Last week I was lucky enough to be invited to WURST for the media launch of their new menu. Now, some of you may be experiencing a bit of déjà vu. "Wait," you're asking yourselves, "didn't she just cover the grand opening of WURST this year?" You're absolutely right, and while I thoroughly enjoyed the initial menu, and didn't feel it needed changing, I was certainly game to see what was new.
Certainly, we were treated to about as wide a range of the menu as you could be within the context of a sit-down dinner. The evening started with a custom champagne cocktail and passed hors d'oeuvres including a sausage and mushroom quiche, escargot in potato, and a bison wrapped shrimp. All were very nice - but a word to the tender of tastebuds - the balsamic glaze on that bison-wrapped shrimp was spicy!
The sit-down portion of the meal began with a salad of frisee and fennel with a lingonberry vinaigrette topped with smoked duck breast. The duck breast was nice, but in my opinion the bitterness of the frisee overwhelmed the dish. The anise flavour of fennel did help cut it somewhat, but for my taste, not enough.
Our next course was a cheese ravioli on parsnip puree, and it was phenomenal. One person (and no, it wasn't me, but I was thinking it) wished aloud for a second course of puree. It was amazing - like a creamy parsnip polenta. The ravioli were perfectly cooked and better flavoured than a typical cheese ravioli, too. I thought I could faintly taste kirsch, and when I asked our server, he said that the cheese filling is based on their cheese fondue, so indeed I probably could.
Next up was a more traditionally German dish, spaetzle with rabbit, but these were also tweaked. The spaetzle was made with powdered spinach and served with both braised rabbit tossed into the spaetzle and a piece of rabbit wurst on top. As a good (half) German, I've had rabbit, but never even heard of rabbit wurst. It was a nice sausage though, tender and mild. The spaetzle themselves were creamy (more like a pasta rather than the fried spaetzle of family dinners), delicious, and exceptionally filling. Since we were there for a special event, I have no idea what the normal portion sizes of these items will be when they are on the a la carte menu, or which of them will be sides or starters, but that is one hearty dish.
Following this was a sablefish roasted with maple and roggen (German rye ale). The choice to serve a fish at this point was a good one, given the richness of many of the other dishes, but it wasn't just the lightness that was welcome, so was the taste.
After the fish came the 'surprise' course - a sausage sampling of three different housemade varieties: venison with red pepper, pork with chestnuts, and duck with porcini mushrooms. The venison seemed to be the collective favourite, both lean and a little spicy, but I thought the pork with chestnuts really stood out, which was notable as I'm someone who can normally take or leave chestnuts.
Even after all this food, like the good columnist I am, I sampled everything on the dessert platter. My favourite was a ginger coconut parfait. Reminiscent of a semi-freddo, it wasn't what I'd call quintessentially German, but it was delicious. Unfortunately what might be considered the most German of the bunch, a strudel, was my least favourite. At first appearances, it looked to be an apple strudel, but when you bit into it the taste was confusing. This can largely be attributed to the fact that our server later explained it was a pear and grueyere strudel (moral of this column: appearances can be deceiving) but I still felt a dessert strudel should have been sweeter. Regardless, it was one blip on an excellent, immense meal.
To all those beer drinkers reading, I apologize. Each of the above courses was paired with a complimentary beer, however, not being much of a beer drinker, I'm not capable of getting into all their complexities here. Suffice it to say I enjoyed them all.
Likewise, I won't be getting much into the décor or service, as I judged both to be excellent at their grand opening, and neither have changed.
Perhaps the meal can best be summarized by the fact that my friend that came along, Jen, is famously specific in her tastes. As we were finally finishing, Jen announced, "I hate duck. I ate duck. I hate parsnips. Now I want his (chef Grant Perry's) recipe. I hate fish. His was delicious. I think pretty much anything he cooked, I would eat."