August 11, 2011

On Expats, Crocs and Breweries

Brauhaus am Südstern - Kreuzberg

Last week I found myself sitting in my kitchen with an older American lady and her over-developed sense of entitlement, wondering what to do for food. The conversation became truly impossible when her dark passenger came into the picture and she ended up twitching compulsively, grinding her teeth and growling “ethnic!” every time I suggested anything resembling German food.

Needless to say, I felt like punching her in the face. There is nothing worse than booing on an ex-pat’s attempt to present their country-of-choice’s culinary treats. I may have an interminable list of grievances relating to every annoying facet of the Teutonic way of life, but at the end of the day, I am still in Germany. Alive, kicking and paying taxes. Moreover, with visitors from abroad lurking around my Kreuzberg flat, I suddenly find myself getting strangely sensitive about the topic. I cannot seem to fend off the notion that I have to defend my choice of residence and forget everything I find so infuriating about the place.

As that lady was a tad older and made a whole speech not being able to walk unless carried or chauffeured, I ended up explaining to her that all “ethnic” restaurants were too far away and that if we wanted to avoid walking too much, the only choice we had was between German and Italian restaurants. She grudgingly accepted to try out German food, as the horror of forcing carbs down her throat (the Italian way) seemed to give her spasms she could not quite wrap her finger around. She then stashed her sense of entitlement into her handbag while changing her vile Crocs into less comfortable, yet equally vile shoes in order to go and check out Brauhaus am Südstern on Hasenheide.

Now there is nothing better than taking a random visitor from abroad to a brewery in order to do German food. The Brauhaus am Südstern brews its own beer (a dunkler and heller Stern, both for 3.40 € a pint. Definitely better than the local poison otherwise known as Berliner Pilsner/Kindl) and serves a large selection of bog standard German dishes from schnitzel to Bratwurst. It has a large balcony facing the street and another garden facing Hasenheide park in the back (luckily the small chunk of it that is still relatively unaffected by drug dealing of all sorts). The interior space is vast and is neither particularly inviting nor disturbing in any way. Teutonically standard would have to fit the bill even here.

It was a chilly evening and we started our meal with two soups: the ungarische Gulaschsuppe (Hungarian goulash soup, 3.40 €) and a Rote-Beetesuppe (beetroot soup for 3.30 €). They were both pleasingly substantial. The beetroot soup was thick and sourish with a touch of tomato. It was not very refined, but it had a strong presence and was overall one of these perfect dishes for a quiet evening. The goulash soup was a nice chunk of Germanness altogether: it was thick and stodgy, meat galore with a taste that was neither too overwhelming nor in any way bland. Again nothing close to an orgasm of refined quality, yet it was a dish was all the more pleasing for its no-bullshit value. It was inexpensive, large and filling.

Beetroot soup
Beer goulash

We continued to order stews: the Deftiges Biergulasch (beer goulash with Semmelknödel and red cabbage, 9.50 €) and the Boeuf Stroganoff from the menu of the week (for those who do not know what a beef stroganoff is, I’ll just have to describe it as slices of beef in creamy and mushroomy gravy, here it was served with a side of potato rösti and a salad for 12.50 €). The goulash was great. It was simple and hearty. The beer gravy was thick and pleasing and the meat was tender and fun. The Semmelknödel (bread dumplings) were just right – crispy outside and flavoursome inside. The cabbage was a bit bland, but then again, it was only a side of red cabbage. The Beef Stroganoff was – again – fun. It was a well-executed stodgy dish for a cold evening. It was not refined as the ridiculously French version of its name or the higher price might have suggested, but it was good quality for good value. The sauce was good (one often gets creamy sauces that are just creamy without any flavour to them, here it was just right) and the meat’s quality was more than satisfying. The rösti was more of a large potato pancake, but it was pleasant enough and gave the dish the Russian touch it would have otherwise lacked completely. We left so full that we could not even fit a dessert down our throats.

Goulash soup
Beef Stroganoff

At the end of the day, I can only recommend Brauhaus am Südstern. It may not be a culinary experience that will swipe you off your feet, but it does offer nice, hearty food for very affordable prices. If you happen to be around Südstern and feel like having a goulash, don’t be a stranger!

Overall Mark:

Brauhaus Südstern
Hasenheide 69, 10967 Berlin

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1 comment:

  1. Ah, local beer - delicious! Might need to try this as the winter weather clings to spring.