I must confess that, if asked to name my favorite cuisines, German would not make the top five. My grandmother was German, and she was a terrific cook, but I never had anything in a German restaurant that I thought was better than okay -- until recently.
Chef Axel has occupied the space at 7097 University Ave, just east of 70th, that used to house a German grocery and cafe. You can still buy bread, sausages and some other deli items there, but most of the space has been filled with tables. A good thing, too, because this guy can cook!
At a recent dinner, we started with pan-fried sauerkraut cakes (Diana's idea; didn't sound good to me), and they turned out to be delicious, served with sliced smoked sausage that had been grilled and little pieces of cooked pickles. It was a generous appetizer that, if ordered for one, would have been filling in itself.
For dinner I had the "hunter style" schnitzel that was served with a creamy mushroom sauce. You can choose two sides to accompany your entree, so I chose the homemade spaetzle and red cabbage. The schntizel was tender and delicious, and the sauce ratcheted up the flavor quotient. The spaetzle was the best I've ever eaten, and the red cabbage took me back to childhood Sunday dinners at Nana's house. Can red cabbage be spectacular? Maybe not, but this version was orders of magnitude better than the stuff that comes in a jar.
They have a respectable selection of German wines and a small list of California selections, too. All are low-priced. They have beer (natch!) but I haven't tried any yet. Other diners seemed to be enjoying it, though.
Although the place is Deutsche uber alles, the menu isn't exclusively Teutonic. Several entrees are contemporary California style (no halibut on the Rhine).
We returned for lunch on a recent hot afternoon. I started with the creamy cucumber dill salad which was served ice cold and was very refreshing. For lunch I ordered a smoked bratwurst with pan-fried potatoes and red cabbage (again). The brat was excellent (sorry, I didn't ask their source), but the star of the show was the fried potatoes -- simply the best I'd had since I was a teen-ager.
Chef Axel himself is a young guy with a genial personality. He bills his place as a "bistro," so don't expect any chandeliers or carpeting, but the food is excellent. They also do catering, and as I mentioned above, they sell sausage and other deli items from a cold case.
Here' a link to their website: http://www.chefaxel.com/bistro.htm
. . . jim strain in san diego (la mesa, actually)
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