Saturday, April 01, 2017

Vienna's STEIRERECK soars to the top of dining spots on earth for us! (3-22-17)

Our second night in Vienna was decided the second I knew were headed there as every time I have visited I have dined at Steirereck, which was originally the only Michelin-starred (1 star) spot in town located just outside the city center in a quiet neighborhood house where you dined in one of many small rooms and chose your wine from the cellar, in the cellar.
Some time ago, Steirereck moved into a magnificent Beaux Arts mansion smack dab in the middle of the StadtPark (City Park) and was also a destination just for the decors, setting and of course, the food and excellent service.
As we pulled up I was confused as I knew the taxi driver had brought us to the Stadtpark, but we approached a modern wooden and glass structure that was clearly not where I had been before. Apparently, just over a decade ago they built this magnificent structure and moved here. The setting is calm and the rooms are all divided by fine wood walls that curve, so you never fell like there are more and several tables within eyesight.
The menu was presented and all we had to do was decide between a la carte (no way) and degustation, 6 or 7 courses and which choice in each course. The 7 course with aired wines comes in at 241 Euros (just over $250) and is a true bargain as they now have the highest Michelin ranking in town with 2 stars!
There were many servers, and always attentive service rendered within seconds. The pace was perfectly kept and slowed when we asked. Nothing went wrong indeed. Stefan was our lead server and before each course arrived, he placed a small card in a holder explaining the food, what it contained as well as special or rare ingredients.  
Each glass of wine was poured to taste before each course arrived and with plenty to enjoy during the wait and with each course. We actually started with a glass of Austrian Sekt Jurtschitsch 2011 Grosse Reserve and of course everything is served in Riedel crystal completed by gorgeous Christofle silverware, crisp linens and a huge table with a small serving center at its side wherefrom Stefan got the silver and other items so he didn't have to go far. It could also be used as a staging center for a course that required some prep.
Amuses here are never simple and indeed it is a truly wondrous and special experience. Stefan explained the Chef wanted to take us on a tour of Austria.
Tafelspitz, the traditional dish of Austria comes in many versions and we had crispy potato with spinach. Stryia is known for its stew and we had a corn cracker like polenta with marinated vegetables and roasted pork. From the Alps came oyster mushrooms smoked for 48 hours with bacon and radish that really tasted like an oyster do to the smoking. From Carinthia where our server Stefan hailed from, came a salted cheese cake with cabbage kraut and sour cream soup with a foam and salty flavor that was amazing. The chef had recently visited Russia and gave us a taste of that with cabbage rolls stuffed with catfish, asparagus and potato with a sour cream spiced dip.
Each of these was indeed a special treat and we knew that based on these amuses we were in for a culinary journey like non else before.
Next the bread cart arrived and again this can be viewed as all the dishes can be on my FB page. This cart is like non else with about 20 different options not to mention the unpasturized local butter may from only hay-fed cows! The salt on the table was of a powdery light form and I forgot to ask what type it was. We tried many breads such as lavender, parmesan-arugula, pretzel, olive-tomato, pork crackling and black pepper, bacon with linen seed, a super spicy chili-chorizo and finally and unreal black pudding with chunks of the delectable morsels embedded in the bread but in no way making it soggy--amazing.
The official first course for Will was "Krauthauptel" which was "Grazer Krauthauptel" from the city of Graz made with Medlar, Steamed Monk's Beard (lettuce) with limquat (think a lime crossed with kumquat) from the Orangerie at Schonnbrunn Palace where much of citrus for the restaurant is grown. The wine was a 2015 Terramatter (Alvarinho from Portugal like Albarino in Spanish) Quinta de Soalherio in Minho that was very grapefruity like a Sauvignon Blanc, but with a mind of its own.
I had the "Reinanke" with Cornel Cherry, Yacon & Stone Crap (yes with a "p" not crab) which was a confited and glazed wild fish which exists in only three lakes in Austria(!!) with a cornel cherry, meyer lemon and red elderflower glaze that made it look like an eel! The yacon root was roasted with spiced pumpkin, stone crop(a vegetable) and grains of paradise with pumpkin jus and cornel cherry & tonka bean jus. My wine was a creamy 2014 Gruner Veltliner from Hannes Schuster in St. Margarethen, Burgenland.
The second course for Will was Puntarella which Stefan explained was an Italian winter vegetable which is a rare member of the chicory family and looks like a giant bok choy (as they brought out a huge head to show us when the course was presented). It was served with Woodruff, salted Capers & Bouchot Mussels with dried kaki (don't ask) and celeriac. An accompanying 2015 Es Mussol Malvasia from Conde de Suvrot in Mallorca, Spain was appropriately acidic for the salad with balsamic. My Crayfish with Bittersalad, Jerusalem Artichokes & Green Almonds and Radicchio was a crayfish grilled in coffee butter with marinated foie gras (that was heavenly) as well as crispy fried artichoke chips with red onions pickled with lingonberry; the almonds were actually preserved and hence soft and tender.
