In Mu­nich, a tasty turn

Cre­ative bar­tenders and chefs are mix­ing it up in the Bavar­ian cap­i­tal

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - TRAVEL - By Liza Weis­stuch

It was a Thurs­day af­ter­noon and the surfers were out in full force in Mu­nich’s English Gar­den, catch­ing the waves that rolled through the Eis­bach, a nar­row chan­nel of the Isar River.

This sur­real scene was hap­pen­ing across a grassy plot from the Haus der Kunst, a con­tem­po­rary art mu­seum that was built in the 1930s to house Nazi pro­pa­ganda art be­fore it be­came an of­fi­cers’ club for the U.S. Army. The walls in the room where the sol­diers — and the Nazi of­fi­cials be­fore them — drank are cov­ered in gold-leaf pan­els painted with maps de­pict­ing dif­fer­ent wine- and spirit-mak­ing re­gions around the world. They were con­cealed with ply­wood to down­play the build­ing’s his­tory but were un­cov­ered and re­stored in 2003.

This is the his­toric back­drop for night­time rev­el­ers, but on this sunny af­ter­noon, hip young things, in­clud­ing a few with wet hair from the surf, were gath­ered on the ex­pan­sive pa­tio. I set­tled among them for the out­door bar’s sig­na­ture — a gin sour topped with gin-and-tonic foam and sprin­kled with de­hy­drated Cam­pari bits — and tried to bal­ance my­self at this fas­ci­nat­ing in­ter­sec­tion of then and now.

Mu­nich has long been a vic­tim of type­cast­ing, mired in a rep­u­ta­tion of over­size mugs of beer and bratwurst con­sumed by leder­ho­sen-clad rev­el­ers dur­ing Ok­to­ber­fest. But in re­cent years, bar­tenders and chefs have worked to make that an an­ti­quated im­age. Their ef­forts are pay­ing off.

That’s the sense I got at Wabi Sabi Shibui, an imag­i­na­tive Ja­pa­nese restau­rant that opened in 2018. It’s owned by Klaus St. Rainer, who also owns Gold­ene Bar. A bar­tender for sev­eral years at Schu­mann’s, pretty much the city’s only cock­tail des­ti­na­tion for years (more on that in a mo­ment), he was in­sis­tent on bring­ing Mu­nich into a new era.

I sipped on a Me So Miso, an East­ern twist on an Old-Fash­ioned with Ja­paWizig­mann, nese whiskey and sake and sweet­ened with clar­i­fied miso syrup. The food plays on Ja­pa­nese fla­vors.

The Ra­monara is a ra­men noo­dle vari­a­tion on the spaghetti car­bonara theme, and a potato salad dish comes with salmon caviar, shoyu egg and edamame. This be­ing potato salad in Ger­many, how­ever, I couldn’t help but think it took cues from lo­cal cui­sine too.

But these days, with so many chefs on the move around the world, “lo­cal cui­sine” can some­times feel like some­thing dy­namic, a syn­the­sis of an in­di­vid­ual’s per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence.

At the sleek yet invit­ing and ca­sual Sophia’s, in the grand Charles Ho­tel across from the Old Botan­i­cal Gar­den, the kitchen is helmed by chef Michael Hüsken, who cooked through­out Ger­many, over which time he twice earned a Miche­lin star. He de­scribes his food as “world open” and bases his menus on sea­sonal in­gre­di­ents, his trav­els in Asia and South­east Asia, and all sorts of lo­cal fresh herbs.

On this day in Au­gust, del­i­cate Bavar­ian prawns were a re­cent catch, served with wa­ter­melon cubes, skyr (a type of Ice­landic yo­gurt), a lightly herbal sauce and tar­ragon cress. Fresh porcini tortellini was pre­pared with wild broc­coli, young onions, pars­ley and radish.

I had chat­ted ear­lier with Pas­cal Leubecher, a young bar­tender, and asked him if he ever tried pair­ing his culi­nary-style cock­tails with the food. He con­sulted with the chef on the in­gre­di­ents, paused, and reached for gin — and pars­ley, a big bunch of it that he would mud­dle. The re­sult­ing mix, which also in­cluded gin­ger syrup, a dash of salt and ver­jus, a sort-of vine­gar made from un­ripe grapes, was gar­nished with a pearl onion. It sliced through the rich porcini broth.

Ger­man engi­neer­ing, right there.

I try to ar­rive in a for­eign city with a list of rec­om­men­da­tions from those who know it. I asked my friend Hank Strum­mer, a globe-trot­ting Black For­est-based DJ whom I met in New York, and he told me to visit his friend Jörg who opened Polka Restau­rant and Bar three years ago.

