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German "Oktoberfest" menu at Steins, Mountain View

eatzalot | Sep 22, 201312:50 PM

This is a distinctive temporary offering, so I write it as a separate topic from the earlier Steins thread

This Germanic menu runs two weeks, through Oct. 5-6 when (collaborating with nearby Tied House brewpub) Steins will host in its adjacent city parking lot a German food & beer festival, with German foods in stalls (and family entertainment), link below.

What I like re the six-months-old Steins Beer Garden and Restaurant, even more than the beer range (numerous, if less fanatic than at The Refuge in San Carlos, and maybe other places I've heard about), is its kitchen. A large, capable kitchen, as at leading high-end restaurants; I toured it once. Complete with bakery (Steins's co-founder ran the Paris Baguette bakery restaurants) and bubbling stockpot. Directed by Bay Area veteran chef Colby Reade, who clearly delights in making comfort foods. Me too, but just as an amateur.

Steins has run Germanic comfort-food specialties as dinner specials for a while. From yesterday to Oct. 6, a full menu of these is available, lunch AND dinner, and 15 or so German beers to go with them. Below, menu details and first-hand impressions.

Chef Reade spent time in Germany researching. A few comments about this. Most Germanic dishes I've ever eaten were on their central-European home soil. Germanic cooking has range and subtlety I very rarely see in Bay Area restaurants. Places like the Harry's Hofbrau chain offered German specialties, but narrowly conceived: roast pork, sauerkraut, red cabbage. No hint of the wild mushrooms, diverse Knödel, smoked fish, or meat/vegetable/fruit stew traditions, or the very seasonal specialties that people fuss over, and neghborhood cafés feature, there. Chef Reade clearly knows the real deal and is offering his take on it, with a few Alsatian and Austrian touches.

Tried, on current special menu:

Spätzle w/ brown butter, sage, garlic, white raisins, hazelnuts, $12. Spätzle represent a transition between egg pastas per se and the larger Knödel (dumplings, broadly construed) that are a near-religion around Bavaria, Bohemia, and Austria, such as Nockerl (same word appears in N. Italy as gnocchi). This presentation was kind of playful, with the nuts and raisins. I thought the portion spare, for $12, but it was rich enough with the brown butter and nuts that it seemed adequate. Never saw anything like this at Harry's Hofbrau!

Veal Jägerschnitzel in wine-cream sauce with bacon-potato salad, green beans ($22). Jäger or Jaeger is hunter. As in France ("chasseur") or Italy ("cacciatore"), on dishes it connotes mushrooms. Jägerschnitzel, hunter's cutlet, when I've had it in random cafés around Germany, was usually a simple beef steak with mounds of mushrooms, and some starchy garnish. Steins does more of an Austrian take, a reminder Chef Reade worked under Wolfgang Puck. German cooks are more willing to leave meats alone than Austrians, or rather Viennese, who love to pound them flat, or else stuff them. This was a large thin veal steak in a wine-cream sauce (another Viennese mark) with mushrooms. An ample plate, with the fresh beans and authentic potato salad, warm and lightly dressed with bacon (not the US mayonnaise-type potatoes). Hearty, savory.

Not tried yet:

Smoked Bavarian-style pork shoulder, sweet-sour cabbage, mushroom Spätzle, cheese, pan juices.

Marinated porkloin Schnitzel, caraway bacon 'kraut, dilled potatoes.

Paprika-roast "Oktoberfest" half chicken, potato dumplings, sauerkraut, said to be inspired by chicken-and-Knödel specialties Bavarian cafés lately feature around this season.

Desserts: Prince-Regent Cake (6-layer hazelnut-chocolate). Raspberry Bavarian Cream.

More on Steins' October 5-6 outdoor festival:

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