Saturday, June 18, 2011

Österreich: Bleib bei dem Schnitzel

I thought about skipping over Austria. Schnitzel is easy to make and I am forced to make it fairly often at work (not that there isn't more to Austrian cuisine, but schnitzel does seem to be the focus at Austrian places here). I've also already been to several Austrian or Austrian-ish places here and one might argue that Austrian food is more of a regional thing, but that seemed to go against the spirit of my little project here. And so I made a reservation at Austria. (Why this place is called Austria, I do not know (Austria is Österreich in German -- alas, the waitstaff at Austria are not imports, but surly locals and our waiter did not seem interested in answering such questions.)

There are a decent number of Austrian places in Berlin and I don't have a very good reason for having picked Austria. Many people consider their schnitzel the best schnitzel in town and I have a nice memory of sharing a schnitzel at the bar with mein Mann a few years back. I don't know for sure if it's the best in town, but the schnitzel at Austria is quite good. (But if schnitzel is what you're after, get yourself some good-quality veal and make it at home - it's beyond easy.) Still, the bigger-than-plate-sized schnitzel at Austria has a light, crispy coating and comes with simple, but good potato salad and cucumber salad. If you are feeling lazy or don't want your kitchen to smell like grease or you have out-of-town visitors who want a "typical German" restaurant experience, you could definitely do worse. Because I had already sampled the schnitzel at Austria (and just made it at work), I decided to branch out and ordered the Tafelspitz (think brisket). At Austria, this means two large pieces of meat with a generous serving of fresh horseradish, creamed cabbage, smashed potatoes, some julienned vegetables (carrot, kholrabi and the like) that mostly added color to the plate. The potatoes and creamed cabbage were both excellent. The potatoes were perfectly seasoned with lots of caraway seeds and the occasional crunchy bit of Speck and let's just say that there should be more creamed cabbage in the world. But the meat didn't do much for me. It was a little too dry and didn't have much flavor. Also it was served (per tradition) in a little pool of wan cooking liquid that I really could have done without. I can, however, report that Austria has a full list of good Austrian beers and wines. As well they should.

Austria isn't the most beautiful restaurant in town. I don't mind the mountain hut look, but the ceiling is cheap office tiles and the place could really use a fresh paint job. For whatever reason, many of the paintings and plaques with antlers, etc. have been taken down leaving only dingy marks on the walls. If it was some amazing bargain hole-in-the-wall I could let it slide, but with entrees above 15 Euros, a decent paint job is in order. In the end, when in Austria: stick to the Schitzel. (For tafelspitz, head to Vienna and make a reservation at Plachutta - their Tafelspitz is worth the plane/train fare.)

Bergmanstr. 30

Not to be confused with the wannabe, copycat Felix Austria down the street at Bergmanstr. 26!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Australien: Ich habe es wirklich versucht

I am starting to think that this project may be something of a curse. Chraazan, the Afghan restaurant closed shortly after I visited it. I noticed that the Great Australian Bite had closed on my way to the Armenian Amberd. And try as I might, I wasn't able to make a reservation at Billabong (lame name, I know). The Billabong website states that they are closed for vacation from April 14. I initially assumed that they just hadn't gotten around to taking the message down - surely a restaurant doesn't go on vacation for two entire months? In the end, it seems that Billabong has closed as their phone is disconnected and they aren't responding to emails. You cant say I didn't try....

Lest you think I would let the closing of not one but two Australian restaurants deter me, I am here to report that Ululu Resort, "The Australian PUB in Berlin" is going strong. And while it is not all that Australian, the motto does seem to ring true. (Full disclosure: there are two branches of Restaurant Corroboree in Berlin, but this place looks so cheesey, so touristy, even the German-language reviews on Qype, etc. so bad .... I just couldn't subject myself to the croc tournedos or springbock steak. sorry.) I don't know that I would recommend Ululu in the winter because it really does reek of stale cigarette smoke, but on a warm June evening it was pleasant enough to sit at a table in front of the restaurant and sip a glass of Australian Chardonnay. Alas, the Chardonnay is the only Australian thing on the menu (there may be Bratwurst on the weekends, but the official menu is just drinks - with the exception of the unremarkable Chardonnay, it's the same beers and Erdbeer Bowle (strawberry wine cooler/punch) you find in any non-trendy Berlin bar). According to the friendly owner "the Australia part is really just a facade; it's basically a stammkneipe (local pub)." least he was being honest.

Ululu Resort
Rykestr. 17