Thursday, April 17, 2014

Steirereck, Vienna

Steirereck, Vienna, 3-31-14, 141 Euro/7 courses (including 6 euro table charge), Austrian-Int’l

I have arranged a few fine dining appointments in Catalan region of Spain after my tour of Greece. There wasn’t direct flight from Athens to Barcelona. I decided to travel via Vienna so that I can have a dining occasion in Steirereck. It is a Michelin 2-star restaurant and is also on S. Pellegrino’s top 10 lists. I have noticed its menu emphasized vegetables and very few dishes of seafood. It offered a 7-course tasting menu. When I saw the bill, I noticed there was a 6 euro table charge. It is the 1st time that I saw a “table charge” item at a Michelin 2-star restaurant.

The restaurant faces a park and is located right outside the edge of the Stadtpark. Inside, its opulence decoration shows the influence of Vienna Secessionism Art Movement (Gustav Klimt was one of them). It has a large number of capacity (80) compared with most of other fine dining restaurants’.

Amuse Bouche
I) there were four items: 1) radish crackers; 2) radish plant cream; 3) radish in rhubarb sauce and radish seeds; and 4) home made Cassini with smoked salt. In addition, I was given a pair of scissors to cut the radish plants. This reminded me of Noma where I had a dining occasion there two years ago. At Noma, I was told to eat the whole plant and soil (edible).

II)there were two items: 1) Ox heart carrot, stuffed with apple cream and pine needles, steamed by pine tea from underneath the plate (with holes for steam coming thru). 2) Purple carrot, black mayo, walnut kohlrabi (texture similar to daikon).

Butter was served with crest and crest seeds. Steirereck baked wide varieties of gourmet breads; I chose 5 different flavors - rye and honey lavender, tomato olive, apricot hazelnut, Parmigiano arugula and bacon.

1st Course – Mountain Trout: ‘Schwarzauer’ Mountain Trout with Melon, Cucumber and Etiolated Pea

It was marinated raw trout with melon, cucumber and etiolated pea shoots. It was fresh water trout from a special source with fine quality. Etiolated pea shoots were done by incorporating some Nordic methods. It required fermenting many bean sprouts cooked in soy sauce, dehydrating and then grinding them.

2nd Course – Asparagus: Green Asparagus with Sheep’s Cheese, Hop Shoots and Bergamot

Green asparagus was boiled to medium soft and served with sheep’s cheese, marinated sorrel, pecan nut pickled with maple syrup. Dressing made of bergamot and green apple vinaigrette with hop shoots and caramel was served on top.

3rd Course – Crayfish: Crayfish with Spiced Parsnip Strudel and Limes

I have requested for this dish to substitute for what was in the original menu. Steirereck charged me extra 6 euros, a practice rather unusual in fine dining. Crayfish was tender and fresh. The parsnip strudel was a nice piece of work by appearance; however, the flavor was not quite in balance.

4th Course – Lamb from Pogusch: Lamb with Jerusalem artichoke, ‘Rosa Bianca’ Aubergine, Pandan Leaf and Button Mushrooms

Roasted loin of lamb was served with chopped artichoke on top. On the side, sautéed marinated raw button mushroom sitting on a bed of Rosa Bianca aubergine (tender eggplant) and topped with pandan leaves.

5th Course – Duck: ‘Schneebergland Duck’ with ‘Schoderleer’ Onion, Chia and Beetroot & Orange Couscous

It was duck breast cooked rare-medium by using a special premium brand of duck. On the side, there were premium onions, orange couscous cooked in beet juice topped with crosne. Crosne is Chinese artichoke shaped like knot root and tasted a bit crunchier than ordinary artichoke.

6th Course – Selected Cheeses from their Meierei (cheese bar)

Steirereck is located on the top floor of the building while the cheese bar ‘Meierei’ is located downstairs. On my way in I have noticed the varieties of cheese displayed. I got a few varieties of cheese including mild flavored goat cheese and some rather unusual 43-month comté cheese.

7th Course – Quince: Quince with Burnt Milk and Lavender

I still remember how much I enjoyed the quince desert at Vendome in October 2012. I expected that I would have a similar experience here. But, I was disappointed. Quince desert at Steirereck was more for visual pleasure than for palatial pleasure.

Petit Four
1) Schoenbraum in spoon was blood orange jelly with crumb. I love blood orange related food. But, it was not flavored enough.
2) Meyer lemon, grapefruit and white chocolate tart
3) Passion fruit and lemon parfait
4) Jelly candies with grapefruit and lime flavor
5)Varieties of dry sliced citrus fruits – pen lime, blood orange, medium lemon, citrus lemon, panache orange and rose apple

To call a restaurant one of the best is not only about food but also about ambiance, services and making it an enjoyable occasion. I made an appointment at Steirereck because it is rated with Michelin 2-star and is on S. Pellegrino’s top 10 list. The decoration is elegant, but I was disappointed in many aspects. The evening when I had dinner there, they were very busy. After the 3nd course, I waited long (15-20 minutes) in between each of the following courses to be served, its service was shambolic. The most important thing – the taste, the flavor was not quite in balance and not sumptuous. I could not find any of the dishes outstanding compared with other fine dinings that I have had. I acknowledged that most of the dishes required sophisticated preparation and exquisite presentation. But, the mouth-watering taste that I expected was just not there. The best thing that I have ever experienced there was the 43-month old Comté cheese.

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