Friday, October 30, 2009

Willkommen to the Schnitzel Haus dining experience

By Marshall Slater

Schnitzel Haus occupies a unique niche in Brooklyn’s culinary scene, as one of perhaps only two or three restaurants in the borough which specialize in authentic German cuisine.

For many people, this food conjures up visions of sauerkraut, sauerbraten and bratwurst…and while these are certainly staples, they are also clichés, in a way, as the German menu is far more complex and diversified and rendered with excellence at Schnitzel Haus. Indeed, they were rated as the #1 German restaurant in New York on and are anxiously awaiting their Zagat rating.

The place has a definite hunt club atmosphere, with its elegant, richly-stained wood paneling throughout and knotty pine plank panels along one wall, with heavy wood tables and waitresses in traditional German jumpers. As for the atmosphere, one generalization is quite true: The reputation Germans have for hearty meals and good times; a fact well illustrated at this restaurant, which is uniquely accommodating, and welcomes the whole family with a big hug.

It is definitely a family-owned and -operated enterprise, overseen by Fred Urban, working man by day, even harder working restaurateur by night. He is ably assisted by son, Richard and wife, Amber, and a very engaging staff who work very hard to assure your visit is happy in every respect.

As for the food, it is quite true that the German diet leans heavily to favor the meat eater, and the Schnitzel Haus menu certainly does not disappoint, with a wide range of pork, beef and poultry options. After all, the average person in Germany consumes some 75 pounds of meat a year, typically pot-roasted and often consumed as sausages. There are more than 1,500 different types of sausage in Germany and many of these are represented at this restaurant.

Wuerstes (it just means any type of sausage) include Bratwurstteller (Bratwurst grilled), Geraeuscherter Bratwurstteller (smoked Bratwurst), Knackwurstteller (boiled Knackwurst), Bauernwurstteller (boiled Farmers Sausages), Kielbasateller (Grilled Kielbasa), Frankfurter Teller (Original German Frankfurter) and combinations like the Wurstteller mit allem Drum and Dran (a sample Platter of five wursts, served with mashed potatoes, red cabbage, sauerkraut and two mustards) or the Schaefer-Auflauf (German Shepherds Pie made of a variety of German wursts topped with sauerkraut and mashed potatoes). All come on a platter laden with sauerkraut and hearty mashed potatoes or, as with the case of Weisswurstteller, which is boiled Veal Weisswurst, with the house specialty of warm German Potato salad, sweet Bavarian mustard and a pretzel).

But we get a little ahead of ourselves. Let’s begin with starters such as such as the venison and cherry sausages with cold German potato salad; Foresters Wife’s mushrooms with shallots and double smoked bacon sautéed with cream and garlic is wonderful; the smoky bacon flavor permeating the entire dish. Other options include snails in garlic-herb butter and wrapped in a crusty baguette. Boneless Smoked Trout Filet is served with rings of red onion in a creamy and sweet horseradish and apple sauce with a huge scallion stalk garnish.

Continuing, consider the Fried Breaded Camembert cheese with fried parsley and red current jelly or the massively generous portion of Pickled Herring filets in creamy sauce with apples, onion strips and chopped pickles. Mussels “Rhineland Style” are served in a saffron-garlic white wine broth and there is also a Bavarian Meat salad served with bread and butter.

This evening also brought a French Onion Soup, with a whole slice of thick bread wrapped in a layer of creamy cheese and placed atop the broth. Always on the menu is a sweet and thick potato leek soup chock full of superb chunks of ham and a spicy beef goulash soup, served Gypsy-style (bring your own bandana).

Returning to the main event, as you might reasonably expect, schnitzels (cutlet) are in abundance, from the Jaegerschnitzel, two massive Pork Cutlets breaded and fried with a brown mushroom Hunter’s Sauce and served with spiced curly fries, to the Rahmschnitzel, pork cutlets in a creamy mushroom gravy or the Paprikaschnitzel, breaded and fried with a creamy Paprika gravy. Veal is given equal prominence as with the Schnitzel a la Holstein, breaded and fried, topped with fried eggs, served with anchovies and capers).

