Cafe Rockenwagner: Ingenious Cuisine with a German Flair

IMG_6621I’ve been fascinated with Hans Röckenwagner since the 1980s, when I used to take clients to his restaurant Röckenwagner in Santa Monica on Main Street. Out of town clients loved the unique interior design, splendid food, and his famous German pretzel rolls. It soon became one of the top restaurants in Southern California.

In my eyes, Hans is a rock star in the culinary world with his German good looks, charismatic personality, and flair for making innovative dishes.

I was so excited to be standing with him in his new neighborhood café on the corner of Wilshire Blvd. and Barrington. Located on the bottom floor of the upscale housing community called BP, the design is modern and sleek.

Adding to the décor is a wall of German-style pretzels sprinkled with salt hanging on wooden pegs. There is also a glass display case filled with some of the most dazzling pastries in Los Angeles, baked by the talented Pastry Chef Cesar Bermudez. Röckenwagner lured him away from the SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills.

I also met business partner, Wolfgang Gussmack, who joined Röckenwagner in 2002, as chef de cuisine at his Santa Monica restaurant. Gussmack learned his skills while cooking in one of the only two-star Michelin restaurant in Austria.

I was escorted to the bar area for a glass of Prosecco and some exquisite bar snacks. My favorite was the smooth avocado crostini on grilled bread. There were also three different types of delicious breads with nuts and raisins to use as a base for edamame hummus dip, corn and jalapeno spread and a sweeter blueberry and orange. I joined a group of diners eager to be one of the first to taste many dishes from Café Röckenwagner’s creative menu.

IMG_6634His dishes are meant to satisfy the soul. Chef de Cuisine Kayson Chung makes a vibrant chilled shrimp salad accompanied with mellow avocado, crunchy jicama and horseradish vinaigrette.

I thoroughly enjoyed the grilled octopus with braised cabbage, puréed carrots and a green soy glaze.

One of the most popular appetizers or brunch dishes offered is the pain perdu made with brioche French toast, bacon roasted peppers and a fried egg. Jalapeno-maple syrup gives this beautiful dish pizzazz.

Entrées are comfort foods with a twist, such as the short rib braised for hours and then roasted with a pepper crust. It’s served with a seven-inch bone.

His juicy pretzel burger with caramelized onions is magnificent.

If you like pan-fried mussels, here they are bathed in a soy-brown butter and arrive in a bowl sprinkled with chorizo and cilantro.

“Los Angeles is the most metropolitan area with so many diverse cultures. I enjoy using Asian, Middle Eastern, Mexican and German ingredients into my dishes,” Röckenwagner said.

When a platter of desserts arrived, I had to take a bite or two of each. The rich dark chocolate cake, ethereal lemon round with a homemade marshmallow that looked like aIMG_6610 sugar cube, and colorful fresh fruit tarts filled with farmers market berries all satisfied my senses.

Many of Röckenwagner’s baked goods can be found at farmers’ markets from Beverly Hills to La Canada Flintridge.

For Valentine’s Day, Café  Röckenwagner is offering a variety of mouthwatering treats and pastries to buy for your loved ones. They have also baked two oversized raspberry macaron cookies, filled with passion fruit cream, fresh raspberries, and topped with a decorative chocolate heart. This pastry is big enough for two to share with a glass of Prosecco before exchanging Valentines.

Café Röckenwagner is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. $$ 1168 S. Barrington Ave. (310)478-6313.

This article was published in the February 13 , 2014 Beverly Press and Park LaBrea News.

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