All I really wanted that balmy evening, however, was to find a good meal. I was starving, though I was not in the mood for your typical, heavy Austrian fare thanks to a traveler’s stomach and the uncomfortable weather.
As luck would have it, I took a rather serpentine route from my hotel to the Haus der Musik that evening, and after passing the Franziskanerplatz in the heart of the Innere Stadt (or central old city), I happened upon a hip-looking restaurant called Artner. I made a mental note, and set off for the Haus der Musik.
After a couple hours learning all about Austria’s most famous composers, my stomach was grumbling in time to the Blue Danube Waltz, and I decided I’d finally earned my nice dinner, so back I went to Artner. The staff was slightly chilly, but I was dressed nicely, so they grudgingly gave me a table for one near the front windows. I took a look around at the white-on-white restaurant with neon purple lighting effects. It all looked rather impersonal in a too-cool way, so I hoped that the emphasis was not all on the décor while the food got short shrift. The bar area looked rather cozy, with a communal table, and a ledge lining the wall where people could congregate and drink, so that was reassuring.
I took a look at the menu and was glad to note that there were choices apart from your typical schnitzel and tafelspitz. I settled on the three-course prix-fixe menu, deciding it would be a good value for 38 euros.
When the waiter came back, I grilled him (so to speak) about the restaurant. Turns out Artner is the second restaurant by that name. The first is a more casual kind of heurigen a little farther out of the city center in the 4th district. The family also owns a winery, and I was able to take a look at their extensive production, as well as their collection of other wines, in the glass-walled cellars that line the stairway down to the subterranean bar and the restrooms. Max Aichinger, who it turns out is rather well known in Austria despite his youth, is the chef.
The menu I chose started with a creamy zucchini soup poured over chopped up squash with olive oil, and a “crispy” tomato chutney. I gobbled the whole thing up, while taking a little more time over the crisp, apricot-y Riesling they brought me to go with it.
For dessert, I got two icy treats: a gooseberry-cream cake, and a scoop of pistachio-thyme ice cream over fresh berries, all served on a slate slab.
The meal was exactly what I wanted to set the gastronomic tone of my trip: seasonal Austrian ingredients in new, interesting, international combinations.
The menu changes with the seasons according to what is available from the farmers’ markets and their meat suppliers, but hopefully some of the other dishes I spied on the menu this July will still be around for my next visit. A sampling of what caught my eye?
Goose liver and eel pâté with granny smith apple sorbet.
Smoked salmon with white truffle oil.
Gazpacho with ahi tuna and mint.
Egg yolk ravioli with nettles in a sauce of Madeira and summer truffles.Coriander trout steamed with leeks and celery in brown butter.
Charcoal-grilled beef with butter potato foam, sour cream and a pistou.
Not only was the restaurant a lucky find in terms of my own personal tastes, but it is also relatively new, so look for “hot tip” mentions of it in my upcoming articles about my trip. I would also highly recommend it to anyone looking for a great meal at a decent price while in Vienna.
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