Sunday, December 30, 2012

Essen Restaurant & Beer Cafe, Ultimo

This is one of those places that I always walked past during my uni days but never seem to bother going inside despite their student deals - back then we were more into Satang Thai and anything Japanese nearby. Before heading to Europe, my main exposure to German or Austrian food has been pork knuckles and chicken/pork schnitzels at Bavarian Bier Cafe and Lowenbrau. Essen has the usual meals and much more which is good if you have any friends who are vegetarian or other strict diets and you are in the mood for European food from Germany, Austria and even the Netherlands.

The layout is similar to the beer halls in Sydney and Europe with all the chairs and decor being wooden and brown along with a noisy, bustling atmosphere and an extensive range of European beer to satisfy your drinking needs.


For the entrĂ©es  we started with a whole lot of crumbly goodness. Starting off was the mushrooms coated with breadcrumbs which was irresistibly crunchy to our liking. And the mushrooms inside were juicy enough to sustain the coating's crispiness. Tasted great with the zesty saffron aioli. It was a sure favourite for us as it was finished very quickly. 

Crumbed mushrooms with saffron aioli ($8.50)

Deep fried cheese? Hell yeah! It may sound unusual as Camembert is generally a soft, creamy cheese but it is totally worth it to expand your taste buds. Like the mushrooms, the crumbed coating is also very crunchy throughout each piece. Yet the Camembert cheese still remains very creamy, melted and gooey despite being deep-fried. A total guilty pleasure for meat lovers, cheese lovers and vegetarians. The cranberry sauce on the side complemented the rich and cheesy dish with a sweet and tangy flavour. 

Deep fried Camembert with cranberry compote ($10)

For anyone who ordered a schnitzel dish, there were complimentary sides of roesti and cabbage salad. I really enjoyed the roseti especially eating the thinly shredded, crispy bits of the potato. The cabbage salad at Essen was coated with some kind of spice (maybe paprika?), which I found overwhelming as personally I thought the cabbage was good on its own.

Cabbage salad

Most of my friends had the Jager Schnitzel (schnitzel with creamy mushroom). We were stunned by the name of this schnitzel and hoping there is some kind of Jagermeister in the sauce but I guess it's just a name. And the servings were incredibly huge. Seriously and massively an understatement! Laid out in two big fillets of chicken schnitzel and covered with creamy mushroom sauce which sat on a small pile of potato roesti, it is a whole load of rich and hearty goodness. I tried a few pieces and I can tell you that this is surely one of the better schnitzels I've had. It wasn't dry but it wasn't soggy either. It was actually better than some of the schnitzels I've tried in Germany and Austria! Will definitely try this on my next visit.

Jager Schnitzel ($22.50)

I forgot which schnitzel this is but based on the menu, I am guessing this is the Gypsy schnitzel (let me know if I'm wrong). Like the Jager schnitzel, this one is equally big in portions but with a more seasoned taste with a tomato based, capsicum, onion and chilli sauce. I did not get the chance to try it but the friend thought it was very filling yet satisfying.

Gypsy Schnitzel ($22.50)

I went a different route and chose the pork belly which has caught my attention the moment I looked at the menu. The servings here is just as generous as the schnitzels but I managed to finish it. The best bit was of course the crispy pork crackling which was incredibly hard to cut through with the meat which is slightly dry though it still tasted flavoursome. This one is served with roesti and the good old sauerkraut which played a well deserved role in helping with finishing up the plate. In my opinion, it seems like one of the better versions of pork belly that I have tasted across Sydney especially when combined with the sides on this dish.

Pork belly with roesti, sauerkraut and apple chutney jus ($27.50)

Another thing that caught out attention was the Schnitzilla challenge. If the schnitzels that we got were massive enough, this just takes it to a whole new level of 3.5 kg! We initially considered eat it as a shared dish but decided to try more options. On the way to the restroom, there are polaroid pictures of the many many people who failed the challenge. I wasn't able to find a picture of anyone who actually won so that's an idea on how tough it really is.

The portions are incredibly generous so bring a few friends to share some of the dishes as it was a struggle for some of us to finish the main meals. I really enjoyed the service as well as the many beers and schnapps we had that night. If you want to try a more authentic version of German/Austrian cuisine, then this is the place to check it out as it does a decent job in bringing out a wide selection of hearty food instead of the usual staples. And it's good value for money and not too pricey either when you consider what you get in return.

Since it's almost the end of the year, I want to thank you readers for checking out my blog throughout the year. There will be more to come in 2013 with even more new restaurants and foodie events coming up soon. Happy New Year and Prost!

Essen Restaurant and Beer Cafe 
135 Broadway, Sydney NSW 2000
(02) 9211 3805

Essen Restaurant & Beer Cafe on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

  1. dayeeem those deep fried mushies look good, esp with the saffron aioli :D