For those of you whose knowledge of Austria is limited to Schwarzenegger and the Von Trapp family, now’s the time to discover Austrian cuisine at its finest. At his flagship restaurant Wallsé, chef Kurt Gutenbrunner’s has brought to New York City delicious Austro-German cuisine that goes beyond Bratwurst and Sauerkraut.
Wallsé – pronounced [vall-say] and named after Chef Gutenbrunner’s Austrian hometown – goes way back but seems to have never lost its prevalence. It’s been open since 2000 making it a West Village staple, whilst maintaining its well-deserved Michelin Star for a number of consecutive years.
I’ll start with the essentials: the food is what Wallsé is all about. It is by far the best place to discover modern fine Austrian cuisine, whilst enjoying the arts of classic European traditional cooking. The French touch is noticeable, probably as a result of Chef Gutenbrunner’s years at David Bouley’s. Wallsé’s food is defined by its exquisite flavors, but also by its aesthetics and quality. All dishes have some level of sophistication, even the traditionally hearty Wiener Schnitzel and Goulash. As an appetizer, the Spätzle with braised rabbit and wild mushrooms is a MUST. This is the dish that keeps me coming back. It is so delicate yet decadent at the same time – out of this world. Another (lighter) favorite is the Local Bass Crudo.
As far as the main dishes are concerned, although the Wiener Schnitzel – $25 is the best (and priciest) you’ll ever have, my favorite entrées at Wallsé are the fish dishes. They are all skillfully and beautifully prepared, flaky and perfectly cooked, and unique in flavor. My favorites include the East Coast Halibut, Cucumbers, Chanterelles, Dill – $36 and the Icelandic Cod, Kohlrabi, Spinach, Riesling Sauce – $34. Do not end your meal without having their inimitable desserts, served with their super cool funky “sporks”.
For a light finish, go for the Salzburger Nockerl, Huckleberries – $14. It may first just look like a plate of toasted marshmallows but it’s a delicate and light meringue soufflé on top of a bed of huckleberries. The Mozartkugel “Wallsé Edition” Chocolate Mousse is also a great remake of the classic Austrian piece of chocolate.
Don’t leave without trying their Spätzle!
And you cannot go without pairing your meal with the particularly interesting (and predominantly Austrian) wine list. Just ask the knowledgeable sommelier’s advice. They also have a notable cocktail list with signature creations.
As one would expect, the service is impeccable, with always attentive and courteous waiters.
The interior is elegant, with a black and white themed dining room with candles and fresh flowers on every white-clothed table. Just as you’ll find fine cuisine on your plate, you will find fine art on the restaurant walls. Chef Gutenbrunner’s love for food and art is omnipresent.
Nevertheless, the ambiance and decor are not what I love the most at Wallsé. Don’t get me wrong – the atmosphere is not unpleasant – just not what you’d come here for. That being said, despite Wallsé’s liberal use of epicurean ingredients and sophistication, it has maintained its neighborhood demeanor. While it’s definitely more of a fancy restaurant, it doesn’t feel stuffy and the dress code is fairly casual. I usually prefer dining at Wallsé on warm summer nights to take advantage of their more casual outdoor setting.
On warm nights sit in their beautifully lit outdoor tables!
Walk-ins and reservations have become relatively easy, and they even accommodate for private events.
Wallsé is a perfect mix of modern and classic, elaborate and minimalist, for a sophisticated culinary experience, perfect for parents in town or for a business dinner (low sound level).
Open for dinner everything night from 5:30pm to 11pm.