Located in Vienna's Stadtpark, the world's #21 restaurant (and #1 in Vienna) was always going to leave me with high expectations. After a disappointing food experience in the region (ie. Prague), I had some doubts as to just how good this place would be. Suffice to say it was sensational.
The degustation menu gives two options for each course - I let my waiter select what he felt were the better dishes, with the exception of the cheese platter (as I know I can't eat that much on my own).
Part of what makes Steirereck in the top 50 is attentive and particular service. Part of what makes it special is the location. Part of what makes it unique is the small "cheat cards" for each dish which allow you to read them in anticipation and analyse what you are eating, rather than the usual procedure of having the waiter overwhelm you with a paragraph of information which is rarely remembered.
And so to the food; 4 appetisers appeared (radish with powdered rhubarb, basil leaf with morels, raw celery marinated in juice with housemade salted sherbet, a dish of apple and cabbage). All were nice introductions into the meal; the celery was the most unique with a powerful sweetness accompanying the usual raw bitter flavour.
In addition an enormous selection of bread appeared for the choosing. All kinds of white/brown/sourdough with nuts/fruit/herbs for the picking and served with normal butter and sour cream butter. Of particular note, the Loaf with Black Sausage was superlatively sensational - a moist rich buttery bread with flavoursome black sausage running through its texture. One of the best breads of my life - I wanted to buy a loaf to take with me but they politely declined.
Of the set course:
- Schwarzauer Mountain Trout with Melon, Cucumber & Purple Salsify Shoots (amazingly delicate raw trout enhanced by the sweetness of honeydew)
- Green Asparagus with Sheep's Cheese, Hop Shoots and Bergamot (asparagus with a sweet, slightly sour orange flavour)
- Danube Salmon with Broccoli, Black Rice and Camomile (a white-fleshed salmon superbly treated which restored my faith in ordering cooked fish from a restaurant; the side accompaniment had a slightly unpleasant bitter taste)
- Jerusalem Artichoke with Peppers, Red Onion & Duck Offal (duck heart was nice, the stomach and other ingredients unremarkable; a few too many flavours and textures to identify individual quality)
- Barbecued Cap of Alpine Forerib with Beans, Truffle Potatoes & French Sorrel (medium-rare, well seasoned, luscious soft beef with a crispy surface, salty sauce and potato and a citrus tangy sorrel to balance flavours)
- Moro Orange with Rosa Bianca Aubergine, Angelica & Malt (good orange and sorbet, but the puree and celery/orange mix was quite strange)
- Rapeseed Custard with Vanilla, Mango & Toffee Icecream (lovely toffee and salted caramel icecream, maiji leaves juicy and absorbing the mango/passionfruit flavours)
The course was finished with a selection of dried citrus fruit/rinds (much too strong for me) served with different types of chocolates.
All in all a great meal which restored my faith in the ability of food served in the region to be more than meat and potato stews.
Next time I would order the degustation menu again (although the a la carte options look like excellent alternatives) - definitely order both Trout and Salmon dishes, Forerib and the Rapeseed Custard as they were all fantastic dishes. I would swap the Asparagus for the alternative (currently Mushrooms, Cashews) and similarly the Duck dishes (for Duck Breast with Fennel/Prunes/Pistachioes). If you are a cheese person, the selection is well known here (more than 120 types) but otherwise i would omit the Blood Orange dish and get the 6-course degustation instead.