West Berlin Restaurant covers the classics.
German comfort food that will fill you up
By Scott Banks
4133 Mountain View Dr.
I held no expectations when I visited West Berlin Restaurant, sheltered on the east end of Mountain View Drive, in a cinderblock building with more than its share of past restaurant failures. West Berlin has been open now for more than a year and I think has a shot at breaking that curse. The same people also own the highly successful (and tasty) Hula Hands, the traditional Hawaiian restaurant in Mountain View and on Fireweed Lane.
Like the name implies, it’s a German food restaurant, a cuisine out of my comfort zone. My take was that German food was reliant on cabbage, sausage and potatoes. A friend with German ancestry invited me and he was excited to try it. As we ate, he ended up comparing West Berlin’s food to his grandmother’s dishes, but he liked their interpretations and the flavors prompted him to share childhood memories of back home.
Every time I’ve eaten at West Berlin there’s been a strong showing of military men and women. That’s a good sign. My server said most of them had previously served in Germany and many say that it reminds them of the time they were stationed there. He thinks they also come for the many German beers they serve, like Ayinger Jahrhundert Golden ($7). They also serve wine by the glass ($6 and $7) and by the bottle.
The server steered me to the beef brisket with brown gravy ($13) and it came with two side dishes. The brisket was so tender a heavy sigh would have cut through it. The gravy was savory and rich, deep with flavor, not the chemical tasting gravy-in-a-jar I expected. I asked for the red cabbage with apples (rotkohl) and the spaezle (little sparrows). The red cabbage and apple was braised with bits of clove and a hint of bay and a slight amount of apple to sweeten it. I had heard of spaezle, a soft egg noodle, many times and for me, it was so-so, before I realized I should have dragged the spaetzle through the gravy.
My friend ordered the sauerbraten ($13), beef (although horse is the traditional meat): marinated for several days in a mixture of vinegar or wine, water, herbs, spices, and seasonings. Another tender and tangy dish, you could cut with the edge of your fork.
One of the quirky dishes on the menu is the currywurst ($11), a dish invented during the airlift during WWII. British planes delivering food to Berlin brought ketchup to West Germans and they combined it with curry and slathered it on bratwursts. Mine consisted of two grilled crispy brats with the curry ketchup artfully criss-crossed the length of the sausage, although it was light on the curry flavor. They also serve only the currywurst without the roll ($9). I ordered the cabbage again along with the potato salad. This isn’t the Americanized version of potatoes coated with mayonnaise, but rather with vinegar. Mine was rather one note. I expected more, maybe flecks of bacon, dill, a grind of pepper or chopped yellow onion.
The schnitzel roll ($10) seemed the perfect fast lunch order and I chose pork over chicken because it’s the most traditional, my server advised. Simply put, schnitzel is a meat cutlet pounded thin, dredged in flour, egg, then breadcrumbs and fried quickly to form a crisp coating. The pretzel roll was soft and included lettuce, tomato, onion and a garlic lemon aioli. The crunch is delightful, but it was not life-changing, but I bet the kids would love it. It comes with crinkle-cut fries or the potato salad.
Most entrees include two side dishes, including generous servings of spaetzle, braised red cabbage and apple, German potato salad, mashed potatoes, sauerkraut and the less German crinkle cut fries.
Prices are mid-range, between $10 and $14. It’s a kid-friendly atmosphere (although I never saw a child) and date night worthy, too. Parking can be tight. The music playing in the background sounded like it was straight from the set of Cabaret.
I like that the menu is brief and doesn’t try to cover every German dish. There’s always a few specials posted on a board near the door, too. You should try it and get out of your own comfort zone. West Berlin is open for lunch and dinner.