Wiener Schnitzel or Sardines?

You have just gotten a small dose of Berlin’s history and culture here, reading about the Berlin Wall and the little green Ampelmann, as well as the sheer magnitude of museums you can visit.  But you’ve got to eat too!  Aside from the obligatory currywurst you’ll grab at the city’s omnipresent stands, there are tons of restaurants serving up traditional German cuisine, regional specialties, or spots where chefs are bringing in a bit of creativity – and perhaps lightening things up a bit in the process too.

Lutter & Wegner, Berlin, GermanyLutter & Wegner, Berlin, Germany

What you’ll probably have on your plate at some point is Weiner Schnitzel, the flattened, fried fillets of  breaded veal that find themselves on a large percentage of menus around town.  One restaurant where you’ll want to order it is Lutter & Wegner, a Berlin institution (and wine merchant) since 1811 that serves hearty German fare with an Austrian slant.  It was a “when in Rome” moment for Stuart Emmrich of the New York Times, who told readers that’s what he saw on every table there.  I heeded his advice and went there with that in mind.  Any expectations on my part of a rather short and perhaps less than exciting menu with only heavy meat-laden dishes was dismissed as soon as my exceptional (but oh not so cheap) lunch began.

Any wine lover will immediately feel at home and grow wide-eyed at the impressive wine list.  Walls are covered with perfectly arranged wine bottles, the restaurant boasting over 750 different wines, mostly from German speaking countries, but also France, Italy, Spain and Portugal.  You’ll find yourself gazing up towards the ceiling at the beautiful labels.  But do be sure to glance across the street (below right) at the German Cathedral in Gendarmenmarkt, one of Berlin’s most beautiful squares.

Lutter & Wegner, Berlin, GermanyLutter & Wegner, Berlin, GermanyLutter & Wegner, Berlin, GermanyLutter & Wegner, Berlin, Germany

In a place known for its Weiner Schnitzel, I have to admit that I instead tasted the very best canned sardines I may have ever had – and that’s including on the Brittany coast in France.  Tiny sardines from Spain “swimming” in olive oil were served with toasted baguette, long thin breadsticks, Fleur de Sel and a lemon wedge.  A beautiful and colorful antipasti platter was an excellent choice too with house-cured meats and local cheeses.  I ordered one of the daily specials- butterfish tartare with salad.  Divine.  Talk about straying from your original intentions.  My father hesitated between the Wiener Schnitzel and the Sauerbraten (marinated pot roast), ordering the latter when our waitress told him without even batting an eye that it was her favorite dish.  Turns out she’s not alone – it apparently won a prestigious national award!  We washed all that down with a Schloss Johannisberg Riesling (Gelblack QbA) from Germany.

Lutter & Wegner, Berlin, GermanyLutter & Wegner, Berlin, GermanyLutter & Wegner, Berlin, GermanyLutter & Wegner, Berlin, GermanyLutter & Wegner, Berlin, GermanyLutter & Wegner, Berlin, Germany

Would I go back?  I most certainly would, for a special occasion, for a glass of wine and antipasti – or really, just for dessert.  Like a French soufflé, the Kaisershmarrn is ordered at the beginning of the meal, as it takes 20 minutes to prepare.  If you forget and end up rereading the dessert menu, I would say it’s still worth the extra wait. Warm shredded pancakes with powdered sugar and raisins, served with stewed plums and vanilla ice cream.  Light, sweet, satisfying and oh so delicious, exceptional when hot from the pan.  So have your forks ready when it hits the table.

Lutter & Wegner
Charlottenstrasse 56
Berlin 10117

14 Responses to “Wiener Schnitzel or Sardines?”

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  2. VeggieGirl says:

    Glad you had a satisfying experience there! Thanks for the review.

  3. Kim says:

    Thanks for all the posting about Berlin! This was a great recommendation, can’t wait to try it!

  4. Julia @ Mélanger says:

    Firstly, what a spectacular building. So magnificent.

    The spread of food is divine. I am actually a big fan of sardines and would love to try those little tiny ones in that can. The dish is so simply prepared, but when you have great ingredients, how can you go wrong?

