First, an example of a great Apple Strudel ($8) from Wolfgang's Steakhouse. Here the strudel is short in height, but certainly wide enough to feed two. It is served piping hot, with shakes of powdered sugar. Apples are in large chunks, soft and saucy with lingering hints of cinnamon, plus a handful of plump golden raisins, each of which pop between the teeth. Tucked between the layers of phyllo dough are nutty crumbs of graham crackers tossed with sugar. A little crunch, for textural contrast. The final finish of schlag ("whipped cream" in German) on the side is nothing to overlook. It's not just whipped cream, but cream, sweetened just a tad, and whipped until it's about one more whisk away from butter—like the schlag employed at Peter Luger's.
But then there's the very poor Apple Strudel ($5) at Caffe Falai. It's a place that does many things well, including pastas, eclairs, apple turnovers, and pretty much anything with chocolate. But the apple strudel here? Embarrassingly terrible. Like Wolfgang's, the strudel is warmed to order. It's delivered crisp and warm on the outside, though remains cold once you hit the "meat." The crust is a problem in itself. Deep browned at the exterior, but the inner layers of phyllo are barely baked, still pasty and lifeless. The diced apple filling, with a disproportionately high quantity of raisins and walnuts is jam, packed so tightly, you'll get that brick-in-stomach feeling by the end. And despite all these components, the only thing you can truly taste is the overwhelming cinnamon.
Looks can be awfully deceiving. Aside from Wolfgang's, are there other places in the city for excellent apple strudels?