I had excellent cuisine served to me as hors d'oeuvres at Bouley and Mario Lohninger's book launch party at the Danube recently.
This was the second time in recent times I have sampled the cuisine at the Danube, and it leaves me interested in sampling more (a very good sign, given my current gastronomic discontent with matters in the US). I used to really like going to the old Bouley, but Bouley Bakery and the new Bouley both did not reach the former standards, I believe. Now, I am wondering whether the Danube might offer some promise that is worthy of my investigation.
The book is "East of Paris: The New Cuisines of Austria and the Danube". The attempt is to position the book as a sort of Nouvelle Cuisine-type exploration of Austrian cuisine (including flavors of Hungary, Germany and the Czech Republic, and also certain signature dishes of Bouley).
The drinks I had included sparkling wine; a passionfruit martini and a glass of red. Both drinks and cuisine were offered in very generous quantities.
The hors d'oeuvres were brought on trays, and the temperature of many of the hot items remained correct. Very high level catering of the party, with very high quality food even relative to sit-down meals in the US. The hors d'oeuvres (some of which are from the Danube's regular menu) included (except for first couple, no precise names):
-- Crisp Portuguese sardine, with the crisp referring to a nicely, lightly deep-fried (likely), thin savory, undulating wafer that encircled the sardine. Saltiness was nicely controlled, and I really enjoyed this. The crisp might have been a delicate potato item, but I am unsure.
-- Roasted sweet organic beets, horseradish fromage blanc and toasted pumpkin seed dressing. This was nice too. A long rectangular presentation, with beets on the two ends and fromage blanc in a quasi-solid form in the middle. The key was the toasted pumpkin seed, which almost brought to mind sesame.
-- Steamed [halibut/yellowtail?] enclosed in a fresh parsley cloud, champagne and oscetra caviar sauce. A wonderful green sauce, the way I remember the best meals at old Bouley. Fish was ever-so-slightly overcooked, but still excellent by US standards for restaurants. Oscetra sat on top of the fish piece, in a medium-consistency, neutral (nicely) champagne emulsion.
-- Oxtail consommé with bone marrow dumpling. A very pure oxtail taste in the consomme, with a cute little round bone marrow dumpling that was surprisingly neutral. A nice, controlled dumpling to not detract from the purity of the oxtail tastes. Fairly traditional tastes. Served in a tiny teacup about the size of an expresso cup.
-- Oxtail, meltingly good and intense, inside a perfectly fried spring roll wrapper (very thin) that resembled a lengthy bonbon wrapper. This was my favorite hors d'oeuvre of the evening.
-- Kumamoto oyster with green apple, served in a little rounded shotglass.
-- Gently Heated salmon. This dish was very good (slow poached or sous vide). A little bit of green sauce, with nice crumbled, soft potato elements. I could have eaten ten of these. Supple texture; flavorful.
-- Cured salmon served on a long spoon, with sour-cream-like tastes. Nice, particularly in contrast to the gently heated salmon, with respect to texture.
-- Scallops with a red-colored sauce. This was so-so, but I am extremely demanding with respect to scallops and rarely order them at non-sushi places in the US.
-- Little chicken bits, with bone in. These were more sophisticated tasting than they sound.
-- Boiled beef, served in a little square (was it a derivative of boeuf a la ficelle, with respect to cooking method?), with sour cream sensations.
-- Venison, with small berries that might have been huckleberries or lingenberries. Dark, appropriately rare. Nice.
-- Duck with sauerkraut and pomegranate (sp) seeds. This was surprisingly good, given that I generally dislike sauerkraut. An overall effect almost approaching certain Asian sweet-and-sour flavors, but more refined.
-- Oyster mushrooms with beetroot-flavored tagliatelle-like noodles. This was delicious as well. The oyster mushrooms were large and meaty, and their pairing with beetroot-ladden tagliatelle was both visually and gustatively enhancing of the mushrooms.
-- Austrian crepes with Concord grape sorbet.
-- Passionfruit ice cream and inverted chocolate cone. I only tasted this for the passionfruit ice cream.
-- Mix of egg white/cream with marinated strawberries and raspberry flavors.
-- Walnut cake