Going for the Big Fish
When visiting the Borromäus restaurant in the Imperial Riding School Hotel you will experience more than you might imagine
The "Imperial Riding School Hotel"? Funny, it’s more than a mile away from the downtown tourist attraction in Vienna. And it’s not imperial either, but a Renaissance Hotel in an unassuming part of the third district, part of the Marriott chain. So we didn’t really have any expectations when we chose the hotel’s restaurant for our evening meal. With stereotypes of tedious hotel food in the forefront of our minds, we figured this would just be more of the same. But from the moment we were greeted, our expectations disappeared.
The wait staff was a big part of the reason. Despite the fact that Borromäus is a restaurant in a hotel (and therefore really only there for the guests), these men and women were enthusiastic and gracious; they knew their food was good, and they wanted us to know it too.
We were handed our menus – we deemed them "heavy-metal menus" cased in pewter and almost too heavy to hold – and before we could even read them, we were offered a glass of Prosecco each… which we gladly accepted.
Our mission was to eat the Saiblingsdinner, the recommendation from both our waitress and the Manager of the restaurant. Since there were two of us, we decided to order another dish as well; a test to determine whether the entire menu was worthy of its best. We placed our orders, three courses each, and settled in.
Not two minutes after we ordered, the waitress and the chef were at our table inviting us to come pick out a fish. You see, the Saiblingsdinner was a whole freshwater char, a cousin of the trout, and the restaurant kept the fish swimming about in a tank in the main part of the restaurant, right up to the moment they are prepared for your dinner.
"I’ll take that big bastard right there!" said my companion delicately, pointing to the fattest fish in the tank. And so it was. They fished him out and threw him in a bucket; this was as fresh as it gets. Still, it was a poignant moment: We felt personally responsible for the death of that fish. We gamely marched out the old saw that ‘if we didn’t pick him, someone else would.’ And anyway, it was worth it, as we later tasted.
Our first courses arrived. For me, the Spinat-Samtsüppchen, a velvet spinach soup and for my companion, the geeistes Rinderfilet, a chilled filet of beef, reminiscent of a carpaccio. The soup was warm and, as the name stated, velvety; green with tufts of white cream and a single ravioli in the middle filled with fresh tomato. The beef was sliced wafer-thin and was served with perfumed rocket salad leaves and parmesan shavings. Lightly covered in an interesting hazelnut vinaigrette, the meat was excellent quality and sliced to perfection. So much for hotel food.
As our plates were being cleared away, we were offered wine to accompany our main course. We decided on a 2007 red called Die Versuchung, or "Temptation," a name that seemed fitting to our evening. It was a wine that went easily with both of our dishes, a cuveé that turned out to be round and full-bodied, with not so much fruit to it, but quite a bit of wood. Altogether satisfactory.
When our main courses arrived we discovered just how well the wine complimented our meals.
The Saiblingsdinner consisted of a whole char, pan-fried or poached (we chose pan-fried) in root vegetable stock with the option of four types of butter: almond, parsley, garlic-herb or chanterelle (we chose garlic-herb). It was served with parsley potatoes and salad. The fish was cooked perfectly, as the skin was crispy, but not dry. The actual meat of the fish was also lovely and moist, and dressed very simply, lightly salted with perhaps a tiny bit of pepper and oil.
The other main course was a Lungenbraten filet steak; 160 grams of Argentinean tenderloin served on a bed of block-house potatoes and grilled mushrooms. The meat was cooked medium-rare and almost melted in your mouth. The sauce helped as it was slightly sweet, similar to teriyaki, blending a rich stock and red-wine, and saturating the mushrooms, a rich, sensual flavor to match the presentation.
Another round finished, we had Nachspeise still to come, despite being stuffed to the brim. One order of Powidl Tascherln, a plum ravioli and one of lime sorbet. The ravioli was a fried sweet cake made out of potato and sweet curd dough, filled with plum and topped with a cinnamon fruit sauce. It was a bit heavy considering everything we had just consumed, but it was tasty nonetheless. The homemade sorbet, a Limetten-Minzsorbet mit Pfiff, was a refreshing mixture of tart and sweet flavors, served in a bowl made out of caramel with a side of fresh fruit, a sugary ending to the evening.
We leaned back, secretly wishing we could unbutton the top button of our jeans, as we digested and finished off the wine. Our culinary evening had lasted almost three hours and we were the last ones to leave the restaurant, now lit nearly solely by candles.
In the end we were convinced: Dining at Borromäus was not like any hotel food we had ever tasted. It was four-star and the entire menu turned out to be worthy.
Borromäus - Imperial Riding School Hotel
3., Ungargasse 60
(01) 711 75 0
12:00- 22:00 daily, except Sunday