Haus Falkenstein German Schnitzel House
15215 111 Avenue
Wednesdays to Sundays, 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Closed Mondays and Tuesdays
Food: 3 of 5 Suns
Ambience: 3 of 5 Suns
Service: 3 of 5 Suns
Dinner for two (excluding beverages and tip): basic, $30; loaded, $50
Never have I seen such honesty on a restaurant menu.
On the second page of the Haus Falkenstein menu is a list of “Frequently Asked Questions.”
For instance, why do you use canned mushrooms?
Because (I paraphrase) fresh mushrooms go bad quickly, shrink when cooked and it would take too long to fry them.
Why do you use processed cheese? To paraphrase the response …
Have you bought cheese lately? A friend bought four slices of Swiss cheese at Sobeys for $9.28! You want us to keep our schnitzel prices down, you get used to processed cheese! Besides Kraft processed cheese goes perfectly with our toppings.
You don’t know whether to laugh at the honesty, or cry at the dismissal of quality.
Fresh mushrooms just happen to TASTE a whole pile better than the canned slop, which is why any restaurant worth its salt prepares fresh mushrooms on a daily basis. I wouldn’t serve Kraft processed cheese to a 10-year-old, let alone adults.
But owners Silke and Michael Hentschel have a point. You want fresh mushrooms and real cheese, we will have to add two to three dollars to the price of a schnitzel.
And at $18.75 for most of their (all-pork) schnitzels, the price is cheap.
Then there’s the number of schnitzel variations on the menu – 67, and most are re-listed in the half-order section. Haus Falkenstein proudly holds the Guinness world record for “largest variety of fresh, pan-fried schnitzel worldwide.”
Haus Falkenstein is the Boston Pizza of schnitzel houses!
Never mind that multiple meats can be used for schnitzel, that hundreds of recipes are available for the breading. All Haus Falkenstein schnitzels start with one basic German-style pork schnitzel — a pounded slice of fresh pork, spiced, breaded and pan-fried.
Just like pizza, the 67 variations are simply different toppings on the same schnitzel base.
The names are great fun, starting with classics like jagerschnitzel, then moving into creative home-made names like cowboy schnitzel (canned mushrooms, onions and garlic), hungry man schnitzel (mushrooms, onions and bacon) and schnitzels named after Alberta towns and villages. Cute!
The toppings are exactly the same as you’d find at any pizzeria – bacon, cheese, tomatoes, mushrooms (do any pizza makers use canned mushrooms?), fried onions, egg, pepper, ham and so on.
The one-size-fits-all pork schnitzel is very good – excellent in fact. The portions are generous to a fault, enough to satisfy the most ravenous working person.
It’s the cheapness surrounding the schnitzel that pulls down Haus Falkenstein’s Weekly Dish rating.
It’s nice that a salad was dropped off at the table as an unadvertised starter. But it had to be the worst starter salad ever – old, warm, limp and soggy.
The fries accompanying the schnitzel were dull, dull, dull. No effort had been made to give the fries any character, be it a special seasoning, rustic-style etc.
I couldn’t tell if the premium-priced but flavourless croquettes (mashed-potato nuggets breaded and fried, $5 extra) were made in-house or came from a bag. The croquette upgrade came with a Caesar salad — slightly better than that miserable starter salad.
The schnitzel itself was perfect — the meat hot, moist and tasty, the breading gently spicy with a memorable crunch. But the toppings on my Westfalen schnitzel (fried onions and eggs sunny side-up) weren’t particularly memorable. The same went for my wife’s Swiss schnitzel – tomato slices with cheap processed cheese on top.
I love the honesty and individuality the Hentschels bring to their restaurant. The basic schnitzel is delicious and idiot-proof – everybody enjoys it. The creativity of coming up with 67 varieties is to be admired. The German beers on offer are refreshing and competitively priced.
But once past the schnitzel and the names, the effort stopped. The fries, the salad, the use of inferior toppings in the name of saving money were terribly disappointing. Dessert consisted of ice cream, period.
The Haus Falkenstein clientele clearly does not mind. The west-end restaurant was full last Saturday, traditionally one of the slowest dining-out weekends of the year.
The people have spoken, and they like the value-proposition of the 67 varieties of Haus Falkenstein pizza, I mean schnitzel, no matter the canned mushrooms, processed cheese, generic fries and crummy salads.