12 Oct 2016
A humble European side dish becomes a hero at this Surry Hills eatery
Nope, it’s nothing to do with canoodling nor is it pronounced ‘nodel’ (it’s K-nohdel). No, the name K’nödel refers to a European favourite that any German, myself included, will get excited about. What the Yorkshire pudding is to an Englishman, or pasta his to an Italian, the Knödel is to Germans. Essentially it’s a dumpling that many central European and eastern European cultures consider a staple in their food repertoire, either as a side or main component of the meal. They come in a variety of incarnations such as bread, potato or flour based, can be mixed with vegetables or meat, come in sweet or savoury and prepared by being steamed, boiled and/or fried. Endless opportunities.
K’nödel owners are Rico and Christian, a German and an Austrian who are following their passion of running a place serving dishes close to their hearts. Rico comes from managing German stalwarts in Sydney like the Munich Brauhaus in the Rocks, Una’s in Darlinghurst and Essen in Chippendale. When a friend contacted Rico about the space he was selling in Surry Hills, an idea that had long been brewing morphed into a reality. Long wanting to develop the idea of making this hometown favourite into the protagonist of the whole show, this opportunity was too good to pass up. Previously occupied by dumpling bar Ho Mei in Surry Hills’ Waterloo Street, K’nödel owners spend their weekends making thousands of knödel for the week ahead from a the limited space their compact kitchen provides.
The results of this labour of love every weekend are a variety of light and tasty, pillowy soft dumplings that are served as shareable meals. Whilst in Europe they can be stodgy and filling, here they have been adapted to a lighter, easily digestible version, allowing you to try several from the creative and hearty menu.
As a group of three, we opt for 4 share dishes and a dessert. At between $11 to $15 for a plate, K’nödel is a very affordable meal in trendy Surry Hills.
The spinach knödel with parmesan, burnt butter and creamed spinach ($11) are rich and delightful with a generous amount of butter sauce and extra creamy spinach that is well seasoned. I love the pistachio knödel that have enough flavour and a bread-like consistency that you could eat them on their own. They are served with a mushroom ragout in creamy capsicum sauce ($12.5). A favourite at our table is the Finger knödel with pulled pork and cabbage & apple slaw. ($14) These knödel are like a light and elongated gnocchi. They come with a good amount of super soft pulled pork and a fitting side of crunchy apple slaw. Crackling knödel with pork belly and sauerkraut ($14) is the other favourite. The crackling is perfectly crunchy with a layer of sticky fat underneath and the meat tender and rich, perfectly accompanied by wonderfully salty and perfectly acidic sauerkraut.
Spinach Knodel, creamed spinach
Crackling knodel, pork belly
Finger knodel, pulled pork
European staples like schnitzel are also available and come in chicken and veal variety, as is favourite goulasch. Specialties like tafelspitz (braised beef), $28p/p and a hot pot, $26p/p are larger options that take a minimum 2 people commitment. Of course these are also served with dumplings.
For a sweet ending we go for the sweet Austrian knödel filled with plum, topped with poppy seed sugar and butter ($12.5). This is swimming in butter and combined with generous amounts of poppy seed sugar, it’s a heavenly combination, one that takes me back to my grandma’s table as a child.
We walk out full, but nowhere as near as heavy as I thought we might. This is a surprisingly delightful addition to Surry Hills’ restaurant packed neighbourhood and a very welcome one.