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ar­riage is like vis­it­ing a restau­rant: You al­ways think you chose the best un­til you see what your neigh­bor got.”

This won­der­ful morsel of thought can be found on a wall in Bo­densee Kitchen, a restau­rant in Bei­jing that of­fers rus­tic and Euro­pean fare that is usu­ally hard to find in these parts.

Bo­densee Kitchen is on Lucky Street and shares an en­trance with one of the first Ger­man bread mak­ers in China, South Ger­man Bak­ery, which has been around for 12 years. Thanks to its Ger­man founder, Michael Paingt, these hard, dense and salty Ger­man breads, which most Chi­nese were ei­ther ig­no­rant of or dis­liked, have grad­u­ally won wide ap­pre­ci­a­tion.

Now Paingt has opened a fullfledged Ger­man restau­rant in the place where he first started trad­ing in Bei­jing 12 years ago, on the se­cond floor of the bak­ery. Here you can en­joy Ger­man food, specif­i­cally Ger­man-Aus­trian-Swiss cui­sine from his home­town of Bo­densee (Lake Con­stance), lo­cated where Ger­many, Aus­tria and Switzer­land meet.

“The per­spec­tive of Ger­man food in China is a lit­tle bit bor­ing,” Paingt says. “Most peo­ple think what we eat every day is pork knuckle and sausage.”

Of course, these two are quin­tes­sen­tial dishes, and a dozen Ger­man restau­rants in Bei­jing serve them, but Bo­densee Kitchen tries to go fur­ther, he says.

At a me­dia tast­ing lunch, when we were in­vited to try a Ger­man pizza, it was dif­fi­cult to know what to ex­pect — but any ex­pec­ta­tions I did have were low, given the pic­tures on the menu, whose sub­jects looked any­thing but ap­pe­tiz­ing. What a sur­prise, then, when the “pizza” proved to be much more de­li­cious than reg­u­lar pizza, which can some­times be bland.

We were served pizza with a pa­perthin, crisp and blis­tered crust, topped with a layer of home­made sour cream and then ba­con, onions and chives. The sour cream cre­ated a mildly tart, creamy con­trast to the crust’s crisp­ness.

Paingt calls the dish Sch­warzwald (Black For­est) pizza, be­cause it comes from the re­gion of south­ern Ger­many ad­ja­cent to the Al­sace re­gion of France.

Veni­son goulash with poached pear, cran­berry sauce and (hand­made noo­dles) is another re­gional dish served by Bo­densee Kitchen. The veni­son didn’t quite cut it for me, but the hearty ac­com­pa­ni­ment of bouncy, soft egg noo­dles, which I had never eaten be­fore, won me over.

Bo­densee Kitchen does a good job of pre­sent­ing a wide choice of tra­di­tional Ger­man fare, and it would be fail­ing its duty if it did not serve sausages and pork knuckle.

“To many Ger­mans, sausages rep­re­sent a taste of home,” Paingt says.

“Walk into a butcher’s in Ger­many and you’ll see 50 to 100 dif­fer­ent sausages. Raw, boiled, air-dried, smoked, and so on, and with dif­fer­ent spices. Every butcher has his own lit­tle se­cret recipe.”

Bo­densee Kitchen’s sausage plat­ter in­cludes Nuern­berger, Frank­furter,

and sausages, as well as meat­loaf, home­made sauer­kraut, potato salad, pret­zel dumplings and gravy.

Paingt talks about the metic­u­lous process of mak­ing a clas­sic roast pork knuckle. From start to fin­ish, he says, this dish takes more than 36 hours to pre­pare, in­clud­ing brin­ing for one day, then boil­ing for about five to six hours, un­til the meat is ten­der, and roast­ing un­til the skin is so crisp that it breaks into pieces at the cut of a knife with a lit­tle force. In­side, the fla­vor­some and ten­der meat sim­ply falls off the bone.

The golden, crispy skin is sure to elicit crunches of de­light.

Qual­ity restau­rants of­fer­ing Western food are dif­fi­cult to find in China, Paingt says.

“If you are look­ing at restau­rants that of­fer homey Euro­pean dishes, they are few and far be­tween, apart from the high-end ones in the fives­tar ho­tels. In­clud­ing drinks, I’d say the av­er­age cost per per­son here is 75 yuan ($12; 10 eu­ros; £8.5) for break­fast, 80 yuan for lunch, and 150 yuan for din­ner. That is about on a par with the price of a sim­i­lar fam­ilystyle restau­rant in Ger­many.”

Over the past 10 years, he says, he has worked on a num­ber of food and bev­er­age projects in Bei­jing and Shang­hai, in­clud­ing con­sult­ing for suc­cess­ful brands such as O’Steak, Aman­dine, Enoterra and April Gourmet.

Bo­densee Kitchen boasts an ex­ten­sive menu. For drinks, there is a ju­di­ciously cho­sen se­lec­tion of wines from Ger­many and Aus­tria; Ger­man beer such as Bit­burger draft beer, Wei­hen­stephan wheat beer and Schof­fer­hofer. For veg­e­tar­i­ans, there are Sch­lutzkrapfen, Aus­trian dumplings that are stuffed with chopped spinach, gar­lic and a coat­ing of nutty parme­san. There is also a menu for chil­dren.

Fi­nally, I should men­tion the am­ple size of the dishes — which means that this cozy, style eatery is well suited to fam­i­lies and friends din­ing to­gether.

Above: Gourmets can en­joy Ger­man food, specif­i­cally Ger­man-Aus­trian-Swiss cui­sine from Bo­densee (Lake Con­stance) at Bo­densee Kitchen; Top: Bo­densee Kitchen on Lucky Street in Bei­jing.

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