Monday, September 8, 2008

Goldenen Hecht

Goldenen Hecht, Heidelberg, Germany

Restaurant attached to a small hotel by the historic bridge in Heidelberg.

Most of central Heidelberg seems to exist as a tourist destination. Several of the streets are restricted access for cars, allowing pedestrians to walk and shop freely along them. Although there are German necessities stores, small markets and the like, the majority of the shops sell souvenirs of one sort or another.

By a happy chance, we visited Heidelberg on a weekend when there was scheduled to be a large fireworks show. This was a happy chance in more ways than one. It not only allowed us to see the show, it indirectly resulted in our discovering the Goldenen Hecht, because every other restaurant appeared to be full, and in Germany, or at least in Heidelberg, there was no concept of a waiting list.

So we happened upon this little restaurant and, it appeared, got their last table. We enjoyed the casual atmosphere--the room we were in had all of four tables and the small bar, so it felt more like a cozy old-time lounge than a restaurant, the more so because the seating was on benches and mismatched chairs. The staff joked with us and each other, and the owner (or at least the Guy In Charge) wandered around the floor chatting with customers and his staff.

We started with small green salads, basically just lettuce, tomato, and cucumber, with a tasty light citrus dressing. The beer bread, as all German bread has been, was fresh, thick, and good enough to eat plain. But we couldn't resist using it to sop up the herb cream sauce that came with the mushrooms and bread dumplings (the first main dish). These were a seasonal kind of wild mushroom whose taste was lost in the sauce and parsley, but which had a good, firm texture reminiscent of an oyster mushroom.

The other main dish we got, the pork sausages, were excellent. The skin crackled, and the rich, almost smoky meat was tender and juicy. Hands down the best sausages we had in Germany this visit. The sides of sauerkraut and mashed potatoes were solid, if not spectacular, but the mustard provided was spicy and perfect to counteract the sweetness of the sausage meat.

The third dish was a steak topped with fried onions and accompanied by some really fabulous fried potato slices. They almost reminded us of home fries, but really good home fries.

For dessert, we opted for the Kaiserschmarr'n, which we'd heard about at Schonbrunn Palace in Vienna. Supposedly it was the favorite dish of one of the last Emperors (Franz Joseph, maybe?). It's basically shredded pancakes, with raisins soaked in rum. Here at Goldenen Hecht, they topped them with "sugared plums," which turned out to be a plum compote. It took half an hour to prepare, but the waiter assured us it was worth it.

How right he was. The "pancake" looked to have been baked, more like a Dutch pancake than a traditional American flapjack. It almost had the consistency and sweetness of bread pudding, only a little more custardy, and with the powdered sugar on it, it was just delightful. The plum compote was good, though honestly it didn't add a whole lot to it.

We had a good European dinner there, killing about two and a half hours until it was time to go see the fireworks. Mark's aunt, who had never been to this place before, now has a new addition to her list of restaurants to take people to when they visit Heidelberg, and Mark and Tim have a place to go back to.


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