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Thursday, March 31, 2016

Munich: The Oldest Beer Hall @ Hofbräuhaus, Platzl

Munich’s oldest beerhall Hofbräuhaus is almost half a millennium old.  It is from this very hall that the smooth Wheatbeer was created and some even that this good old beer hall saved its residents from the plague.   The Hofbräuhaus layout span several floors.  A grand dance hall on top where admission is only for those dressed in folk clothing, a classic gastro pub in the mid levels and a celebratory beer hall at its base.  After spending the night before drinking with other travellers, I was convinced that Hofbräuhaus was one of the finest watering holes in Munich.  It is very similar to the Augustinerbräu, but how was Hofbräuhaus’s food?
The beers in Munich were really nice and not just plain bitter.  But more than half of my praise for the alcoholic beverage lies in its texture rather than taste.  It was smooth, with a creamy top, but unfortunately still no clearly defined malty flavours from the wheat! Or maybe I was just looking for something else haha.  

The lunch at Hofbräuhaus was my final meal before leaving Munich, so we stuck to the usual Bavarian classics.  A serve of Schweinshaxe and a Wurst platter.  Both dishes did not take long to come out but I did not feel wow-ed by its visual presence.  Neither did they look generous or lusciously meaty/crispy!  Instead it was, very dull. First up the Wurst platter.
Taste wise, the Wursts felt very “standard” in a way that if you were to go out on the streets you could easily pick a better one I would think. In fact, I think we had a better one on the street.  

The Bavarian classic the Schweinshaxe
The  Schweinshaxe is a grilled pork knuckle dish that present itself as a colossal piece of meat that is going to be impossible to finish yet the crispy skin makes any attempt worth the eater’s while.  But at Hofbräuhaus, the knuckle was tiny.  Looks like it was from a tiny pig!  But that was the least of my concern.  Instead I was more disappointed by lack of crispy skin to munch on!  For comparison, see the one I had in Berlin.  That was absolute proper!

For dessert, I just had to try the famous Bavarian Apple Strudel and challenge it to see whether it was a worth opponent to some of the best apple desserts I have had.  
As whole the strudel was OK.  It was not bad or anything like that but it failed to gather momentum beyond the ordinary.  The strudel layers were poorly defined, but I liked how the apple filling were more fragrant than sweet.  A pool of sweetened custard spiked with vanilla helped smoothen things out but still it did not bring me to a state of foodgasm.

Hofbräuhaus is the oldest beer hall that maintains its tradition.  While food is not its strong point, Hofbräuhaus boasts other bragging right Chilling the night away, enjoying folks music, and the company of foreign travellers all around the world is why Hofbräuhaus remains a popular choice among tourist and locals alike.  For the most local experience, avoid the Oktoberfest period which does not start in October but rather mid September onwards. Locals and Europeans tend to desert the area during Oktoberfest because accomodation is too pricey as it is geared towards people fro the States, the UK and Australia.


Thursday, March 24, 2016

Munich: Duck & Schnitzel @ Wirtshaus Zum Straubinger, Blumenstraße

Germany is a country known for its beer, football, precision engineering and really tall people.  But there is more to Germany than what meets the eyes.  A rich cultural heritage paired with modern influence has resulted in a diverse European landscape.  In the next few posts, I re-visit the sights and feeds that made me love this systematic country.

The amazing city centre was rebuilt after the bombing and is back better than ever.  The grand palace commands sweeping views through the man-made river at the front whilst its backyard was possibly one of the largest gardens I have ever seen.  It was safe to say, that Munich definitely wins my vote over Berlin any time.  After the long walk, it was time for another great meal with beer and Wirtshaus Zum Straubinger is one reliable option!  Remember to book or come early as the venue is not  big like your typical beerhall.

For me, I ordered the duck served with German dumpling known as knudel €15.50.

I am not sure why I had the duck craving when I was in Munich.  Even more surprising, the duck did not even look that amazing.  The duck did not boast the tantalising dark cherry red coloured skin like the Chinese duck roast do.  Neither did it have the multitude levels of Asian herbs and seasoning in the rub.  Yet, there was something warm and inviting  with the brownish duck thighs served to me.  Its sauce was slightly salty, the skin was soft but sported crisp edges.  It tasted really homely.  Thinking back, it was cooked very well too.  The flavour of the duck was not very gamey but every bit tender as one would expect a duck thigh to be. Yummy!

