Vienna, Austria 

July 2007

Walter Bauer is a small, cozy restaurant with vaulted ceilings near the church of St. Stephen .  Not only has it been written about and blogged about, it was also in too many guidebooks for me to think it would be a good meal.  (We went anyway.)    It was a Monday night.  As we walked in, the only other table that was occupied had just finished their dinner and were on their way out.  Where was everyone?  Soon we had the place and the maitre’d to ourselves.  Luckily, the chef had a sense of humor since cooking under those circumstances (no clients and in the middle of an unexpected heat wave in Vienna ) could cause some kitchens to crumble– not from too much to do but too little to do.

That said the chef sent out an amuse bouche of two slices of leberkäse with some spicy mustard on a paper plate.  A paper plate?  Since this bologna-like meatloaf (with no liver or cheese in sight) is many a German and Austrian laborer’s mid-morning snack with a beer chaser, I thought both the execution and (paper) plating were daring and funny.

We were saturated from drinking beer all day so decided the perfect cocktail to go with the leberkäse would be two Stoli Golds on ice.  The maitre’d obviously liked our decision since he brought us two generous pours for 7.50 euros each. Why do similar drinks in Manhattan cost 200% more?  Maybe it’s the fancy martini glass?

We moved on to a plate of cold veal medallions with warm asparagus in a tangy vinaigrette.  It was delicious.  Then came fried zucchini blossoms (not stuffed the Italian way, heavy with cheese) filled with sautéed vegetables in a light soy sauce. This was getting interesting.  We moved on to a homemade ravioli stuffed with a light apple cheese filling.  When it was described on the menu, I was afraid it would be too sweet but it turned out to be quite savory especially since it was topped with my favorite seafood on this side of the Atlantic – langoustines.

This was turning out to be an awesome meal.  I looked at Lynn ; why was he so happy?  He hates the heat and this heat wave had made him very cranky.  Perhaps it was the next dish?   He dug into a plate of venison with some polenta that was topped with chanterelles in a light cream sauce.

Ok, so we’d already had four courses but decided with a meal this good the cheese plate had to be awesome.  I want to say I remember what it was, but truthfully, I don’t.  I’m sure it was good.  Gluttons that we were after the cheese course, we also split a peach tart (imagine tarte tatin but substitute peaches for the apples) with a dollop of homemade vanilla ice cream.

The chef must have been reluctant for us to leave (perhaps thinking there wouldn’t be anyone else to cook for the rest of the week?) since his final parting gift to us was a raspberry amuse bouche sorbet in a shot glass.

We stumbled out of the restaurant back into the heat wave just as the bells of St. Stephen’s were ringing.  What is it about bells ringing in an old European town that’s just so crushingly romantic?   






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