Report on Wallse
Had dinner at Wallse, the new Austrian restaurant on Washington Street and West 11th the other night. Grimes recently gave it two stars in the Times and both were twinkling the night we went. The food was, indeed, very good. By chance, three of us ordered the three main dishes that Grimes recommended; pike, halibut in cucumber sauce and rostbraten; I'd order any of them again but especially the pike.
The smoked trout and eel appetizer, also touted by Grimes, was terrific. I found myself wishing for a larger serving although I knew more would have spoiled my appetite for the entree. A sea scallop appetizer was also quite good, as was the rabbit with spaetzle. Grimes found the spaetzle too soft, but the kitchen seems to have pulled that act together. My friend, who grew up on German home cooking, declared the spaetzle perfect.
My highest compliment, though, is for the service. The place was full, it's barely a month old, yet the staff performed like the proverbial well-oiled machine. Appetizers were delivered soon after ordering, with what I considered an appropriate lapse of time between them and the main courses. Despite the crowd, our waitress made it appear that she had all the time in the world to discuss preparation techniques and wine choices with us. And that we had all the time in world to make up our minds. I also liked that I was taken immediately to the table and asked if I wanted a drink while I waited for the rest of my party. In too many restaurants in town, I'd have been parked at the bar to await the group, even with a reservation.
The space looks great, spare and white yet still inviting. Some folks may have a problem with the noise level. We didn't have to speak loudly to carry on a conversation nor were we forced by proximity to hear what our neighbors were talking about. But "people talking" is the constant background sound. I found it lively and convivial rather than noisey. A definite sense of people enjoying themselves. But if you're looking for a quiet, romantic spot, you should probably look elswhere.
Appetizers and main courses for three, a bottle of wine and a round of wines by the glass when we arrived: around $90 per person with tax and a good tip. Also, we splurged on the bottle of wine as this was a birthday celebration. I can't afford to become a "regular" but Wallse certainly makes my list of options for special occasions.
Dee, great report on Wallse, one I'm happy to corroborate as well. I agree with you that service really shines here - and though the food can be spotty at times, the overall experience was delightful. The best dish I had was the venison special - flown in all the way from Scotland ("this deer has travelled a long way,' the waiter assured us), and showing no signs of jet lag. The meat was delicate and flavorful, cooked 'til just pink, and came with a purple cabbage, wild mushroom, red wine and juniper berry sauce. Perfect fall fare, and it went very well with the Austrian red wine the waiter had recommended. My partner's tafelspitz was good but didn't quite do the same cartwheels on the palate. The boiled beef was pretty bland, but came with nice hot crusty potato rusti and a strange bright green sauce which added great color but minimal flavor (we later found out it was creamed spinach).
We both enjoyed our appetizers - the day's special of grilled octopus on an arugula bed, and herb spaetzle with rabbit, peas and mushrooms in a cream sauce. The rabbit was tender and lovely, the peas nearly al dente. I only wished the herbs in the spaetzle had been slightly more pronouced.
This is rapidly becoming the new "hot" place, but thankfully there's no signs of accomodating the beautiful people over the mere mortals like us who happened to stumble in. Our waiter seemed genuinely pleased to serve use, and explained the menu with not a bit of pride. Glasses were refilled on times, dishes whisked away, and napkins carefully refolded when either of us left our seats.
I should mention the space is lovely here too...austere but warm, with one candle and a single lily providing decoration on each table. The place was buzzing, the tables close, but we still felt we maintained our privacy. The menu advisory against cell phone use was also a welcome addition.