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03 June 2006

Landhaus Bacher: Behind 2 Stars

2starsLandhaus Bacher, one of Austria's few 2-star Michelin star restaurants, is an exercise in warmth.  The kind hostess, who undoubtedly could tell by my outoftown looks, who I was, greeted me by name as I walked through the door.  The kitchen was abuzz with activity yet one of the servers immediately appeared and offered to serve me something to drink.  After finishing my coffee, I began looking around the restaurant and noticed awards of all kinds, magazine covers decorated with the photo of chef Lisl Wagner-Bacher, and labels of Chateau Petrus from the 1920s.  I gulped and suddenly began to feel as if I was in way over my head.  Hey, I like fine dining, but I don't recall ever being in a 2-star restaurant; waiting for the Chef and owner to sit down for a chat.  However, once the Bachers introduced themselves, I was at ease.  Lisl, who is one of Austria's most famous chefs, was quite down to earth.  She talked about her philosophy of staying true to Austria's culinary heritage, while adding touches from the Mediterranean and Asia.  Lisl was tickled when I asked her if she knew the history of Der Wiener Schnnitzel.  She ran back to the office and xeroxed off an article for me (Turns out Schnitzel was the brainchild of one of Emperor Franz-Josef's field marshals).  Of course Chef Lisl could speak for only a short time before returning to the beehive-like kitchen. 

After Lisl dashed off, Klaus, offered to take me across the street to show me the family/restaurant wine cellar.  The cellar is multiple hundreds of years old and houses about 15,000 bottles of classy vino.  Klaus has a weakness for Bordeaux, so naturally every stellar Chateaux is well-represented in Landhaus Bacher's wine library.  Klaus also showed me his prized bottle of 1875 Chateau d'Yquem (which has now become coffee-brown in color).  As he handled the bottle, I took one giant step back so as not to endanger this old bottle with any potential klutzyness.  Klaus then asked me if I would be interested in seeing the kitchen in action.  Once in the kitchen, I felt as if I was in the middle of a production of Swan Lake.  Servers streamed in and out of the kitchen.  Sous-chefs whisked, chopped and sprinkled.  Everyone seemed to know exactly what they were doing - except for me.  After snapping a few photos, I excused myself and returned to the serenity of the dining room.

Lislcreates In the dining room, I was cared for by no fewer than five servers & sommeliers.  I felt special - even though every other diner in the Landhaus was receiving the same treatment.  I was able to sample several courses-worth of Chef Lisl's creations, including roasted carrots wrapped in phyllo, an asparagus foam soup, seriously succulent beef and a redcurrant yogurt-sorbet hybrid thingy.  The wine, served by Klaus and head sommelier, Andreas, was astounding.  The highlight of my oeno-evening was a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon made by a winery only a few blocks from the restaurant.  I would bet a few bucks that no wine 'expert' would ever guess this wine was from Austria.  It drank like a traditional Bordeaux.  After having heard that only great white wine can be made in this part of Austria, I can say that the Malat winery is one great, big, tasty exception to the rule. 

The best part about this classy eatery is that the prices are sane.  No $100 burgers here.  Just excellent, reasonably-priced food served with warmth and aplomb.  Thank you, Lisl & Klaus.

More photos of the cellar, and in-kitchen action here.
Oh, and don't forget to wear the perfect shirt to the perfect retaurant.

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