Controversial filmmaker Uwe Boll declared that his upscale German restaurant would rank among the best in the city. Does it?
This article was originally published in the October 2015 issue of Vancouver Magazine. Bauhaus opened amid considerable fanfare in May, and the German-themed restaurant has received plenty of attention since then—as much for the words and actions of its proprietor, German-born filmmaker Uwe Boll, as for the food it serves. Boll is best known for being deemed the world’s worst living director (a distinction made official when the annual Golden Raspberry Awards gave him the prize for Worst Career Achievement in 2009), and almost as well known for responding to his critics with expletive-laden screeds. Prior to its opening, executive chef Stefan Hartmann told the Globe and Mail that Boll’s aim was for Bauhaus to be “the No. 1 restaurant in Vancouver.” It’s not—not yet, anyway. But you should try it because of Hartmann, a Michelin-starred Berlin import whom we’re lucky to have in town for however long this enterprise lasts. (More on that later.) My party of three sat near the open kitchen to watch it in action, which is quite unlike the mad-scientists’ lair at Farmer’s Apprentice or the pleasantly chaotic flame-geysering one sees through the pass at AnnaLena. Here, there is very little crashing and banging, and not much flame either. Sauces are built by the tablespoon. Immersion blenders quietly whir. Bags of protein are tonged silently from a sous-vide bath. You may hear the faint sound of Hartmann expediting orders. Other than that, there’s a kind of poised calm I don’t normally associate with busy kitchens. That said, the place does smell great: light burnt-caramel scents, toast, fennel, something being seared. The bathrooms may boast art by Spanish graffiti duo Olliemoonsta (featuring the highly improbable assertion “Bauhaus in da hood”), but the rest of the place is a subtle undertaking. And that will either delight or disappoint you as the plates start to arrive. Don’t expect bold. Don’t stand by for mind-blowing innovation or umami explosions. What you get at Bauhaus is precision, technique, and great attention to detail. This was apparent from the moment our amuse-bouche arrived: three little quenelles filled, respectively, with avocado, eggplant, and roasted-cabbage purée, plus a snip of rye cracker topped with a very thin slice of radish. All were understated but delicious (and all the better for being accompanied by a bottle of Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier smoked beer). This was a theme that carried on through the appetizers. Guinea fowl was served two ways: the breast sous-vide and the leg fried. Apple purée, salty-sweet walnuts, and a cute little cube of celeriac cake were perfectly balanced accompaniments. My favourite of the starters was black cod in a brightly acidic broth, alive with dill and saline flavours. Ask for a spoon to enjoy it fully, and join me in being surprised that the wine foam actually added something and wasn’t just a fanciful flourish. Mains were similar in their technical perfection and elegant flavour profiles. Veal top round was cooked sous-vide and served along with a seared piece from the cheeks. The top round was muted in flavour until I swirled it through the braising reduction, but its accompanying brioche dumpling with bitter greens offered the right harmonizing notes. Halibut was, again, precisely cooked—the flesh moist, the skin brought to a perfect crisp in a hot pan. If there was an anomalous dish on our table, it was the highly touted schnitzel. The only really obvious German dish, it comes cut huge over ample portions of potato and cucumber salads. My kid devoured it and was reluctant to share. That said, I question whether schnitzel anywhere should cost $35. Which brings me to a couple of closing points. Bauhaus could stand to be much more German. On our visit, the experience was more Michelin than Munich. And maybe if it were more German, and more distinct in Vancouver as a result—where our German cuisine options have dwindled almost to zero with the sad demise of Cafe Katzenjammer—it would justify the cost of visiting. As it stands, the prices just feel like someone is trying to make a point. (Great veal dish, but $73 when enjoyed with a glass of wine?) Knock yourself out over lunch with a client or a date you want to impress. But I doubt Bauhaus will become anyone’s HQ any time soon, and I worry for its longevity as a result. On a Wednesday night less than two months after opening, I counted maybe two dozen customers in a room built for more than a hundred. And that has to make you wonder how long Bauhaus and exciting newcomer Stefan Hartmann will actually survive in da hood. Bauhaus 1 W. Cordova St. 604-974-1147 Bauhaus-restaurant.com