Saturday, March 24, 2007

Maitre Karl, High St, Willoughby

Maitre Karl, High St, Willoughby
Saturday 24 March, 2007

Maitre Karl is my favourite local restaurant and the last time I visited was in October. It is the home of the tarte flambe and of Karl, your host and owner. Arriving at Maitre Karl is an experience as Karl is there to greet you with his booming voice and friendly manner - he is hands on in his approach and can always be heard asking if everyone is having a good time.
Tonight, on this wet and windy evening we arrived and were invited to chose which table we wanted. It was 7.30pm and the restaurant was already quite full and we chose a table away from the front door and near the bar. Karl came over immediately and knew two of our dinner buddies, one who was celebrating a milestone birthday. We knew straight away we would be in for a great evening.
You cannot visit Maitre Karl without trying the tarte flambe which originates from Alsace , France. Tarte Flambée has a thinly rolled yeast free base spread with flavoursome fromage blanc (fresh cheese) and scattered with various ingredients. This is the perfect entree as you can get a few to share for the table. We decided to share 3 tarte flambes between 5 of us - maybe a little ambitious but we were all hungry. We chose the Strasbourgeoise - German sausage, onion and sauerkraut; Gratinée - Onion, bacon and gruyere cheese; and the special of the day which had smoked salmon and capers on top.
Each arrived at our table on a wooden chopping block and already carved up for easy distribution - the staff dished out two servings of each for everyone and left the rest for us to fight over. The easiest way to describe the tarte flambe is to think of a super thin pizza base - fresh and crusty and lightly layered with savoury toppings. My favourite tonight was the Strasbourgeoise as it was covered in caramelised onion, mild sauerkraut that had a tangy flavour that complimented the smokey sausage.
We had only just finished these before realising we hadn't ordered our main meals yet. It didn't take us long to decide and 3 of us chose the Steak Café de Paris - Rib eye on the bone with herb butter and red wine jus, pommes frites and 2 opted for the Poisson en papillotes - Fish of the day (barramundi), oven baked in a paper bag, potato fondantes, tomato, artichoke, orange and herbs.
The Steak Café de Paris was cooked to order (medium rare) and was enormous - when it arrived at the table I was convinced that I could feed a family of 4. The steak was tender and sat on a bed of long stringy fries and covered with a dollop of herb butter that had melted over the steak and onto the fries. It was delicious but I couldn't finish it all.
The wine list offers a handful of Australian wines and plenty of Austrian, French and German varietals. You can BYO however it is $8 corkage per bottle. The atmosphere at Maitre Karl is loud, buzzy and a little frantic with waiters rushing around and the constant stream of eager diners - many of who are locals and regulars as Karl seems to know everyone.
As a surprise to us all an amazing flourless chocolate cake arrived at our table for dessert - it was moist, decadent and a chocoholics delight. We were having such a great time that we all decided to come back the following morning for breakfast.......
Maitre Karl - 197 High Street, Willoughby - (02) 9958 1110


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