The surprise of the strudel was its seasoning — garlic and oregano, huh?! In fact, the Rainers' background is Italian-Austrian, and they describe their food as representing both the Austrian and the Italian sides of the Alps. Right now, the Italian side comes through only in a halfhearted mushroom pappardelle ($11.75). Staying on the subject of dishes that weren't so fantastic: a Linzer torte ($5.75) for dessert that shows little evidence of the Austrian genius for desserts, and a hunk of braised shortribs ($16.75) that needed another hour or two in the pot. That said, the beef came with a heap of braised red cabbage, quietly sweet-tart.

Even at its meatiest, the food comes off as fresh and brightly flavored. The wiener schnitzel ($12.75) almost touches the borders of the platter it's served on, but the wavy golden cutlet is barely a quarter-inch thick, and there's no sheen of excess oil on its crisp, golden surface. The bratwurst, braised pork ribs, and pink-centered smoked pork loin dominating the choucroute garnie ($17.75) aren't the focal point of the dish: the mound of caraway-flecked sauerkraut is. The Rainers' take on Hungarian goulash ($12.75, $15 with a small glass of Spaten), spikes the boldly seasoned, paprika-reddened pork stew with caraway, too. The stew makes up half of a swirling yin-yang symbol on the plate, its complement a pile of nubbly, delicate spaetzle.

Wiener schnitzel light: the golden cutlet is thinner than most.
Lara Hata
Wiener schnitzel light: the golden cutlet is thinner than most.

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Details

Leopold's
2400 Polk (at Union), 474-2000, www.facebook.com/leopoldssf. 5:30-10 p.m. Sun.-Thu.; 5:30 p.m.-midnight Fri.-Sat. Muni: 19, 41, 45, 47, 49, 76. No reservations.

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Why the prospect of wiener schnitzel, braised lamb shank, and chicken with chestnut dumplings incites so many people to test the limits of their tolerance for beer, I can't say, but Leopold's food is good enough to attract diners like me who are out for an evening, not a bender. If you're one of the latter, though, here's a tip: The restaurant has posted a photo of its five-liter stein on its Facebook page. I don't want to be around when you reach the bottom.

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1 comments
Lallymonk
Lallymonk

As Jon has already noted, he's one of three restaurant critics to review Leopold's this week. Patricia Unterman of the Examiner and Bauer from the Chronicle are the other two. Read all three reviews and you'll see why Jon Kauffman is the best restaurant reviewer in Northern California.

Unterman's review is decent (as usual), Bauer's is atrocious (as usual) and Jon's is pure genius. Jon's review is perfectly objective, I learned something new (as usual), and it was fun to read, to boot (no pun intended).

Jon -- I absolutely adore your reviews. You have such a gift for writing about food, and you never disappoint. Now if only the Chron would give Bauer the boot...(again, no pun inten...Oh never mind).

Keep 'em comin'!

 
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