The MenuPages website is a fine way to discover new restaurants. Many places cannot afford to hire a public relations firm or take out advertisements in newspapers, magazines and on the Web.
Glancing over the site a few weeks ago, I discovered Bierstube Tsingtau, a German restaurant in Old City. There are only a handful of German restaurants in Philadelphia.
My grandparents came from Austria, so I grew up on potato pancakes, schnitzel, pierogies, all sorts of veal dishes and of course, my grandmother’s famous apple strudel.
Sunday, after the Eagles beat Cleveland by one point (a win is still a win), I asked Sandy if she was in the mood for potato pancakes. After she replied with a resounding “yes,” we hopped on the bus and headed over to Bierstube.
It is a bare-bones place with tables covered in blue and white oilcloth, a long bar and a friendly staff. German fare is rustic, stick-to-your ribs where potatoes, cabbage and sausages are king. It is homestyle cooking and can be well prepared. Each dish we sampled received a positive nod from us.
Smoked paprika pierogies ($6.99) featured four pillows of light, homemade dough filled with perfectly seasoned, smooth potatoes nestled on a paprika sauce. They were uncommonly good and the sauce was so unusual, I asked our server how the chef prepared it. Paprika is the spice of choice in Hungarian food and it had the right touch here. The sauce was made with a mix of sweet and hot paprika, crème fraîche and tomatoes. I vowed to make this sauce at home.
The potato pancakes ($5.99) also received a good mark. Three latkes were fashioned from finely-grated potatoes, nice and creamy inside, served with herbed sour cream and finely grated Granny Smith apples.
“I want more of both of them,” Sandy said. “I could build dinner around latkes and pierogies.”
For purposes of review, we had to sample several other dishes. Sandy chose weiner wurzig ($7.98) while I wanted to see if Bierstube’s chicken schnitzel ($17.99) was as fine as the ones I have eaten in other German restaurants.
A jumbo, and I mean jumbo, all-beef, fat sausage arrived in a toasted long roll. The balance of flavors and spices was spot on. Sandy and I prefer a slight garlic flavor, but all too often it is over powering. The sausage was topped with a blanket of caramelized onions and arrived with a mound of piping hot, thick cut french fries.
Schnitzel is the German version of the French paillard. A large boneless chicken breast is pounded thin, coated in panko breadcrumbs and fried to a deep golden brown. I cut into it, tasted it and found it absolutely free of grease. The chicken was not a bit overdone and I easily polished it off. I thought the use of panko breadcrumbs was an inspired choice. My dinner came with sweet and sour sautéed red cabbage and spaetzle, which melted in my mouth. The tiny bits of egg noodles are boiled and served with or without gravy. My schnitzel was topped with a homemade chicken gravy, which I dipped the little noodles in and enjoyed it. A side of house-made sauerkraut with bacon ($2.99) was a little too sour for my taste.
Unfortunately for us, Bierstube did not have the apple strudel that was listed on the menu. Our server advised it would return to the bill of fare by the time you read this review.
The beer list is longer than the menu. I think it is the largest list of any restaurant in the city. Although German beer is king here, there are brews from around the world. My allergies were kicking in during the evening we dined and I immediately knew a small glass of beer would make me sleepy. I urge you to select a beer if you dine at Bierstube. The knowledgeable staff will help you navigate the menu.
Two tips of the toque to Bierstube Tsingtau.
206 Market St.
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