Silvio Nickol, Vienna
December 13, 2011
The restaurants we went to in Vienna were all over a hundred years old, except for Steirereck, which was only forty years old, and Silvio Nickol, which was four months old when we went for dinner on September 15, 2011. The restaurant is in the Palais Coburg, built in the 1840’s in flamboyant wedding cake style. It was renovated in the 1990’s and now houses a very expensive, suites-only hotel. The new décor is super-modern sleek.
The chef, Silvio Nickol, trained under Harald Wohlfahrt, considered by many to be Germany’s best chef. In Nickol’s first position as head chef, at Schloss Velden in Austria, he quickly earned two Michelin stars. It is too soon to know what the guides will think of his current venture, but we were anticipating a lot.
It is somewhat startling to have the evening at the table start with a suggestion of a glass of 2002 Dom Perignon. But we thought we should go along with the spirit of the occasion and accepted. Eventually the meal at Silvio Nickol was only a little more expensive than Steirereck had been two evenings before.
The first appetizer was
Trio of kiwi and gooseberry
Quartet of eggplant
The eggplant flavor came through in varying degrees in these quite elaborate creations, an indication of things to come.
There was no menu or wine list. Everything was ordered by discussion with the helpful and knowledgable young captain. He started by asking how many courses we wanted. We eventually settled on five. Everything was a surprise, but we did get a complete printed menu in English at the end of the evening, from which the course titles below are taken.
We had an long and interesting discussion with the genial, young sommelier, who recommended a bottle of 2006 The wild boys of Club Batonnage for us.
This wine was created as a lark by five Austrian winemakers. It is a high-alcohol blend of very ripe Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Blaufränkisch from the best locations around Rust near the Neusiedler See. After winning the gold medal at the 2003 International Wine Challenge in London, the adventure continued. We found the wine closed and tannic, better for drinking in twenty years.
Bread with sesame and pumpkin seeds arrived.
The first course was
Composition of organic non-force-fed “pristine” forest goose liver
On the left is a mushroom-shaped toasted brioche. The rounds are a goose liver purée that tasted somewhat like foie gras. On top is a goose liver ice cream. The various greens are to establish the idea of a “walk in the woods.” This dish was fun and politically correct, which is not always an easy combination, but a bit disappointing from a culinary point of view.
Creamy polenta with “Onsen” egg and a roundel of summer truffles
This was superb. While it was a pretty presentation, it didn’t have the visual bling bling of the other courses. The creamy polenta was topped with plenty of truffle slices and shards which were surprisingly flavorful for September truffles. Underneath them was a quail egg cooked long and slowly in the Japanese fashion at the sub-boiling temperature of hot springs. This added a truffle-friendly richness to the dish.
Ray Wing “BBQ”
This didn’t work for me at all. The sauce really did taste like a good American barbecue sauce. We were told that the smokiness came from smoking fish bones and using them for the stock. Unfortunately everything was overwhelmed by the excessive cayenne in the sauce. Even if it had been milder, I don’t think that slices of skate wing are enhanced by this kind of flavor. In the back are crispy scallion ends and spiced pumpkin purée in zucchini rounds.
Medallion of spring venison with Maxime potatoes on sauce Rouennaise
The thinly sliced, molded and butter-roasted potatoes were created at the famous Maxim’s de Paris. The venison was very tender, probably cooked sous vide before its elaborate decoration. The rich sauce underneath is made with red wine, veal demi-glace, bone marrow and pureed duck liver. I don’t remember what the concoction on the right was. The whole course was enjoyable, but as ordinary from a culinary point of view as it was out-of-the-ordinary from a decorative point of view.
Passion of olive and breadfoam
This first pre-dessert was made from roasted ryebreadcrumbs, black olives and passion fruit. Nice.
This frothy cucumber sorbet was very good.
Makaron of rhubarb with avocado and verbena
The dessert was a yoghurt and rhubarb macaron; The green flash was avocado and fennel powder. Nice.
With the dessert the sommelier chose for us
1998 Kracher Chardonnay Trockenbeeren Auslese No 2
This very late harvest Chardonnay from, Kracher, Austria’s best known producer of sweet wines, was delicious and somewhat overshadowed the dessert.
We enjoyed an entertaining and relaxing evening. The attention from the staff was particularly good, but I would not award this restaurant any stars for its cuisine.
Silvio Nickol’s website:
To see an informed recent post on Silvio Nickol from an Austrian blogger click here.