I love restaurants where the kitchens are exposed to diners just like the innards of a watch where you get the insider’s glimpse into how all the parts work together in unison from the chopping block to the frying pan. I especially love watching the spectacle when the kitchen contains only one serious chef and a sous chef commandeering an entire dining room. When that chef turns out to be a rising star, like 27-year-old maestro Bernhard Mairinger, who was named one of Zagat’s 30 Under 30 hottest up and coming chefs this year, it’s even more exciting because you know you will get an earnest attention to detail that someone starting out and eager to please can only deliver.
The Cute Gardener and I have had Mairinger’s Bier Beisl, an authentic Austrian food and sausage joint, on our “to try” list for quite some time and decided to try it out last Saturday after a trip to Miracle Mile to patronize museum row. Mairinger not only stayed in the kitchen cooking the entire time, but I hardly once saw him even mutter a word to his sous chef or any of the guests. He was concentrated and focused the entire time and I knew it probably had something to do with the packed house thanks to an L.A. Times article that came out that same day. As a matter of fact, actor and writer Carl Reiner clutched the article and ordered from it directly at the table right behind us.
We arrived pre-sundown to the nondescript Beverly Hills location with a delightful, intimate and square, high-ceilinged dining room that filled up with serious eaters while we ate. On each wooden table sat a small red lantern just like in European bistros with a tiny white flickering candle. The home cured char appetizer was yummy and rich with dill and accentuated by tiny shards of luscious, tangy heirloom beets. A hunk of pretzel was brought out to eat with our second starter.
The second starter was the Weisswurst sausage pair. I had been hankering for this dish since reading about it and the fact that it was slow simmered in milk. Two fat links came plainly adorned with only sliced white onion, soft-enough-to-eat, spicy peppercorns and grainy mustard on the side. The sausages were very finely dense and the most mellow-flavored I’ve tried and really delicious. I was surprised at how big the portion was per price.
The restaurant actually offers an entirely separate sausage menu that offers links in ones or duos for anywhere from 5-10 bucks per dish. You could enjoy a sausage and beer tasting alone and be perfectly satisfied.
I wasn’t planning on eating schnitzel but once I sat down and saw the golden brown fried bits of bliss on other diner plates, I was taken back to the taste of the kinds I had enjoyed in Austria and decided I would be remiss not to try the traditional dish. I did opt for the veal version rather than pork to try something new. The schnitzel was light, perfectly fried with a nice ratio of breading to actual meat, and the veal was cooked very tender with a delightful dipping sauce of lingon berries. The potato salad was a gourmet version of the typical, tangy German version and I liked that the potatoes were thinly sliced coins dressed in yellow with herbs. My boyfriend reminded me that it was hard to screw up fried meat and then went on to really enjoy his own entrée.
A nice medium sized bowl of crispy pork belly and braised pork cheek on a pile of champagne cabbage, fat noodles, tiny, moist and unique vanilla carrots and whole grain mustard infused pork jus was the happy dish of the night.
We also ordered another sausage after seeing how great the first one was. The Kasekrainer came as one fat link, blistered beautifully on the outside and infused with Swiss cheese. Absolutely delicious alongside a pile of the fluffiest horseradish, although it obviously didn’t stay on the plate long enough for me to even snap a picture.
The Sachertorte and Apfelstrudel desserts were good but not spectacular, although I did think the way the strudel was thinly stacked with strata of apple, dough and sauce was architecturally appealing.
Austrian wines were a pleasant surprise for us over the course of the evening. I had enjoyed discovering Austrian wine country while roaming the Linz and Melk countrysides along with Vienna last year and was happy to try them again in Los Angeles. We enjoyed and shared a Malat 2010 Gruner Veltliner; a Wieninger Estate, Gemischter Satz (white), 2009 from Vienna, Austria; a Umathum Estate, Zweigelt Classic (red), 2009 from Neusiedlersee, Austria; a Markowitsch Estate, Blaufraenkisch (red), 2009 from Carnuntum, Austria and for dessert, a Hiedler Estate, Reisling Urgestein, 2009 from Kamptal, Austria.
I would totally go back for a sausage tasting experience, seated at the bar with a bunch of friends looking for something interesting to do and I hope others do too because the restaurant deserves the support. I hope people don’t try it once for the signature schnitzel novelty and then fail to come back again, although in this fickle town that’s going to be a hard-pressed feat.