Vienna Report (long...)
First of all, many thanks to this Board and of course Sturmi for all the responses to my requests for assistance - extremely helpful and on target! I don't have many, if any, discoveries beyond what has already been suggested here, but feel duty bound to report on the wonderful time my daughter and I had in Vienna last week; in addition, it may be useful to get an outsider's (i.e., New Yorker's) view on the Vienna eating scene. We only scratched its surface, but I will return! I'll divide this post into two sections - dinners and miscellany.
I took Sturmi's advice and went to Gasthaus Poschl not only for our last dinner in Vienna, but also for my solo dinner on my first night. I love this place, and think it is the perfect venue for either a dinner alone or a Sunday night, when much of Vienna seems to shut down. I sat at the bar, surrounded by what seemed like locals enjoying the excellent, hearty food, wines by the glass and/or beers on tap. The mixed salad with fresh porcini was delicious and the enormous backhendl was the best chicken cutlet I've ever had. When my daughter and I returned on Sunday, she loved her arctic char and I my salmon tartare, and we both thought that our poppyseed palatschinken was the best restaurant dessert of our trip.The location near the charming Franziskanerkirche is convenient and atmospheric. the interior simple and charming, the service friendly, and the prices eminently fair. I wish we had a neighborhood restaurant that good near us in NYC!
The best food we had in Vienna was at Walter Bauer, which, to put in a NYC context, was much better (and less expensive) than a very good meal I had had in NYC at the Modern dining room just the week before. We were delighted not only by the subtle and sophisticated food, but also by the beautiful presentation; the experience at Walter Bauer is all about the food (and wine): the room itself is relatively modest and the service friendly but not elaborate. Highlights of the meal included smoked eel and turnip with horseradish cream rolled in pumpernickel bread crumbs, tender smokes pheasant and pheasant mousse with raw beet salad, and ox cheeks in a superb sauce with a polenta pudding (like a cornmeal Yorkshire pudding) and lots of delicious cardoons. The wine list includes a terrific selection of half bottles; the host suggested a superb half liter of 1991 Phases of the Moon St Laurent from Umathum - a rare and great wine well worth the 40 euros. My only complaint was that the desserts seemed an afterthought, but that just left more room for our other grazing adventures.
Vestibuhl is a beautiful restaurant with food that is not quite at the same high level as Bauer, but is very good indeed. The chef's specialty of lobster with creamed cabbage is excellent, as was the poached lake fish. Another excellent wine list, and we loved our Brundlmayer Riesling Zobinger Heiligstein 2004. Service friendly, efficient, and very knowledgeable. We dined at 8pm on a Thursday, but the restaurant was only about a third full; I suspect that it would be more alive either before or after the theatre.
And finally, we went to the Rote Bar at the Sacher (where we stayed) on Saturday night. Perfect after opera experience: the food was fine (particularly my tafelspitz and creamed spinach even if the backhendl wasn't a patch on Poschl's), but really took a back seat to the plush red velvet surroundings and cosseting service - luxury hotel dining at its best. What I love about the Sacher is that when you're there, you feel that you could only be in Vienna, unlike the generic luxury of Four Seasons and Ritz Carlton hotels which could be picked up and transported to any world capital.
Breakfast at Meierei - what a wonderful light-filled room looking out on the beautiful Stadtpark. And the cheeses are extraordinary!
Open faced sandwiches (and the 3 oz beers) at Trszniewski (sp?) @ about a euro each - three and a beer make a perfect light lunch, and the room itself is very cool. Not to be missed - go for a late lunch (after 2) so that you can sit at one of the few tables.
Kaserkraine at the modern, clean kiosk by the Sacher and Albertina - a perfect late afternoon snack for two to share.
Cocktails at the American Bar - I tried not to inhale the cigarette fumes and marveled at the beauty of Loos' design; my martini was good, the barmen very friendly, and I was able to get a seat after 15 minutes of standing.
Cocktails at the Sacher's Blue Bar - well worth going to even if you're not staying at the hotel in order to enjoy the very good drinks (no more expensive than the American bar's) and soak up the Sacher's atmosphere in a less touristy environment than the various cafes there hawking Sacher torte.
Apple strudel mit schlag at the Tirolerhof Cafe - this will probably be viewed as heretical, but we preferred the room and the cake there to Demel's, where we found the buttercream laden Esterhazy torte cloying and overwhelming and where the service was distracted and not particularly friendly.
Thank you so much for your detailed report !!
You might be interested to hear that the chef and patron of Vestibül, Christian Domschitz, used to be the chef at Walter Bauer some years ago, but left for greener pastures. Another proof of the fact that running a place of your own is different from being just chef de cuisine, and that Walter Bauer knows how to keep a high profile even with a new chef every second year...
Now that you know the high-end, next time you come to Vienna you should venture to the outer districts, and go to Gasthaus Wolf, Rudi´s Beisl, Gasthaus Heidinger, Meixners Gastwirtschaft or Gasthaus Stern for real authentic Viennese beisl cuisine at its best.