By New Times
By Robrt L. Pela
By Lauren Saria and Heather Hoch
By Deborah Sussman
By Robrt L. Pela and Amy Silverman
By Kathleen Vanesian
By Eric Schaefer
By Heather Hoch
Portions are not as plentiful as anticipated. My schlachteplatte includes sauerbraten, Wiener schnitzel, knackwurst and bratwurst. The sauerbraten, far from Wagnerian in size, is downright petite. Teensy knackwurst and bratwurst look like cocktail sausages. Though our waitress tells my accomplice she's given him two rolled flank steaks instead of just one, it's still a demure dinner.
But that's just quantity. Let's talk quality. The wine and vinegar-marinated sauerbraten is definitely the best thing on my plate. I also like the pink, tight-skinned knackwurst, though its plain flavor needs Bavarian mustard to enliven it. Mashed potatoes with gravy and dark and feisty red cabbage are both good, too. On the down side, the thin, breaded veal cutlet tastes as if fish has been fried in the same oil. And a mini-bratwurst is revoltingly mushy. I wonder if it has been cooked long enough. One thing's for sure: Mustard is not enough to redeem it.
My accomplice's fleisch roulade is very tasty. Cucumber, onion and bacon are tucked inside the rolled-up beef. The flavors blend together, but I like it. Sauerkraut has a fresh, crunchy taste and texture, but noodles with gravy are strictly ordinary.
The couple at the next table turns our way again. The organist is playing a Hawaiian tune. "What's this one?" the woman asks us. We shake our heads. If it's not "Tiny Bubbles," we don't know it.
Desserts are limited at Felsen Haus tonight. Our choice is apple streudel or cheesecake with raspberries. We opt to share a piece of strudel. It comes to us admirably hot, but the apple-raisin pastry tastes stale. Even a Teutonic ignoramus like me knows that German cuisine can reach a much higher form than what's achieved at Felsen Haus. Until they get this place cleaned up, I'll be sure to celebrate Oktoberfest elsewhere.
Like Bavarian Point in East Mesa, for instance.
This clean and charming restaurant is one of the busiest I've seen in months. We arrive early, around six o'clock on a Saturday night, and already it's tough to score a table. They don't take reservations for parties of two, so keep that in mind if you go.
Fortunately, we do not have to wait to be seated. No sooner do we nestle into our booth than a lovely waitress comes over. Again, I desire a beer--it must be part of my genetic code or something. This time our waitress recommends Warsteiner, a German beer on tap. It comes to the table in a huge pilsner glass with a slice of lemon in it. This beer is more hoppy, less bitter than the one at Felsen Haus, but again, I like it.
The chef at Bavarian Point is from Austria, so this menu is even less familiar to us. Our waitress, clad in embroidered jumper, is patient and helpful in answering our questions. With her assistance, we make our choices. There is no organ music at this restaurant, no polka band. Instead, a zither player strums German and Austrian favorites like "Edelweiss." His performance is so flawless, I think the music is canned until I catch a glimpse of him at work, bent over his instrument, near the kitchen doors. There's a choice of salad bar or soup with dinner at Bavarian Point. The soup tonight is cream of pea. A full bowl of it arrives moments after we order. Piping hot, loaded with creamed and whole peas and flavored with ham, this is pea soup that would comfort any expatriate. I adore it.
Meanwhile, my dining accomplice is executing a blitzkrieg on the salad bar. In the last few years I've grown weary and leery of salad bars--haven't we all?--but when I see his plate piled high with interesting goodies, it gives me pause. In particular, a mayonnaised potato salad made with chopped dill pickle is marvelous. Our waitress warns us that the schinkenrolle appetizer will take a while, and it does. It arrives after we've feasted on soup and salad. At this point, the cold rolls of ham stuffed with a mayonnaise mix of peas, carrots, potato and more ham seem redundant. There's no reason to order this Super Bowl party snack, especially after a trip to the salad bar.
By 7 p.m., every table in the restaurant is filled and the staff is stretched to the limit. Our diligent waitress is now jogging back and forth to the kitchen. Only one man is busing tables and he's clearly not enough. Case in point: When our waitress delivers our entrees, our appetizer plates are still in front of us. Out of necessity, I move them so she can plunk down our plates, but it is an awkward moment. After, I must beg her to take the used plates with her. With more support staff, this wouldn't happen.
But we're very happy with our food. Filet goulash stroganoff is delightful. I worried that it would be heavy with cream, but I was wrong. The paprika-spiced sauce is light and augmented by mushrooms, pickle and ham. The pieces of filet are tender and flavorful. Spaetzle is the perfect accompaniment. These twisted bits of dough go great with gravy.