A Taste of Germany In Berkeley

Real-deal Black Forest cake at Gaumenkitzel. (photo by Carolyn Jung)

Real-deal Black Forest cake at Gaumenkitzel. (photo by Carolyn Jung)

 

Gaumenkitzel in Berkeley is named for the old-fashioned German term for “delicious and precious.”

The restaurant is both those things personified.

It was opened in 2011 by husband-and-wife Kai Flache and Anja Voth, who hail from Hamburg, Germany.

You can’t miss the restaurant on San Pablo Avenue, what with its sunny mustard-hued facade. It’s the place for comforting, rib-sticking fare, along with what’s likely the largest selection of German beers and wines in the Bay Area.

Recently, I met my brother and sister-in-law for dinner, paying our own tab at the end.

The happy-hued exterior. (photo courtesy of Gaumenkitzel)

The happy-hued exterior. (photo courtesy of Gaumenkitzel)

Flache revamped and designed the colorful, almost Scandinavian-like, clean-lined space, which used to be a lighting store. Voth is the head chef. She takes great pride in the fact that everything that can be made in house, is. That means even milling her own flour to make bread daily, flaking her own oats for granola, jarring her own jams, and culturing her own yogurt.

The “KQED Check Please! Assorted Bread Platter” ($10) was made famous, of course, when the restaurant appeared on an episode of that popular Public Television show in 2016. If you love bread, this is a must-order.

Say "yes'' to bread.

Say “yes” to bread. (photo by Carolyn Jung)

You get two brezels or Bavarian-style pretzels, which are snappy on the outside, and tender within with that lovely malty pretzel flavor we all know and love. Whether smeared with butter or German hot mustard — or both — they are a delight.

The assortment also includes two slices of house-baked bread that have that wonderful long-ferment tanginess, and two slices of dense, hearty flaxseed bread from Germany.

My brother couldn’t pass up the traditional schnitzel ($20). The tender, pounded pork loin is breaded and fried to a perfect golden crispiness. The plate is heaped with sweet-sour braised purple cabbage and your choice of mashed potatoes or spaetzle.

Classic schnitzel. (photo by Carolyn Jung)

Classic schnitzel. (photo by Carolyn Jung)

The slightly "healthier'' hunter-style version. (photo by Carolyn Jung)

The slightly “healthier” hunter-style version. (photo by Carolyn Jung)

I went with the slightly “leaner” version of that dish: “Jägerschnitzel “Cutlet Hunter’s Style” ($23), in which the slices of pork loin are neither breaded nor fried, but sauteed in a pan. Accompanying it were more of that apple-braised cabbage, along with a mushroom ragout enriched with a cream sauce. I chose spatzle to go alongside. Roll the tender dumplings into a little of the mushroom cream sauce for a real treat.

My sister-in-law’s pork stew was just the kind of dish you want on a cold night. Juicy nuggets of pork swam in a creamy sauce with a big fluffy bread dumpling perched in the middle of the dish.

A pillowy bread dumpling and pork stew.

A pillowy bread dumpling and pork stew. (photo by Carolyn Jung)

Gaumenkitzel makes its own labor-intensive Black Forest Cake ($8) using real German cherry brandy. Airy layers of genoise and buttery shortbread sandwich a filling of raspberry jam, cherry compote and plenty of whipped cream. It’s a celebration cake that feels so indulgent to enjoy.

A coffee cake-like streusel.

A coffee cake-like streusel. (photo by Carolyn Jung)

Voth also makes a streusel cake ($6) with fillings that change up seasonally. This time, it was plum, accenting a yeasted cake foundation and a coffee cake-like crumb top.

If all you know of German food is bratwurst, it’s high time you got to know it a lot better at a sweet place like Gaumenkitzel.
P.S. Get a taste of Gaumenkitzel in your own home in September 2019, when my new cookbook “East Bay Cooks” (Figure 1) debuts, with two recipes from that restaurant, including the “Jägerschnitzel “Cutlet Hunter’s Style.”
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