About a month before I left for my trip, I saw an article online that listed this year's "World's 50 Best Restaurants." I immediately started plotting how I would go to them all, feeling a random sense of pride that three NYC restaurants made the list, when I noticed that the number 9 restaurant was located in none other than Vienna, where I would soon be visiting. My mom and I aren't much to splurge on needless trinkets and silly souvenirs, but we tend to live much more by the mentality that experiences are the best things to use your money towards. We also both love fine dining and I'm more than a little obsessed with food, most particularly really really good food. So I clicked through to the website and (not realizing there was an English version of the site until later) fumbled through the German to make us a reservation. I was thrilled to see what experience lay ahead to consider a restaurant within the top 10 in the world -- and let me tell you, I was not disappointed.
Restaurant Steirereck is located within Vienna's Stadtpark, so we Ubered over then walked through the park to the sleek modern restaurant, the golden light of sunset making everything look even prettier. We were seated promptly and immediately offered an aperitif (a Kir Royale for me, thank you). The menu options were between an à la carte selection or a tasting menu of 6 or 7 courses. My mom and I both selected the 6 courses with wine pairings (a half a glass of wine with each course, meant to complement each dish). Now if you've never had a tasting menu before, it essentially goes that you get many courses of smaller portioned dishes, each morsel carefully crafted by the chef to pack in as much flavor as possible in a small bite. It's simply amazing and easily one of the best experiences in life. At Steirereck, they offered two choices for each course, though sometimes you will have more choices per course and sometimes you will have no choice. Even before the first dish arrived, we were given a few bites meant to present the variety that encompasses Viennese cuisine. Did you know that Viennese Cuisine is the only cuisine in the world named after a city? Restaurant Steirereck encompassed the unique and varied flavors used throughout Viennese cuisine, using local and seasonal ingredients with modern twists. It was a fun game to guess some of the ingredients in each dish we chose, but thankfully we were given little description cards with each so we knew what we were eating:
First Course: Young Beetroots & Wild Lettuce with Chia and Eucalyptus
Second Course: Summer Squash with Sweet Potato, Tomato, Almonds, and Lavender
Third Course: Alpine Salmon with Chanterelles, Courgette, Peach, & Corriander
Fourth Course: 'Rosa Bianca' Aubergine with Cabbage, Peanut, and Bergamont
Fifth Course: Cheese selection
Sixth Course: Strawberries with Fennelpollen, Pericon, & Vanilla
In addition to the courses we'd ordered, there were various carts being pushed around while we ate, including my all-time favorite: the bread cart. The bread cart must have featured 40 different types of bread and as the waiter listed them off in a flurry I felt my enthusiasm growing. I mean what kind of heaven offers 40+ types of bread for your enjoyment?! I tried 8 different types of bread that night (I mean, they didn't say there was a limit, so why not) but my favorite was the lavender sourdough with sweet butter. There was also a cheese cart for the cheese course, a liquor cart from which my mom and I both tried schnapps (raspberry for me, actually not awful), and a special dessert cart where we could choose from a number of traditional Austrian specialties. Keeping in mind that each course came with wine, plus the aperitif, plus the schnapps... By the end of the meal we were both pretty buzzed and feeling great. The dinner lasted five hours total -- five hours of nonstop eating and drinking because there was never much time for a pause. When one dish was cleared, the next was being brought out, and the next glass of wine was being poured. Yet we didn't feel overstuffed, the portions were all very manageable, and it didn't feel like five hours in the least because there was always something new for us to try. Overall it was easily one of the best meals and best experiences I've ever had and I think it is fully justified to hold its spot as the 9th best restaurant in the world.
P.S. Please excuse some of the bad photo quality -- the lighting was very dim when photographing the food