"I have the simplest tastes. I am simply satisfied with the best." - Oscar Wilde

"I came, I saw, I ate." - Au Gourmand

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Cafe Sabarsky - January 16, 2011r

What makes a grand cuisine? What are the necessary elements – culture, diversity, wealth and therefore leisure, adventurous spirit, tolerance, favorable weather (for availability of ingredients) and, most of all, correct and due appreciation of good food? Culinary talent is an art that must be nurtured and developed by patrons – think the electrifying environment of the Renaissance and the pasta and gelato. However, even when a country has all the elements, a great tradition of food does not necessarily follow: e.g. London, New York and Vienna. This is, of course, a generalization of vast proportions, and there are always exceptions; however, exceptions are not the norm. What is the probability of you walking on the streets of New York and hit a decent restaurant? Incalculably low. Nevertheless, despite the adversities, there are still a few things that lesser cuisines excel – even the Austrian. Despite the glamour of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the intellectual crucible of the late Nineteenth Century – I wonder what Freud would have said about the development of food in his native land – which had built the grand palaces and grew Art Nouveau, the food scene seemed to have stagnated and stopped in cafés. Since my intended trip to Vienna was turned into a trip to the South America, I headed over to Café Sabarsky to lose myself in the bygone era of the Austro-Hungarian tradition.

Wiener Mélange – Espresso with steamed Milk and Foam

Having failed most gloriously the last time by ordering the Kaiser Mélange – Fresh-ground Coffee with Whipped Cream – because my coffee was buried under a snow mountain of whipped cream so that the experience was more of ingesting slightly warmed whipped cream rather than drinking coffee, I opted this time, for the safe latte-sounding concoction. However, the espresso was mere dark brown water with barely a hint of the brew it purported to be.

Kaffee – Coffee with milk on the side

The coffee was advertised as “freshly ground,” therefore, it was even more astonishing for the sheepish and insipid want of taste. It was no wonder then that the whipped cream overwhelmed the coffee in my Kaiser Mélange the last time.

A café serving coffee minus the coffee-ness seems almost like an oxymoron, and it would have been brushed aside if not for its lovingly executed café menu.

Palatschinken mit Räucherforelle & Oberskren – Chilled Smoked Trout Crêpes & Horseradish, Crème Fraîche

The thin and yet sturdy crepe tightly rolled in the delicately smoked trout into an equal-thickness cylinder from head to tow (if there was such a thing for a crepe) – by a pair of deft hands, no doubt. The tender trout was flaky and moist, while the starch of the crepe added substance to the texture. On the other hand, the mache played a vivid side role to the dish – for the conceptions both culinary and picturesque. A few dollops of the fresh cream completed the happy family of trout, crepe and mache on my quick-moving fork.

Bratwurst mit Sauerkraut & Röstkartoffeln – Roasted Sausage with Riesling Sauerkraut, Roasted Potatoes & Dijon

Simple grilled bratwurst literally and figuratively burst open in an outburst of steamy meaty fragrance at the touch of the knife. Chewy and juicy sausage married with the sauerkraut alone would have made the Kaiser – Franz Josef appeared to be a man of simple pleasures – blissfully happy; but when you smeared the pungent Dijon mustard on them both, it would have been a formidable study of sensual symbolism and subconscious desires worth many sessions on Freud’s couch.

Rehrücken* – Chocolate Marzipan Cake with house made Orange Confiture

Deceptively heavy on the appearance but meltingly light on the palate, the chocolate cake was an interesting sensation of density and lightness. First the exterior ganache would melt to coat the marzipan chocolate cake inside, whose initial thickness on the tongue would be warmed to a velvety smoothness by your tongue rolled the piece in enjoyment. The zesty orange confiture stood out against the dark chocolate, and yet it was mindful of the harmony of the whole.

Apfelstrudel* – Apple Strudel

The simple apple strudel disappointed despite the approvingly layered pie crust
: The apples inside lacked the bright acidity or the mellow sweetness. By no means excusable, but somewhat understandable, the failure might have been a one-time irregularity due to the unavailability of good apples. The fair snow-white whipped cream (Magic Mirror, on the wall, who is the fairest one of all? – Shlag) more than appeased other lacks thereof: Fair skin hides seven flaws – Japanese proverb.

* mit Schlag / * with whipped cream

On the dessert menu, an asterisk indicated desserts that would come with the effortlessly light whipped cream. However, when most of the items did indeed come with the customary schlag, wouldn’t the asterisks better be used to indicate what would come without the cream in order not to disappoint the shlag-addicted clientele?

Cafe Sabarsky at Neue Gallerie
Address:  1048 5th Avenue, New York, NY 10028
Phone:  (212) 288-0665

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