We Ate More Than Cakes: Richard Lachmann’s Restaurant Reviews in Vienna and Salzburg
We spent only a week in Austria and therefore could only sample a small slice of what is available in these two cities. Overall, we found that Austrian chefs are not at the forefront of innovation. They seek to either prepare modernized and lighter versions of classic dishes or to combine Austrian themes and ingredients with contemporary approaches developed elsewhere in Europe. Prices were lower than in France, Italy or Spain and on par with Portugal. Austrian wines were very good and amazingly inexpensive even in top restaurants.
Our visit in early June coincided with asparagus season. Restaurants all had special menus with asparagus soup and all offered boiled white asparagus with hollandaise sauce. Some had more interesting dishes using asparagus.
Schwarzes Kamell is a popular restaurant that prepares both traditional and modernized versions of Viennese dishes. Both fish and meat were of high quality. Their asparagus soup had the interesting and delicious addition of lobster roe. Their vitello tonnato was wonderful, but the addition of raw tuna slices along with the veal was a jarring excess.
Graben 30 is skilled with stocks for their soups and the sauces for their precisely cooked very fresh fish and their slow cooked meats.
[Update 4/19: Graben 30 has been replaced at the same address by LAV, a Mediterranean-Japanese fusion restaurant, which we will review on our next trip: http://www.lav-restaurant.com/.]
Tian is the only vegetarian restaurant in Austria with a Michelin star. They are skilled at bringing out the flavor of super-fresh vegetables and herbs and with their combinations of textures ad flavors. They also have a less expensive bistro and run the café at the Kunst Haus.
The Bank Brasserie and Bar is in a beautiful space in a former bank building. The menu is broad with well-prepared Viennese classics and some fish and seafood dishes.
Motto am Fluss is on the river in a space designed to look like a ship. The food is well-prepared Viennese classics.
Carpe Diem served us the best meal we ate in Austria. The restaurant is set in a beautiful space with a design that looks like a fusion of Viennese Secession and Frank Lloyd Wright. The have a wide selection of wine by the glass as well as bottles and offered some superb Austrian wines at amazingly low prices. They are famous for their appetizer of cones- a set of three different meat, fish and fruit tartars/soup (also available in their less expensive downstairs bistro). Main dishes had deeply flavored sauces on interesting combinations of meat or fish with vegetables. They also offer vegetarian dishes. You can order tasting menus or a la carte. Service is friendly and highly professional. Their Michelin star is fully deserved.
Hotel Sacher Salzburg is an elegant hotel with a riverfront setting. The food in the Zirbelzimmer is traditional with some modern touches. All the dishes we tried were well prepared with fine fresh ingredients. https://www.sacher.com/en/hotel-salzburg-en/culinary-en/haubenrestaurant-zirbelzimmer/
Austria is the land of cakes, but we found that the quality was not up to the extremely high level we found in Budapest, Hungary. Nevertheless, we had some excellent pastries.
In Salzburg the popular Café Tomaselli (Alter Markt 9) was mediocre. Far better was Schatz Konditorei (Getreidegasse 3) with delicious multilayer cakes with chocolate or nut creams. The Hotel Sacher is the originator of the now world famous Sacher Torte, and their version had rich chocolate and a moist cake.
In Vienna, Café Central is in a beautiful space, but the pastries are just ok. Their potato soup though was fabulous. The Café Landtmann, across from the Rathaus (Universitatsring 4) is very good. I loved their marzipan potato, a classic confection of chocolate cream inside white cake surrounded by a layer of marzipan dusted with coca powder to make it look like a potato. Other pastries also were very good, and their goulash is excellent.