I like German food but, living in a city with only one German restaurant I don't get to enjoy it very often. In fact I had to drive out of town to find another one -- to St. Pierre-Jolys which, ironically, is a town with a predominantly French heritage.
Stube translates into room, but Oma's Schnitzel Stube consists of three little rooms with walls partly white, partly avocado, and lacy white cafe curtains on the windows. The main difference between the rooms seems to be the colour of the tablecloths -- white in one, red in another and forest green in the third.
The menu is resolutely, traditionally German, and there's no modern nonsense about lightening it up. This is old-fashioned food in the best sense of the word -- hearty and rib-sticking, in heaping portions, with entrées priced from $9.50 to $15.50. And, not surprisingly, the eponymous schnitzels have pride of place -- a lengthy list of them, all of pork. The impeccably fried wiener schnitzel, under a puffy golden crust, was -- literally -- fork tender. The jaeger schnitzel was the same kind of schnitzel topped by mushrooms in a sauce that tasted like pure cream.
But there's more than just schnitzels. Rouladen, for instance -- thin slices of beef rolled around bacon and a dill pickle, and covered in brown gravy.
They were remarkable, not just for the flavour, but for the fact that they avoided the stringy dryness that so often afflicts other rouladen. The house-made bratwurst was one of the best I can remember -- meaty but not fatty, bursting with juices, with a whiff of nutmeg in the seasoning (but, alas, no mustard on the side). All were what you'd expect to find on a German menu but there was at least one surprise -- marinated elk, which had been roasted to tenderness in a lusciously dark, winey sauce.
Other (unsampled) entrées include schnitzels in other sauces, or stuffed with ham and cheese, as well as goulash, Kassler smoked pork chops and a stew. There are as well some smaller lunch dishes.
All entrées are preceded by a salad composed of several separate ingredients. The least successful part of it was the flabby, canned-tasting green beans, but the pickled beets were better, the marinated cucumber slices better still, and the potato salad so good I'd have liked a full serving of it. On the other hand the potato sides were equally good -- irresistible pan fries with bits of bacon, and french fries that lunchers at a neighbouring table described as awesome.
In fact, all the sides were lovely. Squiggly spaetzle noodles tossed with butter. Velvety, more-sweet-than-sour red cabbage. And, to sop up the gravies, golf-ball size bread dumplings. No bread though, but given the amount of food on our plates it was probably just as well.
Possibly there are more desserts on other days. On our day, the only house-made dessert was a delectable strudel with a raisin-studded apple filling
For those who want it all, or at least more than just one course, there are a series of weekend buffets: $12.95 for Friday dinner, $13.95 for Saturday dinner and for Sunday lunch or dinner, all including soups, salads, schnitzels, bratwurst and dessert. On the Saturday buffet prime rib, shrimp and back ribs are added, and on both Sunday meals, there are also goulash and rouladen, plus assorted cakes.
As well as a short wine list, there's a sizable selection of beers which, I assume are taken seriously here, an assumption based on the fact that I saw different beers being served in appropriately different glasses at different tables -- a tall, tapered pilsner glass at one, a chunky stein at another.
Service was warm and helpful. Some day I'd like to go back for one of those buffets, but for now my only complaint is that Oma's isn't in Winnipeg, where I could get to it more easily and more often.
St. Pierre Jolys is approximately 50 kilometres south of Winnipeg on Highway 59. Oma's is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday to Sunday, and it's probably safe enough to turn up unannounced during the week. But although the restaurant recommends reservations for the weekend buffets you may have to just leave your reservation on voice mail and hope for the best -- I tried phoning for more than three hours on Wednesday and voice mail was all I got.
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Apart from the bratwurst I don't remember any other wursts on Oma's menu, but if you make a slight detour to New Bothwell on the way there, or back, you'll find a good farmer sausage at Country Smoked Meats, as well as the also good coarse ham and garlic ring, Polish sausage and all-pork salami (204-388-4724).
Bothwell cheeses are produced right next door, and although many of their products are sold in most Winnipeg stores, there are a few that won't be found everywhere. Like the medium cheddar dotted with black truffles, which is OK, although I don't know that the truffles and the cheese do much for each other. I would avoid the bland, rubbery mild cheddar, but the two-year-old cheddar is excellent and I also liked the garlic chive and the jalapeno spiced Monterey jacks. And Bothwell is one of the rare producers of the curds essential to a genuine poutine (toll-free, 800-361-9542).
Both the above on Main Street, New Bothwell, Highway 216.
Oma's Schnitzel Stube
601 Sabourin Street
St. Pierre-Jolys, 204-433-7726
Four stars out of 5