Naschmarkt Drumming Up Interest in an Overlooked Cuisine

Naschmarkt-meatsThis delicious Austrian version of a “mixed grill” plate includes a pork chop, white sausage, braised bacon, sauerkraut and a fantastic homemade pretzel.

(Published by South Bay Accent magazine in October, 2015.)

German-type food isn’t one of the first things that comes to mind when most South Bay diners are deciding where they want to eat. Or more accurately, they don’t think of it at all. Italian, Chinese, Mexican — these cuisines are well represented and beloved in our region but all the heavy meats and gravies that typify the vittles of the old Austro-Hungarian empire rarely get a nod. However, Austrian-born chef Matthias Froeschl has made believers out of virtually everyone who’s dined at Naschmarkt, his four-year-old restaurant in downtown Campbell.

Owned with his American wife and in-laws, Naschmarkt is proudly “new Austrian,” in that it was named for Vienna’s famous produce market and channels that country’s heavy cuisine through a fresh, lightened-up sensibility. This is hardly diet food but Froeschl — who started his culinary career at age 15 — uses his training and skills to present a California style of Austrian cuisine that yodels on the plate. It also helps that portions aren’t huge.

naschmarktThe compact restaurant in Campbell features a small patio in front with good people watching.

The Froeschls were initially unsure if their different-drummer eatery would resonate with local diners. They need not have worried, with reservations now a must for this kleines Restaurant (it seats just 50), open only for dinner and featuring simple, modern decor and an appealing little patio. If guests spoke Froeschl’s mother tongue, their response to his cooking would undoubtedly be Fabelhaft! (fabulous).

Naschmarkt-sausageThe housemade bratwurst at Naschmarkt has legions of fans.

This certainly applies to irresistible starters like juicy, smoky pork bratwurst perfectly paired with braised sauerkraut, caramelized onions and mustard (some guests come in after dinner just for a brat fix) and the otherworldly quark spätzle — eggy, tender, free-form noodles tossed with smoked chicken, a whisper of cream, mushrooms, crunchy corn, Brussels sprout leaves and tarragon.   A brilliant dish and house favorite.

Naschmarkt-spaetzelQuark (like cottage cheese) spätzle is one of the best and most popular dishes on the appealing menu.

Soups and salads are contemporary and wonderful, like a divine, creamy sunchoke and leek soup texturized with chunks of smoked trout and exciting salads driven by the seasons. Goat-cheese-stuffed “purses” adorn baby spinach, which is perfectly complemented by toasted walnuts, rosemary and a balsamic reduction. Seasonal fruit, such as strawberries or figs, garnishes this gem.

Naschmarkt-saladThis lovely salad features goat cheese “purses” paired with spinach, nuts and seasonal fruit.

The chef solidly executes entrees featuring lighter proteins like seafood and chicken but it’s the Austrian specialties that many people order. Most popular is “classic” wiener schnitzel, a pounded, breaded veal cutlet that has crunch and flavor, accented by tart lingonberry sauce, lemon and parsley. The accompanying German potato salad (no mayo involvement here) is outrageously delicious, tender and laced with dill.

Naschmarkt-classic schnitzelThe renowned breaded veal cutlet otherwise known as wiener schnitzel is the most popular item on the entree list.

Luscious jäger schnitzel has many fans, too, who swoon over the rich mushroom gravy adorning tender pieces of pork cutlet with colorful broccolini as garnish. Happily, this dish comes with more of that incredible house-made spätzle. Another rib-sticking Austrian delight is kraut rouladen, which is savoy cabbage stuffed with a savory mixture of beef, pork and bacon, then served with creamy horseradish and sweet, lush butternut squash. Then there’s Hungarian goulash, made from fall-apart-tender braised beef shoulder with paprika and plenty of sour cream.

Naschmarkt-schnitzelJäger schnitzel pairs tender pork cutlet with a rich mushroom gravy.

Finally, the chef’s take on ubiquitous pork belly soars above the usual fat delivery mechanism. Froeschl twice-cooks it so that the meat is crisp outside but meltingly tender inside, serving it with an earthy celery root puree, glazed mushrooms, fantastic melted leeks and pork jus.

Naschmarkt chefOwner-chef Matthias Froeschl has been cooking since he was age 15.

Anyone who’s experienced German or Austrian food is aware of the region’s killer desserts and these are must-order items at Naschmarkt. Froeschl offers a couple of his grandmother’s recipes, including airy crepes with ice cream and generous drizzles of chocolate and a firm, just-sweet-enough bread pudding bursting with apples.

Naschmarkt-strudel Apfel studel is one example of the great desserts Austrian cuisine is noted for.

These are tasty but patrons go nuts over the apfel studel, which is bursting with apples and garnished with both ice cream and whipped cream. Froeschl’s Salzburger nockerl, however, brings down the house. A cross between a souffle and vanilla pudding, it’s luscious paired with blueberry compote and tangy yogurt.

Naschmarkt-van souffleLike the best vanilla souffle of your life, Salzburger nockerl shows off blueberries and tart yogurt ice cream.

It’s not just Froeschl’s wonderful cooking that has made Naschmarkt a local hit. This petite restaurant delivers some of the most caring, goes-the-extra-mile service around, with the help eagerly fulfilling guests request that can bring frowns elsewhere. It might be noisy inside and parking can be challenging but all that is forgotten while savoring the modern Austrian comfort food delivered by the smiling wait staff.

Naschmarkt-smk salThe chef offers an ongoing assortment of specials, like this  smoked salmon with pastrami spices.

Naschmarkt, 348 E. Campbell Ave., Campbell, (408) 378-0335; http://www.maschmarkt-restaurant.com

HOURS: Tuesday-Thursday and Sunday, 5-9 p.m.; Friday-Saturday until 9:30 p.m. Reservations strongly recommended.

PRICES: Starters: $11-16; entrees: $19-38; desserts: $7-10.

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