food 04.11.11

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It took exactly one bite of the beef goulash to remind us how much we'd been missing Ingrid Roettele.

The German-born chef's restaurant Roettele A.G. was easily one of our favorites in the 1990s, serving Swigerfrelian food (Swiss, German, French, Italian) at what was then an offbeat East Village side street. The place was a jumble of multinational details, cheerfully ramshackle, slightly nutty. But the food was always superb: fondue, raclette, rösti, a goulash soup (who let them in?), and the smoked trout are among our fondest New York—and Swigerfrelian—food memories.

After a long run, Ms. Roettele closed up shop in 2002 and returned to Germany. Good news may be in short supply just now but the return of Ingrid Roettele to a New York kitchen counts, in our book, as some of the happiest news of the year. And time has in no way diminished Ms. Roettele's formidable skills. If anything, she's cooking better than ever. The new place, Heartbreak, 29 2nd Ave. [2nd] 212.777.2502, focuses on German and Swiss food, with many favorite dishes (entrees average $22) appearing for a return engagement.

Frankly, we could hug our old friend, the escargot sandwich. And slap the smoked trout on the back. And to you, raclette, we'd give you keys to the city if we could. There isn't a day that can't be improved by fondue and Heartbreak has the best fondue in town. The short rib sauerbraten, which comes with red cabbage and spätzle, is enormously satisfying. And that goulash, served over pasta, is composed of beef so tender, so perfectly seasoned, that we'd kill to see an Ingrid's Goulash truck next winter at an intersection near us.

Heartbreak, which is also run by Pylos' Christos Valtzoglou, is a much more ambitious setting for Ms. Roettele and has a hard-edge, industrial design. We might not have chosen this particular location or look for the chef (if it were up to us, we'd have said to AvroKO, "Swiss chalet, urbanized, please") but the place has a number of other things to recommend it beyond first-rate, heavily-umlauted dishes.

The well-chosen wine list offers serious bottles (a JJ Prüm Spatlese for $98), and, happily, wallet-friendly choices like an agreeable Grüner Veltliner for $24 or a German Riesling for $18! There are also a number of excellent, mostly German beers on draft, more by the bottle.

If the desserts aren't quite up to the rest of the food, the apple strudel is lovely—and you can always decide to finish off a meal here with chocolate fondue.

Service is attentive and pleasant, which, now that we think back on it, was exactly the case at the old place.

And Heartbreak has a weekend brunch that shakes off the usual brunch blandness with things like eggs with rösti, an omelette with smoked trout, a pork schnitzel sandwich, and a bratwurst with caramelized onions.

Catching up with old friends can be a fraught proposition. Not in this case. We're happy to report there's nothing but joy coming from Ms. Roettele's kitchen.

What's with that gas pipeline that's supposed to be installed underneath the West Village? Answer

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