The Emperor’s New Food
It was getting dark, as I met my friend Selma for dinner. We were both savagely hungry and needed some down time after a busy day.
Looking on the internet for an interesting new place to have dinner, we came across an interesting Chinese restaurant with an intriguingly pompous name: zum Kaiserlichen Thron. The restaurant promised food from the Sechuan region of China with menus you can pre-order online at the same time as ordering a table plus two internationally acclaimed chefs, Zhang Guozhu and Deng Caizhu.
This closed the deal for us and we started examining the Menu. The variety instantly pleased us, the prices range from 22 to 100 Euro per person. After much debate we settled for the brown menu, priced at 30 Euro.
We turned off Mariahilferstrasse into Andreasgasse, and walked up to the Hofmobiliendepot. The exhibit on Italian Design was brightly advertised, but our priority was getting some food, quickly.
As we entered the place we were surprised how light it was. White, orange and light brown were the dominating colours. There was a pleasant lack of ornament that Chinese restaurants are usually plastered with. The interior was modern, without seeming cold and impersonal.
We entered and sat down. Selma recommended a white wine she recognised from the wine list, and we were ready to be fed. The first course, the cold starter, was served on a large plate that the speedy waitresses placed carefully in front of us. It consisted of Chicken slices with Sichuan spices and chilli oil, cuttlefish in ginger juice, thinly shredded beef with chilli and Sichuan pepper, cucumber with garlic, sweet and sour pickled daikon and carrots, and pickled vegetables. An interesting mix of flavours, spicy as well as sweet.
The cuttlefish in ginger proved to be the most interesting as well as most difficult to eat, chopsticks don’t provide enough grip for this kind of slippery dish. The sweet ginger in combination with the spicy pickled vegetables was exquisite, and will definitely be integrated into my own cooking.
The next course was cold noodles with soy sprouts, chilli oil, garlic and sesame paste. The chilli oil was dominated this dish making it too spicy for Selma. I was pleased with the oil and finished the dish without being discouraged by the spice.
The chicken soup with bamboo mushrooms swiftly followed the noodles. I thought that the soup tasted bland. However it had the effect on neutralizing our taste buds, which were already heavily burdened with the spicy starters.
Now it was time for the main course: Camphor and tea-smoked duck served with lotus-leaf buns and spring onions as well as roasted lamb chops with cumin and chilli, in Yuxiang sauce, roasted string beans with Sichuan spices.
This combination did not fail to disappoint. The duck was juicy, with a crunchy crust and went very well with the onions, sauce and roasted string beans. The soft white bread was very interesting as it is rarely served at Chinese restaurants, and provided a base onto which the duck could be combined with sauce and onions. The lamb came as one piece, a chop with the bone covered in aluminium foil, so you could eat it with your fingers. The spicy sauce went well with the rice that was served on the side.
After all that variety of dishes, we were surprised not to feel overly full. We felt active and kept talking until the dessert was served. It was an almond milk pudding, floating in a sort of fruit kompot. It was an appropriate ending to the menu as it had substance, without being heavy.
The service was top-notch, fast without being intrusive. Even the guests who did not pre-order were served almost as quickly as we were. We finished a fine meal, called over the waiter and paid the bill.
Then, just as we were about to leave, both Selma’s and my phones started to ring. We hurried outside and went on with our busy days.
Zum Kaiserlichen Thron
Hofmobiliendepot, 7., Wien, Andreasgasse 7
Tel./Fax: (01) 526 44 12
Restaurant: Tuesday through Sunday.
11.30 – 14.30 and 18.00 – 23.00