“It’s the real-deal un­der­ground Bavaria,” Hank in­sisted.

“Polka” in­evitably in­spired vi­sions of leder­ho­sen and bratwurst, but the name is tongue-in-cheek. The small, adorable restau­rant spe­cial­izes in sea­son­ally driven dishes, such as the wa­ter­melon and goat cheese salad I tasted, but it’s the base­ment bar with Art Deco-style fur­nish­ings that draws cre­ative types to this hang­out in Haid­hausen, an idyl­lic dis­trict near the English Gar­den.

Af­ter din­ner, I headed back to Glock­en­bachvier­tel, a neigh­bor­hood known for its war­ren of streets lined with bars, vin­tage stores and cof­fee shops. I had been there ear­lier for lunch at Loretta Bar. By day, it’s a trendy, chill cafe with dishes such as fruit-topped muesli por­ridge; come evening, it’s a much live­lier hang­out. I was glad to have stopped by in day­light be­cause at night it’s hard to make out the count­less bot­tles of amari that line the vast shelves.

Bar­tenders here are amari evan­ge­lists who speak rev­er­ently of the stuff. Ben, my bar­tender, poured me a flight of four that ranged from sweet and fruity to dark, hon­eyed and mys­te­ri­ous. The spec­trum of herba­ceous fla­vors put my palate and mind squarely in old-world Europe.

With that, I was ready to call it a night. But when I got back to my ho­tel, Ruby Lilly — a stylish bou­tique out­fit about a 10-minute walk from Haupt­bahn­hof, Mu­nich’s cen­tral train sta­tion — I was de­railed by the low-key mer­ri­ment in the bar, an in­dus­trial-chic space with play­ful ’70s and ’80s retro decor.

In­ter­na­tional trav­el­ers swapped sto­ries over Mu­nich Mules, a gin-based twist on the clas­sic. Flat­bread piz­zas streamed out of the 24-hour kitchen, and beer flowed from the round-the­clock taps.

Af­ter a few days of speak­ing with bar­tenders and lo­cals, it was clear that the mod­ern scene has its roots in one place: Schu­mann’s. The bar, which is sit­u­ated on the tourist-dense Odeon­splatz, was opened in 1982 by Charles Schu­mann, who’s some­thing of a leg­end not only for the bar but also for his book “Amer­i­can Bar: The Artistry of Mix­ing Drinks,” which he pub­lished in 1995, long be­fore the cock­tail re­nais­sance.

Schu­mann cuts a strik­ing fig­ure as he darts about the restau­rant, which has an Ital­ian air about it.The bar­tenders crank out cock­tails — most of them clas­sics.

The drink menu has 58 pages and an in­dex. Schu­mann is fa­mously vo­cal about his dis­dain for over­size cock­tail gar­nishes and other pre­cious flour­ishes. He shows me a poster of an out­take from a 1940 bar­tend­ing book. It reads, “The idea of call­ing a bar­tender a pro­fes­sor or mixol­o­gist is non­sense.”

Ci­han Anadologlu wouldn’t go so far as to call him­self a mixol­o­gist, but his ap­proach to drink-mak­ing dif­fers vastly from that of his men­tor.

Head bar­tender at Schu­mann’s for 10 years, Anadologlu opened Cir­cle in

2016. A fre­quent vis­i­tor to Ja­pan, Anadologlu takes cues from Tokyo bar cul­ture. Pre­ci­sion is a hall­mark here.

Anadologlu is a pro­tege of Schu­mann, and Schu­mann is a pro­tege of Bill Deck, a former U.S. Air Force reporter who worked at the famed Harry’s Bar in Paris and, when he relocated to Mu­nich, opened Harry’s Bar in 1974 here, later chang­ing the name to Pusser’s

New York Bar. Pusser’s is Navy rum, and the space, adorned with vin­tage naval para­pher­na­lia, pays tribute to that prove­nance. So does the Caribbean-minded drink menu. Now the bar is owned by Bill’s son David, who was bar­tend­ing the night of my visit.

David gave me a his­tory les­son on the place and mixed me a Painkiller, a clas­sic mix­ture of juices and the bar’s name­sake rum served in a tra­di­tional enamel mug. He waxed rhap­sodic about grow­ing up in the place and fall­ing into the role of owner, against his mother’s bet­ter judg­ment. I won­dered, when I re­turn in 40 years, what bar­tender will be telling me of his bar’s be­gin­nings and where I’ll find the past and present in­ter­sect.


Pas­cal Leubecher, a bar­tender at Sophia’s in the Charles Ho­tel in Mu­nich, makes pro­gres­sive, cre­ative cock­tails with fresh fruits and herbs.

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