Hungry for authentic Hungarian

New eatery offers much to tempt local taste buds

“SINCERE,” “ENDEARING” AND “enthusiastic” are just three adjectives that come to mind when thinking of Schnitzel Bistro, a matchbox of a restaurant on a quaint strip of Yonge just south of the Richmond Hill Centre for the Performing Arts.

Passion about the food and the business model of making Hungarian fare accessible to the masses is evident in all aspects of the restaurant.

The lack of table service here caters to the fast-food structure — patrons place orders at one end of the service counter and collect their food at the other end when it’s ready — as does the limited seating (just 10 spaces!), the upbeat music throbbing from the speakers and the use of black plastic plates and cutlery.

But overall, this bittie room feels more spa than speedy: it’s bright, uncluttered and serenely decorated. Panels of bamboo- green paint along white walls, an ivory-coloured floor, dark woods and a leathery banquette give it a modern look.

The short menu is straightforward: soups, salads and sides; sandwiches and entrees; and desserts. As we stand contemplating our options, the owner offers, “This is a schnitzel place.” Pause. “If I were you, I’d order the schnitzel.” Smile.

“Also, you might want to share the garlic cucumber salad. It’s very garlicky. That way, you will both have garlic breath!”

And garlicky it is — awesomely so. The cucumbers are sliced thinly, and they are so fresh and crunchy that even the heavy dousing of thin, white garlic dressing doesn’t soften them.

There are six entrees to choose from — schnitzel (chicken, veal, pork), Hungarian hamburger, breaded chicken liver or lightly breaded chicken — and they can be served either in sandwich form with various toppings or as a plate rounded out with choice of side or salad.

The “patty” in the Hungarian hamburger (“fasirt”) sandwich ($5.25) more resembles lightly battered falafel pieces in a huddle, made with a combination of ground pork and veal and seasoned with spices and mint. Gussying up the protein are a thick tomato slice, lettuce, garlic mayo and creamy Dijon, and the freshest of fresh multi-grain kaisers. The assembly tastes lighter and more refreshing than it reads.

Veal schnitzel plate, otherwise known as the big schnitz ($9.95), continues the delight. The ample slice of meat is evenly flattened, expertly battered with a mixture of bread crumbs and salt and pepper, then deep-fried — not at all greasy or heavy. A single squirt of lemon adds citrusy pep.

Its recommended side dish, “roasted” potatoes ($3.75), also sweeps us off our feet. Potatoes sliced and diced as French fries are roasted then stirred with a slightly chunky, perfectly balanced mix of garlic, parsley, lemon and butter. I will remember the palate pleasure of these potatoes for years.

After the indulgence of all the plates beforehand, we are let down by dessert — served tepid. Too much cinnamon renders a couple of cinnamon-sugar crepes ($2.95) bitter and inedible, despite the rolled, yummy crepe wrapping, phhhhssst of whip cream and house-made chocolate sauce drizzle. The booziness of rum extract drowns out the other flavours of ground walnut–cream crepes, folded in quarters and similarly adorned ($3.95).

San Pellegrino and soda pops are as fancy as it gets in terms of drinks (unlicensed), but specialty coffees and teas offer something for loungers.

This neighbourhood spot, complete with sidewalk bench out front, also offers takeout and catering.

Article exclusive to TRNTO