October 23, 2010

Osterreicher im MAK - Vienna

On August 18, I turned 26. I began my birthday in Vienna and ended it in Paris. This vacation was pretty much the best birthday present ever.

And since we flew to Paris on my birthday I ended up getting two birthday suppers out of it. Even better! The first one in Vienna was at Osterreicher im MAK. Its named after the chef, a famous guy named Helmut Osterreicher, and it's inside a museum called the Museum fur angewandte Kunst (MAK),  or Museum for Applied Arts. We didn't get a chance to visit the museum but they have an amazing shop full of super cool houseware items, books and games.

I searched for a really nice restaurant to celebrate, and this one got great reviews in our travel guide and online. It ended up being a fantastic night out, although there was a close call when it came to gluten, which made me think the kitchen wasn't really being as careful as they could be.

The space is elegant, funky and eclectic all at the same time, although you really shouldn't expect much less from a restaurant in an art museum. It's all one room with soaring ceilings covered in a beautiful flower pattern. There are mirrors and black chalk-boards everywhere. The room is divided by a kind of half-wall between the bar/lounge area and the actual dining room. Big, beautiful wood-framed windows line the walls and a massive bottle chandelier hangs over the bar.

The menu is divided between classical Austrian dishes and modern Austrian dishes, with a page for each. Among the classical dishes is, of course, wiener schnitzel, plus beef goulash and beef in aspic (shudder). Actually, it's pretty much all meat. The menu clearly changes with the seasons, since when I just checked it online the modern section looked completely unfamiliar.

One thing I noticed right away is only two pages of the menu are accorded to food - the rest of the eight go to drinks: wine, beer, spirits, cocktails and non-alcoholic choices. We enjoyed two lovely bottles of white wine and managed to get rather tipsy ... I mean, what else are birthdays for?

It was fairly easy to navigate the menu even with our limitations - only a few things would cause problems. I started with a fantastic salad with Serrano ham and cream cheese, on arugula with fresh raspberries and an aged balsamic reduction. It was the perfect combination of textures and flavours. The cheese was nothing like what we call cream cheese in North America, as you can see from the photo. It was more like soft goat's cheese but with a subtle cow's milk taste.The balsamic reduction had a deep, rounded sweetness and earthiness that added an amazing element to the whole plate.

For my main I ordered some kind of boiled beef, I can't remember exactly what it was called. The meat itself was good, nothing spectacular, but I really liked all the little side dishes and how it was presented almost TV-dinner style. It was very old-fashioned, with creamed green beans and sort-of smashed, soft yet caramelized potatoes.

This was where I did, however, discover a dumpling in amongst my meat and vegetables. It's pretty obvious in the photo, there in the top left-hand corner. I'm just happy I realized what it was before I bit into it, and quickly moved it to J's plate. It was my birthday dinner and I wasn't going to freak out about it. Maybe once I've been gluten-free for years and I know exactly what happens when I eat it by accident, I will take these things a little more seriously.

J's main was also beef - a minute steak with onions and homefries. The fried onions looked fantastic.

There were fewer dessert options for us but what we ate was great. J had what I recall as some kind of fritter with sauteed apples on the side. Mine was a frozen chocolate mousse with a few blackberries and a fruit sauce. It was a delicious texture - cold and firm and custard-like.

There was more of the restaurant to explore. When I went downstairs to use the bathroom I snuck a peek into the kitchen. I find the hustle and energy of restaurant kitchens fascinating, and I wished I could have stood and stared for hours, but of course I didn't. I also noticed a dark, swank outdoor terrace off the lower level.

Our meal at Osterreicher was long and lingering. We spent a lot of money (although we are cheap when it comes to wine), but it was totally worth it. Afterwards we looked around the fabulous design shop in MAK and then wandered the streets, through the main Viennese square, Stephansplatz, and past Stephansdom, the cathedral. Finally we made it across the bridge of the Danube canal and home to our little apartment.

The next day we got up and flew to Paris. Incredible. Coming up: my second birthday meal, at Paris' only gluten-free restaurant. No chance of stray dumplings in their food. 

Osterreicher im MAK
Stubenring 5
1010 Wien, Austria


Marfa said...

Love that bottle chandelier! And your salad with arugula, cheese and ham...
I've made homemade cream cheese before and it's totally different from the stuff you'd buy in the store! More like farmer's cheese or ricotta.

Bethany MacCallum said...

Wow Is, you meal sounds like it was amazing!! This cream cheese sounds very intriguing... do you think there is any kind of Canadian equivalent?

The Celiac Husband said...

Looks like Tafelspitz on your plate.

Anne said...

I would go for the gorgeous salad and your amazing dessert! And I didn't even notice the chandelier was made of bottles, thanks cousin...