The wine was a 2015 Double Cuvee from F.M.Mayer in nearby Vienna-Doubling that's was like a Bordeaux blanc in that it was sauvignon blanc with a hint of Semillon that I could not detect at all.
Third for Will came Pike-Perch with Fennel, Pericon & Schonbrunner Calamansi (more citrus from the summer palace orangerie from the Philippines served fermented here) paired with a 2014 Bourgogne Chardonnay from Domaine Amiot Guy et fils. My Amur Carp with Romaine, Purple Salsify & Dill (one of the few dishes with ingredients I knew) was served with amazing crispy skin, sour cream, dill, fermented black garlic and a rich spiced yogurt sauce with dill oil and paired with a divine 50/50% blend of Viognier/Marsanne Blanc from Domaine Romaneaux-Destezet (Rhone).
The fourth course was Calf's Brains with Salsify, Tomato, Peppers & Medlar (another new veggie) Kernel and came crispy as well with preserved apple-peppers and mustard pickle. The meat was tender and delicious and for those not familiar more akin to a sweetbread that is meatier. I was thrilled with the Austrian 2009 Riesling "Schutt" Smaragd (old vines) from Knoff in the Unter-Loiben region as it really cut the intensity of the meat and entire dish. Will chose the Lamb from Pogusch with Romanesco, Chanterelles & Walnut-leaf which had been cured first with apricot, capers and fermented greenage and served with pickled chanterelles in a lamb & apricot sauce with beluga lentils, pericon & Raz-el-hanout spices. Amazingly paired with a 2006 Gruner Veltliner "Schon" Reserve from Josef Hogl also near Vienna which I never would have thought of for meat, but really worked.
We both chose the Alpine Beef Short Rib with Cubio, Endive & Macadamia Nut which amounted to the "main" course or such although everything was portioned and timed amazingly well. It was a seared sirloin short rib served with a super sharp Laguiole knife that melted as you cut it. There was sour marinated endive, dried wild chervil and stems, macadamia cream with cress seed and beef jus. The wine was a 2007 Coll del Sabater Cabernet Franc from Escoda Sanahuja, Conca de Barbera in Catalunya Spain that blew me away.
Just like the bread cart, the cheese trolley at Steirereck is an experience as it is two tiered and holds several dozen organic cheeses that Verena knows so intimately she can easily choose for you after you explain what you are looking for. Since we were two people, we got two plates of four cheeses each. If you can add, that's eight amazing cheeses served with more of that amazing bread and some dried fruits and grapes. The wine was a 2016 Apfel-Eiswein from PUR-Fam in Mahrer, Sierndorf which was okay, but I still prefer a good regular Austrian dessert wine such as Kracher without the apple taste.
One plate:
Black Sheep- an Austrian sheep ash
Jersey Camembert from France
Let Petite Fiance-a goat from the Pyrenees
Bleu di Bofala from Italy
Other plate:
Il Cava Nero-Italian sheep/goat blend
Soumatrin-from Burgundy
Cirone-3years aged cow from Switzerland
L'Ami de Chambertin-a Chablis washed French
Our dessert was Viennese Malt which was served with Quince, Sea Buckthorn (the reason we both chose this instead of the pear dish) with Lavender. The dish had a caramel-malt ice-souffle with roasted malt syrup as well as crispy barley, quince poached in sea buckthorn juice, candied sea buckthorn and sea buckthorn-lavender sauce. Need I say more to any of who have tasted this amazing treat we have come to love. The dish had a burnt caramel flavor which was paired with 1998 Rivesaltes Vin Doux Naturel (17 years aged in barrels) from Parce Freres in Roussillon France that was a blend of Grenache Gris, Grenache Blanc and Brandy that had us oohing and aahing until we departed,
At this point we also noticed there was a hint of cigarette smoke in the air and apparently the door nearby to the hermetically sealed smoking room had been left ajar. OOPS...but fixed quickly.
Finally we received an interesting extra course called Citrus Variety from Schonbrunn which offered various flavored and dried fruits from the orangerie:
White chocolate with pumpkin seed oil
Dried Moro blood orange with poppy seed
Dried Persian Lime with Black Nettle
Bitter Chocolate with black nuts
Candied Lemonade Lemon or Sweet Lemon
Candied diamante citron
Frozen Rowan berries with makrut lime, buttermilk, gooseberries and mountain pine
Marinated Citrus with Elder & Dried Pear
Orange Blossoms with Apricot, Yogurt and Quinoa
Of course we got take away chocolates, cookies and more, but who remembers that.
Again deepest apologies this took so long as we have been eating our way through Europe and touring all day, so I promise to catch up with more soon.