Restaurateur Michael Momm is gearing up for the L.A. opening of his biergarten Loreley, whose original outpost opened on New York’s Rivington St. in 2003. He invited Schaller & Weber (and our patés) to a pre-opening dinner party at his home in Los Angeles. The guests were friendly and down to earth, like Momm himself, and they represented various corners of his life. There were neighbors, one of whom confided to me that she is in possession of Momm’s potato pancake recipe but has yet to use it, and friends from his other life, music. At one point, Momm nonchalantly revealed to us that he formed and performs in a 17-piece reggae band–as if opening a new restaurant were a part-time job.
The house mimicked Momm’s own effortless sense of balance. It towered above a winding road, with white-walled rooms stacked like Jenga pieces, a few of them opening out onto balconies and unfinished (but still impressive) gardens, where cacti, succulents, and of course edible plants lined Momm’s steep, sloping yard. The home was in-process and yet very much lived-in. The gardens have been accumulating over two years, Momm explained, as he led the way outside. A bottle of champagne waited there to be opened with friends who were visiting from Germany. We passed several small frames that enclosed portraits of family members and a tiny, panoramic etching of the Rhein. Mixers and musical equipment were set up to the immediate right of the front door.
Meanwhile, smells wafting from the kitchen reinforced the reason for our gathering. Known for his contemporary take on traditional German comfort food, Momm’s samplings did not disappoint. Wienerschnitzel was served first alongside our chubs of calves’ liverwurst, Gold Medal paté, and teewurst, and although the schnitzel may have had to wait a bit too long for guests first to arrive and then to decide that it was okay to help themselves, its flavor was satisfying and correct. Next came heaping plates of meaty Sauerbraten, over which Momm advised we pour gravy liberally. This suggestion was well-taken; the sopping pieces melted easily in our mouths, hot and rich. A homemade sauerkraut provided a pleasant contrasting texture and sweetness. But the real winner–the dish that failed to meet its demand and therefore rose bittersweetly in my own esteem, and certainly the most-talked-about, most-impatiently-waited-for dish–were Momm’s potato pancakes, served just cooler than sizzling, with perfect crisp edges and a soft middle, and with a zip of sour cream down the center of each bite. We can’t wait to have everything again at Loreley when it opens–but I may be calling Momm’s neighbor first for that pancake recipe.