I’m a big fan of Wallse, the Michelin-starred restaurant by Austrian Chef Kurt Gutenbrunner in Tribeca. Although I admittedly am not too familiar with what constitutes as Austrian flavors, the food tasted different enough from French and Italian fare to make it memorable and exciting. One dish that I’m particularly fond of is the beet terrine with horseradish mousse, which tastes just as it looks, completely unique (sadly no longer on the menu at Wallse).
During the Fall, I heard word about a new restaurant by Kurt Gutenbrunner, to be located in the Swarovski store in Soho. At first I was skeptical about the concept. Aside from the fact that both the chef and crystal store originated from Austria, I did not see how a cafe can be added to a restaurant space as an afterthought. How does one make room for a kitchen in a retail boutique? However I did see pictures of my favorite beet salad, and some delicious looking passion fruit dessert, two dishes I figure was worth venturing out to Soho for.
As it turns out, a kitchen already exists on the premise. The Swarovski Crystalized Store concept is one that merges shopping with casual light fare, equipped with a bar, a small dining area, and a lounge downstairs. What Chef Gutenbrunner did was simply to take over the existing facility, and give the food a makeover.
The menu and drink list were both extremely simple, featuring many toned down versions of favorites found at other KG-NY restaurants. The beautifully prepared desserts are displayed under a refrigerated glass case near the bar, much like the jewelry in the crystal store.
Just as the menu reads like an abridged version of Wallse, the presentation of the dishes are also made simple. The beet terrine, while still capturing the essence of what made it a memorable, cuts out many of the fancy plating elements. The crabmeat with marinated fennel packed abundant flavor, but was a tad on the salty side. The caesar salad is a massive plate of greens, its sheer size dwarfing other appetizers.
The entrees are significantly more elegant in presentation. The monk fish medallions are prepared very lightly, and is paired with savory polenta and wine reduced sweet figs. Scottish salmon is perhaps not as inspired as the monk fish, but the Riesling sauce is a nice nod to the Austrian wine country. The Fettuccini with ham and a creamy white sauce was a good solid pasta dish, though there’s little more I can say about it.
Dessert is definitely where the cafe shines, and for many diners stopping in following a shopping excursion in Soho, the perfect afternoon snack. The coconut dacquoise, a creamy, sensuously soft cake filled with passion fruit mousse is among the best dessert I’ve had anywhere. The Mozartkugel, a chocolate sphere with a creamy pistachio center makes a solo appearance at Cafe Kristall (no other goodies on the side like the Wallse version), but then again, it’s one fine piece of chocolate dessert.
The restaurant is currently open each day till 9PM, at which time the Swarovski store will force the restaurant to close. This is quite a shame, considering the full bar and beautiful event space in the basement. Management told me a partition is being installed, hopefully it’ll happen soon.
Next time you find yourself shopping at Soho, stop in for lunch, or have an early dinner at this mini-Wallse. Whether it’s a full meal, a quick snack, or just coffee and dessert, Cafe Kristall shines.
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Inside the Swarovski Crystallized Boutique, across the street from Bloomingdale.
499 Broadway, New York NY 10012