“Have you been to Bauhaus yet?”
I’ve been asked this question at least once a day for the last three weeks. Why? Because I’m a Vancouver restaurant critic and Bauhaus is the most hotly anticipated restaurant to open here in years.
The city is abuzz in part because the celebrated German chef, Stefan Hartmann, comes with a Michelin star in his cap. It was earned at Hartmanns restaurant in Berlin, which closed last year.
But most of the fanfare, for good and for bad, is thanks to the restaurant’s infamous owner, filmmaker Uwe Boll.
Cinema’s so-called Blitzkrieg of Bad, who made his fortune on tax loopholes, courts controversy with the outsized flair of a carnival barker. There was the time he challenged his critics to a boxing match called “Raging Boll” (and won every bout in a knockout). He’s been crowned “the worst filmmaker in the world” (a title he seems to relish). And he once threatened to quit filmmaking if an online petition urging him to retire reached a million signatures. (Only 400,000 people bothered.)
But the stunt that really got everyone’s knickers in a knot was Boll’s short-lived stint as a self-appointed restaurant critic. Before he decided to open Bauhaus, he posted a series of YouTube videos. While he did heap glowing praise on some of his favourite local restaurants – La Quercia, L’Abattoir, Le Crocodile – he pissed all over several others. At Gastown’s Secret Location (now one of his neighbours), he described a dessert as looking as though “the dog had diarrhea.”
Boll says he doesn’t regret what he said. “I can’t reverse what I said in the past, but I haven’t made any [restaurant review] videos since I decided to open a restaurant.”
“He’s behaving badly,” Scout Magazine tsk-tsk’d, before the restaurant opened (and without even talking to the guy.) In a bizarrely flattering display of imitation, writer Andrew Morrison sophomorically pontificated: “To listen to him go on about how European restaurants are so superior to Vancouver restaurants is like listening to a dyspeptic ogre fart through a bullhorn.” In summary, Morrison predicted that Boll “will undoubtedly be to blame if Bauhaus is a total flop.”
So is Bauhaus a flop or “the shit”? It depends who you ask. And the range of opinion is so staggeringly polarized, it’s hard to take any of it seriously.
Adrian Brijibassi, editor of vacay.com and founder of the Top 50 Restaurants in Canada, was blown away. “After just two days, Hartmann has achieved the best fine-dining restaurant in the city, surpassing the likes of Hawksworth, Boulevard, Le Crocodile and Chambar with brilliant strokes of his culinary talent,” he wrote.
After just two days? Come, on. It’s highly doubtful that any restaurant in the world could soar to such lofty heights that quickly. Even Boll himself, who acknowledges that there were “all kinds of problems” in the first week, including “really bad service,” has trouble believing such hyperbole.
But then again, another self-proclaimed restaurant critic, Toronto’s Peter Faist (the IT consultant who, police claim, was allegedly paid $10,000 by Dalton McGuinty’s Liberal caucus to wipe data off 20 government computers) was just as impressed. “2nd meal @BauhausRest. Easily the best high end restaurant in Vancouver by several orders of magnitude,” he tweeted a week after the restaurant opened.
On the other side of the spectrum, I’ve heard the restaurant described (by an anonymous chef) as “a total shit show.”
“They need help,” Cioppino’s Pino Posteraro said more diplomatically. And indeed, he has been helping Hartmann and Boll by giving them free advice on service and suppliers, while also acting as a mediator to smooth out kinks between the front and back of house. (It doesn’t sound as if Boll is entirely to blame.)
Mark Busse, another local shit disturber, posted this public thread to Facebook: “Anyone been to Bauhaus restaurant yet? I hear they have no occupancy permit, employ illegal immigrants and pipes have been bursting in their fancy new kitchen. Can’t wait to hear what Alexandra Gill has to say.”
Well, I will say that as managing director of the design consultancy company, Busse should probably be more adept at avoiding libel suits.
A more reasoned critique comes from Charlene Rooke, publisher of BC Business and BC Living. She is also the former editor-in-chief of enRoute magazine, which founded the Top 10 New Restaurants in Canada awards. “Bauhaus was gorgeous but I predict that within a year people will only be going there for the Imbiss (German snack bar) menu,” Rooke lamented, while also praising the service. “We discovered it by accident and found those to be the best dishes (meatballs, spaetzle, sausages). Virtually everyone around us was ordering the schnitzel main… the restaurant reeked of it (stronger fan or less schnitzel frying required!)”
Death by schnitzel? That would be a sad eulogy. But really, it’s way too early to say whether Bauhaus will die or thrive.
Yes, I’ve been. (I’m only human, after all.) No, I’m not going to tell you what I think. All restaurants need at least two, preferably three months, before they’re ready for an official review. Pipes do burst. Menus change. Staffing levels have to adjust. And when it comes to a restaurant with this crazy amount of advance hype, tempers have to calm. Let’s give them a couple more months to get their shit together.
What do you think: is controversy good hype? Let Vv Magazine know in the comments below, or tweet us @ViewtheVibe.