Unless it was your nursery food, German cooking may hold little appeal beyond being ample, comforting and working well with a pitcher of Bavarian beer.
If there is a nouveau, lighter style of German cuisine, I have not encountered it. And you won’t find such a thing at Lindenhof. For 30-some years, from a variety of Ottawa locations, this German restaurant has dished up the plates it has always served.
Lindenhof’s menu has survived its latest move intact. (It is now settled in the middle of the smorgasbord of cuisines that lately flavours Little Italy.) So have the prices, I’m happy to report – a rarity when a restaurant relocates and has all those relocation bills to pay.
Here still are the schnitzels, schweinshaxe, and sauerbraten, still served with spaetzles, sauerkraut and tart red cabbage. Here are the slow-cooked, steadfast dishes based on meat and starch that we have come to associate with central Europe.
Lindenhof’s last home on Forest Road in Ottawa West, was a tired, dreary-looking space, with a surplus of fake vines and dusty bunches of grapes. I don’t miss it.
This Preston Street location is smaller, brighter, busier, though also more generic-looking. The same space has been home to
Italian restaurant Gusti and, more recently, to Four Cuisines Bistro. Lindenhof’s pale walls are outfitted with a few gnarly planks of reclaimed wood, and adorned with Bavarian beer memorabilia, Deutsch porcelain and assorted MÃ¼nchen bric-a-brac. There is music, of course, to provide mood (and lights on full blast to take some of it away).
There are appetizers, but you won’t need them. Main dishes come with soup (reliably good) or salad (fine). Pork edges out the other meaty mains – the schnitzel is pounded flat tenderloin, breaded and fried and served with spaetzles, or with bacon and onion home fries and red cabbage. It is tender, tasty and fine enough. And there are the wursts, garlic sausages, served with sauerkraut, mashed potatoes and a daub of strapping mustard. Is that riesling in the mushroom cream sauce that naps the pork tenderloin? It’s good.
But I prefer the braised dishes – the schweinshaxe (pork hock), the meat falling from the bone as it should, and the sauerbraten of roast beef, soused for days in a sour cocktail with juniper berries and cloves, resulting in slabs of very tender, very juicy beef. This comes with a solid dumpling and shredded vegetables, colourful on an otherwise shades-of-brown plate, and served al dente.
In a cheeky mood one night, I order the vegetarian platter. Not Lindenhof’s finest dish, more a hasty collection of the few non-meat bits on the menu – zwiebelkuchen (an onion tart, much like a quiche, of cream and egg and nutmeg, with soft onion on pastry, that tasted overheated, a bit dry) plus apple-red cabbage, the house sauerkraut, a mountain of yummy home fries, plus some salad and vegetables.
There is strudel, of course, but we find it has little apple flavour, and there is Black Forest cake and custard, neither of which, I regret to tell you, I have tried. With bags of leftover schweinshaxe and such, it’s always seems absurdly piggy to ask for a round of desserts.
But I have tried the beer. Four are available on tap. The Lindenhof lager goes well with much of this food, or if you favour a darker brew, the Warsteiner Dunkel. My favourite was the Hacker-Pschorr.
Service is darling and efficient, with a dash of the maternal. You are cared for without being fussed over by a charming pro. She loves the food and wants you to love it, too. You don’t love it as much as she. But you understand its appeal.