I’ll take lucky over good just about every time I can. On our recent trip to Vienna there was one particular lunch which was a combination of multiple lucky encounters and it was tremendous. Our last day in town saw us dine at the Michelin two star Steirereck almost accidentally. Easily one of the best meals I’ve ever had.
The morning before we left for Europe I was talking to a friend about our upcoming trip and he mentioned a great dinner he had but couldn’t remember the restaurant name. Eventually he did remember and sent me an email with simple instructions, “The fine dining restaurant was called Steirereck and it was seriously terrific – email ahead for a res.” Alas, we were already en route and unsure of our timing so I did not email ahead. The morning of our last day in town, having suffered a bit in dining for trying to avoid schnitzel (seriously, it is everywhere, and that’s not necessarily a good thing), we decided to give Steirereck a try and so I tried to make a reservation as instructed. Fully booked. Oops.
Undeterred we started our day and made our schedule such that we would be in the vicinity of the restaurant for lunch (not all that hard given how compact Vienna is) and we’d try our luck as walk-in guests. I tucked in my shirt, tried to subdue my hair and put on my biggest smile as we walked in the door just after noon and asked if it was possible to have a table for two. The hostess stepped away for a moment and then returned with a smile and escorted us to a table. Big win in many ways.
From there on the afternoon was one spectacular plate after another. Officially it was a four course tasting menu but there were additional snacks and bits which kept up busy for roughly two hours. And every single one was delicious.
Did you know it is possible to “bake” char in hot beeswax? Me, neither, but that’s one of the plates we had at Steirereck (and one they’re rather famous for; lots of photos of such online).
The food kept coming, ranging from a haute Viennese angle on gulash to a barbecued Sturgeon filet which was meaty, moist and divine.
By the time the dessert course rolled around we were getting full but that didn’t stop us from pressing onward. The 4-course menu says either cheese or dessert rather than both. We managed to cheat a bit with one of us ordering a dessert and the other ordering the cheese. There was plenty to share. And the cheese cart had an incredibly broad selection. Simply mention your desired flavors, styles or even regions (Stinky soft from Austria?? No problem!) and a platter soon appears on the table in front of you.
And then, once we thought we were finally done, this display of fruity bites appeared on the table to round out the meal.
As is the case with nearly every restaurant in Vienna there is a “Wiener Schnitzel” on the menu. I’m sure it is fine and probably one of the better implementations of that dish in town. But with so much in the way of creative tastes on offer we avoided it quite purposefully.
Each of the “real” plates is presented with a cue card reminding us what we ordered which was a nice touch. And a fun little souvenir as well.
Lunch was a bit pricey but not at all unreasonable for what was served or the environment in which it happened. It is not often that I suggest going for the high-end dining option over other offerings in a destination but this is absolutely one where I think that’s the smart play. Steirereck is completely worth it.
Though I would suggest getting a reservation rather than trying your luck at the front door. We got lucky but I’m guessing that doesn’t always happen.
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Ate there last year for dinner and it was phenomenal as well. I thought it was actually quite affordable comparably speaking. You would spend a ton more to eat at The Fat Duck, Joel Rubuchon, etc.
We are leaving for Vienna in a week’s time, so I checked out Steirereck’s reservation system. Nothing is available for lunch or dinner until January 7th! Not sure if we’ll try your method of just dropping in and hoping for some luck but thanks for the post.
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