    Your dad obviously has very good taste, too! 🙂

  5. Mom says:

    OK…I just loved the entire experience of this restaurant. From the moment we all arrived and sat down at a common farm table, ordering the most delicious wine, sharing the antipasti and then finishing off my meal with sardines. I am and will always be a sardine fan but these were the best sardines that I have ever tasted. I was full but needed to finish every last drop! The ambience, the food and what great conversations we had. This I think was my most favorite meal in Berlin. Thank you for choosing this wonderful recommendation! mom…..

  6. Kerrin says:

    Julia, aha, another sardine fan! 😉 I had never tried such small sardines, so good! But not sure that we can find them anymore – the waiter let us know that a law was apparently passed prohibiting the catch of tiny sardines; they must be over 6cm or something like that, didn’t quite understand all his German! Otherwise, you are so right – with great ingredients, the simpler it is, the better.

    Mom, for you to say those were the best sardines YOU ever tasted too – well that’s quite a statement. You LOVE sardines and have tasted them from all over the world. Wow! I think that was one of my favorite meals in Berlin too. So glad we went!

  7. Dad says:

    Thanks Julia. My wife will agree about my good taste 🙂 But much more important than my good taste is that the sauerbraten sure tasted good. Great stuff. And ditto what Kerrin’s mom said. What a spectacular place! Great photos Kerrin. They really do capture the ambiance, as well as our meal. Highly recommended to all. But not if you’re on a very tight budget.

  8. Matt says:

    Great post, a bit too late, could have used this last week when I was in Berlin! I think I might take Romy up there next spring/summer time. Did you check out the amazing gourmet *floor* at Da Ka We?

  9. Kerrin says:

    Matt, sorry about that! 😉 Great idea to go back to Berlin with Romy – we’ll chat about places to go before then for sure. One of which is certainly KaDeWe*, where you must absolutely go with Romy, oh my – that place is extraordinary. We went to check it out and ended up having dinner there. The only downside is the challenge of choosing at what stand to eat – there’s so much and it all looks so great!

    *KaDeWe is an abbreviation for “Department Store of the West” and is Germany’s largest department store – I believe 2nd in all of Europe, Harrod’s in London being 1st. A must stop in Berlin for their top floor “food court.” A gourmet experience in itself!

  10. Scribetrotter says:

    OK, something’s wrong here… when I go to Berlin, I don’t eat well!! It probably has to do with the fact that I stay in large impersonal hotels, go to conventions (and you know all about THAT food)… but still, a few forays out of the hotel haven’t netted me much more than Starbucks, Tony Roma’s (yes, honest!), cardboardy sushi and the occasional kebab (the best of the bunch). Now I haven’t taken any recommendations with me, nor have I done any research before going – somehow convinced beforehand I would suffer gastronomically. All right, I’ll give it another chance. Next time I go to Berlin, I’ll follow in your (and others’) footsteps. And I’m sure I’ll eat crow. Figuratively, of course.

  11. Andrea says:

    OK, sounds heavenly…sardines, Wienerschnitzel AND Kaiserscharmm..although I will have to admit that I, for whatever reason, thought that Kaiserscharmm was strictly Austrian. Good to know about this place! Pricey? Did you try the local Berlin “Fastbraüse”?

    KaDeWe is MY favorite department store — Harrods close tie….the BEST salad I ever ate was in their food court….delightful!

    Ah, the memories…keep ’em coming Kerrin!

  12. H.Peter says:

    Leave it to the Austrians to amaze. Even in Berlin.
    Great pictures!

    Now I am getting homesick

  13. Kerrin says:

    Scribetrotter, I am so sad to hear of your much less than exciting food experiences in Berlin. My gosh, not even a currywurst?! Hopefully you have another trip planned for the city, and soon… I am anxious for you to eat your hat – probably tastier than crow! haha!

    Andrea, you’re totally right – Kaiserschmarrn is an Austrian dessert. Luckily there is a lot of Austrian influence in Germany and especially in restaurants around Berlin as we saw – at the market too. I think we had Kaiserschmarrn almost every day we were there (it was on every menu)! And along with L&W, I’d say that a grilled fish platter I had at KaDeWe is up there for another top meal ! Fantastic. So glad you’re enjoying the Berlin memories…

    H.Peter, danke! How lucky you are to call this home!

  14. Robert says:

    Beautiful pictures of the food and L&W. I would love to recreate that look for a wine bar/experience.

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