Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Zipfer Bierhaus (Salzburg) 12/2016

Salzburg is a sophisticated city with elegant fashionable shops abounding. When we were visiting X'mas markets occupied many of the town squares offering fruit and vegetables,

food especially sausages, cheese

 and chocolates - Mozart balls especially. 
and sausages!

Around University square shop windows display A$30K necklaces. 
Despite this he expectation when entering an historic beer house/restaurant 

is not to get an haute cuisine Austrian dinner but rather a decent beer and a local meal. Zipfer does just that.
It's a big place with smoking and non smoking areas. It is full of a warm  'atmosphere' 
with locals, German and Austrian tourists as well as many from further afield.

Waiters are efficient and offer seating at shared tables where you may find yourself sitting with people speaking any of a myriad of languages. Menus are in German and English so if you order hearts and lungs it should not be by accident. (We didn't)
We had a Viennese soup which is a boullion with beef, vegetables and noodles,

which was warm and satisfyibg. A main of Eisbein, (roast pork) with knodel and sauerkraut.
This was also warm and more satisfying, and a dessert, apple strudel.

which was cold and most satisfying.
Prices are very reasonable. The menu indicates that service is included but I forgot this and asked our waiter who said it was not so he got a double tip.
Comments: A very decent Austrian meal in a local venue.
Score:13.5 /20

Sunday, December 25, 2016

The AmaVenita (Budapest to Amsterdam) 12/2016

The first thing that struck me when it came to eating on the APT river cruise ship AmaVenita was the concentration on hygiene. Hand sanitisers are in front of the lounges and dining room. Tongues are every where and every one is encouraged to use them constantly. 
There are two restaurants, a small, perhaps 32 seat, chef's restaurant endeavouring to serve a higher quality degustation menu and the main restaurant which seats about 160 patrons. All tables, set with white linen, seat a minimum of four.

Breakfast is a choice from the buffet or/and a selection of cooked dishes such as eggs Benedict waffles, minute steak, or whatever. The bread and pastry stand is impressive.
A chef prepares omelettes to your taste.
Lunch and dinner are also a buffet affairs 

with an extensive menu with choices of appetisers, soups, mains and desserts. French fries are always available too.

Dinners are a little more elaborate with more choices.
House white and red wines are freely available as are some basic spirits and a house cocktail. Some better quality drinks are available at very reasonable prices.
Presentation is a strong point.

This soup 

with a strawberry topping looked interesting and tasted excellent. Most tasted good.
Main courses varied in quality but always looked great.
Cheese and biscuits were also always available.

Desserts were also varied and attractively presented with ice cream available if desired.
Occasionally a selection of petit fours appeared

Wait staff were exceptionally keen to please and always seemed pleased to see us! 
Daniel looked after us for most of our meals.
Comments: The food did not always meet the expectations of the presentation and it was extremely difficult to get food cooked anything less than medium rare. Baked fish was almost always dry. Not with standing that dishes displayed considerable imagination, combinations of flavours were varied and consistently matched well.
They do maintain a pretty good standard.
Score: 14.25/20

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Steirerek (Vienna) 12/2016

Steirer, I believe, is a street or place in Vienna and Ek means corner which is where the renowned Steirerek restaurant was until about 10 years ago when it moved, with it's name, to the Stadpark on the edge of the CBD in Vienna.
 Anyway, according to San Pellegrino it is currently, and has been consistently, in the top 50 restaurants in the world. They're always very heavily booked. If you want to eat there reserve your table months ahead.

The place is very elegant with a number of small separated areas with five tables each. In all they seat 120 and serve lunch and dinner. They offer both an a la carte menu and a six or seven course degustation meal with matched wine if desired.
They have on show a lot of products which are for sale. 
there is also a cognac and schnapps trolley and a display of wines they serve.
The open kitchen is a hive of activities witha mass of chefs plating dishes.
A bread trolley comes around with about 15 different varieties of bread from nine bakeries. 
They're are too good, irresistible, could they be better than the dinner?
But before that there are a series of tasty amuse bouche which are small, but not tiny.
This potato construction rests on a bed of pine nuts which were not supposed to be eaten but we enjoyed them too.
 There was also a tartar on a small biscuit.

This leaf wrapped minced chicken was dragged through the seasoning served on a separate wooden bowl

 The last was a mushroom served on a crisp biscuit with radish and a little spicy dressing.

