Thursday, June 28, 2012

Go the schnitty at Essen Restaurant and Beer Café

Some mornings and nights are getting cold enough for me to declare this Sydney's coldest winter in ages so doing as the Europeans do in winter makes perfect sense to me. Hence, this winter you'll find me next to an open fire, in a long puffy jacket or downing glühwein at Essen Restaurant and Beer Café in Broadway.

Essen, a traditional northern European restaurant, was completely packed on the cool Friday night I visited, with couples and large groups all getting into the European spirit and many a "Prost" toast with German beers in hand.

Glühwein - mulled wine from Essen Restaurant and Beer Café, Broadway, Ultimo
Essen has glühwein on the menu as a winter special and as the price ($6) might indicate, not "mit Schuss" (with a shot). The order by the glass completely surprised me with its adorable presentation in a matching cup and saucer.

Sugar is a necessary addition to the otherwise sour drink, as are particularly cold weather conditions ideally. Not even halfway through the citrus and spice infused red wine, I was already warming up considerably.

'Diesel' (left) and Radeberger Pilsner (right)
My drinking partners opted for 500ml beers: the easy drinking Radeberger Pilsner and a Diesel - a variation on the beer and lemonade mix of Radler with cola in place of lemonade.

The Diesel isn't actually on the menu at Essen but it was no trouble having it arranged. It tastes like a not-so-sweet cola with a beer-bitter finish and might take several more litres of it before I'm convinced of its merits. 

Knobli Brot - Swiss style garlic bread with paprika and gruyere cheese
We started at the entrée menu, which included beer's best friend: the traditional German pretzel. However, contender for favourite dish name of the year goes to the knobli brot on the entrées menu: a kind of garlic bread spread with smoky paprika and topped with a few shreds of melted gruyere.

The bread had a soft texture rather than a crispy one, and the combination of smoky spice, garlic and cheesy flavours is one I'll steal for the home kitchen.

Deep fried camembert with cranberry compote
Cheese in a melting or melted state is one of my weaknesses so the deep fried camembert cheese was a must.

Golden crumbed, crispy and uniformly shaped, the gooey innards and shape-holding rind of the camembert made for a rich, albeit happy, start to dinner, while the sweet touch of the cranberry was a perfect match.

Edelweiss beer
It would appear that Essen has a rotating schedule of beers on its menu as the first one that piqued my interest after the warming properties of the mulled wine (some sort of lager infused with peppercorns) wasn't available. The waitress instead pointed me to Edelweiss; an Austrian beer with flavour tones of alpine herbs.

Quite unlike any other beer I've had, the Edelweiss certainly had herbaceous notes that rendered the beer mildly sweet in floral rather than fruity notes. It was also probably not the best food-matching beer, compared to a clean, refreshing pilsner.

Schweinshaxen - slow roasted pork knuckle with gravy, bread dumpling and sauerkraut
If pork knuckle is on the menu, someone usually orders it. That's been my experience of the very Bavarian and often large dish, common in the touristy beer halls of Munich and German restaurants outside of Germany.

This version of the hefty pork knuckle lacked skin and crackling and probably as a result, the large amount of meat was on the dry side. Luckily there was gravy served alongside to save it as well as a couple of decent deep fried bread dumplings and sauerkraut.

Ente - oven roasted duck with red wine poached pear and roesti potato
The huge portion sizes of the food hit home when I realised that in my rather cute cast iron pan there was indeed half a roasted duck. The artfully arranged breast and maryland portions, with a whole, crimson poached pear and roesti potato, were hiding the fact this was the largest serving of poultry I've ever eaten.

The duck was well cooked: moist with crispy skin in places; however, just a tad under in overall flavour which made the sweetness of the soft poached pear a very necessary component in every mouthful.

Meanwhile, the roesti potato was all sorts of carbohydrate and fatty awesomeness: the outside browned and crispy all over while the inside starred fall-about shreds of properly seasoned, fluffy potato.

Jaeger schnitzel - pork schnitzel with a creamy mushroom sauce
Of the mains, the humble schnitzel ended up being the winner. There are a lot of schnitzel varieties on the menu at Essen - indeed, a whole separate menu page - with the Jaeger Schnitzel available in chicken or pork.

The impressive size of the schnitzel - two pieces, actually - was matched with its admirable golden coat. The Jaeger arrived smothered in a creamy mushroom sauce alongside roesti potato with cabbage salad as a side dish.

Surprisingly, this iconic German dish makes for quite a balanced meal with the tender pork (protein), scrumptious roesti (carb and vegetable) and cabbage on the side (vegetable). And a few more carbs on the side in beer, of course.

Apfel und birne strudel - apple and pear strudel with vanilla sauce and ice cream
Regardless of how completely stuffed one might have been after a protein-heavy main meal, is a German meal complete without strudel? My answer leans towards "no", and the apple and pear strudel we ordered to share was just reward.

Smelling heavenly of cinnamon and spices, the shatter of the thin, crunchy layers of pastry confirmed that there was indeed space in my stomach for dessert on this occasion. The soft, just sweet-enough filling was comforting and improved with a touch of the very good vanilla bean ice cream though I left the cool vanilla sauce.

As we concluded the meal, we were witnesses to the 'Schnitzilla' challenge that Essen has, Man vs Food style on the table over. Except I'm not sure this challenge is achievable. 'Schnitzilla' consists of schnitzel, roesti potato and cabbage salad to a total of 3.5 kilograms. The platter with golden schnitzel piled high looked like it could serve at least six hungry people.

No-one has completed the challenge to date with the closest competitor leaving with about 1 kilo of take-home leftovers. Good luck to those deranged and hungry enough to attempt the 'Schnitzilla'. Find more details of the challenge on Essen's Facebook page.

Food, booze and shoes and a guest dined courtsey of Essen Restaurant and Beer Café, with thanks to Wasamedia (some items were paid for separately).

Essen Restaurant & Beer Cafe on Urbanspoon


Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

Mmm this is definitely the weather for this sort of food! :)

penny aka jeroxie said...

I think I need to go back to Essen soon.

SarahKate (Mi Casa-Su Casa) said...

I'm so not into eating challenges (I worry about all the wasted food!) but that regular sized jager schnitzel sounds absolutely gorgeous. I shouldn't have read this so close to lunch time. Now I'm starving!!

Tina said...

Hi Lorraine - Definitely agreed there!

Hi Penny - It's perfect hearty fare for the current weather :)

Hi SarahKate - They let you take the leftovers home but I have a feeling one might never want to see schnitzel again after the challenge...

tastyfoodsnaps said...

cheesy garlic bread. YUM!

Anonymous said...

I've heard great things about Essen's schnitzel, but their knobli brot garlic bread sounds amazinggg!

Food is our religion said...

The food looks so hearty here! but man, I need that cheesy garlic bread in my stomach asap!

Tina said...

Hi tastyfoodsnaps - It's ingenious, especially the addition of paprika!

Hi excusemewaiter - They're both pretty good. Winter staples, I think!

Hi Food is our religion - Yup, great for this chilly weather we're having!

Vivian - vxdollface said...

oh man that jaeger schnitz looks so good! hehe i can never go past their deep fried camembert ^^

Trish said...

I can just imagine biting into that crunchy schnitzel coating... mmm...


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