KINGSTON, Ontario — Over the years, many friends and readers suggested I visit the Amadeus Café & Schnitzel Haus across the border in downtown Kingston. Finally, I got around to doing just that last week.
The Bavarian restaurant and biergarten has been there for 19 years. It's a long and narrow space with a patio, the biergarten, out back. It was a lovely evening, so we headed straight there for a perfect summer night of al fresco dining.
The menu is amazing: crepes, sandwiches, sausages, schnitzels (15 different ones), and all kinds of “European Classics” like Hungarian goulash, cordon bleu three ways, pork chops and roast pork loin, chicken Kiev, and the one I had my eye on from the start, Rouladen.
We lucked out. For a waitress we got a 14-year veteran of the restaurant who is also the manager. She knew the beers and she knew the menu.
Beer first. Quite a few on tap. We enjoyed a light, refreshing Krombacher pilsner, a Weizenbier (wheat beer) and a Warsteiner dark beer. Darks beers are typically somewhat bitter, but this was a smooth beer with a nice foam head.
For appetizers we were hoping to start with pickled herring, pretty standard for this type of cuisine. But Lori told us it was on the menu years ago, didn't sell well, so they took it off.
No problem. Bring out a smoked salmon plate ($9.50) and a “Russian Egg.”($5.95) then.
The smoked salmon was very good quality; not too salty and not too smoky, served with the usual red onion and some nice and some lovely German dark rye.
Never had a Russian egg before, though. It was a hardboiled egg draped with smoked salmon and topped with a dot of black fish roe/caviar. We weren't sure, but the egg almost tasted pickled.
Pickled eggs and German beer. Perfect.
Salad or soup comes with entrees. It's a “mixed salad,” mixed greens with house dressing, homemade vinegary potato salad (served cold—German potato salad is traditionally warm) and a savory carrot salad.
The soup was excellent, their “Goulash soup,” chunks of braised beef and homemade spaetzle in a beefy, zesty paprika broth. The broth was thickened, almost like a gravy. Y-u-m-m-y! We used some of the German dark bread on the table to mop the bowls clean
On to the main courses that we chose, each one of them excellent.
Peasant feast (Bauernschmaus) ($19.95) was fit for a king — and it gave us a chance to sample a good assortment of food: smoked pork chop, roast pork, sausage, dumplings, sauerkraut and spatzle.
The wonderful, tender pork chop was red in color from the smoking process with a nice char from the broiler. You could practically cut the piece of roast pork with your fork. The Bratwurst was a little fatty, not unexpected, grilled just right, with a perky Dijon-like mustard that helped cut the greasy taste.
Meatball-sized potato dumplings were exactly like they should be — chewy and doughy, covered with great dark gravy. Fantastic. So were the spatzle, tiny dumplings about the size of a small macaroni, made with flour, eggs and milk. The sauerkraut? Great.
Schnitzel was a must. Brauer schnitzel ($18.95) was a breaded pork schnitzel stuffed with black forest ham and Camembert cheese. The subtle smokiness of the ham paired well with the soft, mild cheese. The breading was remarkable, seasoned perfectly with a fried crispness that held up throughout the meal.
Several dishes are available in large or smaller portions. Chicken paprikasch is one of those. We got the small version ($12.95) which wasn't necessarily small at all.
This dish has Hungarian origins. Pieces of boneless breast of chicken, sweet peppers and onions are browned in bacon drippings then mixed into a sour cream and paprika gravy, served over spatzle. The chicken was tender and the sauce mighty flavorful. The spatzle had just-right chewiness.
The Rouladen was mine, the larger version for $18.95, slices of seasoned beef rolled around a pickle, onion and bacon mixture with a touch of grainy mustard, browned and braised. This was a fabulous roll of flavors, covered with that great dark gravy and homemade spatzle along with warm red cabbage.
Lori was happy to explain the spatzle-making process. They still do it the old fashioned way, forcing raw dough through a large sieve with large holes, the dough cooking in boiling water.
We were disappointed to learn that there was no strudel. It's a very traditional German dessert, made with paper-thin strudel dough (similar to phyllo) with an apple filling.
However, their Linzer torte ($5.25), a favorite from Australia that dates back to the 1700s, was a more than suitable substitute, done correctly with its rich and buttery layers of pasty sandwiched between raspberry preserves and the distinctive lattice top crust. Delicious.
“Mozart Crepe ($5.75) let us down, canned peaches encased in a rubbery crepe.
But the Rumtopf ($6.95) a centuries-old German dessert tradition, was delightful, fresh fruit soaked in rum. Lots of rum.
Dinner for four — two appetizers, four entrees and three desserts came to $126.28 which included $14.53 in Canadian taxes. Beer and gratuity were additional. With the current Canadian exchange rate, figure about 5 percent additional posted to your credit card account.
A small negative — the door leading from the biergarten to the restaurant is noticeably filthy. The manager needs to put it on a daily clean list.
A big positive — the folks who joined me on the review spent more than five years in Germany and continue to return there for visits. Their comment: “This food is the best we have had outside of Germany!”
Kudos to owner Brian Breitwieser and chef Pete Steger for carrying on the family tradition. The food is first-rate.
Heading to the Adirondacks? There's a neat little restaurant on the Tooley Pond Road about three miles off Route 3 in Cranberry Lake.
The Windfall Bar & Grill offers accessible fine dining in a relaxed country setting. Owners John and Roz Dragun are gracious hosts. John is a graduate of the noted Culinary Institute of America. You'll usually find John behind the bar (when he's not in the kitchen) and Roz waiting tables.
On a recent social visit, we experienced some great dishes. For appetizers, Portobello mushrooms sautéed in olive oil, garlic and parsley and a roasted corn, red pepper and black bean salad. For entrees, Ti Chen chicken is new to the menu; crisp-fried chicken, celery and peppers in a spicy sauce, and one of their old standbys, cappellini tossed with tomatoes, garlic, olive oil and kalamata olives.
Check out their Web site: www.windfallbarandgrill.com
We urge you to stop by if you're in the area.
You can contact…
Amadeus Café & Schnitzel Haus
170 Princess St.
1 (613) 546-7468
Serving authentic German and Austrian cuisine along with many European favorites
HOURS: 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday
11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday
APPETIZER PICK: Russian eggs
ENTRÉE PICKS: Peasant feast (smoked pork chop, roast pork, sausage, spatzle, sauerkraut, dumplings), Brauer schnitzel (breaded pork, black forest ham, Camembert), Rouladen (beef rolls stuffed with onion, pickle, bacon and mustard).
DESSERT PICK: Linzer torte
RATING: 4 forks