Review: Is Bauhaus on the Verge of Greatness or Obsolescence?
The upscale German restaurant celebrates its second birthday—so we went back for a taste.
October 17, 2017
Happy Birthday, Bauhaus. You just turned two and, coincidentally, are nearing the climax of your formative second act. In screenplay parlance, these should be times of escalating conflict. Yet, to the shock of many, you have not imploded under the volatile antics of your daredevil owner, filmmaker Uwe Boll. In fact, you are busier than ever and steadily improving thanks to suave service, a growing wine cellar (filled with intriguing German and Austrian varietals) and two new talented executive co-chefs—an unconventional arrangement, granted, but we wouldn’t expect anything less from the man who brought us both Blubberella and BloodRayne.
A short synopsis of the restaurant’s dramatic backstory: the “world’s worst director,” according to the Golden Raspberry Awards, finds himself adrift in Vancouver. He loves the tax-credit incentives that finance his low-budget productions but is unmoved by the dining scene. Pining for the tweezer-plated haute gastronomy of his native Germany, he launches a restaurant-reviewing rampage via YouTube, likening the deconstructed desserts of one establishment to “dog diarrhea.” After fading to black, he returns with a seemingly preposterous plan: to open his own restaurant and make it the city’s best. Okay, but who the hell would want to work there?
Enter Stefan Hartmann, former owner of the one-Michelin-starred Hartmanns in Berlin. Boll pays off the chef’s substantial debts and brings him to Canada. Against all odds, Hartmann makes nice, impresses critics and deftly steers Bauhaus upstream. Then, just when everything appears to be going hunky-dory, Hartmann jumps ship to Tacofino, the Mexican-food chain for gringos. Boll, who is known for feeding actors lines pulled out of the air in the absence of a script, could not have dreamed up a more bizarre plot twist.
Undaunted, Boll promotes David Mueller, the unsung hero who had been quietly punching up Hartmann’s understated precision cooking behind the scenes, while simultaneously hiring Tim Schulte, the star-spangled German sous- chef who did a short stint at Bauhaus but declined to return from Australia without an exalted title. Together, they create a summer tasting menu that is technically flawless (tissue-thin agnolotti bursting with sun-soaked zucchini and squash; exquisite three-way duck—seared breast, confit leg and creamed foie gras). Their food is also immensely Instagrammable (fork-flake salmon in vibrant leek-green vichyssoise, harlequin-dotted with diamond-sculpted veggies; a dig-worthy carrot cake buried under chocolate soil, fresh greens and foam).
Sure, the menu is a tad schizophrenic. It’s pretty obvious which chef is responsible for what dish. And some courses stretch the definition of “local.” Can an unfurled sashimi roll garnished with mango and avocado be considered a B.C. dish merely because it’s anchored with albacore tuna? And what’s with the beef short rib glazed in sweet barbecue sauce, set on corn purée and bedecked with caramelized popcorn? Quirky? Yes. West Coast? Hmm. German? Nein.
Bauhaus, in the words of another critic, has always been “more Michelin than Munich.” And there is really no need for the restaurant to expose its lederhosen. Customers craving traditional oom-pah-pah will find comfort à la carte in the excellent veal schnitzel (which no longer overlaps the plate but is even more tender, perhaps because it’s pounded with less anger) and a wintry, wild-mushroomy, voluptuously creamy geschnetzeltes (try saying that three times after half a bottle of Burgenland blaufränkisch).
But who are you, Bauhaus? Are you simply a brash European arriviste with silky sous-vide proteins, or do you have something special to say? At the moment, your identity, while delicious, is not defined. If you still want to be the best, you are going to have to resolve that tension and roar a little louder into your revealing third act.
1 W Cordova Street