Monday, February 7, 2011

Southern flavors

The theme remains food, after all Vienna has some good eateries to keep you well nourished after hours of walking and sightseeing.
However, as the temperatures defy this winter season, we attempt to take things a bit more south too. The first real sunshine of this year conjures up images of Mediterranean sights and flavors.
But if a trip to Spain or Greece is just not part of your itinerary now, you can at least make do with Greek cuisine; and some of the best Greek cuisine can be had at Irodion, in Vienna's third district.
I wish I could illustrate this post with some pretty pictures of the food they serve and the somewhat tacky decor, but I will have to cheat a little and use pictures from my last Greece vacation. I was much too busy devouring the food and just never managed to snatch a picture before it was all gone.

According to a Greek friend, at Irodion they serve the best Greek food in Vienna and I will have to second his opinion. It is true. This was absolutely the best Greek food I have had in Vienna - or Austria for that matter. Dishes are well prepared and presented, and quite authentic. 
The restaurant itself is very spacious and also suited for large parties and gatherings. The smoking section is small and separated from the main non-smoking area, so you won't be bothered by fumes.
Prices are mid range, but there are some excellent lunch specials.
But enough praise and talk, you should just make up your own mind ;)

Landstraßer Hauptstraße 71
1030 Vienna
phone: 01 710 24 54

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Sushi fest continued

Unkai - Yet another post about sushi? You might ask yourself if this is indeed a blog about Vienna. But I assure you it is, and the beauty of Vienna is it comes with a bit of a cosmopolitan air. Just think of Naschmarkt, which is a mini world of sensory and cultural abundance in its own right. And then there is sushi. Viennese have a penchant for foreign cuisine and despite its geographic drawbacks as a landlocked place, Vienna does boast a handful of "haute" sushi eateries. The epitome of which is reputed to be Unkai, the famous Japanese restaurant on the top floor of the prestigious Ana Grand Hotel.
Upon entering the restaurant floor, the interior design vies with the restaurant's view for diners' attention, but the winner remains the food nonetheless.

At 30€ per person the sushi brunch is not exactly budget fare, but if you arrive starved (for sushi and maki), you will have the time of your life, sampling your way through various standard and not so standard types of fish, scallops and other seafood beautifully assembled and presented. In addition to the all-you-can-eat sushi and maki, the brunch comes with a delicious miso soup (one of the best I have ever had), a small appetizer and a cup of green tea.
The service is superb, as is the quality and assortment of sushi and maki.
Although this may be more of an occasional treat, sushi brunch at Unkai is definitely worth your money.
Kärntner Ring 9
1010 Vienna
phone: 01 515 80 - 9110

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Best of sushi

Best sushi in Vienna

En: One of the best places in the city for fresh, top quality sushi. The food is authentic and carefully prepared and especially the lunch deals are a great value. I also highly recommend the spicy ginger tea.
The restaurant is small and popular and reservations are recommended.
Werdetorgasse 8, 1010 Vienna, phone: 01 532 44 90, Mo-Sat 11:30 am - 2:30 pm, 5:30 pm - 10:30 pm

Kojiro: This sushi restaurant is so small that you might miss it, even after reading my review on here. But behind its unassuming exterior rests the freshest and most authentic sushi you will ever taste outside of Japan (and trust me on this, as I have eaten good sushi in Japan) and in a landlocked place like Vienna. The fish will melt away all doubts you ever had when you first entered this small hole-in-a-wall furnished with only a few counters and bar stools. As an added perk, the friendly owners offer complimentary green tea and let you refill your cup even more than once. Situated just across the street from Naschmarkt and around the corner from Cha No Ma, this tiny eatery is in a convenient location, but even a two-hour commute is well worth the trip to Kojiro. Sushi specials are reasonably priced and come in sizes small, medium and large. To up your chances of securing counter space and a seat, it's best to come around 2pm after the post-noon rush.
Rechte Wienzeile 9, phone: 01 586 62 33

Vienna's tropical secret

Palmenhaus - In keeping with the theme of fine dining I recently revisited a summertime favorite of mine. This resto/bar/café with a view of the Burggarten draws a large crowd when the days get warmer, but I have now discovered its indoor charms too.

