Stüberl in the Sonnenalp serves elegant, homey cuisine in a setting that draws from its historic roots
On a biting winter day, the thing I most want to eat is something savory and rich but not too crazy. I want something homey. I want to pair it with wine and finish it with something sweet and at least one cup of tea. I want to go home and put on my sweatpants and hope that my food coma puts me to sleep quickly so I don’t have to sit in the discomfort of bloat for very long.
All those perfect, beautiful things happened at Stüberl in the Sonnenalp.
Stüberl is a small, intimate restaurant inside Ludwig’s Terrace at the hotel. There are maybe 12 tables in the dining room, and diners are treated with top-notch service, drinks and cuisine. Only open for the winter season from Wednesday to Sunday, the highlight of the restaurant is its lobster menu on Friday. (Valentine’s Day is this Friday, Feb. 14, and the Saturday after kinda counts, right? There’s your excuse to go.)
The hotel invited me to write a story about the restaurant. I brought my two Galentines, Abby Schwartz and Corinne Baud, and wow, we were not prepared for the culinary amazingness that would grace our table that evening.
We started off by figuring out what we’d like to drink. I took Wine & Beer Appreciation class in college (yes, I received 3 credits for it) and the sommelier helped us order a 2017 Albariño. When he brought over the bottle and had me test it, I felt like the Godfather.
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Then, Food and Beverage Outlet Manager Brian Clemetson greeted us at our table and told us more about Stüberl. He called it the “heart of the hotel.”
At the original Sonnenalp in Germany, there was a fire that destroyed most of the homestead. The wood from the barn onsite survived (ironic?) and that wood now panels the entire Stüberl restaurant.
“All this wood, I imagine, is harvested from the Black Forest. All the copper inlays… you just don’t see roughhewn wood this often any more. And the corner pieces,” he said, pointing at copper adornments, “beautiful. All of this is done by hand.”
He also said that the atmosphere and the service in the room hopes to champion the hotel’s dedication to quality service in a cozy and intimate space. I certainly felt that way, and I also felt as if I had stepped back in time. It was because I had.
On the lobster menu, which is a highly curated selection from Chef Julian Becker, diners have a choice of three appetizers and a choice of two from a list of five sides to accompany the main event. We ordered one of each appetizer, two lobsters and three sides.
To prep our palettes, service brought over a small espresso glass filled with mushroom soup – it was completely pureed, topped with chives and a parsnip crisp. My face immediately lit up when I drank it. It was the biggest umami hit I’ve had in years. And it was glorious. I dunked the crisp, I dunked some bread. I could have eaten that for a whole meal and I’m not even a big soup fan.
The Chef’s Choice Fresh Oysters were indeed quite fresh – I’m from Massachusetts and therefore suspicious of seafood that’s traveled inland, but these were fresh and deliciously briny. They are served with lemon wedges and mignonette, a traditional accompaniment to oysters typically made of shallots and vinegar.
The mussels are steamed in white wine and come with frites – French fries. I loved the was the textures of each played off each other, but my favorite part of the dish were the wine-soaked vegetables in the bottom of the mussels’ bowl. This whole ensemble is the thing I would order again if I return.
The shrimp were also good, and the baguette garlic bread was delicious. It comes with three sauces, though I failed to notice any distinguishing factors between them. They seemed to be all aioli-based, and I’m not an aioli fan – sue me, it’s just fancy mayonnaise and mayo is also gross. But aside from personal preference, there wasn’t a ton of distinguishing flavor between them. Here, you’re not getting the contrast between a mint chutney and a sweet tamarind sauce, for example.
Between courses, we were served a small beet and goat cheese palate cleanser with a little garnish of frisee. I’m vegetarian – I eat seafood when I know it’s going to be good, though, and on rare occasions. The fresh vegetables, even in bite-size portions, were so welcome and I loved it. Abby gave me hers because I was so excited.
Each Maine lobster is served at 1.5 pounds, which would be enough for one person. Half was more than enough for me, but my party went ham on appetizers so I was already quite full. But dunking claw meat into caper brown butter was delicious. The sides were fine: I preferred the spinach, which was sautéed in a very umami-rich fat and served with pine nuts.
For dessert, Clemetson sent some friendly peer pressure our way and persuaded us to order the tarte tatin à la mode – French apple tart with ice cream. He said it’s his personal go-to at the end of the night. Being from Mass’ unofficial apple country, I’m a huge fan – baked, raw, cut up into wedges and served with peanut butter – and this was no exception.
Each table at Stüberl also receives a complimentary dessert of spun sugar, macarons and candies. But what makes it special is the presentation – the pastry chef places tufts of cotton candy onto branches of a tree. It looks like trees out of a Dr. Seuss book. I don’t think you could look at it without smiling.
Plus, it paired nicely with my cup of tea.