If you haven’t heard of Bauhaus until now, don’t worry: you’re going to be hearing lots more about this place. Here’s betting it ends up being named Best New Restaurant of 2015 on all the lists that proclaim such things.
I have to admit it: when I looked at the website before coming in anonymously for dinner at the German restaurant, I was gobsmacked by the prices: appetizers range from $18 to $27. Mains start at $33 and top out at $68, for beef tenderloin. But the whole experience was so stellar that, although out of reach for many, those numbers now don’t seem out of line.
The place is pricey, yes, but shockingly and thankfully, it’s not pretentious. The wait staff were all attentive, professional, and friendly. The personable general manager, Tim Adams, who used to manage at Kensington Palace, of all places, visited our table. The owner, Uwe Boll, in faded jeans and a Rolling Stones Sticky Fingers T-shirt, came and introduced himself, sharing the tale of how the building’s water main had broken two days earlier, just a week after opening, forcing him to shut down midway through dinner service and stay closed the next night, much to his obvious pissed off–edness. (Boll is better known as a director and producer of low-budget horror films.)
Even chef Stefan Hartmann—who earned a Michelin star at his own Berlin restaurant in 2010—came to say hi, clearing our empty soup bowls while he was at it. Having noticed that a couple of the dishes we’d ordered to share came with asparagus, he offered to switch things up on one of them. (He substituted green beans sliced lengthwise, fava beans, carrots, and zucchini.)
We got the kind of service that makes you feel valued.
Situated in the heritage building that used to house the original Boneta (and that decades earlier was a bank; check out the brick-encased vault, complete with a bullet hole in it at the top), the restaurant, now ground-level, has a modern, minimalist aesthetic and an open, airy atmosphere. The room’s use of concrete, dark-grey marble, and wood is offset by an enormous, colourful painting by Haida artist Corey Bulpitt, while Spanish duo Olliemoonsta graffitied the washrooms to funky effect.
It’s the kind of restaurant you want to linger in. And what wonderful fare to loll over. If “German food” doesn’t sound all that exciting, Hartmann makes it so. Having worked in several Michelin-rated spots in Europe before opening his own restaurant in 2007, he offers both the classics (more on the lunch menu) and the contemporary (dinner).
“German cuisine has changed a lot,” Hartmann says in a follow-up phone call. “We cannot serve it the way we served it 50 years ago. It’s lighter, definitely lighter. German cuisine has a lot of one-pot dishes, a lot of stews, but you can’t serve it like that in the evening [in a restaurant], even if you have the best product in there.”
When asked about the price point, he says it all goes back to the overall experience.
“You have a lot of labour, a lot of good product. My meat is all from B.C., my chicken is from organic farms, I try to get all my vegetables from organic farms. It’s the ambiance, too; if you’re taking a cruise on the Queen Elizabeth or some old ship, it’s different. You pay for the ambiance.”
House-made sourdough bread starts things off, accompanied by a small dish of dill-and-chive cottage cheese. A surprisingly light veal schnitzel has a simple bread-crumb coating and is served with thick white asparagus, perfect potatoes, and hollandaise sauce. Velvety white asparagus soup is poured tableside into an elegant white bowl containing spot prawns, delicately chopped green asparagus, and “royal”, a thick egg custard that’s traditionally used as a garnish for German wedding soup, here cut into a marshmallow shape.
Arctic char comes with cauliflower three ways along with diaphanous pickled radish, trout caviar, and microgreens. There’s a lot going on here visually and tastewise, yet in Hartmann’s hands, the flavours are woven together flawlessly and the char is still the star.
Then there’s the must-have goat cheese strudel: it’s not the sweet, heavy pastry that might come to mind but a phyllo-encased roll of goat cheese delicately blended with thyme, rosemary, parsley, and clarified butter. It’s an exquisite main dish (that’s typically served with asparagus).
Hartmann offers a six-course chef’s tasting menu ($110), which, like the à la carte selections, changes regularly. A notable item on the current roster is the slow-cooked onsen egg—a Japanese-influenced dish named after the hot-spring-inspired cooking method—with Jerusalem artichoke and prosciutto di Parma.
Bauhaus has a nitrogen-based wine dispenser, a unit that preserves wine in open bottles and means that, on occasion, very expensive selections not normally available by the glass will be.
The cocktail list is nouveau German. Don’t let the mention of buttermilch (buttermilk) stop you from having the margarita, all frothy, fruity, and smooth with agave syrup, quince jam, and fresh lime and lemon.
It’ll cost me, but I’ll be back.