The interior is invested with that sort of non-décor décor that people who began their eating careers in France 50 years ago know can be a good sign. Lunching outside is a dream, though you might be thrown off the trail by the Provençal tablecloths and miss one of the most authentic eating experiences in Alsace. The view takes in the river Lauch and a lovely string of chalky half-timbered houses, their window boxes a convulsion of pink and red geraniums.
The tender sauerkraut has a long, sweet, mouth-filling finish, the result of patient simmering with thinly sliced onions, black peppercorns, juniper berries, Riesling, smoked shoulder butt, smoked slab bacon, and poached salted slab bacon. The pork is joined on the plate by a boiled potato; a pair of frankfurter-style Strasbourg sausages, their taut skins snapping first under your knife, then under your teeth; and a Montbéliard sausage. Flavored with cumin, it’s smoked without flames over the dust of resinous woods like pine and spruce. There are two mysteries to Brenner’s choucroute, great as it is. Why is the mustard industrial? And why, in a region so rich in pork products, does the chef feel the need to cross the border into the Franche-Comté, the pays of Montbéliard?
Congratulations to Mei Lin, winner of Top Chef Season 12.