My colleague ordered the Schnitzel which was served with a side of potatoes €12.50.

When I had the Schnitzel with the berry sauce, it was instantly pleasing.  You first get a crisp bite that is salty, but at the same time not too salty. Courtesy of the berry sauce, my mouth had that ripeness that brought the whole dish together.  This really cuts through the oily flavours that deep-fried food normally pack.  Crispy all round, these golden brown delights were yummy.  But between my colleague and I, we reckon it could be a lot more crisp!  Fortunately, the Schnitzels were juicy and not overcooked till dry.  The potatoes cooked with caramelised onions were faultless and I had a hard time trying to not pack up all those carbs.  

The Wirtshaus Zum Straubinger was a TripAdvisor recommendation and I have to say that the public got it right this time.  A strong line up of traditional Bavarian dishes paired with good cooking definitely puts this place at the very top of my trip in Germany for sure.  This explains how this decent sized beerhall was filled with diners before we arrived and even more packed when we left.  Thankfully enough, I still had a very satisfying meal at the bar and the reviews surely did not disappoint.  As mentioned earlier, remember to make a booking as people who came in without one at 8pm got turned away.


Thursday, March 17, 2016

Munich: A Schmalznudel Breakfast @ Cafe Frischhut, Prälat-Zistl-Straße

Germany is a country known for its beer, football, precision engineering and really tall people.  But there is more to Germany than what meets the eyes.  A rich cultural heritage paired with modern influence has resulted in a diverse European landscape.  In the next few posts, I re-visit the sights and feeds that made me love this systematic country.

A chilly wind welcomed me the next morning.  The bus ride to town had some graffiti here and there but nothing was more astonishing than seeing boozy party heads board the 8am bus home.  Even as they boarded I could hear dance music echoing from the nearby club! This was party town for sure.  But nothing could distract me from my quest to seek the German version of the Cantonese “Ham Chin Peng” or deep fried bread called the Schmalznudel.  For that, I went to Cafe Frischhut located by the Viktualien Market.

The smell of freshly fried bread was every bit tempting.  The first bite in is a little off-putting as it did not taste as good as it looked.  But soon, the simplicity of the slightly salted pastry becomes an interesting flavour. Crispy, fluffy and over all very pleasing,  Then you hit the middle bit which is sweet!! This reminds me so much of home!  

Because two is better than one, I call for a second pastry.  This time it was the apricot jam doughnut and it was nothing short of more-ish.  Fruity apricot jam with a mild tartness had to be the highlight as I reckon the deep fried doughnuts were done better in Victoria Market in Melbourne.  Even then, how much difference can there be?  And more importantly who in the world dislikes a good doughnut ball right? :D!

The sink it all in, a cup of warming hot chocolate the way it normally is.  Super chocolatey but not too sweet.

While the warm breakfast here beats the other cold ones we have had in Europe, the price was a slight shocker.  These simple pastries amounted to €16 which is quite a lot if you ask me!  Also note that the drinks and food have different prices for eating in and taking away.  Having it in the cafe cost some 50 cents more per item!  But at the end of the day, I was still every bit satisfied.


Thursday, March 10, 2016

Munich: Augustinerbräu the unexpected find @ Landsberger Straat.

Germany is a country known for its beer, football, precision engineering and really tall people.  But there is more to Germany than what meets the eyes.  A rich cultural heritage paired with modern influence has resulted in a diverse European landscape.  In the next few posts, I re-visit the sights and feeds that made me love this systematic country.
A few weeks after my weekend in Berlin,  I was on a plane to Germany again.  This time to Munich, the land of beer and the home of BMW.  After a 45 minute train to the city and another 10 minute ride to the hotel, I was super hungry.  But being so far away from the city square in Munich, means I relied on some handy tools like Siri and Trip Advisor to find my dining place. Eventually,  I decided to go to Augustinerbräu which was not too far away from my hotel.

Its wooden accented beer hall was filled with a boisterous crowd and every table seemed more welcoming than the last as we walked through the hall.  Eventually, my colleague and I settled for a sit some 10 other people at the table.  

