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Grazing Teutonically at ‘Magma German Wine Bistro’ in Singapore

April 11 2007 at 12:19 PM

  (Login MelvynTeillolFoo)


‘Magma German Wine Bistro’, Chinatown
2 – 4 Bukit Pasoh Road, Singapore
MRT Station: Outram Park (Exit H) 5mins walk
I was surprised to find a German restaurant and shop in two old Chinese shop-houses. The house began as a Chinese Music Association and is probably a protected heritage building that has been sympathetically renovated. They kept the structure of the building and removed the false ceiling, so that the spirit of old Chinatown merges with the freshness of a new bistro.

‘Magma’ claims to provide an authentic touch of Germany: German cuisine, wine, beer and other drinks and German music and culture. Browsing through the menu is like a whirlwind tour of German regional dishes. Beside the familiar pork knuckles and sausages there are less well-known ‘local favourites’.

Chef Robert Leistner and his assistant Sebastian Pfefferlein share the kitchen duties.

Herr Leonardo Noto (white shirt) is the proprietor and can usually be found in the shop next door. His name is often mistaken for Japanese but he is of Italian ancestry transposed to Germany.

Being attached to a wine shop and distributor allows for the most comprehensive German wine list that I have seen. They stock wines from all 13 wine regions of Germany, chosen to represent the best of each region and offerings from 20 wineries almost exclusively in Asia. Beside Riesling (more than 50 labels), they offer a broad range of white and red wines. For the beer lovers, there are eight German beers to hand.

I actually tried the food twice within 3 days. The first visit was for dinner with a couple of friends whose experience of German cuisine did not stray from pork knuckle and sauerkraut. We had a great time experimenting but I had no camera with me.

Luckily, the ‘Grazing’ archive has records of a similar meal in Saxony:

VISIT 1 – Dinner

Emrich-Schönleber was the featured Winemaker of the Month so we had a Monzinger Frühlingsplätzchen 2005, Riesling Spätlese, which was fruity on the nose, dry with concentrated ripe fruits on the palate and with long-lasting finish. The ratings proudly proclaimed 90 points Eichelmann and 86 points Gault Millau – whom am I to argue?

Flammekuchen (flame cake) is a thin layer of pastry topped with cream, onions and bacon. In effect, like a pizza but tomato paste is substituted with cream. Sometimes cheese and/or mushrooms are added to this baked dish. We shared a Sardellen, Lauch, Tomaten und Käse (anchovies, leek, tomatoes and cheese) that was very more-ish. The pastry was crispy with a yeasty baked aroma and the topping was gloriously un-Swabian!

Swabia (German: Schwaben or Schwabenland) is both an historic and linguistic region in Germany made up of most of the state of Baden-Württemberg and the Bavarian administrative region of Swabia. In the Middle Ages, Swabia included Baden, Vorarlberg, Liechtenstein, German-speaking Switzerland and Alsace (France).

Swabians have been the butt of jokes and humour where they are depicted as excessively stingy, overly serious, prudish, or as simpletons e.g. in "The Seven Swabians" (Die sieben Schwaben) published by the Brothers Grimm. Nowadays, Swabians are said to be frugal, clever, entrepreneurial and hard working. In a publicity campaign for the 50th anniversary of Baden-Württemberg, the richest state in modern Germany, the Swabians rebutted with: "We are capable of doing anything except speaking High German" (Wir können alles - außer Hochdeutsch).

A. The top seller: Schweinshaxe mit Erbspueree und Sauerkraut (Pork knuckle, Bavarian style (roasted) with mashed peas and sauerkraut) was well deserving of it’s #1 ranking. A HUGE chunk of pork roasted to crispy skin perfection. The meat inside was tender and even the fat had melted into a mélange of meaty goodness. Top marks!

B. Schweineschnitzel mit Kartoffeln und Gemüse (Pork Escalope with potatoes and fresh vegetables) was average compared to the pork knuckle. The schnitzel was fine but the potatoes were uninspiring and the vegetables over boiled. The open-plan kitchen showed why. Mr Pfefferlein prepared the escalope from raw ingredients and it was good but the vegetables had been simmering from who-knows-when.

