Gain's German Restaurant doesn't have the most charming name, but there is a good reason why the former moniker, Old Munich, needed to be replaced. Munich is located squarely in Bavaria, but the restaurant's new owners, Hans and Kessy Gain, wanted their menu to reflect all types of German cuisine, not just Bavarian.
And so far the Gains are doing an able job of showcasing the German culinary canon. While their menu includes the same comfort cooking schnitzels, bratwursts, sauerkraut and spaetzle noodles found at a dozen other German restaurants around town, the Gains expand the possibilities. They create elaborate presentations with smoked-salmon canapes, intricately sliced pickles and salads anchored by arched fans of lettuce leaves. Even fish such as rainbow trout are pan-fried from head to tail and served whole in the Teutonic tradition ($15.95).
Most of the members of the wait staff are bilingual and can handle German-style service. That means waiters might sweep through the dining area bearing four or five entree platters at a time without losing so much as a crumb.
The menu's German-to-English translations are quite literal. One appetizer, described as "diced white meat," is pork in a creamy wine sauce topped with melted cheese ($5.75). This stew had a sharp taste and is thick enough to serve as Swiss-style fondue.
Simple dinners such as braised beef cubes ($13.25) are made more interesting by being dished up with thick sauces flavored with peppers and onions. And they are just as worthy as some of the more elaborate creations.
Breaded, fried veal schnitzel ($21.95) would be plenty with a side of sauerkraut. But it's even more of a delicacy topped with a grilled egg and surrounded by canapes of caviar, anchovies and smoked salmon.
Some entrees come with the "special salad," which turned out to be simply chunks of bell peppers, celery and cucumbers. But it's unexpectedly delicious, due to a hot, peppery vinaigrette. Red cabbage laced with apples and bacon is another side item not to miss.
This restaurant still has the look of a revamped pancake house, with a steeple roof and long, narrow proportions. But in its current incarnation it's more polished than those first impressions imply. Tables are draped with crisp, white cloths, and the space remains largely free of knickknacks and clutter.
Other than during the Friday- and Saturday-night German "cowbells" musical acts, the place is toned down enough to be a business-lunch destination. This alone makes it a cosmopolitan restaurant worth exploring, in an area where ethnic takeouts and hamburger joints abound.