Back in god’s own country: The Burgenland. My homecountry not only offers beautiful nature, great wine and beautiful people (hmhm) but also amazing kitchen: One of Austria’s most traditional high end restaurants is situated in Schützen, a small town near the big city of Eisenstadt. After some years, I visited The Taubenkobel again.
Walter Eselböck is a pioneer of gourmet cuisine in Austria, practising regional and seasonal kitchen for many years. His family has spread round the Neusiedlersee and built a solid empire of gastronomical enterprises, with a lot of love for details. The base of all this is „The Taubenkobel“ (german for dovecote), now run by Eselböck and his son in law Alain Weissgerber. After some fuss about copying another restaurant’s concept, I was very thrilled how it would end on the plate. And to anticipate: It ended well.
The building itself is a lovely, renovated old house, in the typical architecture of Burgenland (slim, long houses with two wings and a garden in between). Beautifully lit, you can also glimpse into the kitchen from the outside:
The inside is very nice too, tough the structure of the building (long, long) is not so optimal for a restaurant. Anyway – the garden is a real jewel, if you go there in spring or summer it is the best time. The personnel was very friendly, relaxed but attentive and looks like from an early science fiction movie, wearing tight jeans, grey uniform shirts and converse shoes.
We were welcomed by the very friendly (and cute) patron Mrs. Eselböck-Weissgerber, who brought us our table. The menue is fixed, you can only choose between 2 hours (108€) and 2.5 hours (128€). An extra piece of paper explains their philosophy (mmmm….rather tiring to be honest, why does everybody have to have a philosophy these days ?). The couvert is 6€, but offers a lot – because „the portions here are not really that big“ as Mrs. Eselböck smilingly added.
The offer different kinds of drink pairings: A „normal“ wine pairing (69€), a „special“ wine pairing (99€) and a non alcoholic one (32€). The drinks are presented by a very friendly, ressourceful and talkative sommelier. I chose the „special“ pairing with a focus on organic and orange wines…well, more about that later. I was givan a wine glass – „my wine glass for the evening, made by a special winemaker from Slovenia“ that I kept for alle the different wines. They also serve the food on pottery made by an artist nearby.
But no to the acutally important thing: The food.
The first amouse bouche was patchy: I didn’t like the popcorn (tasted like everywhere else, moreover sweet popcorn is wrong), the croatian pršut was exceptionally good.
The bread was just AMAZING – they make it themselves and it came freshly baked. It was fermented, with leaves in it and instead of water they used red wine: one of the best breads I’ve ever had. The butter was amazing too (normal, caramel-butter (!!!) and mangalitza lard). On the side there was velvet salt from Halstatt and a rather boring but beautiful amaranth cracker.
The last amuse bouche was exceptionally great – a thing layer of sloe-paper covered a small cylinder of raw wild carp fillet. The carp was perfectly fresh with clean taste, a high quality product, and harmonized well with the fruity acidity of the sloe.
Then the first course came (btw: you see me personal glass, you see it ?!!)…the red radicchio was stuffed with baby lamb sweetbread and neck meat, that harmonized very well with the bitterness of the leaf. Around it there was lamb-jus with mustard seeds – the dense sauce was very well pimped with the nutty taste of the seeds, that complemented very well with the radiccio and sweetbread too. A great start !
Real eye candy: Escargots (from the Viennese producer Gugumuck) with fried bone marrow, presented in an empty bone, with parsley cream on top and some escargot caviar. Very intense taste, nice texture contrast (soft escargots, crunchy marrow) – but a lot (really a lot) of garlic, that kind of killed the dish. The caviar was interesting, it tasted a bit like earth – but in the good way.
For this dish, I had very low expectations – but what a surprise! The green, slightly bitter and nutty notes of the black cabbage were intensified by nut splitters. The perfectly confit tench was just great, again picking up the nutty flavors of the vegetables. Those aromas were balanced by thickened butter milk, that added a creamy dimension to the picture and some whey around it. A very complex, yet approachable and wonderful tasting dish!
The gelée as an entrement didn’t fit quite in. Very oily, intense pumpkin seed taste. Not so much mine (with some vanilla ice though….).
Normally the meat courses are always my favorites. This time though, the tench could not be topped. Two different cuts (chin and neck) were presented on a very nice sauce. The chin had way too much shallots on top. The roots were a very nice twist on the dish.
Then we waited for 45 minutes….until the sorbet came. Sorrel sorbet. Well, ok.
A very interesting dessert, thickened milk was combined with a chickweed sauce and chervil on top. Very refreshing and unusual, though not so my thing.
Another dessert option was an apple strudel deconstructed: Very nice biscuit, thick caramel and intense apple pieces. Very nice, but not so much out of the ordinary.
The only thing I was unhappy with was the wine pairing – I’m very open to new experiences and I love unusual wines, but some of the wines were just not my taste, far too much acidity and too much aromas of clay and earth. Sometimes the explanations of the sommelier helped, but not always. I know these wines are rather expensive, but the 99€ would have been better invested otherwise…
After all, it was a very nice evening with high-class kitchen in a very nice and romantic ambiente. The restaurant offers amazing taste experiences, though being sometimes a bit too chichi with all their philosophical pottery, cutlery and the like.