Like any hardworking Taiwanese woman, Mary Chen, manager of Zum Fass German restaurant, is not hesitant to make known her toils. "On any given weekend, we're packed ... I do everything." And she continued: "I cook, I clean, I wash."
Despite her complaints, her work ethic pays off and is evidenced in her hospitality and in the food. Mary is so at home with customers that they are comfortable with her suggestions-suggestions that could never be interpreted as an attempt to "up sell." On any given night, she may be carrying on a conversation with her solid clientele of locals and persons from the international community, particularly those from Europe and Japan.
"This location is better, I think," said one Polish guests, who also said that Zum Fass is her favorite German restaurant in Taipei in terms of main courses.
The menu at Zum Fass is very rich and prices are fairly moderate. There are four appetizers on the menu, among which are Rollmops, or fish rolls, and Herring with Potato Salad. The latter goes highly recommended by the Mary's Polish guests over a simple order of potato salad. They said this is because the potato and the herring match excellently. Good herring is hard to find in this neck of the woods and Zum Fass obliges with its own import.
Drinkers may choose to forgo an appetizer and order something from the Cold Plate menu to accompany their wine, whisky or beer. Selections include Air Dried Beef, Italian Salami, Cheese Plate, German Meat Loaf and Goose Liver Pate.
Lamb dishes include Lamb Chops and Mint Sauce or Lamb Chops and Garlic Sauce. There are plenty of offerings on the salad menu and typically there is a "Daily Special Salad" and if you are lucky, there may even be a pork shank on the menu.
The "X-Mas Special 2005" is a Special Salad followed by Scallops with Garlic Sauce, Pumpkin Soup and a choice of either Rib-Eye Steak with Pfifferling Sauce (a mushroom that grows in the peaks of Switzerland and Austria) or Roast Goose. To top the meal off are Coffee or Tea with your choice of Christmas Cookies or Fresh Fruit.
Every German restaurant has the obligatory pork knuckle. Most of them prepare it Bavarian style, which is baked, but Zum Fass also offers a very tender and juicy boiled version of this dish popular in other regions of Germanic Europe. Sampling the boiled pork knuckle for the first time, one of the Poles said that she found it much more tantalizing than the Bavarian style. Chinese pork knuckle, Mary said, is much more salty and is darker in appearance as it is treated with soy sauce. The German dish finds its saltiness in an accompaniment of boiled sour kraut.
When you think of German food, besides the kraut and knuckle, what next that comes to mind? Well, Wienerschnitzel, of course! Mary keeps her veal cutlets pristine when they reach the table by promising never to reuse oil for the pan-fried breaded dish.
There is also a more economical Schweinesschnitzel, or Breaded Pork Cutlet. The local equivalent, paigu, is a staple at lunch and a paigu biandang (lunch box) is a whopping NT$5 cheaper than a chicken leg biandang, but what justifies Mary's pork cutlet price of NT$400 is the lusciousness imparted by a crispy breading, always fried to perfection in fresh oil.
Similarly, her country potatoes come with many of the main dishes. They are half-boiled and then briefly pan-fried, treated with pepper and delicately salted. Nothing you could not do yourself at home at a fraction of the cost, but throw in the warmth Zum Fass provides, a German beer on tap, and some friends-and there you have a feeling of home. All that's missing is Shotakovitch's Second Waltz playing in the background.
A full bar
Warsteiner brand beer is vom Fass. Now its time for a German lesson. Fass is the German word for "barrel," so Warsteiner vom Fass means "Warsteiner on tap" and the restaurant's name Zum Fass means "to the barrel." This makes for an ingenious name for a restaurant that is anchored right near the LinSen North Road district of fun and games. Other German beers include three different Erdinger brews and one of the two legacies of King Ludwig to Germany: his castle in Bavaria and his bier.
Also Jaeggermeister waits conspicuously on a shelf for fans of this medicinal tasting alcoholic beverage. Would Santa's reindeer be offended if you had a taste on Christmas Eve?
For those who do not like to drink so much, try a good ol' German sprizer, which is half-beer and half soda. The bar is also pleased to make a very pleasing lemonade that is non-alcoholic.
A good inexpensive red table wine, Arcienro Classic Red, helps the heavy meaty German cuisine at Zum Fass. The white, Castell Riesling 1998 by Fuerstlich Castell'sches Domae, might be a better choice. It is smooth and has modest alcohol content.
The new location maintains virtually the same mood and atmosphere as the previous, with wooden walls and tables. Virtually thirty years of success certainly call for no changes, but, as any entrepreneur, Mary has been considering an expansion plan.
She said she will offer a lunch menu at the new location on a trial basis very soon. There is question as to weather its location would garner a sufficient number of mid-day guests. People in the area may wish to have a look at the new location and offer Mary encouragement on her new enterprise.
Zum Fass is located at No. 116-118 Xin-Sheng North Road, Sec. 1, Taipei. For reservations and other inquiries, call (02) 2531-3815.