Rindfleisch (beef) dishes feature staples like the Sauerbraten, this one culled from the kitchen of Chef Uwe’s (pronounced ooo-vah) grandmother, with roasted marinated slices of beef prepared with traditional sweet and sour gravy, studded with raisins, and served with red cabbage and potato dumpling. The thick slices of meat emerge so tender your fork will easily accommodate the cutting chores.

The Beef Goulash is served in a luxuriously rich sauce with meat that is as good as the best brisket and served over egg noodles.

And while we are on the subject of beef, choose the Sliced Beef Rolls stuffed with onions, German double smoked bacon, mustard and gherkins, all roasted and served with gravy, red cabbage and spaetzle. The Schnitzel Haus Steak is actually a 20-ounce Boneless Shell Steak topped with sautéed mushrooms and onions and served with German home fries and a house salad. A Chef’s Steak offers a fresh black peppercorn crust over the 20-ounce shell steak, char-grilled and served with the house’s famous truffle butter, German home fries and a house salad.

We told you this is the land of the carnivore, so let’s continue to tempt with Filet Mignon in a fresh green peppercorn-shallot cream sauce, flambéed with cognac or the tender Filet Mignon in a creamy Gorgonzola sauce topped with grilled shrimps. This is definitely not your father’s German restaurant.

Other sample temptations from the menu include fresh ham in a caraway seed-dark beer gravy, German pork and veal loaf topped with fried egg, Chicken Breast stuffed with Black Forest ham and Gouda cheese or Boneless Chicken Breast smothered in German Mosel wine and mushroom sauce and served with spaetzle and a house salad. There’s even a Rack of Lamb with a Dijon mustard-herb crust, served with bacon-wrapped string beans and roasted garlic mashed potatoes…doesn’t that sound good?

And yes, not all the entrees have legs…seafood aficionados are well taken care of: fresh filet of Atlantic Salmon in lemon butter sauce topped with grilled shrimps, served with spinach and mashed potatoes or Tilapia sautéed in paprika butter with capers and white wine.

Nightly specials augment this already auspicious menu and included such excellent diversions as the Fire Roasted Filet of Grilled Tuna, Pan Seared Fresh Filet of Pollock with a light Dussledorf-style white wine and mustard sauce; Meatloaf Bavaria, whole baby back ribs glazed with the chef’s special homemade honey Bourbon BBQ sauce and Schwwinsbarten Hofbrauhaus, a pork roast prepared in a dark beer gravy ala Munich’s Hofbrauhaus served with creamed kohlrabi (a vegetable rarely seen on menus) and spaetzle. And that is just a sampling.

Desserts include a warm Apple strudel served with vanilla ice cream and vanilla sauce; German chocolate cake, Black Forest cake, Cheesecake served on a mirror of fresh Raspberry sauce and the homemade Cheesecake with rum-raisins.

Note there is also a kid’s menu (from a kid’s goulash to the ubiquitous Chicken Fingers with French fries; all Kids Meals incidentally include soda and a kid size ice cream. And by the time you read this the management may have already instituted their Family Style Dinner feasts, each massive serving platter designed to serve three to four hungry people and laden with a variety of entrees.

Beers (and other Libations)

Yes, Schnitzel Haus has a long bar, which is stocked with a vast assortment of taps offering a wealth of ales and lagers. There are 11 beers served on tap and some three dozen more served in the bottle.The well-stocked bar offers its own expansive wine list.

Schnitzel Haus
7319 Fifth Avenue, 718-836-5600

Hours: lunch is served Monday – Friday, noon – 4 p.m. with dinner served seven days, Monday – Thursday, 5 – 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday until 11 p.m. and Sunday, noon – 10 p.m.

Most major credit cards are accepted.Live entertainment – generally bands – is featured Friday (usually the Jimmy Mack Band) and Saturday nights.

Happy hour at the bar is from 4 – 7 p.m. with half price drink specials.Outside catering and take out are accommodated.
The place is very popular for private parties up to 75 and boasts a totally separate second floor private room, complete with an open air deck and its own bar. Ask for a catering menu to see your many options or sit down with Fred and design something specific to your needs and tastes.

The third floor of the building hosts the Brooklyn Dartz Club, which is open to everyone with Friday night darts.


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