Since late October 2020, restaurants in Germany are not allowed to open as a pandemic lock-down measure. However, take-away services (and some hotel restaurant exceptions) are still allowed. These services became extremely popular. Some restaurants do not offer fully prepared food, but dining boxes, which just require a few final steps at home before the meal is ready. Even though this is not strictly travel-related, I felt that this is a very interesting service. For this review, my wife and I tried the dining box by taku, a gourmet restaurant in Cologne.
taku / Excelsior Hotel Ernst – Location
The taku is a Michelin star restaurant, which belongs to the luxury hotel, Excelsior Hotel Ernst, in the heart of Cologne. The hotel is one of the best overnights in the city and located right opposite the city’s icon, the Cologne Cathedral. The taku is usually located in the basement of the hotel. However, the reception of the hotel is managing the dining box service. The restaurant typically features gourmet Asian cuisine.
Cologne Main Station is located right next to the hotel as well. Thus, you may reach the hotel by public transport. In order to grab a dining box, you may stop in front of the hotel by car or park at the parking garage opposite the street.
taku Dining Box – Order and Deliver
The contents of the taku dining box changes every month. There may also be special boxes for certain occasions like Valentine’s Day. Per person, the box is 69 Euro. You may also order selected wines and drinks besides your order. The box is packed per order, so that we had both portions in one box.
taku is delivering the box within the Cologne city limits. Delivery is 50 Euro, but you receive a voucher of the same amount for a visit of the restaurant whenever the pandemic measures have been lifted. Alternatively, you can pick up the box at the hotel. As I am living outside Cologne, we opted for the pick-up, which has been very friendly and efficient – the hotel staff even offered to help me to bring the box to my car (which was not necessary – the box is neither too large nor too heavy). You can pay your order at the reception, where you can pick up your order on the respective day after noon.
The menu we had (February 2021) was:
Starter: Tuna Tataki with sesame, wakame and gari ginger
Soup: Tum Yum Gung (Thai soup with prawns, mussels and cherry tomatoes)
Main: Cured duck breast with pepper jus, potatoe and chive cakes and Tagarashi Carots
Desert: Banana biscuit cake with mango and salted caramel ca
Four different chocolates (honey haselnut, dark chocolate, champagne, vanilla).
The box also contained a lovely sourdough bread and salted butter.
taku Dining Box – Cooking / Dining Experience
Of course we were very excited to open the box at home. The ingredients were nicely packed, either in pots and boxes with paper bottoms and plastic lids or in evacuated plastic bags for reheating. The duck breast and the potato cakes were delivered in aluminium trays, the desert and chocolates in paper boxes. There were no issues with with the transport – even though I felt a bit insecure as the upper part of the box was only put on top and not secured with tape. Apart from a welcome letter and a menu, the box contained a detailed description how to prepare / reheat the meal.
Preparing the starter was easy. The tuna was already ready (and nicely arranged in the paper trays, you only had to warm up and bread for some ten minutes. In addition, there was some marinade for the starter, which you just had to put on top of the tuna.
Tom Yum Gung was likely the most complex dish
The soup had the most individual ingredients. You first had to boil two of the plastic bags with the soup and mushrooms. At the end of the reheating, you added the seafood and the tomatoes. before serving, you added coriander oil to your bowl and decorated the soup with roasted onion and fresh coriander (all included). This required a couple of boxes and plastic bags – the preparation, however, was absolutely easy.
The main dish was comparably easy to cook. The duck breast and potato cakes needed some 20 minutes in the oven, while in parallel you warmed the sauce and the veggies in hot water. Apart from finding a nice way to present the sauce on the dish, there was no challenge at all.
Ready-made sweet ones
The banana cake and the pralines were ready for consumption, so that you only had to put the sweet delight on a plate.
We had no struggle with the dishes at all (the description was slightly imprecise whether the duck breast and potato trays should stay covered or not in the oven). The food quality was lovely. I love tuna tataki, so that this has likely been my favorite, but all the other dishes were really good. I was really curious how this kind of dining would be like – and I have to say that any food we had was restaurant quality. The lovely bread deserves an additional shout-out, definitely.
taku Dining Box – My View
I did believe in chef Mikro Gaul and his team for sure that the quality of the box will be good when I ordered it. Nevertheless, I was rather curious how I would like the overall experience. Of course, having a box like that, doing the final preparations at home etc. is much more time-consuming than an ordinary delivery – but it is simply so much better. The cooking did require some more steps than I thought, but everything was easy to do and the description was great so that we had a lot of fun.
If you love good dining, these boxes are great. It is, of course, rather a restaurant experience than a cooking one. For sure, you just get reheating and completion instructions, but no recipes. But of course, if you visit the taku, you don’t get the recipe book for your dishes as well. The main work has been done in the gourmet kitchen – you are just the second wave assistant chef. We absolutely enjoyed that role – a true Top Pick!
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