Sarah Wiener: Das Speisezimmer; Austrian Food (mostly); Mitte.
July 8, 2011 2 Comments
I finally got round to trying one of the Sarah Wiener places this week: Das Speisezimmer (The Living Room).
Ladles hung in the window and at the bottom, a cluster of mismatched planters with a haphazard but homey feel of plants belonging to a person rather than a restaurant. It was charming enough to tempt me in for a meal, which I guess is the idea.
The menu is peppered enticingly (to me) with references to provenance. Take for example this; ’a selection of organic raw milk cheese from cow and goat from Dormann’s Bioland in Petershagen served with homemade fruit bread, apple chutney and celery salt’. Organic raw milk goat’s cheese from a location I can get into my car and drive to? Not that I would because it’s three and a half hours away but still! I was duly impressed and consequently expecting very good things.
I was amused by the ‘Sarah Wiener’ glass cabinet that met me at the entrance. Heaving with her books, DVD’s, Sarah Wiener salt and Sarah Wiener knives. It seemed a bit much, a bit Gordon Ramsay: uncouth. But then again, if she has written all those books and she is proud of them then why not?
Not sure about the salt but then I haven’t written a cookbook, maybe some kind of fever overtakes you or maybe her PR people made her do it. I stopped speculating and sat down at my window table.I loved the feel of the place, especially as it was lunch and there were only 4 other occupied tables. The clunky, turquoise wardrobes interrupted the possible monotony of the wood. I loved the thick, teal coloured cafe curtains and the chintzy chandeliers. It’s easy on the eye this place. And its sheltered location in a hof (courtyard) in what is anyhow an extremely quiet area of Mitte makes for a lovely lunch place.
I was disinclined to try the schnitzel because I can never get through the practically A4 formats they come in on my own. It too had a provenance, from a Linumer veal which is a calf that is allowed to feed from its mother before feeding (for a short time) on Brandenburger pastures. Resulting in meat that is rose-coloured (hence the name rose veal) not the tell-tale pallid colour that is indicative of boxed veal.I went for the lunch menu, a vegetable lasagna followed by a strawberry palatschinken. I put my order through, the glass of water arrived and so did, not nearly a minute later, my lasagna.
It looked pretty enough but looks, as we know, can be deceiving.
The bechamel was good but the vegetables inside were a haphazard mix: mushy cauliflower florets, broccoli stalks, a couple of asparagus spears and some oven dried sliced tomato (I liked those actually). The sheets of pasta were so soft, they offered absolutely no resistance. There were bits of it that were indistinguishable from the bechamel sauce. Running throughout the whole were blades of rosemary.
I was flummoxed by the choice of rosemary? It’s such a physically tough herb, almost twig like. It’s suited to more robust textures and cooking methods. Also, you really need to break it down, with a sharp knife because once you start to chew on a blade of rosemary, it takes your mouth hostage, like chewing on a clove to freshen your breath. With that watery tomato sauce, it was a dead ringer for the stuff they used to serve on airlines in the pre-Easyjet era when they still bothered to serve hot food.
When my palatschinken arrived, it looked like it had keeled over on the plate, one leg folded underneath it. There was a squirt of something purple, like a check mark that coulis had gone on the plate but not enough for me to make out what it was. I had ordered a strawberry palatschinken and inside there were about 3, cut into quarters. Even if they had doubled the amount, it still wouldn’t have been enough. And I had been expecting a softly stewed compote, so the strawberries just start to release their juice and go a bit soft and when you take a bite, maybe a little sauce dribbles down your chin.
If it wasn’t for the well written menu, with words I like to hear and the great dining room, I would have dismissed it as canteen cooking.
I do want to go back one evening and try that veal. The menu reads like it was written by someone who ‘get’s it’ so I am unsure as to why the food is so lack lustre? Which is a huge pity because this place could be such a gem in theory. And because I think if that rose veal made for the tastiest schnitzel ever, then people would sit up and take notice and go about sourcing a similar product instead of some inferior, low welfare, cheap variety.
Oh and Sarah Wiener was recently interviewed in the Wall Street Journal for where to Eat in Berlin. Click here to see her recommendations.
Das Speisezimmer & Die Küche
T. 030 8145 2943 0