Brunch – the holiest, most revered supreme leader of food-related gatherings. I am a loyal follower and take my brunch endeavours very seriously. Today’s endeavour was to a fairly new restaurant on Dalhousie. Humbly sitting north of St. Patrick Street in a quiet area of the market, the anonymity whispered for us to come inside. While German may not be the first culinary culture that springs to mind when thinking ‘European cuisine’, we were intrigued to explore further at Das Lokal (or The Restaurant in German).
As if to welcome us from succumbing to the exterior’s seduction, the interior of the restaurant was cozy and warm. It is too bad it was raining as they have a beautiful patio that would make you feel like you were at a makeshift backyard summer movie night, in a good way. Unlike dinnertime when I have usually walked by, it was not busy in the restaurant. The inside matched outside’s weather with soft dim lighting in various means throughout the grey and brown colour palette. Flashes of yellow appear in the piano against the wall and in the field flowers on the table.
Oddly, you are presented with a small menu that still seems overwhelming. Of the few menu items, many have German names to maintain the homage to the restaurant’s European inspiration. Like an adventurous surprise, the optimist in me enjoyed not being sure what ordering the tartelette du jour meant (all I remember hearing from the server was “duck” and “egg”). My two accompanying friends found solace in familiarity with waffles for one and a sausage burger for the other. Concerned about portion sizes, we ordered sourdough toast as well.
Once having ordered, the flow of conversation begins at the table. At first simply a nuisance, the restaurant was progressively getting louder, and simple conversation proved to be a notable effort. Our food arrived in good time, especially for what was put down in front of us.
Across from me, waffles with hollandaise sauce and a slice of grilled peameal bacon. Beside me, a sausage burger dressed in coleslaw with homemade chips and salad. And finally mine, a pastry bowl filled with duck and braised carrots, topped with a poached egg, and side salad. Toast and coffee around the table, too.
While daunted at first as to how I was to eat this small tower, I realized it must be deconstructed in order to save face. I toppled the egg off and broke it, and essentially broke down the pastry and shredded the meat some more. The middle duck layer was underwhelming, as it was abnormally dry even with some yolk running into it. The braised carrots tossed with it provided the flavour to the otherwise boring bird. The whole thing together was lovely; some thin and crispy pastry hugging a piece of shredded duck with egg and runny yolk. However assembling it myself felt less like German cuisine and more like Swedish furniture.
My friends were generous enough with their portions to share with me. I tried the waffles with hollandaise, a pleasant combination of fluffy and moist with creamy flavour. As well, the sausage burger was a nice tie together of a robust sausage patty, grilled warm, flavourful, and moist with balancing support from a strong ‘slaw.
As we finished up around noon the live music had begun. A muted trumpet and electric guitar play preppy jazz in the background. We found it to be the preferable ambience to surrounding conversations. Some quick social media research elicits Alex Moxon and Ed Lister as the musical accompaniment. They were a wonderful duo whose sounds helped make our meal.
I don’t normally walk away from a meal feeling conflicted, and especially not brunch when time and time again it solves all my problems. Here I stand, admiring some truly beautiful atmosphere and in wonderful company, music and service included, but with the actual meal far from the radar.
The atmosphere proclaims ‘humble forerunner’, the food descriptions portray ‘relaxed elegance’, even the prices represent ‘accessible affluence’. However upon arrival, an underwhelming reality overshadows perceptions. Because of this ambiguity, I will come back to Das Lokal.
Das Lokal is located at 190 Dalhousie. Please check their Facebook page for hours and special events.