For drinks we had none other than the famous Augustiner Lager which I have no picture of.  This is some seriously crisp beer and it was fresh because there were no sulphates.  I did not get stomach ache or itch!  But the drinks were not the reason I was there, it was for the food.  I ordered the Augustiner platter €14.50 while my colleague called the Wurst platter €11.50. No pictures of his because his was essentially a plate of 6 sausages which consisted of 3 pork sausages and 3 white sausages (presumably turkey?) all of which was on my platter too!

2 sausages, a duck thigh, a slice of roast pork and half a pork knuckle served with a side of stewed cabbage, enough said my platter was massive. Looking back, elements on the platter like the duck tight and pork knuckle were cooked perfectly.  The scheiwntaxe was super crisp from its roasting while the duck was mildly gamey with a nice caramelised skin.  Sausages were “OK” but it did not taste as meaty as I expected it to be.  The bummer of them all was the chunky slice of roast pork which was dry. But 3 above average dishes definitely trumped over 1 poor one.  More importantly it was more than just a quantity meal, it was a delicious.   This meal along with the sausage platter could easily feed 3.  I was really hungry but could not even finish my meal.

After the meal, we sat around and chat with the lovely people around the table for awhile.  It was really interesting to have conversations with everyone on the table.  You had a guy that was totally drunk and infatuated with his girlfriend.  Then there was the underage kid with his dad drinking his 3rd stein and not to mention the American couple from the hood that worked in Alaska.   Augustinerbräu is more than just a beer hall.  Its a social scene paired with quality food in an amazing venue.


Thursday, March 3, 2016

Berlin: Currywurst at Curry 36 and Kebabs & Doners at Mustafas!

Germany is a country known for its beer, football, precision engineering and really tall people.  But there is more to Germany than what meets the eyes.  A rich cultural heritage paired with modern influence has resulted in a diverse European landscape.  In the next few posts, I re-visit the sights and feeds that made me love this systematic country.

Street food culture is all over Europe and Berlin has one that is worth talking about.  This is a tale of two kiosks less than 100 feet apart with a cult following and thousands of Facebook check-ins.  Recommended by my colleague’s AirBNB host, I went to the famous Curry 36 and Mustafa Gemüse Kebab.

Curry 36 serves the best Currywurst in Berlin and the hungry crowd enjoying piping hot Currywurst in the subzero weather is a testament to its fame.  So what is a Currywurst you might ask?  

Well, if you are expecting to see real curry, you are going to be disappointed.  Currywurst is essentially Berlin’s answer to making the meaty bratwurst even better; that is by topping them with a curry-infused ketchup and to finish, an extra sprinkle of curry powder with a side of chips.  True curry aficionados would frown at the sight of a Currywurst, but the flavours are actually pretty sublime thanks to the umami from the curried-ketchup that when paired with bratwurst has an undeniable chemistry.  Sure it was not life changing in anyway but its was yummy!

The queue at Mustafas is never shorter than 45 minutes be it day, or night.  

The Kebab:
The doner and kebabs at Mustafa Gemüse Kebab are legendary for a good reason.  Its attention to detail like the perfectly sweet caramelised vegetables inside as well as a finish of crumbled feta is a rarity when kebabs are often a food to go with little love put into it.  Secondly was their ridiculously juicy chicken slices.  If you have had a Doner by the road side stall in Istanbul you would totally understand the unfortunately dry chicken in the doners they serve!!  


Having both Curry 36 and Mustafa Gemüse Kebab so close to each other is a blessing!  If you are out late and want a great bite, I would look no further.  The combination of Currywurst and juicy Doners were sensational. But be warned that the 45 minute wait for a Doner is a bloody vibe killer.  Add the subzero temperature and its starts to sound ridiculous.  Fortunately, there is usually no queue at Curry 36 due to the quick turnover.  So why not enjoy a Currywurst while standing in line?  It sure distracts the mind from the cold and queue!  Would I recommend Mustafas despite the wait?  Well it really depends on how you view food!  If you queue in anticipation of a poached chicken, grilled to finished, drizzled with truffle oil, and finished with a sea-urchin infused aioli, then stay far.  It is far from fine dining but I know a good kebab when I see one ;)! So yes I would return to Mustafas!