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RESTAURANTS | Counter Intelligence

Don't Plan on Eating Light

Homey German dishes are served at a Long Beach restaurant where Bavarian charm is as plentiful as the food.

July 22, 1999|MAX JACOBSON | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The closest thing Naples Island has to a restaurant row is 2nd Street between Ravenna Drive and the Long Beach Marina. On this two-block stretch you'll find all

sorts of places--a clubby steak house, an American grill belonging to Sonny Bono's oldest daughter . . . and Anneliese's Bavarian Inn, which locals claim serves the best German food in the Southland.

That may be open to debate, but it's certainly true that Anneliese's homey dishes are always plentiful and delicious. And anyway, if you're going to eat rich food in the summer, there's no better place to do it than ever-temperate Naples Island.

Gentle, gray-haired Anneliese Kohlbrecher actually hails from Osnabruck in the northern Rhineland, rather than Bavaria. But her husband was from Munich, and the place positively oozes Bavarian gemutlichkeit, from the crests of German cities framed on the walls to the knitted lamp covers to the polka music throbbing from hidden speakers.

The food is, well, as light as you have any right to expect German cooking to be; that is to say, not very. The best appetizer, frikadelle (spelled "frikadellas" on this menu), is flavorful sauteed beef patties topped with slightly caramelized grilled onions.

If you're smart, though, you won't order them at all, because a meal automatically comes with a homemade soup or a terrific German salad, plus sides like red cabbage, sauerkraut, spaetzle (ribbon-shaped egg dumplings), Bavarian dumplings or German fried potatoes. You'll have plenty to eat without the frikadelle.

Kohlbrecher's soups are tremendous. One evening I had a terrific chicken soup, aromatic with fresh dill and chock-full of chicken, sliced carrots, beans and spaetzle. On another visit, there was a smoky tomato soup--it was shot through with the flavor of heavily smoked bacon.

Still, don't overlook the house salad, which looks exactly like the kind you get in German country inns. It's sliced cucumbers, tomatoes, bell peppers and green beans with pickled radishes, two types of cabbage and a few leaves of butter lettuce, all dressed with a restrained vinaigrette.

The main courses are definitely not restrained. Perhaps the best is rouladen, a braised beef roll with a filling of onions, pickles and bacon. The pork schnitzel uses a thicker cut of pork than some might like, though no one can say the breading isn't delicate or the meat beautifully flavorful. The best way to eat it is a la Holstein: topped with a fried egg.

The sauerbraten is marinated in vinegar for two days before braising, which is not as long as an old-school German housewife would marinate it. So to a purist, it may come off more like pot roast than sauerbraten, but it's certainly tender and tasty.

Sometimes the specials board lists a tender pork roast served with a pile of spaetzle. There's also an unimpressive pork chop and sausage platter, though the fault lies with the meat supplier; the sausage is dull and the pork simply isn't well cured.

The side dishes are always excellent. Every main dish comes with caraway-spiced sauerkraut (as good as I've had anywhere), some faintly sweet braised red cabbage and at least one starch. This might be onion-rich German fried potatoes, like coarse, extra-crisp home fries. Or it might be a bready disk of Bavarian dumpling, designed as a way of soaking up gravy.

After dinner, Kohlbrecher will come out of the kitchen to schmooze and try to sell you one of her homemade desserts--apple strudel, plum cake, fresh berry tart or whatever else is covered with cloth on the sideboard. And you might well want to order some, if you have any room. All her desserts taste as if they're straight from the pastry shop in a German village; they're loaded with fresh fruit and topped with a scandalous amount of fresh whipped cream.

On the other hand, no matter how cool it is down here on Naples Island, you'd better not plan on that after-dinner beach volleyball game, even if you do skip dessert.

BE THERE

Anneliese's Bavarian Inn, 5730 E. 2nd St., Long Beach. (562) 439-4089. Lunch 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays-Fridays; dinner 4-10 p.m. Wednesdays-Mondays. Closed Tuesdays. Street parking. Beer and wine only. American Express, MasterCard and Visa. Dinner for two, $30-$48.

What to get: frikadelle, rouladen, schnitzel a la Holstein, pork roast with spaetzle, plum cake, apple strudel.

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