Neighbourhood: St. James
Address: 2583 Portage Ave
Phone: (204) 888-3133
(Editor’s Note – This business is no longer open.)
Gasthaus Gutenberger is a lively German gathering place that encourages unabashed gorging on Chef/owner Kurt Wagner’s rich and robust recipes. Mounds of food are not the only things in excess: steins overflow with liquid gold and a feeling of willkommen fills the room (mostly at the hand of a lederhosen-clad accordion player who seamlessly segues from Bach to beer chants).
Little has changed about the restaurant since it opened in 1995, when Chef Kurt rebranded and relocated his celebrated Schnitzel House from its rural roots in Wawanesa. Elegant chandeliers and upholstered high-back chairs add European sensibility, while wood paneling and stipple walls create a Bavarian chalet atmosphere. Last summer, the spacious restaurant expanded to include a private room adjacent to its lounge, a perfect spot for any raucous celebration.
However simple the presentation, quality ingredients, time-honoured preparations and attention to detail ensure each dish is eminently satisfying. Even the humble breadbasket stands out. Chef Kurt bakes a white loaf with bacon bits and onion flakes daily. Eschewing butter, he serves it with a cream cheese and fresh chive spread.
Bratwurst, offered as both an appetizer and entrée, is a classic start to any German feast. Mixed with fresh marjoram, the skinny house-made pork sausages are moist and surprisingly airy. Dip a pan-fried piece in the tangy beer gravy to round out the flavour. Blatterteigpastechen (the bilingual staff pronounces it with ease!) is a rich and filling option. Puff pastry rests in a pool of luscious hollandaise, erupting with a salpicon of diced veal and mushrooms in a rich Riesling cream sauce. Stalks of asparagus add crunch to the flaky volcano.
Chef Kurt’s specialty may be German, but his familiarity with other types of European cuisine is evidenced in the Hungarian goulash. Dissolve-in-your-mouth beef cubes simmer in a complex tomato base that tricks the taste buds with sweet and spicy notes.
Not surprisingly, the chef’s professed favourite entrée is schnitzel, and he offers more than a half dozen preparations of the breaded cutlets. Zigeuner is pork splashed in a sweet and sour orange gypsy sauce with julienned peppers and onions. The baroness is a mellower version, with a heavy white wine cream sauce that complements the satisfying crunch of the schnitzel.
Rinderroulade is a typical German preparation. Pickle, onion and bacon are rolled in a thin shank of beef and slow roasted. Silky gravy tops the monolithic tube, enriching the meat’s juices.
Not many chefs allow side dishes to play a lead role in the meal quite like Chef Kurt: fuchsia-hued cabbage offsets the rich meat with a double jolt of tart and sweet; starch options include soft-as-marshmallow pommes croquettes and spätzle, udon-like egg noodles that add a pleasing chewy texture to the plate.
Gasthaus Gutenberger is open Mon-Wed 11 am-10 pm; Thu-Fri 11 am-3 pm, 4 pm-11 pm; Sat 4:30 pm-11 pm; Sun 11 am-3 pm; 4 pm-10 pm.