The waitress at the Mosel Cellar (pronounced keller ) rattled off a list of German beers, making it sound like Goethe's poetry . . . "Eku Pils, Paulaner, Weazenbier, Bittburger Pils, Salvador.. . . "
I don't know what it was I ordered, but I trusted her. She looked like a heroine of a Wagnerian opera--statuesque, very blond with rosy cheeks that flushed at will. I also felt as if I were in Bavaria. A small village inn in the Alps. Far away from Los Angeles. Comforting and homey.
A Homey Charm
You can miss Mosel Cellar driving by on Pico Boulevard if you don't pay attention. The place is free-standing, surrounded by a parking lot. But close up, it has Alpine charm. Window boxes are filled with colorful flowers, wine bottles line the wall moldings, and crisp, pulled-back curtains play with light entering the window. It's like the set of the last Sonja Henie movie. Neat, clean and sparkling and extremely orderly. Oom-pah-pah on the stereo and homey girls in dirndls. And the food is good.
Especially the duck and potato pancakes, which you will have to order separately. The duck dinner, as all dinners at Mosel Cellar, comes with soup (a brothy cream of celery when I was there), a vinegary lettuce-tomato salad, hot rolls from the local market and butter.
And all entrees come with a choice of vegetable of the day, sauerkraut or red cabbage (I chose red cabbage, which I found too cornstarchy for my taste), fried potatoes or potato dumplings. I chose the potato dumplings, which were as round as golf balls and as light as powder puffs. Well, almost. Spaetzle was also on the menu that evening and I tried it from a friend's plate. It was excellent. But the potato pancakes, which you can order as a specialty item with sour cream or apple sauce for $3.75, are a must. Don't leave without having tried them if you love potato pancakes.
All the entrees that appeared at our table looked wonderful. The presentation was careful--nothing thrown on the plate willy-nilly. Everything in order, including a clump of parsley on every plate, which I must say I have not seen much of lately, thank heaven. But they seem to belong on Mosel's plates.
I would like to return for several German specialties prepared a la Mosel region style. There is badischer sauerbraten, rind rollade (beef roll), kassler rippchen (smoked pork loin), Wiener schnitzel and eisbein (boiled pork shanks). Not being a fan of liver, I will avoid it, but it's cooked Berlin-style at Mosel Cellar, which means it comes with sauteed onions and gravy. The duck I so enjoyed was crisp and meaty and well done. Just the way I like it.
The waitress, who is the daughter of one of the three owners of this family-operated restaurant, offered a bevy of desserts--not homemade, but from a German bakery--including Black Forest cake, cheesecake and apple strudel. I would have taken the apple strudel. On second thought, perhaps the Black Forest cake.
Mosel Cellar, 1510 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica, (213) 452-3967. Open Tuesday through Sunday, 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. Closed Monday. Reservations suggested for weekends especially. Visa and MasterCard accepted. Parking on premises. Average entree $9. Mosel wines and several imported German beers offered. Other German, French and California wines , also .