Mystery Diner: For the love of fine Austrian food

It all started with the enticing smell of garlic wafting throughout the warm and cozy room.

  • Dec. 22, 2014 8:00 p.m.

Let’s start with… we overindulged— but it really wasn’t our fault! It all started with the enticing smell of garlic wafting throughout the warm and cozy room. It literally pulled us in. Escargot!We love escargot, but agree it’s probably the garlic butter that makes them so delectable.No question though, we were having them. But, we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Helna’s Stube specializes in traditional Austrian dishes prepared with expertise by Chef Helmut Kendler. It’s a nice, small family restaurant offering a casual dining experience with an easy elegance. Always nice on a chilly evening, the traditional Austrian“Kachelofen” (tile stove) in the centre of the room makes for a very cosy atmosphere.We started off with a pint of Warsteiner Dunkel (best dark German beer ever) and ordered a nice Malbec (unfortunately, there were no Austrian wines available on this evening). It wasn’t long before we were diving into our appetizers: the escargot and Helna’s Stube House Special salad to share. There were also hot, fresh sourdough rolls that doubled as sponges for the yummy garlic butter in which the escargot were swimming.The very fresh Helna’s Stube House Special salad is a combination of tossed greens,roasted potatoes, prosciutto, garlic croutons and cheese, served with a lovely balsamic vinaigrette. It’s definitely large enough to share, and so flavourful. Nothing was left.Next, the mains. The special, Elk Osso Bucco,was served with tender chanterelle mushrooms,traditional spätzle and sweet red cabbage in a rich, deep wine sauce. This is a hearty dish that’s guaranteed to warm you upon a winter day. The tasty meat fell right off the bone… you’ll want to lick the plate.The Mushroom Schnitzel is a large breaded pork loin in a white wine mushroom cream sauce, served with spätzle and three veggies cooked to perfection.The cream sauce was savoury and the light, crispy,tender schnitzel was fried to golden perfection. Rumour has it that each schnitzel is pounded to the perfect thickness by Helmut himself for each guest’s order. You can see the kitchen from the dining area and see for yourself.It’s thought that the Byzantine Empire was the birthplace of the first schnitzel,created for Kaiser Basileios I (867-886 AD). Apparently, he preferred his meat covered with sheets of gold leaf before it was cooked. This soon became popular with the wealthy. However, it was expensive and an alternative coating was soon developed…“yellow gold”, lightly toasted breadcrumbs. It was in Vienna that the recipe and technique was further perfected.After all that, we actually shared a dessert,a very nice, light Grand Marnier ice cream dish with Lindt chocolate and orange slices. When our bill arrived, it was presented with a plate of beautiful and delicious house-made cookies and rum balls.Yes, we ate those too! We’ve been to Helna’s several times and the service, food and atmosphere have always been great. It was so nice that Helmut came out at the end of our meal to say hello and ask how everything was. Our server was the best and so friendly! We left with a big smile. Helna’s Stude is in Radium Hot Springs at 7547 Main St. West. Call 250-347-0047 or visit helnas.com.

The Valley Echo’s team of mystery diners are constantly seeking out new restaurants and eateries to review.

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