The Barbarians are huge fans of the nose-to-tail movement that aims to put every part of the animal to good use and to avoid any waste. When our esteemed fellow travel blogger and twitter friend John from Carpe Diem Eire, whose great posts about the Alsace partially inspired our recent trip to this region, wrote about his pretty decent experience with calf’s head, it was clear: I had to try it too.
I’ll be frank, I did not expect to like it, but I thought if it’s okay’ish to some extent, it’ll have been worth the try. I mean, how bad can it taste, right? After all, tête de veau is one of the cornerstones of French cuisine and equally popular in some parts of southern Germany, where I grew up (but always avoided it so far). I’m someone who loves eating deep fried grasshoppers, sautéed snake slices, and crocodile steaks, so count me in is what I thought.
Fink Stuebel, one of the higher-ranking restaurants in Strasbourg with positive mentions in the Michelin guide and the Gault Millau, was on our to-do list and as soon as I saw calf’s head (tete de veau facon pot-au-feu, vinaigrette aux herbes, €22) on the menu, I knew what I was going to order. Ms B showed courage too by giving her favourite cheese spaetzle a miss and ordering another local delicacy: Fleischschnaka (‘meat snail’, stuffed pasta with chanterelle mushrooms, €18). As starter we opted for six Alsatian escargots to share (€10).
The atmosphere and service in this former post office that was turned into an Alsatian tavern were very welcoming and we had nearly forgotten about our courageous decisions for the mains, while we were sipping our slightly refrigerated Pinot Noir and munching away on the juicy and rather pleasant escargots, discussing our plans for the rest of the week.
And then the mains arrived. The Fleischschnaka was not what we had hoped for, the meat not of the previous day’s pot-au-feu, as expected, but instead of meat stuffing. We later learned that this is a very common way of preparing the dish, even though perhaps not the most traditional way. In any case it had been pan fried too hot and for too long in our view, making both the pasta and the meat stuffing lose any texture it might initially have had.
However, the calf’s head was truly unpleasant, and I’m being kind. The only flavour came from the vinaigrette, the ‘meat’ was 45% chewy, stringy bits of tendons and ligaments, and 45% gelatinous fatty bits, with just 10% somewhat meat-like’ish.
I do not blame Fink Stuebel for our experience. As a matter of fact, everyone else seemed to have the best of times, cheerful smiles and happy banter all around. It was our fault for ordering the only two dishes on the menu that we had already suspected of being rather adventurous, and for not doing more thorough research as to the different ways these dishes can be prepared and what restaurants to go to to have them prepared the way we’d most likely be able to enjoy or at least tolerate them.
We’d be happy to give Fink Stuebel another shot during our next visit and will refrain from giving it a rating this time around.
Looking for more restaurant reviews? Check out our posts about L’Ange 20, Paris, Ekeberg, Oslo, The Ninth, London, and The Fig, Chipping Campden. For travel inspiration, why not eyeball our posts about Norfolk, the Cotswolds, the Jurassic Coast, or Nuremberg.