Foie gras creme brulee is a lovely thing, the kind of funky pudding (this should be the name of a dance) only a fine chef could pull off. At Cambridge restaurant T.W. Food, it is one of Tim Wiechmann’s signature dishes. And Wiechmann is a very fine chef, make no mistake. His cooking is elegant, clear-eyed, and true.
But sometimes man need sausage.
Wiechmann has German roots and has always been drawn to the cuisine of Central Europe. (A few years back, asked to create a riff on turkey for a Globe Thanksgiving menu, he offered an oversize sausage of wild turkey with Ipswich fried clams: holiday surf and turf.) In May, he and his wife, Bronwyn, opened a second restaurant in Somerville’s Union Square, showcasing the dishes of that region. The place is named after her.
Where T.W. Food is light and clean, the new restaurant is dark and heavy. Inside, it is hard to see and even harder to hear, decorated with iron chandeliers that belonged to Wiechmann’s great-grandparents and ornate wood chairs upholstered in velvet. Long communal tables flank the zinc bar; Somerville hipsters and Teutonophiles wait patiently and protractedly for seats. (Bronwyn doesn’t take reservations.) In warm weather, the “biergarten” is open — a grand term for a sweet sliver of outdoor space beside the restaurant. Bronwyn feels located at the midpoint between Brooklyn and Bavaria.
And one finds oneself unusually full after just a few bites of sausage, the crown jewel of the menu, a tribute to the fat content of the food.
Oh, but it’s worth it. Wiechmann makes sausages to swoon for, turning food that can be rustic and hearty into, somehow, something again rather elegant. No matter the dish, the chef’s sensibility will out. Take currywurst, usually a bit of a gut-bomb, a popular German fast food consisting of pork sausage in curry sauce. At Bronwyn, it is reimagined with the curry inside the meat, a fragrant note in the background, supporting the veal and pork sausage’s richness rather than smothering it.
Weisswurst is another stunner, smooth in texture and flavored with bright lemon. Kielbasa is coarser, bold with garlic, crying out for more beer. Although they’re not all standouts, each of Bronwyn’s sausages is at least worth tasting, from spicy bierwurst to zungenblutwurst (made with blood, tongue, pork, and roasted pears). To this end, the menu offers a sampler, the Giant Wurst Platter, which also includes some of the finest sauerkraut in town.
Not that there’s exactly a glut of the stuff, despite recent interest in fermentation among chefs and food types. Restaurants featuring this region’s cuisine are few and far between in Boston. It is one of the reasons Bronwyn’s opening was so highly anticipated. And many of the menu’s finest moments have nothing to do with sausage at all. They are refined, Wiechmann-esque renderings of other, less-familiar dishes, depicted in the medium of New England’s seasonal ingredients.
Knodel is a tender, rich bread dumpling infused with the smoky flavor of bacon, served with sweet white peaches. It tastes like the world’s best breakfast. Spatzle is served with corn, tarragon, and Comte, but the cheese bogs the dish down; it’s just too fatty. Biernudeln are a better option, the wide, silky pasta made with dark beer, combined with lively, strong flavors: sugar snap peas, Swiss chard, mustard, and blue cheese.
Rosti is a compellingly crisp potato pancake, any oiliness cut with arugula, radishes, and goat cheese. And Wiechmann’s is a fine rendition of sauerbraten, the back note of vinegar saving the pot roast from dullness. Among the fat and meat and starch, it is a relief to find the rare lighter dish like roast nectarine salad, bright with fruit, pickled radishes, greens, and gingerbread vinaigrette.
Perhaps no dish better shows Bronwyn’s strengths and weaknesses than jagerschnitzel. One night the veal cutlet is perfectly cooked, almost ethereal in its tender greaselessness, served with flavorful foraged mushrooms, walnuts, and honey, everything in perfect balance. It is over-the-top delicious. On another visit, it is greasy, underseasoned, and unremarkable. Likewise, the giant, dark brown bretzel found on just about every table is sometimes hard to stop eating, other times just hard, a challenge to the jaws. (Either way, it is notable for the excellent apple mustard with which it is served.) A dessert of doughnuts filled with raspberry jam and served with chocolate sauce is either brilliant or boring, depending how much jam winds up inside. A meal at Bronwyn can truly be transcendent, which makes the nontranscendent meals — when things tip out of balance, becoming too heavy and not quite seasoned enough — that much more disappointing.
But there is always the exceptional beer list, exposing customers to an impressive range of lager, pilsner, hefeweizen, and more, from Germany and beyond. The friendly, knowledgeable staff members have a grasp of what’s on offer that bespeaks many sodden training sessions. A friend falls in love with a grapefruit hefeweizen; I sample Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Marzen, a smoked beer. Both are recommendations we might not have thought to try on our own. Of course, the truly thirsty can always go straight to the Brownyn hausbier, Wei-henstephaner lager, available by the liter.
The wine list also stays true to the region, showcasing grapes from fruhburgunder to furmint to blaufrankisch. A sparkling riesling, another staff recommendation, steps into champagne’s shoes. Also available: house cocktails and bracing schnapps in pear, apricot, cherry, and more.
Recommendations aren’t always needed, however. A folksy server pushes the bretzel and the wurst plate hard, making Bronwyn’s regional focus feel like a gimmick. Most guests may want these dishes, but that doesn’t mean all do, just as one may not order the Peking duck every time one visits a Chinese restaurant. The menu is more nuanced than that, and thus deserves nuanced exploration.
But at the end of the day, sausages and beer are the cornerstones of Bronwyn, and they may be the best reason to return. Personally, I will be back for the lemon weisswurst and currywurst, and a Sunner Kolsch or two. A giant bretzel will probably land on my table while I’m at it. This kind of food is hard to come by in these parts, and Wiechmann does it justice.