C. Hamburger Labskaus or Lobscouse was described in the menu as a traditional delicacy from northern Germany (mashed potato with beetroot and bacon, Rollmops herring, gherkin and fried egg). For the uninitiated, this was a credible representation of the famous dish but I have had a few versions of this in Hamburg.

Labskaus is a sailor’s meal, from when times were old and men were bold, when ships were wooden and sailors’ stomachs were ironclad. Upon the briny seas, far from port, one had to eat what the Smutje (cook) mixed together. Today, Labskaus is found on the menu of the best Hanseatic restaurants. It should be cured meat and potato mash with red beets and Rollmops herring. When I first encountered Labskaus in Hamburg, my first comment was, "Why, its corned beef hash and beetroot with a smelly fish on the side and a fried egg on top!"

The recipe calls for the boiling of beef in water and then mincing it with the beetroot, herbs, onions and herring (or ham). Finally the base is stewed in lard and finished off in a stock. The final touch is the garnish of mashed potato. Countless variations of the dish exist. For example in Bremen, just about 100 km away from Hamburg, Labskaus is a preparation of fried corned beef, onions and mashed potatoes with the beetroot and Rollmops served as a side dish. The word ‘Labskaus’ has been around since the 16th century and comes from the English ‘lobs-cou(r)se’, meaning 'meal for a rough customer'.

VISIT 2 – Lunch

Obligatory PuristS watch photos

Glashuette Original Panograph and Poljot chronograph on a Sachsen wine bottle
Detente at work?

Poljot Soviet era watch
Case made of titanium salvaged from a SS-18 nuclear missile as part of disarmament process

Schloss Proschwitz (Sachsen) 2003 Traminer Auslese, fine-tart
Alcohol 12.5%vol, acidity 5.6 g/l, residual sugar 26.1 g/l
Clear and fruity wine tasting of lychee and dried apricot but just look at that sugar content!

This was the same castle that ThePuristS visited on our trip to Glashuette in 2003.

I wanted to know if such a spicy, sweet fruity wine would go with fatty sausages, melted butter and creamy sauce. A rich, sweet Gewuerztraminer is delicious with piquant cheese or buttery sauce. It can also be enjoyed as an aperitif or to accompany a dessert but the pairing with sausages gave mixed results.

Wurstplatte Mit Sauerkraut & Kartoffelsalat (potato salad)

We shared the platter of 5 different sausages:
Bayerische Weißwurst mit süßem Senf (Bavarian white sausage (boiled) with sweet mustard
Frankfurter (boiled)
Rauchwurst (Smoked sausage) (boiled)
Bratwurst (pan fried)
Käse-Wurst (mit Fleisch) or Cheese sausage (contains meat)

All sausages at ‘Magma’ are authentic and imported from Germany – most yummy indeed!

Maultaschen with minced meat and spinach
Maultaschen with sauerkraut, ham and garlic
Maultaschen with mushrooms, onions and herbs

Maultaschen are a Swabian specialty, consisting of an outer layer of dough with a filling. They are similar to Italian ravioli, but larger. Monks reputedly created Maultaschen to conceal that they were eating meat during Lent (fasting before Easter). Today, Maultaschen are offered with a wide variety of fillings, ranging from traditional meat over seafood to vegetarian versions. They are served with melted butter or creamy sauce or in a clear beef broth.

Gebackene Apfelscheiben mit Zimthonig (Baked apple slices in puff pastry with honey and cinnamon)

We had this on both occasions:
The first time it was glorious with crispy thin pastry but the second time was disappointing with soggy thick pastry.
What happened? I think that the second try was ‘changeover time’ for the cooks after lunch hour and insufficient care was taken.

This was a mixed review with the full spectrum from glorious to mediocre, depending on which dish and time of service. This must be improved upon because such a niche outlet must do few dishes but do them well, all the time.

Pork Knuckle, Sausages and Wine List: 2 thumbs up.
Other Items: barely half-a-thumb rating.
For the good stuff, I would return to this establishment.

Guten Appetit and Prost!

Text and Photos Copyright Melvyn Teillol-Foo, 2007.
All rights reserved.

This message has been edited by MelvynTeillolFoo on Apr 11, 2007 12:29 PM

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