find ways to amuse ourselves in between the biblical downpours. Yesterday we went in to Lübeck to see a movie (Ice Age 3D, which was pretty neat with the 3D glasses and all, and didn’t give me a headache as I had feared) and to buy a new antenna for our hosts’ television. Turns out that the new antenna provided worse reception than the somewhat broken old antenna, so we had to head back into Lübeck today to return it. Joy.
As we were walking out of Saturn–Germany’s answer to Best Buy–G-girl said the words parents love to hear at inopportune times: I’m hungry. In a rare display of both adaptive parenting and quick thinking, I spotted a Vietnamese restaurant across the street, devised a plan to sell it to her, and put the plan into immediate action before she could issue further demands. Taking a knee (eye level always helps when selling to kids), I said in my most enthusiastic voice, hey, you know how Asian restaurants … but before I could finish the sentence she said “dumplings,” to which I said no, it’s Vietnamese, which means rolls, which she got. Miraculously, she assented to this choice without a word of protest. It was a good omen, and it only got better.
The restaurant was Yam Yam, directly across from the Lübeck train station. They seem a tad bit confused about whether they want to be a Vietnamese place or a Chinese place, but who cares. It was fabulous, and sort of a successful Asian fusion experiment, at a price that anyone can afford. Turns out we were lucky to get in, as it’s a small place and all of the reviews I read after the fact note that a reservation is a good idea.
It seems unlikely that an Asian restaurant across from a train station in northern Germany would light my fire, but it certainly did so, and I am rather picky about these things. At G-girl’s request, we nabbed a table that faced the open kitchen (high glass wall keeps the scents and vapors at bay), so she got to interact with the chefs making her food. I can recommend this to any parents who want a way to get their kids to sit still in a restaurant. She was transfixed (as was I) by their skill and some of the ingenuity they displayed. Great knife skills, great detail work on the presentation, and lots of creativity in the menu. Highlights:
- Their hot and sour soup was, by far, the best I have had in my life. No close second. I am now ruined for life.
- G-girl ordered their “spring in Hanoi” rolls. The presentation made her eyes pop out of her head, and they were, well, the best tasting fried rolls I have ever had. The filling was nearly all fresh vegetables (no noodle filler), and they dredged them in sesame seeds before frying. To die for.
- I had a dish they called “wind and water.” It was a turkey meatball wrapped in egg paper with a shrimp popped in the middle, cut with fringe so when fried it ended up looking like a comet, or rather cluster of comets since there were four of these. The presentation was outrageous for a dish under ten Euros, with carrots cut to look like flames and fresh beans creating the explosive tail coming from the comets. The sauce underneath was a peanut curry that I had to resist licking from the plate when done.
- Dessert – I nearly never order dessert in Asian restaurants, since the dessert menu is often short and not terribly creative. Yam Yam had only three on the menu (plus a basic ice cream and fruit for the boring), but we watched them making one and both agreed that we were having dessert. They called it almond banana pralines. I wasn’t sure what to make of the description, but it was unique and satisfying. Take a chunk of banana, bread it with sweet dough, roll it in crushed almonds, fry it, and then set them on a lovely citrusy reduction of some sort. The banana was nearly liquified. It was like bananas foster on steroids in terms of bananaey goodness.
Total bill for dad and daughter: 26 Euros. G-girl, for the first time in her life, said of a restaurant exactly what was on my mind: we are so going back there.