9570 Old Keene Mill Rd., Burke 455-6200 Hours: 5 to 9:30 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday; 5 to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 5 to 9 p.m. Sunday. Closed Mondays. Prices: Appetizers and soups $1.75 to $5.95; entrees $7.95 to $13.95. Cards: MasterCard, American Express, Visa, Choice. No nonsmoking area.
The Washington area is not a hotbed of German-Hungarian cooking, so I had my doubts about a German-Hungarian restaurant in a corner of a shopping strip in Burke. Once I was inside, the first signs were not reassuring. The two waitresses were Japanese, the Bolivian bartender was talking on the phone in Spanish, and the Moorish-style lanterns were from Spain.
But after plateloads of schnitzel, spatzle and strudel, all doubts vanished. The chef, German-born Evelyn Oelsner, is the real McCoy who knows how to cook the Old World specialties.
The hearty, familiar German and Hungarian specialties are supplemented with a few Continental dishes, such as steak au poivre and veal Marsala. The portions are generous and come with a fresh salad of head and leaf lettuce, a vegetable and a choice of rice, mashed potatoes, good homemade spatzle, or savory potato pancakes, with a dash of onion.
There is nothing Old World or enticing about the handful of ordinary appetizers such as clams casino, sauteed shrimp and crab meat salad. A delectable exception is the slightly peppery Hungarian sausage made from Evelyn's special recipe. The sausage also appears as an entree both by itself ($9.50) and on a combination platter alongside goulash and a cabbage roll ($10.95).
But before skipping straight to the entrees, there is a delicious homemade onion soup made from whatever chicken, veal and beef bones Evelyn has in the kitchen. The thyme-scented broth is nicely complimented by a topping of mild Swiss cheese. On the other hand, the split pea soup lacked depth.
As for the entrees, at the top of my list is the superb schnitzel jaeger art ($12.95), flavorful thin slices of veal quickly seared and blanketed with a layer of mushrooms steeped in a buttery worcestershire/marsala brown sauce. A close second are the breaded pork chops -- meaty, uncomplicated and perfectly done ($9.95).
The Hungarian goulash and the chicken paprika are winners, too -- both tender with rich sauces brightened by sweet paprika and a touch of hot red pepper flakes.
Another good choice is the vinegar-marinated sauerbraten in a cream-enhanced gravy. The accompanying sweet/sour red cabbage is a real treat and can be ordered separately for a mere 60 cents.
As for the large, green cabbage rolls stuffed with pork and rice, they are cooked here Hungarian style with sauerkraut and topped with a dollop of sour cream that nicely balances the tangy vinegar. The same sauerkraut comes with a variety of good quality sausages -- bratwurst (pork), knackwurst (beef), and weisswurst (veal). They come two to an order for $7.95 or all three for $9.95.
My one foray into the Continental dishes turned up an ordinary veal marsala, not bad but certainly no match for the schnitzel jaeger art.
For liquid refreshment, there's Spaten, a Munich beer that is a pleasant cross between light and dark. Beck's and Heineken also are available, as well as a modest wine list.
Save room for the homemade desserts, such as the cinnamony apple strudel and an old-fashioned, moist chocolate layer cake that tastes as good as it looks. The bottom layer of shortbread on the plum cake had a rancid taste (most likely an aberration, however, given the quality of the other desserts).
Evelyn's has been open for almost two years, but as far as I can tell, it hasn't yet been widely discovered. So take note: If you like good German-Hungarian food, this is the place for you.