Modern Austro-Mediterranean dishes under the benevolent eye of Santa Barbara
Coincidentally, around the corner from restaurant O boufés by Greek Steiermarker Konstantin Filippou, you’ll find the Greek-Catholic church of Santa Barbara. Barbara was a Greek early-Christian saint; her name day is celebrated around this time of the year, depending on the calendar in use, on the 4th or 17th of December. O boufés has no noticeable links to the Greek-Catholic church, but due to Filippou’s background there are various Greek references in the dishes. We visited twice in the last six months, on a hot summer evening last June and just recently on a cold Friday night.
After having lived in Vienna now for almost half a year, first impressions about the local dining scene are starting to solidify into more specific opinions. One of them is that the Austrian cuisine is still relatively traditional. Schnitzels, Tafelspitz and all sorts of Mehlspeisen are still de rigueur in the hundreds of Beisls and Gasthäuser (local eateries). Being firmly rooted in local tradition is a good thing, but for people with a more international palate the Austrian dishes can often be too greasy and heavy. Take the annual hausse of goose preparations, the Martinigansl, part of the Saint Martin’s celebrations. I wrote favorably about Stephan’s Gastwirtschaft last summer and their Gansl was recommended by a hip local website as being one of the best in town. I came home bloated and was still regretting the meal the day after.
A more modern gastronomic approach is however creeping in. A good example was Gut Purbach where we ate creditable, contemporary Topfenknödel and many other goodies. O boufés goes one step further; in a trendy setting – bare grey walls, black ceiling, minimalist light fixtures and black tables brasserie-style closely packed together – it celebrates Mediterranean cuisine with special attention to Greece and a generous dusting of Austria. How were our combined experiences?
At both occasions Greece was present on the menu in the form of prawn saganaki, a dish named after the skillet in which it is made, served with feta and basil. Additionally, there were lamb keftedes (meatballs) last month. But in June I commenced with an unctuous Greek fava (a dippy soup of yellow split peas) with chives and crisply fried bacon – good but not exciting -, while my dining companion went for the fresh summery sardines. Wittily served in the typical square container with remoulade, lemon zest, pickled onion and flavorful fat capers, he utterly enjoyed this Mediterranean classic.
Sardines, remoulade, capers
On our visit last month we started off with tasty Vorarlberger mountain cheese and a more than just beautiful piece of marinated trout (main picture). The fillet was nicely firm and juicy. Other than the menu suggested, it wasn’t accompanied by pickled gurken, but by cauliflower and small chunks of mild white grapefruit that added a perfect splash of acidity.
The bouillabaisse, my main course in November, was the fruit of collaboration with well-known Austrian chef Alexander Mayer. Inspired by the classic dish from Marseille, Mayer served it with stockfish ravioli and ample chunks of haddock and fennel. Very satisfying. I thought it fit very well into the entire menu.
Our expectations were more than met by the other mains we had over the course of our two visits. In June the tone was evidently more Austrian. I had bratwurst with everything senf, that is mustard puree, mustard salad and mustard foam. The quality of the sausage and pungent freshness of the condiments made this über-classic into something memorable. My dining partner reveled in his pulled pork with yoghurt, chanterelles and pickled cucumber. The chanterelle season had just started and they traditionally get hailed in with much ado. Rightly so; it was a fine savoury dish.
Bratwurst and mustard
O boufés is more than just a restaurant. On both occasions the front room, dominated by a big black bar, was a gathering place for those interested in natural wines, which added to the overall atmosphere of the restaurant. There is a good selection of open wines and an even better list of wines by the bottle, not only Austrian, but also French, Spanish and Italian. In June, with temperatures in the higher reaches, we wanted something cool, but our choice of food made us crave red. A chilled red solved the dilemma. From the two they made us try, we chose Claus Preisinger’s funky Puszta Libre! made from two quintessentially Austrian grapes, the Zweigelt and the Sankt Laurent, which also matched the earlier-mentioned sardines surprisingly well. After having thoroughly enjoyed a Pinot Gris from Andreas Gsellmann (Skopik & Lohn) and a Blaufränkisch from Pittnauer (see PP on Insta), the Puszta Libre! once again confirmed that Burgenland, and especially the area around the Neuseidlersee is probably the most exciting wine region in Austria.
Puszta Libre! by Claus Preisinger
O boufés delivers a very good, but casual dining experience that lifts Austrian classics to a higher level and integrates the local, traditional gastronomy with modern Mediterranean creations. Add the exciting wines and generally friendly and adequate (although not always informed) service, and you have a restaurant I wouldn’t mind visiting every week. Walking back home Santa Barbara looked down on us benevolently from her cranny above the main entrance of the church and I wondered: couldn’t Filippou have a go with barley, pomegranate, raisins and anise, the ingredients for the traditional food on this saint’s day, and create another Austro-Mediterranean treat out of it. Sounds more enticing to me than Saint Martin’s gansl.
restaurant O boufés
Dominikanerbastei 17, Vienna (Austria)
T: +43 (0)1 5122 22910
Gault & Millau 2018: 16/20 (2 toques)
Michelin: Bib Gourmand
Three courses à la carte: appr. € 40,-