A German restaurant in Yangon seemed a farfetched concept just a couple of years ago. That was until an enthusiastic chef par excellence, Magnus Scherr, came to Myanmar with his vast experience combined with a dream to create a restaurant that could offer unmatched cuisine from his home country.
When Mahlzeit restaurant opened its doors to the public, offering gastronomic German cuisine in the heart of Sanchaung township people wondered if there would be many takers for its elaborate and exotic German fare and whether it would draw crowds from both the local and expatriate populations of Yangon. Those were the initial worries, but things for the Mahlzeit team are going well quite well today with a vast repertoire of German specialties including breads, meats, soups and cakes. Located opposite Asia Royal Hospital on Baho Road, Mahlzeit is quite welcoming with a bright, trendy interior and a warm ambience which is both inviting and surprising. The sprawling restaurant offers seating for 70 people. It is well-spaced, not in the least cramped. Magnus Scherr acts as the General Manager who, besides training the chefs himself, personally supervises the cooking and ensures strict adherence to the high European standards for hygiene, quality and consistency. The kitchen is spotlessly clean with the latest brand refrigerators and freezers. That equipment, like the ovens and grills, are imported from Thailand and elsewhere across the globe.
German cuisine is known for its rich, hearty meals. Traditional regional food that has always been a very important part of the country’s culture. Regional cuisines vary as do the cooking styles in the northern and southern parts of the country and those subtle differences, though maybe lost on the local dining public, are adhered to and beautifully carried out.
The cold climatic conditions of central Europe necessitated ingenious ways of preserving meats and vegetables, which led to the invention of sausages. Sausages are made from ground meats, usually pork or beef, combined with spices and herbs. They almost all include garlic. There are nearly 1,500 varieties of sausage that have evolved from Germany’s long tradition of sausage making. Sausages are often the substitute for cooked meat in a meal, and each tastes quite unique.
Meat is an important part of every German meal, and though beef, pork, lamb, veal, chicken and fish are savoured, pork remains the most preferred. The meats are accompanied by breads, potatoes and some vegetables added to soups or served on the side.
Potatoes are also staple fare, cooked differently in each region. Dumplings, called knodel, are a northern favourite, while their tinier version, spätzle, is preferred in the south. Soups are also part of every meal. They are served as starters if light while heavier soups are often eaten as a main course.
Traditionally, lunch was the main meal of the day, with a light breakfast and dinner. However, changing lifestyles have converted lunch often as a ‘meal on the go’ or a quick meal eaten at one’s place of work, elevating dinner to become the main meal, as it remains across much of Europe.
The food on offer
It is at Mahlzeit that one discovers how much more there is to German cuisine than sausage and spatzle, and how delectable a complete multi-course traditonal German meal can be. What stands out is the experience of tasting traditional foods from every region of the country in one sitting.
An elaborate menu awaits each guest, and the attentive staff, not to mention Chef Magnus himself,advises and guides, with details about every meal preparation and help in ordering the finest dishes on offer. The focus is to use local produce, which includes organic vegetables and the most fresh meats from reliable sources. The sausages are also prepared locally and only a select few ingredients are ordered from Germany.
The best way to discover the taste and flavour of the sumptuous variety is to sit down for a multi-course meal at Mahlzeit and be amazed at every course that is placed on the table, beautifully presented and irresistible.
A look at the menu had us all wondering what to order. For starters, options include sausages like the Frankfurter or red grilled sausage, meat loaf, grilled pork skewers and minced pork patties. Those preferring poultry can select the chicken shawarma in pita bread. Shawarma isn’t traditionally German, it’s Middle Eastern food native to Jewish and Muslim culture, but over time has become a top choice for Germans thanks to Turkish culinary influence in Germany. All these are accompanied by a special sauce, potato salad or fries.
The next course comprises soups and stews. The fisch soljanka is a Russian style fish soup with salmon and vegetables that is both light and flavourful. Stews include a lentil stew and a potato stew but meat lovers will probably care for the Pichesteiner eintopf; a stew with beef, pork and mutton.
We had barely finished our soup when the chef presented their version of Italian pizza called flammkuchen – this is a deliciously thin flatbread that comes with various toppings like sour cream, bacon and onion, smoked salmon and leek, or pumpkin, spinach and spring onions for vegetarians. There are also others.
The best was yet to come when we got to the elaborate main course options. I am reminded of my trips to Vienna when I see the Weiner Schnitzel with potatoes and lingon berries. Hunter Schnitzel and Munich Schnitzel are other options. But equally tempting is the sausage platter, braised beef, pork roast with dumplings, chicken cordon bleu and beef roulade, to name just a few. Fish fans can choose grilled salmon, mussels, fish fingers or a herring salad. Each is accompanied by potatoes, cabbage, salad and special sauces.
Specialties like Pork knuckle, boiled or crispy, sirloin steak, pork shoulder or suckling pig all seem delectable with their fancy names and side dishes. Particularly appetizing is the very elaborate Schmankerlplatte feast – comprised of chicken schnitzel, sausage, meat patties and more. All these have to be pre-ordered though.
The meal, unmatched by any other restaurant thus far, would be quite incomplete without dessert. On offer are apple strudel, vanilla semolina pudding with raspberries and Kaiserschmarrn and a chopped sweet pancake that melts in the mouth and is quite worth the twenty-minute wait. The helpings are generous and one tends to eat more than usual since each course and preparation is lip smacking.
The café and the function hall at Mahlzeit
The breakfast den is a café which is part of the premises accessible from the outside. It serves the finest teas and varieties of coffee, besides an amazing variety of breads. We are informed that breads are not just food, they are an inherent part of German culture. Over 300 varieties of bread can be found in the country and are a part of every meal. The café also serves Bavarian pretzels, French croissants and American doughnuts and bagels. Little surprise, then, to find the café is full in the mornings.
Dining on and enjoying the flavours of Germany isn’t restricted to the restaurant and café alone. Catering services at highly affordable rates are provided for outdoor locations and private functions can be organized at their large function hall which can accommodate up to 200 people.
Mahlzeit has already built a loyal clientele, evidenced by the fact that since it is full on weekends and even on some week days. First time guests are seen in any new eatery, but those returning time and again to enjoy the food in a relaxing environment indicates how good and popular a restaurant is. I for one have recommended it to friends and tourists, since its high standards of quality and hygiene are something I can vouch for.