When I travel I try to dine at places I cannot find at home (Toronto) – accordingly these tend to be more upscale although, if I find somewhere I particularly like that’s more downscale, I’ll certainly mention it.
The undoubted star on this trip was Silvio Nickol (at Palais Cobourg) – it was also the most expensive in absolute terms, but we upgraded our wine selections as their wine list contains some spectacular wines at prices that are very fair (in some cases below US retail prices) considering the wines’ reputation. If you are a wine lover, check out their wine list ahead of time (it’s online) and narrow down your choices – there’s insufficient time to study it at the restaurant. They also offer several wine pairings for the tasting menu (at different price points) and also offer premium by-the-glass selections for each course (e.g. we were offered d’Yquem with the foie gras). With dessert the selection was a 1959 madeira (for €30).
The service was spectacular throughout the meal and the food was excellent, albeit a bit over fussy – lots of tweezers in the kitchen. The food wasn’t particularly Austrian (although there was a nod to it with a tasting portion of goulash soup) – more International, but every course was delicious and clearly seasonal.
Last time we were in Vienna we went to Steirereck (also spectacular) but I’d choose Silvio Nickol over that as the food was more inventive here and the wines (and prices) definitely superior.
We were there over a weekend and Steirereck is closed on those days but, recalling the meal there, we went to their more casual place Meierei, downstairs in the same building. We anticipated a downscale version – what we received was abominable service, repetitive food, and by far the worst meal of our visit. Nothing was downright bad (enough to return it), but 3 of the 5 courses (on the tasting menu) had the same accompaniments. The pacing was bizarre; two courses arrived almost simultaneously, followed by a 40 minute wait for the next course. Two courses were served before the accompanying wine arrived. One glass contained significant sediment. Drinks were brought to our table that were supposed to be at another table. Water glasses were not topped up – and when they were still water was added to a glass containing sparkling water.
Our other ‘top’ meal was at Konstantin Filippou. Would certainly recommend this – but not up to the standard at Silvio Nickol. They had an excellent selection of Krug Champagne by the glass but the techniques used on the plates seemed repetitive. Most dishes contained either foams or cream sauces, which were fine in themselves, but tended to obscure the other ingredients and give a sameness of texture throughout the meal.
We did search for a ‘fine’ Schnitzel, but didn’t track down a pork (is there any other kind?) version that was worth a detour. But, to be fair, we did have a superb chicken schnitzel at a Halal place called Opern Schnitzel (on Operngasse). Freshly cooked to order but sadly the place isn’t air-conditioned.