Took a little break and traveled to Austria, had a wonderful foodie moment while in the capital city Vienna and deeply relaxing time while in Hallstatt - one of the world heritage sites that I dreamt about going for years. While planning to put up some Hallstatt pictures on my Chinese blog, culinary adventures will be published on both English and Chinese websites. But first of all, here's how I came to a decision on which Michelin restaurants to dine in Vienna.
Besides the hidden gems or locals' favorites not yet discovered by Michelin or not qualified to be on the prestigious list, often times I'd pick one or two Michelin restaurants to try while traveling. It's kind of a quality assurance and so far never a disappointment.
First thing first, pull out a list of destination Michelin restaurants from the website. Filter by types of cuisine, number of stars, and location. Then it's time to dig a little bit deeper, visit these places' official websites and find out their actual opening hours and what's on the menu. Play around the schedule and make sure to leave at least 2 to 3 hours dining time, that's the minimum time slot to ensure that you won't rush through the meal, and very likely an unforgettable culinary adventure.
A sense of warmth was the first impression when stepping in EDVARD, this one-star Michelin restaurant located in a luxury hotel Palais Hansen Kempinski. The manager welcomed us with a sincere smile on her face, despite that fact that we had to call in and told the restaurant that we'll be about one hour late, blamed it on jet lag.
Glad we made it, otherwise we would have missed perhaps the best buttery spread never experienced before.
I know I kept emphasizing the little spread and ignoring all other dishes. Don't get me wrong, the food was great, more than great actually, not mentioning the friendly services received that night, just somehow the burnt butter aroma still lingers after the trip. It was something that hit me the most, which is a rare encounter even after dining at quite a number of top-rated restaurants.
So quickly settled in, we started the night with local sparking wine from Weingut Bründlmayer -
Two degustation sets were available, one leaning towards the land, and one towards the sea. We both went for the more meaty carnivorous option with four course wine pairing -
Little nibbles before the meal, burrata/grape fruit -
Périgord truffle/brioche -
And this was the powerful combo that kept me thinking about it for days and weeks -
EDVARD provides the recipe to a local bakery Josef's, and have them bake the crispy bread. "It's a very popular bakery in Vienna", said the restaurant manager.
The bread can stand-alone by itself with slightly yeasty and almost beer-like aroma. The more you chewed on it, the more flavor depths started to surface.
That mellow and graceful scent transformed into a powerful punch when burnt butter spread came into the picture. Charred butter with sprinkles of pancetta, just imaging caramel-like sweetness, creamy, yet with a touch of salty crunch in one bite. The only regret that night was not being able to ask for extra bread and burnt butter spread, damned my limited tummy space, and jet lag.
This combo along worth a visit to EDVARD, no kidding.
Complimentary dish, lamb/parsnip root -
Seemed like a few dishes already, but the plate followed was actually our first course, beef/cauliflower/juniper/onion -
Beef was much more tender than regular carpaccio. The onion carried a hint of honey sweetness. The creamy white paste on the bottom had a texture in between puree and foam, very comforting in terms of texture and flavor. However, my favorite component was these little crunchy florets. They were like that extra crunchy edge on a fried chicken and soaked with salty aromatics.
And our first wine pairing FP Bical & Arinto was served.
Jerusalem artichoke/sour cream/caviar -
The flavor was much like poached gobo, or burdock root, a common ingredient in Japanese cuisine. It had a tiny bitter tone but then rounded out by sour cream. Our first wine pairing, a Portuguese white wine carried many identical profiles with this dish, a well-matched food and wine complimented one another.
Pink prawn/lobster foam/chicory/tarragon/orange -
Torched aroma was the first impression, followed by a good balance between sweetness and bitterness. Surprisingly, the sweetness was not from the orange, but from the prawn. And the orange was actually the bitter agent, a fun dish indeed.
Then it came our second wine, 2013 Planeta Etna Rosso with 100% Nerello Mascalese variety. Took a sniff and the scent of strawberry can be picked up right away. It was much more complex on the palate, with expressive red fruit and layers of spices.
Veal belly/black salsify/bitter salads -
I think it's probably my first time having black salsify, couldn't quite distinguished the flavors. That means more black salsify dishes to come in the future so I can get a feel of it.
The veal belly was beyond tender, felt like the nearly melted fat was trying very hard holding up the shape.
Then it came our sommelier with a bottle of Austrian red wine. "All Austrian red wines should taste like this," he said. This is the wine that represents the terrior of Austria. It was 2012 Blaufränkisch LEITHABERG DAC from Lichtenberger González.
Stilton blue/fig/thyme -
A change of taste signaled our heavier main course ahead.
Indeed it was the heaviest seasoned dish of the night, there was also a touch of earthiness, perhaps from the spruce on the venison. The acidity from the cranberry sauce balanced off all the strong-tasting components.
This course truly felt like a fall/winter dish, provided a sense of warmth.
Coconut cream and ice cream/granola/yuzu -
All managed with a touch of salt. It's not the dense creamy kind of coconut dessert, but more of an airy refreshing prelude for the main dessert to come.
Our last wine pairing, 2010 Château Bessan Sauternes -
Cox orange/Sichuan pepper/walnut/caramel -
Fooled by the texture, I would have thought that centerpiece was a pear instead of an orange. Fooled by the name, I realized that cox orange is in fact an apple. How confusing but hey, it was fun!
Love the use of Sichuan pepper, it only provided the aroma without the usual numbing sensation.
Petit four, cappuccino macaron/mini pistachio cake/yogurt coated hazelnut/pineapple jelly -
We were way too full, otherwise the yogurt-flavored hazelnut would be gone in minutes. I was shocked by how sourish it tasted, but that surprise only lasted for 5 seconds then quickly turned into gentle yogurt aroma.
The restaurant also prepared a sweet little gift to take home with -
A little end note, I searched the Internet regarding tipping in Austria. While most of the top listed sites saying that you only need to round up the bill, like $27 and make it $30, it's not the case at all.
Throughout the trip we've only had one restaurant gave us a bill with 10% service fee included. Just to be safe, it's always wise to check the bill and see if any service fee has already been added. If not, give and take 8% to 10% tip is always a nice gesture when the service is on par or excellent. I also asked the front desk guy at a local hotel to double check on the tipping custom for reassurance.
EDVARD currently holds one Michelin star status.
1010 Wien, Osterreich
(Inside Palais Hansen Kempinski Wien)
+43 1 236 1000 8082
Official website: EDVARD
Tuesday through Saturday 6:00 p.m. ~ 10:00 p.m.