Posted on February 10th, 2012
Hearty Austrian fare combined with an outstanding selection of wines and spirits. Who could ask for more?
Restaurants like Wallsé are part of the patchwork of variety that makes New York (in my humble opinion) truly one of the world’s great cities. At the end of a 3-day conference in NYC, a group of 6 of us headed out for dinner. We’d heard talk of the Spotted Pig – a gastro pub in the Village with a walk-in policy that came highly recommended. Alas, the venue is small and popular and we faced a 2-hour wait. Temperatures were well below zero and none of us were in the mood for aimless wandering, so imagine our delight when we came across an Austrian restaurant two blocks down. The boys in our party were excited by the thought of Wiener Schnitzel and Apfel Strudel; I was cheered by the possibility of some decent schnaps (if only for its warming effects) and was delighted to see several bottles behind the bar as we pushed through the door. As it turns out, this place is a bit of a New York institution, as I found out from several comments within seconds of posting our choice of eatery online.
The menu included a combination of classic Viennese dishes as well as some contemporary interpretations, all presented in a modern and fresh way. We had the scallops with potato, clam and tomato ragout and the Spätzle with braised rabbit and wild mushrooms. Spätzle is a kind of Austrian egg noodle and this dish was superb – light, perfectly seasoned. We followed with Wiener Schnitzels and venison Goulash that were respectively very tasty.
Wallsé has an impressive wine list, composed almost entirely of Austrian wines. We chose a ‘Fass 4’ Grüner Veltliner from the Ott winery in Wagram; I’m a big fan of Grüner but I confess that I haven’t had exposure to a wide variety of producers. This particular bottle was steely, notes of gooseberry, apples and the merest whiff of honey. Choosing a red was more of a challenge as none of us are particularly knowledgeable in this area but luckily all were curious. We chose a Zweigelt – an Austrian grape variety that apparently was: “developed in 1922, at the Federal Institute for Viticulture and Pomology at Klosterneuburg, Austria, by Fritz Zweigelt.” Federal grape development sounds a bit clinical, but I can assure you this bottle was anything but. It was certainly completely unlike wines I’ve tasted from other parts of Europe – the nose was very earthy, vegetal, with gamey undertones, which had me slightly worried. The gamey element dissipated, however, and gave way to a sort of damp forest floor aroma which was most pleasant. There was great acidity and structure to the wine and it played perfect partner to the meaty Goulash stew.
My enjoyment of our meal reached terminal velocity when we were presented with the desserts/digestifs list. Finally, I was going to have my schnaps. Schnaps (from the low German noun ‘to swallow’) is an Austrian or German eau-de-vie distilled from pressed fruit (using a similar technique to producing grappa). Unlike American schnapps, there is no sugar added to these spirits. The most common fruits used are apples, apricots and plums but we also had the choice of cherry, Williams pear, rowanberry, ginger and raspberry. We couldn’t possibly decide so we each picked a different flavour. All were delicious.
344 West 11th Street New York, NY 10014
(212) 352 2300