Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Augustiner Keller München

On my recent visit to Munich, nearly every person I asked for restaurant recommendation from said to go to Augustiner Keller.  But, they weren't really telling me to go for the food.  It was more about the beer, and the experience ... not exactly a match for my interests.  Augustiner Keller is the largest beer garden in the world.  I don't really drink beer.

The first night we were in town, Ojan's work group had a big dinner there.  He came back not impressed, and told me I'd hate it.  He said it was an experience, but, he didn't really want to return himself, and he had another dinner scheduled there later in the week that he wasn't looking forward to.

Yet everyone kept recommending it, and, it was close to the office.  So, several days into the trip, my colleagues headed there.  I decided to eat dinner at the office and then join them for dessert, since I knew the desserts were supposed to be at least decent, and hey, this way I'd get to finally try a real German dessert.

Or so I thought.

The Space

Augustiner Keller is really two different establishments: a beer garden and a restaurant.  Both are quirky in their own ways, quite distinct, and massive.
Outside Beer Garden.
Outside is a beer garden, with big screens showing sports, and a counter where you order food, wait for it out in a little shack, and seat yourself.  I imagine that on a sunny afternoon this place is quite popular.  As it was, it was a rainy evening, and it was still pretty busy.  It was there that my co-workers had gathered, so they could watch the game on the tv screens.  This area is massive, with picnic tables going as far as the eye can see.

When I found my co-workers, they had only giant beer steins and equally massive pretzels on the table, so, I quickly went to the counter area to order dessert, only to find that the limited menu outside did not include dessert (besides an ice cream freezer).  Don't get me wrong, an ice cream freezer is an exciting thing, but I had just left my office with a stellar ice cream freezer, and wanted a "real" dessert!

(In case you are wondering, of course I tried the mega-pretzel, and, it was actually quite good).

Thus, I convinced some of them to join me inside so we could order from the dessert menu.
Front Hall.
The second half of the establishment is a restaurant, with outdoor and indoor seating, and table service.  It has a much more extensive menu, and a real kitchen.  Like the beer garden, it is also massive.

This photo shows just the calm front hall.  There is also a downstairs that you can reach from this area, and two side outdoor patios.

And then the main dining hall.
Main Dining Hall.
The main room was a sight to behold.  Like a giant mess hall, with huge, long tables running the entire length of the room.  Parties are seated where they fit.

It was packed and quite loud.  Each table had a basket of normal sized pretzels waiting on it.

The decor was fascinating, ornate woodwork, paintings on the ceiling, and massive round light figures with exposed bulbs.

It looked like a scene from history books.
There is also a stage inside.  With a painting on the wall behind it.

Instead of a band setup though, there are tables.  And, within a few minutes of our being seated, people were seated up there.  Where they special?  We have no idea.  It was totally weird to have people up there.

Even more amusingly, Ojan said the night he was there, the stage was filled with diners, and there was a live band ... off on the side, rather than on the stage.

I feel like there must be a story here.


So, dessert.  The server came over, asked if we were hungry, and I said, "yes, for dessert!"

He handed me two menus, all in German, and walked away.

The first menu was the classic menu, with items always available.  The second was the daily specials.  Both had 4-5 desserts on them.  Again, all in German.

I pulled out handy Google translate on my phone, and got to work.  Several minutes into my fun translating (which, works really well with the app by the way, you just hold it up and it translates in real time, totally amazing!), one of my co-workers said, "hey, do you just want me to translate it for you?"  It was then that I remembered he was Austrian.  To be fair, he lives in New York now, I know him from his time in San Francisco, and before that he lived in Melbourne, so he speaks with an Australian accent.

Anyway, once we translated the menu, we were ready to order, and our server did come back in a reasonable amount of time.

One diner is gluten-free, so he ordered the only thing that seemed gluten-free (Bavarian cream with berries).  The rest of us decided to share things so we could try several.  There were 4 of us, and I knew that the desserts would all be huge.  Of the 4 of us, one person said he didn't want dessert, and one was stuffed, so I suggested we get only two desserts.  Yet somehow we got three.  It was definitely too much dessert, but, we did order the top three things I wanted to try, so, not all a bad thing.
Ofenfrische Dampfnudel in der Honigkruste mit heißer Vanillesoße.
"Freshly baked dumpling in the honey crust with vanilla sauce."

From the standard menu, we picked the dumpling.  I will admit, this is not quite what I was expecting, as, uh, it didn't look like a dumpling, but I was pleasantly surprised.

Basically, it sorta reminded me of hybrid between a bread pudding and a doughnut?  The dough was super soft, fluffy, and had an underlying sweetness.  Sorta like any good, fresh, sweet roll from a bakery.

It was surrounded by vanilla custard.

It was served warm (both the dumpling and the sauce), which I really appreciated.

Overall, this was pretty good.  I liked the warm bread and the custard.  It was my favorite dish, one other diner's second favorite, and the other ranked it tied for second place.
Ofenfrischer Rahmapfelstrudel mit Vanillesoße und Sahne.
"Applestrudel, straight out of the oven, served on a creamy hot vanilla sauce."

When every person has talked to me about dessert in Germany, they've told me to get an apple strudel.  Never, ever what I'd pick, as I don't like apples really, but, I decided if there was a time to try the iconic German dessert, doing it in a group at a famous beer hall might as well be it.

My opinion was exactly as I expected.  Yup, it was filled with apple.  I love pastry, and, the strudel form doesn't provide much pastry.  Just lots of apples.

Of course, I liked what came with it, a generous puff of whipped cream topped with little berries and a mint leaf, and an entire dish full of "vanilla sauce" to pour over it.

As I've been known to just eat bowls of crème anglaise, it should come as no surprise to you that I did the same here.  The others found this to be odd behavior, saying things like, "And you aren't even drunk!" or "Do you realize how many miles you'll have to run to burn that off?"

Clearly, these folks don't know me very well.  This is totally normal behavior for me, and, honestly, is it really any different than eating a bowl of custard pudding or ice cream?   Yeah, I didn't think so.

Anyway, I didn't care for the strudel, because, apples, making it my least favorite, but it was the favorite of one diner, and tied for second for the other.
Topfenstrudel mit Vanillesoße und Walnußeis.
Finally, we also picked a daily special dessert, another strudel.

This one was filled with a cheese filling, it reminded me of ricotta cheesecake, so I'm guessing there was some ricotta or cream cheese involved.  Again, not enough pastry to evaluate the pastry, it was all about the filling.  I like cheesecake, but, I didn't really see a reason to serve it like this.  Clearly, not the dessert for me.

On the side was the same vanilla sauce and generous amount of whipped cream.  These were again good, and of course, I again ate them by the spoonful.

But, this dish also came with something special: walnußeis.  That is, walnut ice cream.  The ice cream was really, really, really good.  Loaded with caramelized nuts.  It was super sweet, the nuts added a great crunch, and, I totally stole the entire tiny scoop.  Seriously good ice cream.

This ice cream was, hands down, the best item of the night, making this my second favorite dish overall.  One other diner ranked this last, as he loved the apple strudel and the dumpling, but the other also ranked this first, saying, "That ice cream is really, really good!"
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