When I was new in this country, I remember thinking how challenging it would be to be a vegetarian here. Meat was simply everywhere. It found its way to the table at each meal and took its position front and center on every restaurant’s menu. Though not a vegetarian, I am rather picky with meat and eat it sparingly. It was from this premise that I searched for and found Wrenkh, a restaurant in the first that is well-known for its vegetarian dishes. As I do every time a new place catches my eye or tempts my palate, I put it on my list.
Then years went by. Es passiert. The list got longer and longer, and I never made the time to head to this place that sounded oh so lovely and in need of a visit. So many other places in town on my list have seen a similar fate. The chance to finally visit Wrenkh, however, came last week when I met up with a group of Viennese food bloggers for an evening of three courses, crisp wine, and the click of many a camera.
Blogging about food in Vienna is a relatively new phenomenon. This restaurant? Not. Opened in the 80s as Vienna’s First Vegetarian Restaurant by Christian Wrenkh and run today by his sons Karl and Leo, it is a fixture in first district dining and loved by many. While it now does serve meat, Wrenkh’s beginnings are reflected in its menu, with meatless dishes at the forefront. Aside from this facet and its often-changing menu (to reflect seasonal availability natürlich), it is also well known for its Kochsalon, a classroom kitchen in the back with an adjacent dining room where groups can take a cooking class and enjoy their creations together.
While I wasn’t there to partake in the Kochsalon and rather ate in the restaurant, it is precisely the concept of the former that I find so appealing and ultimately, what would draw me back. A cooking instructor guiding me as I peel, chop, sauté, stir, pour and perfect my craft? All in the company of the freshest ingredients and a few good friends? It’s a date. And if the creations cooked in the Kochsalon are anything along the lines of what we were served last week, I’d be all the more enticed to go. Though some of these dishes didn’t deliver like I’d hoped they would, I still left Wrenkh satisfied knowing I’d dined at a place with such an adherence to seasonal ingredients, the creativity to put things together I’d never imagined would pair so well, and a chocolate cake I am still swooning over. Shall we begin?
We started off with a Gazpacho. Mild in taste but refreshing on a hot summer’s night.
Part two of the appetizer was this ’Steirischer Glückssalat’. (A Styrian ‘Luck Salad’.) Aside from the dessert, this was probably my favorite part of the meal. Lettuce with thyme quinoa and pumpkin seed oil (ergo the Styrian moniker), topped with crispy smoked tofu. Pumpkin seed oil is a staple in my home since it more or less runs through the veins of all Styrians, one of whom happens to be my better half. But to pair it with smoked tofu, which has such a pungent taste? I’d never have thought to do so. Let me tell you—I will now always think to do so. This was incredible; I’d have happily had it in a larger portion as the main course.
But alas a main was already planned. Chanterelle Curried Quinoa and Char Fish. A bold mix of flavors for sure, but something went a bit awry here with an overpowering curry and a rather chewy fish. Still, beautifully presented. A for Effort.
Onward and upward to the dessert, the cake of which was just beyond. Gooey on the inside, crisp on the outside with a chocolate crust. I didn’t even bother dipping into the Apple-Ginger Compote or Berry Confit with which it came. This needed to be enjoyed for what it was with no distractions–chocolate perfection.
All in all, a lovely evening with lively company in a restaurant with a fabulous concept.
Next time, I’m bringing my apron.