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June 2000

Asparagus Menus

Where you can get it, where you can forget it

Spatenhaus an der Oper Residenzstr. 12 Tel. (089) 29 07 06-0 Hours: daily 9:30-23:30 The asparagus season officially ends on St. John’s day, June 24, so don’t miss your chance to try some of the excellent asparagus dishes currently on offer in Munich. But beware of the poorly prepared examples served in some establishments. German asparagus has little in common with the English vegetable, which is usually served cold with liberal helpings of mayonnaise. The vast majority of asparagus sold in Germany is of the white variety. Good white asparagus should have a creamy color. Thick stalks are not necessarily better than thin ones, but usually more expensive. Asparagus is a fickle vegetable: it needs to be served as fresh as possible, or else it quickly becomes a woody and stringy affair. In its purest form, the vegetable is served with a choice of Hollandaise sauce or melted butter and is normally accompanied by new boiled potatoes. Probably one of the best, if one of the most expensive, places to test this tubular vegetable is the Spatenhaus opposite the National Theater. Bought by the Spaten brewery in 1896, this restaurant has been a long-established haunt for tourists, business people and theater goers alike. The building has charming rustic rooms with stripped floors, painted walls and heavy wooden doors, and in fine weather you can sit outside and admire the Residenz.
The Spatenhaus offers a complete asparagus menu, with starters, three different soups and main courses containing the vegetable. The spring salad with green and white asparagus, arugula and strawberries topped with bits of fried Parma ham and a balsamic vinegar dressing (DM 26.50) is a delightfully fresh and light starter. Superb Italian risotto with green and white asparagus and Parmesan shavings (DM 25.80) provides a light alternative to the main courses. The main course asparagus is excellent: white, soft shafts served with liberal helpings of boiled ham or smoked Parma ham and velvety Hollandaise sauce (DM 41.50). The menu offers numerous combinations, including filet of beef, veal or pork, prawns and even pike. A brief note on etiquette for those who want to blend in: while asparagus is traditionally eaten with the fingers in the UK, the Germans always use knife and fork. FOOD 8, SERVICE 8, ATMOSPHERE 9

Hirschgarten Hirschgarten 1 Tel. (089) 17 25 91 Hours: daily 9-23:00 The Hirschgarten is famed for being Munich’s largest beer garden and can indeed seat over 8,000 people. Situated in the deer garden just south of Nymphenburg Palace, it is a popular summer hangout. Its restaurant is known for its extensive asparagus menu. Though we at Munich Found prefer to give advice on where to go rather than where not to go, we thought it appropriate, in discussing an expensive seasonal favorite, to save readers money by sharing the ugly facts of our experience at the Hirschgarten. The asparagus menu includes one type of soup (DM 5.50) as well as one starter, namely white asparagus served with vinaigrette and smoked salmon (DM 17.80). The latter dish was disappointing: the asparagus evidently came right out of the fridge and was simply too cold to develop any taste, while the salmon was fishy, certainly not fresh. The white asparagus served as a main course with parsley-sprinkled potatoes (DM 24.50) was no better. This had evidently been good asparagus, but by the time it reached our plates it had turned into a stringy mass. In desperation, we turned to more traditional beer garden fare. These dishes proved to be no better than acceptable.
But what finally ruined the day was the terrible standard of service. We requested two orders of the pork. One was served nearly half an hour after the other. Most places will serve Hollandaise sauce and butter with the asparagus, should you so wish. Here, they flatly refused. Such awful service cannot be saved by the cheery question “did you enjoy the meal?,” which the waiter stubbornly repeated each time he cleared a plate. Fortunately, in beer garden culture, it is common to take your own food and buy the drinks at the onsite beverage stands. We suggest avoiding the restaurant section and enjoy the wonderful setting of the beer garden instead, while savoring your home-cooked meal. FOOD 5, SERVICE 5, ATMOSPHERE 8

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