Near the end of last fall, Thomas Beisl, the quaint Austrian restaurant across from the Brooklyn Academy of Music—a time-honored place to grab a drink after, or sometimes even during, a performance—closed its doors. But just as softly as they shut, the doors reopened, this time leading into a restaurant called Berlyn.
The owners, Ursula and Jonas Hegewisch, didn’t stray far from their predecessor’s cuisine—they just hopped a country over and started serving German food as a shout-out to Jonas’ origins. He is from Hamburg and Ursula is from Chicago, but now they live in Fort Greene, not far from their restaurant. The name, says Ursula, is a mash-up between Berlin and Brooklyn, their way of combining the culture and food of both places.
A German restaurant instantly brings to mind bratwurst, sauerkraut and beer, which are served at Berlyn, but the real focus here is a decent wine list, with 80 percent coming from Germany. The Punkt Genau sparkling Gruner Veltliner is a good bet and, at $8.50 a glass or $35 a bottle, well worth the price. You can also choose from eight Rieslings, though only one, a smooth Selbach-Oster Incline ($8), sells by the glass. The list of reds is comparatively small and only two of the selections are German. Of course, Germany is mainly known for whites and, in this situation, those pair better with most of the food, which solidly reflects time the couple spent in Berlin.
To start, the restaurant offers an array of appetizers, like the traditional liptauer ($6), a creamy blend of cheese and spices served with soft black bread and sliced apples, or a pile of savory, juicy German meatballs ($7) with lingonberry preserves. Vegetarians can try the landsalat ($7), a kind of German Waldorf salad with tangy goat cheese and red cabbage in lieu of mayo and lettuce, or a classic potato salad ($5) chockfull of apples, Hamburg style.
I loved the thin potato pancakes—more closely resembling American hash browns than the hearty Eastern European version I expected—which came topped with a large scoop of salty, smoky trout salad ($11). One could easily get full on the pancakes and an order of the melt-in-your-mouth Nrnberg sliders ($8), two juicy mini pork burgers seasoned with sage. They come on unbelievably soft pretzel buns the restaurant gets daily from Tom Cat Bakery, with a side of crisp and pickled green beans.
Moving on to entrées, while it looked like a classic macaroni and cheese, I was sad to find the German ksesptzle ($14) was just a pile of mushy noodles, and the cheese had almost no flavor. I don’t think even adding bacon (a $2 option) to this dish would have saved it. Other items, like tender short ribs ($19), a steamy pile of beer-braised beef served with soft mashed potatoes and a handful of veggies laced with paprika, fared better. Also enjoyable was the Berlyn choucroute ($18), a plate piled with perfectly cooked and peppered spare rib, a succulent bratwurst and Mangalitsa pork loin, which comes from those adorable and delicious furry pigs bred in Hungary and the Balkans. The meat rests on a not-so-sour pile of sauerkraut made with juniper berry and apple, next to a hearty pot of whole grain mustard. More standard dishes, like a wiener schnitzel ($22), a burger with horseradish sauce and bacon jam ($12), and a delightful dish of mussels in a sweet and savory Riesling and bacon sauce ($15), are also available.
Though Berlyn says on its website that it serves "regional German and New Brooklyn Cuisine," I didn’t really get the latter part. What I saw was a menu of solid German eats served in a relaxed, neighborhood setting. With a cozy atmosphere and laidback service, the comforting German grub, whether or not it has been influenced by Brooklyn, is worth saying hallo to.
5 Lafayette Ave., at Ashland Pl., Brooklyn,