A Friday early evening dinner at Gruner started with the fried smashed fingerling potatoes that came with a special sauce that was essentially the equivalent of ranch dressing. Thankfully, the Gruner bread service which includes a soft rye loaf and pretzel bread more than made up for this starter of crispy texture but greasy flavor.
On the bread plate I enjoyed the contrast between the butter and doughyness of the rye and the more firm salted texture of the pretzel, and it delivered on both presentation to match the modern clean atmosphere as well as flavor and texture that reinforces the Gruner philosophy of classic German foundation with a contemporary perspective. Yes, they offer bratwurst and sauerkraut and schnitzel, but with intentions towards also adding layers of avant-garde sophistication. It's too bad the waiter seemed reluctant to provide it- the appetizer came out before another server passing by asked if I would like some… and then 5 minutes later my waiter came by and asked if I would like some bread, as if he had heard the offer from the other server and now had to reluctantly follow through with this inconvenience.
The entree of braised chicken alsacienne with hen of the woods mushrooms, fava beans, riesling, crème fraîche, crisp shallots & tarragon, served with quark spätzle offered juicy flavorful chicken with a crispy outside and moist savory inside with spatzle which had a nice soft very light texture, though I wished the spatzle had a bit more crispness in spots (similar to gnocchi, a little sear is a gratifying detail).
The housemade soda offering of cucumber dill verjus was a sparkling crisp contrast for the meal. The beverage softened the fact that my waiter never brought me back my boxed up leftovers. After waiting for a while, I flagged down another server in order to ask if the box existed or was the other half of my entree thrown away. At 6pm the place wasn't even busy yet- only 3 other tables in the dining room, a few people at the bar counter, though all the seats outside were filled, being premium people watching spots in the warm but not hot yet August weather.
I really enjoyed the food and the concept, despite the hesitant and apathetic service I received. I think next time I'll try for the bar, as the only smile from the staff during the entire meal was from the hostess and bartendress. Most of the care from the staff I saw was in concern for making the various empty chairs in the rest of the restaurant and place settings perfectly straight. I saw them adjusted here or there by multiple hands the entire visit, and they did look quite neat and orderly.