The Village Lanterne
143 N. Wellwood Ave. Lindenhurst, NY 631-225-1690
An unabashedly old-world German restaurant serving huge portions and the schnitzel of your dreams.Hours: Lunch, Tuesday to Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.; dinner, Tuesday to Thursday 4 to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday, 4 to 10 p.m.; Sunday, 2 to 9 p.m.; closed Monday Accessibility: Accessible.
The trend, these days, is toward restaurants labeling themselves with terms like "Asian fusion," and "New American." How refreshing, then, to come across a new place without a futuristic or fusionistic pretension in the world.
The Village Lanterne manages to be unabashedly Old World German, and yet not come off as out-of-date. The bar and lounge area, with contemporary leather armchairs and low lighting, exudes a certain urbanity. And the dining room, furnished with comfortable booths, wooden beams, Germanic folk art and photos of the old country, merges elements of yesterday and today. So what if the Gothic print menu is a bit hard to read? A little eye strain is worth enduring for a good meal.
Chef James Chew, who is not of German ancestry, does convincing work with the recipes of Ursula Lorch, mother of owner Tom Lorch. Dinner begins with a basket of warm "pretzel rolls" from the family's Black Forest Bakery down the street. Good as they may be, it's wise to restrain yourself if you plan to order the Bavarian cheese-dip appetizer, which comes with more of those rolls. The platter includes a crock of melted smoked Gruyère and sharp Cheddar cheeses spiked with Hofbrau lager beer as well as crisp, juicy slashed knockwurst and bratwurst, blanched chilled cauliflower and a pile of gherkins. I'd be happy with the meat alone. The Maryland crab cake is well spiced, not the least bit bready, accompanied by a coral-hued rémoulade.
On my first visit, I was immediately won over by the potato pancakes, lacy and crisp on the outside, fluffy within, paired with a ramekin of applesauce. The rather ordinary gratis salad, I found, works best if ordered with warm bacon dressing.
Black Forest smoked bacon is one of the ingredients tucked, along with an herbal blend, under the skin of the roast chicken; the end result is a deeply flavorsome and moist bird. I got mine with red cabbage and egg-shaped dumplings on the side. The dumplings, as well as the noodles accompanying the moist, savory panko-crusted pork chop (stuffed with a mix of chopped green apples, red onions and herb butter) would have benefited from some gravy.
A dark, winy gravy blanketed tender cubes of beef in the Hungarian goulash, a good match for any of the available accompaniments, be they noodles, dumplings or spaetzle. Sauerbraten here is a well-marinated pot roast that can be easily cut with a fork, the meat coated with a fragrant gingersnap sauce. Another well-sauced dish is rouladen, rolled beef medallions filled with pickles, smoked bacon and onions in a rich wine demiglace. Most entrees are plated with sauerkraut and red cabbage, both tangy and right.
If Wiener schnitzel is what comes to mind when you think of German food, Lindenhurst just may harbor the schnitzel of your dreams, a moist, tender veal cutlet coated in a highly seasoned breading pan-fried to a greaseless crisp. Another expertly fried dish is fish and chips. The beer-batter crust on the cod is light, producing an audible crunch; the hand-cut potato wedges are irresistible. Credit goes to chef Chew, who also owns Long Island Fish & Chips in Massapequa.
I was hankering for apple strudel, but there was none available either of the nights I visited. From the ceremoniously presented dessert tray, I tried blackout and Black Forest cakes, both typically humdrum bakery products. And although apple pie filling was a bit mushy and overly sweet, I was impressed with the light, flaky pie crust. The use of aerosol whipped cream, however, was a comedown.
In truth, though, portions are so large - try leaving without a doggy bag - chances are you'll want nothing more than coffee or tea. Cappuccino or espresso you can get elsewhere. This is, after all, a traditional German restaurant.
Reviewed by Joan Reminick 3/25/08.