Imagine sipping a glass of wine selected from the epic wine list, all the while being surrounded by palm trees. Ok this may seem a bit preposterous in a place like Vienna, where you are more likely to find yourself drinking hot gluhwein against a backdrop of winter wonderland these days. But with a little imagination, you could make yourself believe you have just stepped into a lush tropical locale.
Beckoning with its befitting name, the Palmenhaus offers artfully composed dishes that will leave both an impression on your palate and your other senses.
I tried the seasonally inspired pumpkin ragout, which was as divine as it promised to be, and topped it off with some delicious chestnut mousse.

Portions are generous without being overwhelming and the verdant setting evokes dreams of remote island getaways. The decor is tasteful without distracting from the dining experience.
To round out your tropical escape, you could also explore the Schmetterlingshaus (butterfly house) next door, where colorful butterflies fly around in a balmy indoor environment flanked by lush vegetation.
Burggarten 1, 1010 Vienna,  01 533 10 33

Sunday, September 5, 2010

La Dolce Vita

Every time I eat here, I could swear the portions get bigger and the food gets better. Not a bad review for a restaurant, so what more can I add?
How about great, authentic and yet originally orchestrated Italian food, charming and friendly waiters who will be happy to teach you the basics of Italian, all the while you indulge in your heavenly pasta, perhaps a glass of wine and if you still have room their homemade desserts.
Needless to say, all of the above is simply divine.
The place is quite popular, even on week days, and parties of more than two are advised to reserve ahead. 
Its location, just steps away from MuseumsQuartier is a great plus, especially if you want to head out for drinks later on. The place stays open late, and food is served until midnight.
The only downside is, they do not accept credit cards, so make sure to bring enough cash.
I Ragazzi
Burggasse 6-8
1070 Vienna
Phone: 01 522 63 25

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A fusion of flavors

Livingstone- After exploring cheap eateries where quantity still prevails even if quality can be had as well, it is time to turn the page and take a closer look at fine dining.
Vienna boasts some excellent choices even for the most choosy gourmet.
It's been a while since I ate here, but the freshness and flavor of the carefully composed dishes still tickles my palate when I think back.
Dishes tend to be more fusion than anything else, and I am not sure how much the resto really lives up to its self-proclaimed Californian label. But if you think fusion and a mix of flavors is typical for the region, then Californian fits as well as any other label.
What stood out aside from the intricate presentation was the freshness of the food; the salad was not one bit wilted or drenched in vinegar (the latter can be an annoying Austrian habit I found). Instead I was greeted by nicely balanced flavors, spiced just right to enhance the taste without being overpowering, against a backdrop of traditional greens mixed with tints of red and yellow.
As main course I opted for an Asian themed pasta dish and was not disappointed again.
Other pluses include the nice decor - in summer the outdoor seating area is quite charming - and the portions which are generously sized for a more upscale place.
The staff was friendly and accommodating, the only downside was that at the time of my visit smoking was allowed outside and this can be a bit of a downer if you happen to sit next to a busy table of smokers. So make sure to reserve accordingly. Diners are an interesting mix, especially on weekdays, when business people, mid-sized groups of friends and couples on a romantic outing sit side by side.
After dinner you can head to Planter's next door to round out a lovely evening at one of the best coktail bars in town.

Zelinkagasse 4
1010 Vienna
Phone: 01 533 33 93
Every day 5 pm to 1:30 am

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Owl's Nest

As a follow-up to the previous post on Austrian wines, I will let you in on a secret named Eulennest (owl's nest) tucked away in a charming backstreet of Vienna's old town.
This quaint wine bar is a local's favorite and owners Florian and Andrea count many regulars among their patrons. Always extending a warm welcome, Florian is happy to recommend a grape variety for every taste, even for the wine savvy. The well selected list of local wines is best paired and enjoyed with Italian-style antipasti or light pasta dishes. Food is however not the main attraction here, but rather the 'side dish' that creates an enjoyable backdrop without taking away from the experience of the wine.
This hidden gem in the heart of Vienna is sure to win you over with its cozy ambience that seeks to rival the warmth that the owners extend towards their guests.

