By ALEXANDRA GILL
Special to The Globe and Mail
Thursday, July 12, 2018
VANCOUVER -- RESTAURANT REVIEW THE DISH Bauhaus 1 WEST CORDOVA ST., VANCOUVER
Phone: 604-974-1147 Website: Bauhaus-restaurant.com
Prices: Dinner-tasting menus, $99 (6 courses), $79 (four courses); à la carte, $17 to $54.
Cuisine: Modern German
Additional information: Open daily 5 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. (11 p.m. Friday and Saturday); lunch, Monday to Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Reservations recommended.
Rating system: Fine dining 2½
The solo diner at the Bauhaus bar looked up with a bewildered start when a scruffy, bald-headed ruffian wearing a rumpled T-shirt sidled over with an order of schnitzel.
The diner did a double take, watching intently as Uwe Boll - the "world's worst" filmmaker (as crowned by the Golden Raspberry Awards) who retired three years ago to become the world's most unlikely restaurateur - shuffled off to make his rounds of the room with chortles, grins and the ease of a baby-kissing politician.
When Bauhaus opened in 2015, it was hard to imagine that Mr. Boll would ever be a success in the hospitality industry, let alone become his restaurant's most charming asset. He is, after all, notoriously cantankerous.
Bauhaus survived the departure of its opening chef, Stefan Hartmann, and has made steady progress over the past 12 months with an unconventional arrangement of two executive co-chefs, Tim Schulte and David Mueller.
Next year, a second Bauhaus will open in downtown Toronto, followed by a third, more casual rendition, on Ocean Flower Island, a high-end theme park in Southern China.
Bauhaus's success, however, has not been as lauded as Mr. Boll would like. In February, he lashed out when the restaurant failed, for the second year, to make the list of Canada's 100 Best.
He was just as miffed when it went unacknowledged by the Vancouver Magazine Restaurant Awards. It was a personal vendetta, he cried. The jury systems are corrupt. "We are BAYERN MUNICH in a Whitecaps town," he spewed all over Facebook.
Bauhaus, in my opinion, does deserve to be on that 100 Best list, for which I am a judge. If anything, I am biased in Mr.
Boll's favour - I admire his chutzpah. But in all honesty, Bauhaus is not as great as he thinks.
First impressions matter. This is especially true for the type of diner who tends to splash out on $100, tweezer-plated tasting menus. Bauhaus is located on one of the most urine-soaked, crimeriddled street corners of Gastown, yet it doesn't have valet parking. I know of two people who have had their car windows smashed while dining there. And Mr. Boll wonders why more than half his clientele are from out of town.
As ringmaster of his own restaurant, Mr. Boll can get away with a crumpled aesthetic. People expect more professional polish from the people serving them. Exposed brassieres, micromini dresses and faded golf shirts do telegraph "a new standard for fine dining," but not one that generally wins awards.
As any trophy spouse will tell you, grooming requires constant upkeep. Three years in, Bauhaus's hardwood floors are badly scuffed, the marble tabletops are marked with water rings and the leather menus are threadbare around the edges. Superficial?
Yes. Expensive? Undoubtedly.
And yet, these are the little details that leave a lasting impression.
Moving on to better stuff. The Bauhaus wine cellar is a serious expression of a discerning connoisseur who is trying to expand the local palate without pandering for kickbacks. There are German superstars (Robert Weil) and rarely seen European varietals (Burgenland blaufrankisch) alongside tiny B.C. boutiques (Little Engine) and unsung heroes (Kettle Valley). I don't often see a wine list in Vancouver with such clarity and personality.
Which only makes me wonder why the food is so scattered all over the map. While there are many moments of brilliance - and the menu changes frequently - some of the more experimental dishes feel as though they're designed to please the chef more than diners. And the execution is inconsistent.
Perfectly plump spot-prawn tartare nested in a pale-pink ginger broth dotted with brightgreen kaffir lime oil evoked "memories of Lumière" - a compliment of the highest order from a friend who knew that restaurant well in its heyday.
Braised lamb, toothsome yet tender, was buried under silky ribbons of pappardelle swaddled in preserved-lemon cream, punctuated with squeaky peas and dusted in a pollen-cloud of mint powder so intoxicating it could quite possibly turn a cocaine addict into a snorting vegan.
Then there was white-asparagus mousse, scooped into a gelatinous golf ball, mounted over a podium of furled speck and strawberries. On the first visit, it was moist, loose and fairylike, spotted with frail beet textures and wispy herbs. On the next visit, a dark moon had descended over its desiccated elements, all moored in a clarified ham broth so viscous with gaur gum it trailed slimy tendrils from the spoon.
Salmon is cooked according to the whims of the cook handling the station - darkly pan-seared one night, poached with a freckled torch braise the next. A basic flatiron steak is served with demi-glace so salty it's barely edible.
The elevated versions of German classics are interesting.
Zwiebelrostbraten, a classic pork roast, is injected with onion brine rather than bathing in it and served alongside a glossy, roasted-onion purée.
Mexican mole - with corn espuma, flame-finished tomatillo and crispy polenta chips, all garlanding a flaccid hunk of barely seared sous-vide veal tenderloin - is just weird.
Like it or not, diners go to Bauhaus for the schnitzel and the very good deconstructed black forest cake with vibrant cherry sorbet that the chef shrugs off with a sneer.
"I'll be leaving soon for Toronto," Mr. Schulte said when delivering the final course. (Mr. Mueller, who has been off on personal leave, will be taking over.) No explanation needed. I think he, and Mr. Boll, have already checked out.
Damien Famelart, restaurant manager, makes a white-rye old fashioned, above left, on Tuesday. Menu execution can be inconsistent, with salmon dishes, such as the salmon fennel with rhubarb and beetroot, above right, cooked according to the whims of the cook handling the station.
Vancouver's Bauhaus has many moments of brilliance in its menu, but some dishes seem designed to please the chef more than diners. The flatiron steak, above, is served with demi-glace so salty it's barely edible.
PHOTOS BY BEN NELMS/THE GLOBE AND MAIL