We’re in the midst of Spargelzeit, the high time of German obsession with white asparagus. And though one shouldn’t start a post with a disclaimer, I can’t avoid it – because I’m wary about joining the pale stalk craze. Neither do I count the days to when the first roots show up, nor is this the only veg I eat until June 24th. In fact, I’m rather critical about this obsession, since the increasing demand leads to asparagus monocultures, infinite fields covered in plastic foil (sometimes even artificially heated!), and loads of cases of unfair and abusive working conditions for the harvesters. So be cautious about the source of your asparagus, buy it on markets from trustworthy vendors and ask about the conditions, rather than shop the pale stalks at the supermarket. However, although this is a necessary disclaimer, I will tell you that a well prepared dish of white asparagus with sauce hollandaise and young potatoes with some parsley is actually a joy to eat. So due to many people asking, here are three prime places to try this quintessential German dish.
Most Germans prefer their white stalks the classic way, as described above, however, you can definitely get add-ons like a Wiener Schnitzel, ham, sometimes even fish. And many restaurants have other asparagus dishes on the menu, from risotto to soup, and maybe even salad. The true mastery lies in how you select and cook the stalks, it’s a high-maintenance plant that easily ends up a stringy and bitter, inedible mess. The flavour is obviously quite subtle since it never saw the sun, and earthy tones are dominating. Don’t expect too much at the first bite, asparagus is not an in-your-face-flavor, but it might grow on you. Also, it’s quite expensive, with dishes ranging from 17 to 20 Euros (without the add-ons), since its cultivation and harvest are demanding loads of space and especially hard work – the stalk needs to be cut at a certain time and at the right angle to produce a high quality.
Einstein Unter den Linden
Not only is the asparagus at Einstein UdL cooked to perfection, with the stalks being more on the al dente side of things than at any other place, the sauce hollandaise – my sauce of choice, other’s prefer brown butter – is light and fluffy (while actually being heavy since it’s basically butter and egg yolk), and has just the right hint of acidity. Their stalks are from Kremmen, a growing area north of Berlin. The young potatoes are tender and tasty, with a bit of parsley. I also enjoyed the bouquet garni of wild herbs, which added some nice notes of bitterness. (Pictured above)
Sarah Wiener Restaurant im Hamburger Bahnhof
Another classic is this restaurant inside of the Hamburger Bahnhof museum with super high ceilings, loads of windows, and a menu with classic Austrian treats, plus a seasonal asparagus menu. Although the stalks are cooked a bit softer than at Einstein, they still remain a pleasant bite and their Hollandaise was my favourite of all I had. Also, you should have a Quarkknödel as dessert, a ball of curd, rolled in buttered bread crumbs and served with plum preserves. Delish!
This place is high on my list whenever someone asks me to recommend a place to eat German food – located by a lake in the far West of Charlottenburg, Engelbecken has things like Bratwurst (BBQed sausages), Krustenbraten (pork roast), Backhendl (deep fried chicken), Grüne Sauce (a green sauce made with seven fresh herbs) with eggs and potatoes, on its menu. And Spargel from Beelitz, Berlin’s most popular asparagus growing area south of Potsdam. If you’re there, try my favourite, seasonable vegetable: rhubarb! They’re serving it with strawberries and buttermilk ice cream.