All very attractive with considerable display of technique, display, taste and texture.
We started with a champagne.

followed by the matched wines, most of which I did not really like!
After this we we were served our first course: "Pumpkin in Variety with Yacon, Sesame & Monardo"
This was presented with a little card describing the contents of the dish which was as follows.
Spaghetti pumpkin & nashi pear vegetable
Butternut squash marinated with hot lemon chili and lemon
Preserved pumpkin "Futsu Black"
with sesame oil grilled & monardo vinegar glazed yacon root
Crispy shallots
Pumpkin in succo with monardo & roasted black sesame.
With a further explanation.
Yacon, a relative of sunflower is grown in the Andes for its crisp sweet tasting roots. (From Alfred Scheck/ Lower Austria) and 
"Futsu Black" Originally from Japan this small moschus pumpkin with a riooed surface has a firm consistency. The fruit is orange with a nutty chestnut like flavour. (From Krautwerk/NO)
All this raises a series of thoughts.
Firstly there is no doubt that this system relieves wait staff from the burden of conveying information to patrons in a noisy environment, often in not fully intelligible accents.
Secondly do people really want that information?
Thirdly did they really use all those ingredients, what difference if one of them was left out?
Fourthly, knowing all this can one reproduce anything like the dish presented?
We found the dish attractive and very rich but the pumpkin flavour was very mild. I think I can make a tastier soup with an onion, a carrot, a tomato and a bit of pumpkin in my Thermomix in 20 minutes!
The next dish was Chicoree with salted Physalis, Chestnuts and Sungold.

This time only seven products were mentioned including Tarragon oil. Explanations revealed that Sungold are yellow/orange cherry tomatoes with a tasty sweet sour flavour from Michael Bauer/ Stetton, Lower Austria. and little Buddha Physalis, also known as cape gooseberries have fruits high in pectin and vitamin C,  
from the Wurm family/ Oftering, Upper Austria.
To me it seems extremely unlikely that this family information is of any interest to anyone except  perhaps Herr and Frau Wurm. Never mind it was an excellent dish. I'd have it anytime. With this meal the main problem was the size of the dish - substantial.
This was followed by Crayfish with Eggplant, Coconut, & Schonbrunn Citrus leaves. A dozen ingredients were noted including some cooking instructions.
We were also able to learn that Chupetinho are peppers in the Chinese  Capsicum family with a distinct fruity sour flavour and only mildly spicy and can be eaten whole with its seeds.

This variety of wild celariac has tender fine leaves with a slightly sweet spicy flavour. It comes from the Stiererek garden - not too wild after all! This was another rich and tasty dish with a small slice of crayfish meat. I would have liked more.
Tench, a fish I have never tasted before was offered with Chervil root, apple - peppers and Uhudler,  grape juice cooked red onions. It takes careful preparation to remove the wishbone shaped bones from the tender but firm flesh of the fish. I could not taste the supposed 'nutty' flavour of the fish but with the other eight ingredients well blended a very pleasing dish resulted.

My next course was pheasant with salted lemon, braised onions, chard and ground cherry. Here 16 ingredients were mentioned, several of them twice. Another large serve with a rich pheasant jus. The pheasant was not gamey nor as rich or distinctive as I expected.  

Sandra's aversion to game led her to chose veal liver dumpling with swede, Japanese artichoke and red cabbage. Here a dozen ingredients get a mention. There is then a brief note about crosne, a curious vegetable, which was not mentioned in the ingredients!

My next course was wild hare with parsnip, cardoon and kale.
Another rich dish which I could not finish having eaten so very much. A quality serve.
Now for the cheese!
A substantial cheese trolley does the rounds from which we were invited to choose as many cheeses as we wished.
The finale was a crispy crepe with apple, nutmeg and cherry.
Could not have been better.
Tea is not a simple matter. 
A trolley of herbs comes by so you can choose your flavours.
Water is the added in a glass and finally the lot is poured into a fancy teapot.
Of course they have to have petit fours.
I doubt they expected us to eat two dozen biscuits and sweets but when I asked if we might take them home they refused but offered to sell us a box of biscuits for A$27!!

I asked three times for a menu to take home but although each time I was told yes of course it never arrived.
Service was quick and quite abrupt, a disquieting situation. Whilst each dish was interesting and varied the concentration on including unusual ingredients did not really do anything to add to them. For a seven course meal serves were too large which diminished the pleasure of the later dishes.
Score: 16.5/20