Remember that cartoon in which Mickey chops down a pine tree, hauls it home and bedecks it with Christmas ornaments—all without realizing chipmunks Chip ‘n’ Dale dwell among its branches? Eating at Rolf’s French Bavarian Brasserie in December (the only time worth going) calls to mind that old animation, particularly the rodent’s-eye-view scenes in which the creatures gaze out in baffled wonder at holiday baubles on all sides. Rolf’s interior dresses up for Christmas like nothing you’ve ever seen.
The food is not the point. Crispy potato pancakes, born of honest spuds and onions and served with sour cream, stick to your ribs, and the cucumber salad’s not unenjoyable, but the green beans were undeniably frozen, and something tells me they don’t serve olive oil with the bread in Bavaria. Worse, why can’t a German restaurant make spaetzel half as good as Telepan’s? Here it’s unpleasantly reminiscent of the salty seasoning packets popular back when I was doing Disney—and the music (ABBA, Sister Sledge, KC and the Sunshine Band) reinforces the time warp. The knockwurst, bratwurst and weisswurst are fine (as my dining companion said cheerfully, “Well, it’s warm,”) but it ain’t Blaue Gans.
Still, there’s something so special about the surroundings, so impossibly spirited, it’s worth the ho-hum grub. Order a mediocre apple strudel, share tidings of comfort food and joy and take full advantage of the long list of imported beers (adulthood has its privileges).
Photo courtesy of Rolf’s.
Rolf’s French Bavarian Brasserie: 281 Third Ave. at 22nd St.; 212.477.4750