Himmelpfortgasse 13 , 1010 Vienna, Phone: 01 513 53 11 
(and now also in the 4th district at: Operngasse 30, 1040 Vienna, Phone: 01 890 22 72 

Friday, May 14, 2010

It's all about the wine

With a history rivaling that of many other major wine-producing countries and dating as far back as 4000 years, one would think that a wine aficionado such as myself would have been more familiar with the various locally grown grapes and wine varieties available in Austria. I must admit however that I was not by any stretch of the imagination. Perhaps it was because I had become somewhat of a wine snob over the years, dabbling here and there in Chilean, South African and Australian wines, among others, only to return time and again to my beloved Italian, French and Californian favorites. So when I came to Vienna two weeks ago and was called upon to review a number of Austrian wines, I was tickled pink by the prospect. Overall I was pleasantly surprised by the diversity of the wines I encountered. The following reflects a small sampling:

K + K Cuvée 2007 (Mittelburgenland):
I found this combination of Zweigelt and Blaufränkisch grapes to be surprisingly robust, almost excessively so when consumed alone, but when accompanied by some freshly sliced salami and prosciutto, the intense berry undertones are balanced out nicely.

Weingut Stift Göttweig Riesling Silberbichl 2009 (Kremstal):
This particular Riesling features just the right balance of dry fruitiness for my taste. With its subtle, crisp undertones, it can be well paired with prawns, shellfish or a light, cream-based pasta dish.

Lenz Moser Prestige Beerenauslese 2007 (Burgenland):
With its rich flaxen color, this Prädikatswein has been appropriately labeled as "liquid gold". Although I found it to be a bit too saccharine for my personal preference, those who like sweet wines will find this one to be suitable for enjoying with desserts and cheese courses.

Familie Weiss St. Laurent Classic 2009 (Neusiedlersee Burgenland):
Of all the Austrian wines I had the pleasure of tasting, this was by far my overall favorite. Unlike the other St. Laurent varieties I sampled, I found this one to be rich and flavorful on the palate without being overly intrusive. Easily dressed up or down, this wine can be enjoyed by itself as an aperitif or accompanied by an array of antipasti or even a full meal.

Guest post by Julie Draper-Duruz

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Vegetarian's delight

Vegetasia - I recently rediscovered this great little Taiwanese vegetarian/vegan restaurant. Not only is it a glutton's paradise, tempting with an all-you-can-eat lunch buffet for 6.80€, but the place is sleek and stylish. Other pros include:  it is non-smoking, they use no MSG and the staff is super friendly.
Not surprisingly, it's popular for lunch and reserving ahead is not a bad idea. The food is delicious and well presented. In addition to a variety of vegetable dishes, they also serve tofu and soy-based fake meat. The buffet offers such a great selection of starters, soups, salads, noodle, rice and vegetarian dishes, as well as desserts that I never know where to start  - or stop for that matter.
They operate in two locations, although I have only been to the one in the third district.
Vegetasia definitely offers one of the best values for vegetarians in the city.

Ungargasse 57, 1030 Vienna, 01 713 8 33 2
Kaiserstrasse 45, 1070 Vienna, 01 523 10 91

Friday, March 5, 2010

Active Vienna - Get your heart pumping


Badminton -Club Danube: Get your heart pumping and play off some steam while you swing the racket at one of the many Club Danube locations in Vienna. In addition to badminton, tennis and squash courts, Club Danube also features a gym without compulsory membership (unlike many other gyms in Vienna); and if your workout is not enough to get that sweat flowing, take things to the next level and relax in the sauna after the game. 

sportundfun - With three locations in Vienna, these sports centers offer an interesting mix of activities. For a modest fee of 4€ (children pay only 2.50€) you can try your hand at beach volleyball, badminton, ping-pong, basketball, soccer or indoor hockey. The only catch is that you will need to compete for the courts with swarms of teenagers who regularly descend upon the place in droves. Or you can rent courts individually at a slightly higher rate (e.g. 10€/ hour for badminton) and save face.