The venue was huge - a regular dining area with an L-shaped bar, a back room where a communal gathering of older folk were dining and playing cards, and an upstairs area where dancing was going on. Question - is the upstairs area their "catering" area? Is it licensed for food? (Just curious.)
We showed up a little early and spied Jenny and Ricky still in their van, then Joyce and Bing enjoying some sun across the parking lot. As it was getting close to the meeting time, we trickled into the dining hall and spotted Kim at the other end of the room. Soon thereafter, Sherman, Yen, Victoria, Ethan, Jonathan, Ann and Dee, Karl, and Anita joined us.
As Kim had been organizing the meal a couple weeks prior, he'd mentioned that he had wanted to order the festplate; for a mere $80, four (or more, in my opinion!) people could feast on a platter of various meats and sides. Alternately, when we were seated, the waitress suggested the special on the Wednesday we were there: we could pick from their schnitzels, pair it with a beer, for the low price of $15.
I had "reserved" one of us for the festplate, and although the special was tempting, M also went for the festplate.
After a long wait, we were slowly given some beverages. (Insert wait.) Then we given some bread and butter. Actually, we were given an obscene amount of butter to begin with and for a while, we joked around that we were having whipped butter hors d'oervres... When the bread finally came we quieted down a notch and temporarily satiated our appetites (and mouths :) with the soft, supple bread. It was bread straight out of the bag - no toasting or warming up here.
As the festplate diners had been warned (on the menu) that the platters would be 30 minutes, we idled away our time with conversation. Once the food began to arrive, however, it became a circus. Food papparazzi anyone?
The above were a variety of schnitzels that was ordered by bloggers who did not opt for the festplate; I did not have a chance to sample any of these but they looked good, and I liked that there were beets and broccolini as a side. The schnitzels were only $15, and included a beer! I also liked seeing the spaetzle (middle), a German dumpling that is generally made from a batter of herbs, egg, flour and water, a may be served by poaching in stock or water, then served as is, or further cooked by a quick saute. I haven't had or made these in almost ten years - I think I'll try my hand at them again soon! Poaching yields a more moist dumpling; sauteeing can sometimes cause the spaetzle to puff up slightly (due to the egg in the batter) and / or crisp up on the outside for a different texture.
Finally, the moment came when the platters of meat came out:
On the platter was the 1 eisbein, 2 kassler, 2 bratwurst, 2 leberkäse, 1 schweineschnitzel and sauerkraut. The side dishes came separately and consisted of mashed potatoes, dumplings, red cabbage and an ample supply of mustard.
The mashed potatoes were mildly fluffy but nothing special. They tasted a little better with a sprinkle of salt and some mustard. The dumplings would be the fail out of the sides. At first we didn't know what we were eating - then some referenced the menu and identified the gummy mass we had been chewing were the dumplings. I suppose some overworking of the dumpling dough had occurred, or that the starch in the dumpling had begun to gelatinize. Everything tasted better with a slathering of the mustard!
A closer look at the meats on the platter, clockwise from top left corner: eisbein (essentially a ham hock, the first one is with the fat cap; second photo is with the fat cap removed), leberkäse (German bologna), bratwurst (sausage), Schweineschnitzel (pork cutlet, pounded thin, breaded and fried) and kassler (salted pork chop).
Our favourite was the bratwurst. It was easy to eat and went well with the sauerkraut and mustard. Overall, the ham hock comments varied from a favourite, to "slightly bland". It is important to note that German food is of this style - minimal seasoning, cooked through, served with kraut and mustard. With that in mind, and comparing the food to Balkan House (another European restaurant in New Westminster) as well as a friend who we've had the pleasure of cooking for us, the ham hock is Ms favourite. For me, it was a little salty, it would be nice with some of that bread from earlier in the evening. The same could be said of the salted pork chop, although thethe pork chop was the driest of the meats. However, this could very well be due to the meat having to endure a thorough picture taking by our group.
The surprise? The German bologna reminded Karl of his German roots; for me, it reminded me of nights at grandmoms house! My grandmom used to fry or steam up slices of spam because it was one of the things I would eat at her house when I was a wee one (she cooked her steamed eggs different than my mother; although it was my favourite dish, I just couldn't eat grandmoms! The spam, however...:) So I liked it. Now, I won't degrade it to say it was spam. The texture differed a little bit, but bologna - yes it was.
We also liked the pork schnitzel. It was a lot of meat though - the platter could definitely serve five, maybe even six people, although the people gathered around Ms' platter (we weren't platter partners!) managed to meagerly finish theirs. In my "platter party" was Sherman, Kim, and Yen. Although Sherman and Kim are big eaters, me (with my on again, off again meat ban!) and Yen were no match.
Even so, some bloggers had room / made room for dessert. On the left, a traditional apfelstrudel / apple strudle, on the right, an order of crepes with vanilla ice cream.
While the food was acceptable, the service was a little lacking. It took us a while for our single waitress to take orders and expedite food. There was also a huge wait in handling / settling the bill. Although many of us were paying by cash, and had only ordered the festplate, it took about half an hour in a lineup for everyone to pay.
FYI, there was also an unverified account of rodent(s) observed at the time of dining. However, if you look up the online reports at Vancouver Coastal Health, no records in the last couple years report any pests (the last inspection was November of last year, the one prior, in July of 2008). That's quite remarkable for a building and neighbourhood of this age. ;)
4875 Victoria Drive