Wallse

by Susan on January 29, 2008

[Food:4/5]

Head chef Kurt Gutenbrunner was born in Wallse, Austria. When he opened this New York City restaurant with his hometown’s namesake, he hoped to explore new gastronomic territory and local ingredients while revering Austrian culinary traditions. He has masterfully achieved these goals.

Wallse’s extensive menu is comprised of traditional Austrian dishes with modern updates, sophisticated European fare, and “Market” dishes that are based on seasonal ingredients. A welcomed departure from French and Italian cooking, Wallse’s food feels sufficiently adventuresome without being overly daring. There are no great risks taken, but there are also no failures. Everything we sampled was well conceived and expertly prepared. Dishes were visually appealing and complex, but never finicky.

The intimate two-room space is contemporary, but accessible enough to be a neighborhood restaurant. The noise level easily accommodates romantic diners and larger parties. Huge wall murals in blacks, grays and reds (including one of Gutenbrunner himself) decorate the walls while white tablecloths and votives adorn the tables. Service started out a bit sluggish, but improved significantly. Our wine bottles were stowed out of our reach and often neglected by our server, leaving us to ask for refills multiple times throughout the night. In contrast, the timing between courses was impeccably spaced.

Velvety and rich Chestnut Soup was bejeweled with prunes. The brilliant sprinkling of corn kernels added sweet crunch to the buttery and soft Spaetzle with Braised Rabbit. The Lightly Smoked Trout, salty and snugly rolled into a savory Palatschinken was chilled, giving it a pre-prepared-straight-from-the-refrigerator taste. Dense gnocchi and tangy glossed calamari made for an odd combination.

Entrees were generous in size and abundant in flavor. The Roasted Cod’s crispy skin was topped with chanterelle mushrooms. Its bath of ginger carrot sauce provided the ideal consistency for the light and flaky fish. Even better was the Steamed Halibut which arrived in an emerald pool of cucumber and dill sauce. The stark filet surrounded by vibrant, green sauce was stunning and refreshing. Rack of Lamb was divinely accompanied by sweet red cabbage and salty forest mushrooms. As it was not listed on the menu, we were surprised when the lamb also arrived with a side of smooth and creamy potato puree. The Classic Weiner Schnitzel’s traditional bread crumb encasement was puffed and golden brown; a liberal dollop of lingonberry jam, sweet and sumptuous.

When perusing the desserts, we did not know what Salzburger Nockerl was, but thankfully we asked! The meringue-meets-vanilla soufflé confection was one of the most memorable desserts our table had tasted in years. For the Tart, large pieces of juicy pear were slightly glazed and perched atop a light round of simple dough.

Wallse is not one of the trendiest restaurants in town, and that’s exactly how all of its loyal patrons want it. 

Wallse
www.wallserestaurant.com
344 W 11th Street
New York, NY 10014
(212) 252-2300

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