Monday, June 21, 2010
Steirereck, Vienna, Austria
Steirereck is, frankly, the best dining experience I have had, in my life. It may not have such a famous name as Joel Robuchon, or Pierre Gagnaire, but to anyone in the culinary world who knows his stuff, Steirereck is definitely up there with the best. It was rated the 21th best restaurant in the world by San Pellegrino for 2010, and upon seeing the list I knew I had to try the delicious food. So I emailed the manager, and thank God we managed to get a reservation, on the 9th of June, for lunch.
The hardest part of the journey was, frankly, to find the restaurant; located in the Stadtpark, just outside the Ringstrasse, we scoured the whole of the Park before finding it behind the kindergarten's corner, after asking many a local. So here we were! The wait staff promptly ushered us to our table, on the verandah overlooking the gardens.
Instead of having the menu thrusted at us, they offered either still or sparkling - I guess we couldn't ask for "tap", since we were in a really atas restaurant - so we said still. Fine. More on this later. We were then served some crackers which were quite nice.
And then the amuse bouche came, which was brilliant - four little lovely nibbles - the first was an interesting cheese, the second, apparently some ox's tongue or something, the third was something carroty, and the fourth was something tart - sorry for the hazy descriptions, I'll just let the photos do the talking. What impressed me was the how the flavours worked together, which was quite impressive.
Everyone's looking happy - yeah they have reason to be!
The first course was called "Sturgeon with seaweed, avocado, preserved tomatoes and buddha's hand lemon"; the sturgeon is pan-fried, then confited, served with avocado creme and crunchy tempura balls. The tempura balls added delicious crunch on the top of the fish, which was fresh, delicate, and with a firm texture. the avocado creme also lent itself well into creating some excitement into the fish, without overpowering its delicate flavours. On the other side was "tomatoes preserved with riesling vinegar and olive oil" and this was quite exciting - the tomatoes were oh so delicious, sweet, and zingy at the same time, while it was a delight biting into the candied buddha's hand lemon peel. Great starter (8.5/10)
The next course was confited pike with walnut, kohlrabi, rhubarb and sorrel. In this course, the Pike was confited in walnut butter, and the chef left some walnut butter on to flavour the fish, which added some earthly notes to a delicate fish. It was very subtle, nonetheless, not to detract from the clean-tasting fish which was quite delicious. There was also preserved rhubarb with "kohlrabi pomace, liquorice" which added some sweetness to the dish. Quite good, if not as good as the first course. (8/10). Yes, I ate two fish dishes. But well, that's me!
The main course was a "Lightly smoked and pan-fried veal's liver with liquorice, grapes and radish". The veal's liver was cold smoked and then pan-fried, and served with veal jus, with verjus, liquorice, shallots and citron. The sauce was tart enough to cut through the richness of the meat, and quite sweet. But there was something - I didn't really enjoy veal's liver - I thought it would be something like chicken or duck liver, but it was more akin to pig's liver, in that while there was the flavour there, I didn't really like the texture. Still it's my fault for ordering something unknown. The jus was quite nice though. This was served with a roasted potato and white radish "croissant" with roasted hazelnuts, chervil, parsley and tarragon. It was pretty interesting biting into the roasted potato and finding the herbs inside - nice presentation. Oh well, I had expected my main course to wow, but it didn't. Still, no worries. (7.5/10).
Because the other two courses were just just brilliant. Just brilliant. Amazing. Stupendous. Magnificient. El bravo! The first of these great courses was a Cheese Platter - Usually in lesser restaurants they'd already selected the cheeses for you, but not for Steirereck, for here the waiter pushed an entire trolley of cheeses (according to an Internet source, there's about 150 varieties) all from its cellar, for me to choose. How to choose from such a selection?
So i told the waiter that I liked strong cheese - and so he recommended 5 cheeses for me - and boy, each of them were just, unfailingly great. The mildest one - top right, was pretty interesting, quite mild and delicate; the next one was the goat's cheese (top, orange), which was a bit stronger, with a nice lovely aftertaste. But the best three for me were the ones in front (in the picture); the one to the left was rich, creamy, tart, fresh, and full of intense flavour, salty, all at once.
The one in the middle was even better, this time even more powerfully rich and strong, pungent, and with a taste not unlike durians. It was just delicious, delicious, wish i could have some more. But the piece de resistance was the Blue cheese - I can't remember the name, i think it was Bleu de Casses or something - but this one was just like entering gourmet heaven. One bite of this, and suddenly, all the flavours rush out into your mouth, filling your cavity with intense heightened flavours which are too complex and magical to be described in mere words, but if I were to use words, it was rich, intense, salty, warm, overflowing, etc. A rush, I'd call it. Lovely lovely. The blue cheese deserves a (10/10); the whole cheese platter, (9.5/10)
And the last course, the dessert, was just as good. The dessert was described as 'Warm Trinatario" chocolate with pineapple-pericon sorbet and coconut macaroons. It consisted of a creamy shortcrust tart with chocolate, egg yolk, heavy cream, vanilla and rum, and garnished with coconut macaroons, and a pineapple pericon sorbet and salad. And I have to say, hands down, this is the BEST CHOCOLATE i have ever ever tasted. BY FAR. The combination of flavours was just perfect.
The chocolate was very intense and chocolatey, very smooth, while not being too bitter, too sweet - it was seriously the perfect combination of bitter and sweet. So so deliciously awesome. All my friends also agreed with me how awesomely delicious it is - it thrashes Laurent Bernard's by a mile (okay sorry - but you're the best in singapore). And the great thing was how generous they were - they gave us 3 large portions of chocolate, so I was a happy boy. Very very good. (9.75/10) i didn't really care much for the pineapple salad, but those were fine too, in contrast.
The meal came up to an exorbitant 80 euros per head, but it was well worth the money. Of note was the money we paid for the water (52 euros in all), because they kept refilling our water - but I guess one needs water to balance out the diet!
The service, as well, was impeccable, quite perfect service. The waiters and waitresses were all very well trained, always smiling, and very professional, always able to give you recommendations about what to eat, and always jolly, never intrusive; especially the waiter in charge of the bread basket, was very knowledgeable and humourous in making a joke about how he'd had to eat all the bread if you guys don't order it! Such service makes the dining experience such a pleasure.
Well, i'd highly highly recommend Steirereck if you go to Vienna, because this is a dining experience never to be missed, or forgotten. Very very good.