A preview of new German and Austrian restaurants
2400 Polk Street (at Union)
Sunday-Thursday, 5:30-10pm, until midnight Fri-Sat.
GAUMENKITZEL, meaning ‘delight for the taste buds’, opens later this week (if all goes as planned) in an open, sunny space on San Pablo Ave. in Berkeley. Owner Anja Voth brings restaurant and patisserie experience from Hamburg and Berlin. Her husband Kai Flache constructed and designed the restaurant with his local firm. They operate as a gracious, complimentary team.
A rustic wood ceiling, huge windows and skylight illuminate the yellows, whites, reds and oranges of the clean, modern room. A spare collection of German china and ceramic dolls line the shelves, adding a homey touch. While the main portion of the room is eat-in, one can order take-out or baked goods. A section to the left of the entrance offers stools and countertops for a quick meal.
A pastry chef bakes fresh breads and pastries in-house, including a delicate Linzer torte with red currant jam. Anja operates as chef with assistance from a chef who worked 15 years at Oakland’s now-defunct Citron. I stopped in for a preview lunch, savoring baked goods, beet salad, an addictive caramel custard, and beef roulade with braised red cabbage and creamy mashed potatoes. The beef roulade is Anja’s mother’s recipe, rolled up with pickles and onions, while red cabbage is equal parts apple with a tart, spiced kick.
A breakfast menu lasts all morning with items like German porridge, house-baked rolls, cold cuts, müsli. There’s afternoon tea (2-4:30pm), while lunch and supper entrees cover the gamut from salmon with rhubarb compote to wild mushrooms with spaetzle. They also make their own seasonal jams, like a pleasantly tart/bitter Meyer lemon marmalade I sampled. Menu prices had not yet been finalized on the menus I previewed, but it will be affordable, mid-range.
The joy here is dishes with a predominantly North German focus, a rarity as local offerings are typically of the South German kind. Influences from Anja and Kai’s port city hometown of Hamburg are showcased, like curry (poached fish with curry sauce) and fresh fish (from Monterey Fish Market). Expect authentic German, reliant on local and seasonal ingredients, prepared with care from a couple involved in every aspect of the place.
2121 San Pablo Ave, Berk.
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