rick mcginnis/metro toronto
Amadeus Bavarian Beer Stube & Café
Address: 111 Richmond St. W.
Hours: Mon. to Sun., 11 a.m. - late
Dinner for 2 w/tax & tip: $60
**** (out of 5)
Walking into the bar/café at the front of Amadeus, I had a flashback to the Berghoff, a venerable Chicago institution that closed last year. The bar was full of suits from the nearby office towers, and there was a wedding party in the private room overlooking the bar. The long tables in the beer stube in the back were filled, and the TV over the bar was tuned into the Raptors game.
The only thing that was different from the Berghoff was the waiters — pretty young women in dirndl dresses instead of brusque older men in white shirts and black bow ties — and the fact that the Berghoff was open for 107 years, while Amadeus has only been in business on Richmond Street West since August. Well, one more thing — the food at Amadeus is superior to the Berghoff in almost every way, thanks largely to executive chef Robert Mayer, a longtime veteran of the Four Seasons hotel group with a globe-trotting resumé.
“I was born in Austria,” Mayer tells me, “raised there, did my studies there, from there moved to Switzerland. From Switzerland moved to Malaysia. From Malaysia moved to Singapore. From Singapore moved to Boston. From Boston moved to Australia. From Australia moved to Singapore. From Singapore moved to Canada. There you go — 20 years in two seconds.”
It becomes clear pretty quickly that Amadeus is a serious undertaking, funded with deep pockets and blessed with a long-term plan for becoming a downtown institution — if for no other reason than the immaculate facilities. Director of operations Robert Pawley, a University of Guelph grad, spent 11 years at the Mövenpick and Marché operations, where he says he developed an affinity for European corporate culture, which made Amadeus an attractive proposition.
“I thought, ‘What a fantastic concept,’ ” Pawley recalls. “Toronto doesn’t have, at least in the downtown core, a good Austrian/German restaurant, especially one this size. This is what I like to do.”
Mayer and Pawley both know that the first obstacle they have to overcome is a perception that German food — indeed all central European food — is heavy and fatty, front-loaded with carbs. The chef is enthusiastic as he explains how he has cut down much of the fat with some careful work in the kitchen — using canola oil and clarified butter, and making one of the lightest schnitzels in the city — coated with Japanese panko bread crumbs and pan-fried — despite its epic proportions.
“There’s no way around it — we Europeans are carnivores and we like our meat. If you look on the map, especially if you look at Austria, there’s no ocean. You eat what you have, and for us it’s the beef, the veal, the pork, the sausages. But even traditional dishes can be modified for the way people eat. All the traditional sauces used to be what you called heavy sauces, thickened with lots of butter and lots of flour, now we substitute with a little more love and patience, and use a big stock pot that we reduce down a lot to get more flavour, with a little corn starch to get the consistency. You’ve eliminated two pounds of butter and a bunch of flour and your sauce is lighter.”
He describes how one dish served in the Viennese “fine dining” room at the front of Amadeus — the Tafelspitz, made with a little-known cut from the a beef leg, slowly boiled — produces a flavourful stock he uses in the potato salad instead of butter or mayo. “You just go with the trends and try to work on the flavours ... you’re a little chemist with your herbs and spices.”