Sunday, July 10, 2011

In search of lost schnitzel

After having cooked dinner every night since getting to Heidelberg, in a kitchen enough better than the Paris dorm situation to make multi-dish meals possible, but a communal kitchen it's necessary to fight for burners in all the same, I was about ready to eat out for the sake of not having to deal with the pan, the one my husband and I both have a go at cleaning, but on which the char doesn't budge, and you can't soak it because someone else will need it, or at least the sink/counter space, and no, no dishwasher. I was hungry enough that I figured, how bad could #42 of the 255 restaurants in Heidelberg be? Well, precisely as bad as a bad sauce on overcooked frozen vegetables - and very randomly-selected vegetables, plus a whole lot of bean sprouts, yes, in Germany - could be. I mean, I've never been to Thailand, and the ideal to which I was comparing this was Chelsea Thai, where food comes on trays and where "quality" is not one of the draws, but where the food ranges from very good to the kind of thing you dream about when out of town. Or the Snail in Hyde Park, or even the decent-ish place not far from the dorm in Paris. So it wasn't an authenticity issue, or being accustomed to the more haute Thai food the West has to offer. This was just, well, bad.

As I was pushing the food around and trying to make the best of it, in walked a group of very authentic-looking retiree-sorts, of the German variety. My husband told me that they'd just asked the hostess where they could find schnitzel. I shot him a look that said, isn't that joke a bit obvious/xenophobic? Or possibly articulated that reaction as well. But he insisted that this was really happening, and I turned around and heard the hostess say "schnitzel," while pointing the group in the direction of a nearby beer garden.

The moral of the story is, my husband is not a xenophobe, and those folks had the right idea.

5 comments:

Britta said...

My brother said the worst Chinese food he ever ate was in Berlin (in fairness, this was 15 years ago), so I guess it's not surprising Thai food in Heidelberg would be even worse.
I had the worst Chinese food in recent memory from one of the only Chinese restaurants that delivers to HP. I should have known when one of the two reviews gave it 5 stars for serving fries with their bbq wings.

Phoebe said...

Your comment re: wings reminds me that my husband wishes to correct the story - what first happened was that the group came in and asked if that establishment - i.e. the Thai place - served schnitzel, and only when they learned otherwise (and my goodness, this place could not have had a kitschier "Thai" decor), did they get directed elsewhere. The wings story is making me think that maybe it's not so inconceivable that an "Asian" restaurant would also serve local favorites.

And, I don't remember having any Chinese food, good or bad, in HP. In Chinatown, yes. And really, really good Vietnamese food near Argyle. (Yes, I could go for some of that right about now.)

Britta said...

Well, you probably didn't miss much. I haven't eaten at the 2 Chinese restaurants in HP, one looks like a money laundering operation, and the other looks like a lower rent version of Panda express.

Daniel Goldberg said...

In the Ruhr, I stuck to Turkish food when I wanted ethnic vittels, and other than preferring my food spicy -- this is Germany -- was generally pleased.

I did not dare the Thai, but I hear there's pretty decent SE Asian food in Berlin (now, not 15 years ago).

Phoebe said...

I don't know. I suppose it's a factor of coming from NY, the source of all my faults, but I don't think Turkish and Thai fit into some kind of "ethnic" category for me, such that the two could be interchangeable. Really good stirfry of some other Asian/unspecified pan-Asian cuisine would do, but Turkish...