I usually try to avoid repeating restaurants that my mother have reviewed in the past, and Wallsé was one that she covered back in 2005. However, in my effort to collect Michelin stars in 2010, I have decided to break from tradition, and will continue to do so until all 71 stars are collected.
When I watch television programs on BBC, the presenters often say that in the ideal world, you want German Engineering, French Wine, and Italian Food. While that statement might be slightly stereotypical, the fact that Manhattan is dotted with Italian restaurants show that there’s quite a lot of truth behind it.
Then the presenters would joke that you certainly don’t want Italian engineering reliability with German culinary creations….. That got me thinking: why nobody ever mentions Austrian cuisine? The country sits smack in between Germany and Italy, but should we expect wurst or pasta?
So to learn more about Austrian cuisine, a reservation was made at Wallsé, the restaurant by Kurt Gutenbrunner named after his home town in Austria. Since its inception in 2000, the restaurant has been tremendously successful, obtaining 2 stars from the New York times, and awarded a Michelin star since the guide started covering New York.
Located in a quiet street corner in Tribeca, the restaurant looks like a quaint neighborhood coffee shop. Glancing inside, you see a massive self portrait of the chef. Our reservation for for 9 o’clock, and were quite surprised by how busy the restaurant was. We were tucked into the corner seat quickly, and promptly given our menus. Service here is sharp and attentive, but much more casual than the French or Italian competitors.
Just by reading the menu, it doesn’t immediately jump out at me for being “Austrian” except for some accents on the characters. Then again, I really haven’t got a clue what being Austrian means. In the day and age when Italian restaurants serve tartare as appetizer, no ingredient is off limits, so I’m sure this is Austrian cooking with a global influence.
For appetizer we got the duck confit (isn’t this French?) and a beet terrine. The duck, served over a bed of lentils with watercress, was cooked to the point where it feel off the bone. The beet terrine was beautiful to look at, and the horseradish creme complemented the flavors perfectly.
Then came the mains, where we both decided to go with seafood. The whole trout was grilled beautifully, and the swordfish was also cooked just right, providing a good texture. What truly brought the dishes to life were the exceptional sauces. Creamed spinach worked great with the trout, and the sage-gin sauce with leek was the perfect setup to the swordfish fillet.
We weren’t planning for dessert, but the waiter talked us into it. The “Mozartkugel”, or whatever they call it on the menu, is a beautifully presented combination of chocolate on chocolate. The pear and almond strudel was also done brilliantly. Everything was then capped off with a shot of espresso, served in an adorable cup.
Back when my mother reviewed this restaurant, she considered it one of the more romantic spots in the city. After a wonderful dinner, and lovely deserts, I completely agree. While my quest to understand Austrian cooking remains unfulfilled, my understanding of my own tastes told me that this was damn good.
What does this rating mean?