Doves & Decoys
Despite its off-the-beaten-track location in Schützen am Gebirge, Burgenland, Restaurant Taubenkobel is an icon of Austrian gastronomy: serving Pannonian cuisine firmly rooted in the European culinary tradition, chef Alain Weissgerber and his wife, Barbara Eselböck, have received numerous accolades by celebrating their region with fresh and fragrant local ingredients. When Michelin still covered the entire country, Taubenkobel (German for dovecote – there’s one hidden behind the gate) had two Michelin stars. More importantly, Weissgerber holds no less than three coveted Gault & Millau toques.
Schützen is an unassuming village, but the three adjacent buildings that form Taubenko- bel – a shop, guest rooms, a bistro and the restaurant – form a picturesque trio of typical Burgenland one-story houses. The interconnected court-yards are leafy and cozy, with the centerpiece a striking pond with lilies and reeds; in summer, it doubles as a natural pool surrounded by benches in every nook and corner.
True to its name, the first thing that arrived at our table was a small bag of “pigeon food,” toasted corn kernels and sunflower seeds with a pleasing crunch that accompanied our aperitifs wonderfully. 95 percent of the following seven-course menu was made with regional produce, weaving a tapestry describing Weissgerber’s take on local cuisine: light, fresh, creative and brimming with flavor. For instance, tarragon and savory provided little taste explosions in an otherwise subtle dish of crayfish from nearby Lake Neusiedl, dressed in its foam and topped with a wafer-thin slice of coeur de boeuf tomato.
SOARING, NOT FLYING
Still fresh om the oven, Weissgerber’s sourdough bread with five freshly picked herbs demonstrated both his love for the most fundamental form of sustenance and his pas- sion for foraging, a hot trend among modern cooks but something he’s been doing for decades. Served with thistle oil, exquisite cold cuts and irresistible caramelized butter, this mid-meal course – eaten with your hands – emphasized a hallmark of Taubenkobel: a refreshing informality that does not compromise on courteous service and excellent produce.
Weissgerber’s French roots shone through in a bite-sized cheese course of mille-feuille with blue cheese, bacon and chestnut cream and dishes like duck liver frozen and grated on a slightly overcooked (my only point of criticism) artichoke. The main course more than made up for that, bringing an entire meadow of flavors onto the plate: succulent veal with cauliflower braised in hay. Finally, baked quince with rosemary served with two different creams (Jerusalem artichoke and rosemary) alongside quince ice cream made for a deeply satisfying – and low-sugar– finale.
This month, Weissgerber and Eselböck will move to the capital for their third annual popup restaurant for the holiday season. Located in an old train depot, the popup’s name, Lokvogel, is both a play on Lockvogel (decoy) and a nod to the Loks (locomotives) that were once parked there. A huge dove with a Friedenswurst (“peace sausage”) in its beak instead of the usual olive branch will dangle from the ceiling, personifying their Christmas credo of “Es geht um die Wurst” (it’s all about the sausage): It’s time to take action. With nationalism on the rise, Taubenkobel is pleading for tolerance and openness. For a restaurant owned by an Austro-French cou- ple, operated by an international team and sporting “Our Home is Europe” as its philosophy, this isn’t a gratuitous stunt. Part of the proceeds will go to charity.
Hauptstrasse 31-33- Schützen am Gebirge (Austria)
T: +43 2684 2297
Wed-Thu: 18.00 – 22.00h, Fri-Sat: 12.00 – 14.30h and 18.00 – 22.00h, Sun: 12.00 – 21.00h
Chef: Alain Weissgerber
Gault & Millau: 18/20, 3 toques
7-course menu: €138,-
A slightly altered version of this article was earlier published in Metropole – Vienna in English, December 2018 issue no. 33.