Saturday, June 19, 2010

Comfort Food at the Council's Cellar

The word Rathskeller (German: "council's cellar", sometimes spelled Ratskeller) is, in essence, a German bar or eatery below street level, although few of them actually are below street level anymore. When I was a kid I thought the word meant 'rat cellar' - which wouldn't be so far off the literal meaning, since councillors, or politicians often do behave like rats. The term originally referred specifically to restaurants that were located in the basement of city hall (Rathaus). As a proper noun, many taverns, nightclubs and similar establishments throughout the world now use this as a name. Victoria's version of the German council's cellar has been a fixture for decades, and restaurants don't generally become fixtures unless they consistently deliver the goods over the years.

The Rathskeller Restaurant in Victoria does not demand a lot of flowery adjectives or puffy reviews, so I'm not going to spend a lot of time writing about this place. Suffice it say that this particular 'council's cellar' serves up delicious German comfort food, in hearty portions and with real German beer to boot, or I should say - in a boot! That's right, you can get large glass boots full of German draft beer delivered to your table, and any place that does this is okay with me.

With half my heritage German, and having lived in the Fatherland as a youngster, Victoria's Rathskeller truly does evoke the kinds of feelings comfort food (a much abused, misused term) is supposed to evoke. If you ever saw the animated film of a few years ago, Ratatouille, you'll remember the scene when the stuffy food critic is served a bowl of ratatouille, and is instantly sent back in an almost pleasurable trance to his childhood... this is what the Rathskeller does for me.

Authentic schnitzels, rouladen, sauerbraten, pork hocks, spatzle and homemade bratwurst are to be gobbled up at this Victoria eatery institution. Their fresh sheet menu usually boasts venison. Nothing fancy, just a reliable meat & potatoes dinner done well. The atmosphere is German kitsch, and the female servers wear traditional dirndls, but for some odd reason, it works. From the street, it has an unassuming, dingy appearance, but once inside, and if you check your high expectations at the door, you really do feel like you're in a cellar bar somewhere in Munich. If you go on the weekends, they have live oompa music, and yes, the guy does take requests! They have a couple of really good German import beers available, a healthy schnapps menu and some very simple, but edible traditional desserts. If you notify them you are celebrating a birthday, they will give you a free schnapps or dessert. Without hesitation, I always opt for schnapps.

I recommend the Rathskeller Plate, a wonderful sampler plate, offering you a bit of everything, and at about the same price as you pay for a single schnitzel plate.

Ja! Rathskeller schmeckt gut!!!

The Rathskeller Schnitzel House on Urbanspoon