Monday, November 19, 2007

Hearty, filling & German (just like my husband)

I almost missed out on the home-cooked German specialties at Deutsche Ecke, a new restaurant in Denbigh. On weeknights, the Newport News eatery closes at the surprisingly early hour of 7 p.m.

“On a good night, it's me, my daughter and a dishwasher — if I'm lucky,” explained owner/cook Karin Stephenson. That said, I understood why our meals suffered from a somewhat awkward pacing.

The restaurant held only one other table, a group of ladies lingering over coffee and desserts. Yellow tablecloths mimicked the warm color of the walls, while pictures of café scenes (and, oddly, enough, Parisian streets) lined the room. Out of place, too, were the fat scented candles burning at each table. My husband Dave blew ours out, but the intense cinnamon scent lingered for some time.The menu is short and to the point. After looking over the offerings of schnitzels, wursts and German side dishes, we quickly made our selections and stretched back in the very comfy chairs. Our waitress soon returned with two glasses filled with Paulaner Hefe-Weizen ($4.75), the large bottle being just enough for two to comfortably split.

We'd each requested a side German green salad ($2.95) to accompany our meals. It took some time, but when they arrived, I had to check to make sure they'd brought the correct dish.

The Boston lettuce leaves were indeed green, but drenched in a milky-white dressing. Canned beans, both red and green, were strewn on top, along with cucumbers, tomatoes and onions. I carefully speared a room temperature leaf and tasted: the dressing was a little sweet, and a lot sour. It was unlike any other dressing I've come across, and couldn't decide if I liked it or not.

We let our salads sit for a few minutes while our tongues (hopefully) adjusted. A few minutes later, I tried again with the same results. This tangy, different dressing was just a bit much for me, especially when combined with the pickled vegetables.

The waitress brought out my entrée, letting Dave know that his would be out in just a few minutes. I could smell the mushroom gravy on my jagerschnitzel ($13.95) before she even set it down. The large, flattened pork patty had been crumb-coated and fried golden, a beautifully burnished receptacle to hold the intense mushroom gravy. After squeezing a little lemon juice on top, I sliced into the schnitzel: fabulous texture and great flavor made short work of this German classic.

It was another 15 minutes before Dave's plate finally came out, with apologies from the server, and an extra sausage for his troubles. The bratwurst with roll ($7.95) was taut, plump, and far better eaten with knife and fork alone. Two mustards also vied for his attentions, with the spicy German brand coming out ahead — a little dab'll do ya!

Both entrees came with a large portion of potato salad. It was a formidable conglomeration of mashed potatoes flecked with chives, bacon and bits of red skin: creamy, hearty and filling, on all accounts.

Stuffed, but with duty in mind, I ordered a slice of apple cake to go. Warmed a touch the next morning, it was the ultimate breakfast escape. Buttery, rich and filled with layers of cinnamon, it was easily one of the best cakes I've tasted “out” in some time.

The new German corner of Denbigh and Warwick may be slightly out of the way, but don't let that hinder you. The food is authentic, as is the service. Like many German restaurants, the pace is slow and relaxed, while the food is individually prepared: settle back, get comfortable and get ready to be full.

Deutsche Ecke
14349 Warwick Boulevard, Newport News
Phone: 833-0711
Specialties: homemade German cuisine
Price range: entrees, $6.95-$13.95; sandwiches, $6.95-$7.95; sides, $2.95
Hours: 11:30 a.m.- 7 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday; 12 p.m.- 9 p.m. Friday/Saturday; 12 p.m.-4 p.m. Sunday
Alcohol: beer and wine
Smoking: no
Vegetarian: yes
Wheelchair accessible: yes
Payment: cash, credit cards
Noise level: conversational
Atmosphere: informal
Additional Information: catering available
Star rating: food 3, atmosphere 3, service 3
(out of five stars)


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