‘Salut’ to the Senses
At the sign of the cock: a family flourish of French cuisine
I raised my glass from the elegantly draped table, the subtle colour contrasting with the brown benches and proposed a toast to my host, Chef de cuisine and owner of the restaurant Salut, Florian Cmyral. This cosy French restaurant is marked by a cast-iron rooster mounted over the door on Wildpretmarkt in Vienna’s 1st District.
Salut is an invitation to the senses; warmth and flair follow the glimmer of burning candles to each of the small, dimly lit rooms engrossing them with laughter and music.
Cmyral explores all the stimulating inticacies of his restuarant when composing delightful dishes like a Grand-Marnier soufflé joined harmoniously with chocolate sorbet.
His creativity is fuelled by his daily "sniffing," testing flavours and experimenting, he explains; altogether a subtle and fragile process guided by intuition. This is essential in finding out which flavours match and which don’t, leading to unusual "combinations de gout" like roast pork spiced with cinnamon. What others call "non-sense," I call innovative, and Cmyral simply enjoys.
And where do the stimuli come from, I wondered, waiting for my favourite culinary pleasure of Cmyral’s repertory, the lamb in a crusty pistachio sheath?
"The markets, the delicatessen stores and exotic creations I encounter nationally and internationally are my source of inspiration," the chef replied. Whatever fragrance fills the air is absorbed and playfully juggled with by nose and tongue. For him, a cook’s search for Lucullian novelties resembles an archaeologist’s quest for long-hidden ancient treasures. He rummages about in ancient recipes, some of which have survived to present day menus; this is beautifully demonstrated in the extraordinarily delicious Rosemary Focaccia (salty pancake seasoned with rosemary) covered with Italian ricotta and rounded off with honey, still frequently – and passionately – consumed in Sardinia.
Florian Cmyral’s special focus, however, is on France and her colonies. This affinity is rooted in his French-Austrian background. His mother is French and his father comes from an Austrian family with origins, like many, in Prague. His parents opened "Salut" in 1974 and ran it until their son took over eight years ago. He trained with his father as a cook and as a manager, and all matters necessary to run a restaurant.
What’s new is Florian Cmyral’s choice to put French cooking into a broader context, integrating its Arabian and Asiatic influences. He credits changes that have taken place in French cuisine in general in the last couple of years, absorbing exotic tastes – Vietnamese ginger or Moroccan Agan-oil – from France’s former colonies. This extract of a Moroccan tree with its nut-related flavour nestles in a roast pork with caraway, mandarins and fennel –surprising and flattering to the senses.
This willingness to embrace the new and the unorthodox, of course, takes courage, of which Florian Cmyral seems to have plenty.
"No risk, no fun," he says, amused at the question. "Without risk, you go stale and stop moving forward. Surely, you fail a few times, but you also win." He also doesn’t shy away from leaving home and spreading his ideas in other parts of Austria.
He fled from the Euro 2008, the European championships in soccer this June,for example, and offered his festival of spices at the Weinresidenz Sonnleitner near Krems in the vineyards of the Wachau. And further excursions of yet unknown destiny are planned for the future.
His fondness of un-travelled ground is also reflected in his menu, which comprises gourmet entries like Tatar of veal and spiny lobster as well as marinated mussels, happily united with avocado-apple salad and refined with vanilla-oil. All depend on high-quality fresh ingredients retrieved from carefully selected groceries and merchants.
Tue-Sat from 5pm
Tel: 01/533 13 22
Mobile: 0699 1 952 96 46