South Beach's favorite (and only) Austrian/German pub and eatery, formerly a teeny, cavernous room on Alton Road and Ninth Street, is now housed in a far roomier space two blocks north, just up the street from Wild Oats Market. Most everything else about Dab Haus remains the same -- the Old World setting, Old World charm, and Old World food still intact. Yet the new Haus no longer affords its fortress-like isolation from the world -- I suspect some old-time regulars will resent having their anonymity robbed by storefront windows that, though curtained, now open the restaurant up considerably. The room remains dim and cozy, but in terms of ambiance you might consider this Dab Haus Light.
The menu is still Dab Haus Heavy -- it hasn't changed a whit. Honey garlic Brie retains its signature starter status, and deservedly so, the trilogy of tastes tangling in an intangibly intriguing manner. Goulash soup satisfies as much as ever with tender strips of beef in a meaty base potent with paprika, and herring in cream sauce may well be just dandy, but doesn't sound very appetizing while drinking beer -- something you feel obligated to do at Dab Haus.
There are four fab brews on tap: Bitburger, a light Pilsner; Köstritzer, a dark lager; Diebels Alt, an amber draught somewhere between the other two; and Erdinger, a popular, cloudy wheat beer. All are sold in third-liter ($3.95), half-liter ($4.95), and full liter ($9.90) glasses.
Now, a brief schnitzel history: Austrian Field Marshall Count Joseph Radetzky, after his wartime stint in Italy during the mid-1800s, brought back news of Milanese cooks who breaded their meats before baking. The Viennese adopted the recipe as their own, unaware that the Italians had swiped it from the Spaniards, who had adapted it from the Moors, who had gotten the idea from the Byzantines.
An authentic Wiener schnitzel features thin slices of veal baked dry with a loosely attached breadcrumb crust. A wedge of lemon is the traditional accompaniment, not, as many restaurateurs seem to think, brown sauce with mushrooms. Dab Haus's wiener schnitzel is just as described -- textbook-perfect in fact, the veal tender, the breading light. My dining companions were greatly enthused. "Don't get too excited," I warned them. "The wurst is yet to come."
In fact the combo platter of bratwurst (mild white veal), garlicwurst (somewhat spicy beef and pork), and leberkäse (veal sausage in loaf form) were not the best wursts I've had. They are no doubt quality dogs, but were served lethargically lukewarm, not sizzling hot as one would hope -- I like to see the microscopic fat bubbles jumping off the sausages as they arrive at the table. Accompanying rye bread was fresh, but a thicker wedge of less commercial rye would stand up better to the stout sausages.
All main dishes are priced $7.50-$12.95 (meaning your tab at Dab will be fab), preceded by a small, zestily dressed garden salad and sided with a dollop of soft, smooth mashed potatoes that no one will accuse of being too rich with butter or cream. Ask if you can substitute a side of spätzle instead, the delicious, diminutive dumplings browned in butter with onions. You can also order spätzle and vegetables as a main course.
Dab Haus has a built-in base of local fans who have long appreciated the great beer, home-style food, and thoroughly relaxed environment. Its move to a more visible and spacious location should only increase the neighborhood's awareness of this little Austrian/German gem.
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