Now that the weather is (finally) cooling down it's the perfect time to enjoy some hearty winter fare....the type of food that Essen's serves up in spades (or on plates actually but that's not how the saying goes).
You can find Essen's at the bottom of a little collection of restaurants on busy Broadway. It's a big, cheerfully busy, wood paneled restaurant where students and office-workers all gather for schnitzel, beer and some good old Eastern European fare. Much of this food is what I grew up eating and I'm thrilled to be revisiting some of my culinary childhood.
On my way back from visiting the ‘facilities’ I spied a jar of something pretty and very pink on a neighbouring table. It looked really good with its side of thick malt bread…so I ordered it immediately! I am so over having food envy! The Matjes Herring ($14.00) – a dish added to the menu by Essen’s Dutch chef - was subtly salty and came served with with finely chopped beetroot, gherkin, apple and a splosh of vodka and sour cream. All the elements mixed so well together to make a sweet, sour and slightly salty dip that I was intent on devouring every last morsel of! It reminded me a bit of a subtle horseradish.
Their Lamb Goulash with Sauerkraut ($26.00) is normally served with a side of Munich malt bread however we asked for a side of their spelt spaetzle ($5.50) as I was desperate to try the spaetzle but knew I’d never be able to fit it in as a (third) main course. The spaetzle was deliciously savoury and chewy with some great crunch to the outer shell. It was almost meaty in texture – a bit like tender chicken in texture rather than a noodle. It may look plain but it was so flavoursome that we polished off half the bowl sans goulash.
I’ve eaten a lot of Goulash in my time, being the daughter of a Hungarian mother – but I’ve never had it with tender, fall-part chunks of lamb and I have to say that it works really well. Lamb is so prevalent in Australia that it's great to see a traditional dish taking a local twist. I also liked that the goulash itself was less “soupy” than traditional Hungarian goulash as all the elements in the dish stood well on their own and the goulash didn't render the spaetzle soggy. Our plate of goulash was topped with a HUGE mound of sauerkraut – a sight that would’ve had me gagging at the dinner table as a child, but I’ve finally made my piece with sauerkraut and we are friends....not best friends, but we're on speaking terms these days.
I cannot go to Essen’s (or Una’s for that matter) without ordering the Veal Jaeger Schnitzel ($22.50). I’ve been ordering this schnitzel for YEARS and it never disappoints. The tender thin pieces of veal are crumbed, fried and then topped with the most delectable creamy mushroom sauce. What makes this dish even better is the mound of creamy potato roesti that is fried until the outside is crispy perfection. I am also quite partial to the cabbage salad that comes dusted with paprika.
I think The BFF was scared by the thought of all the meat we’d ordered so we added a nice little green salad to the mix to help offset any meat-sweats that might occur during the meal.
Although we're quite full by this time our waitress convinced us that Essen’s strudels are worth activating our dessert stomachs for. We don't take much convincing and put in an order for chocolate and hazelnut strudel that is served with vanilla sauce ice cream. The strudel is served warm and layers + layers of flaky pastry are wrapped around a gooey mix of melted chocolate and chopped hazelnuts. Every mouthful is perfect with a spoon of the ice-cream added to the mix.
Essen's can be found at 133-135 Broadway, Ultimo. Phone them on 9211 3805.