It is practically impossible to find high-end gastronomy that makes a person any happier than Austria’s: as tradition-conscious as the French, as natural as Scandinavian, with the sensuality of Italian and the inventiveness of the Spanish. If there were a prize for promoting the culinary culture of Europe, a representative of new Austrian cuisine such as Thomas Dorfer, from Landhaus Bacher in Mautern an der Donau, would certainly be a recipient.
What an absolute shame it is that «Guide Michelin», of all people, has essentially given the Austrians a cold shoulder. Since 2009, only restaurants in Vienna and Salzburg have been awarded stars. In doing so, the testers deprive themselves of the opportunity to see how Dorfer – at Landhaus Bacher in Mautern an der Donau, barely 1 hour from Vienna – takes unassuming products to prepare dishes, compared to which the luxury-ingredient-riddled creations of haute cuisine frequently appear like clueless craft projects. Rather than lobster, caviar and truffles, the starring roles in his cuisine are played by watermelon, sweet pepper and summer squash.
Master of understatement
He combines crunchy summer squash with pickled physalis, basil, almond-milk ice cream, marinated cardoon and a marinade of green vegetables. His dishes are certain to leave you doggedly scraping your plate with a soup spoon, then dredging up the scant remnants with a piece of bread – etiquette be darned. Other than Andreas Caminada in Switzerland, no one comes close to cooking as close to nature or as poetically as Dorfer.
His modern compositions are distinguished by perfectly dosed acidic accents. They are fresh and gentle on the stomach: «After a meal, if a guest tells me he has eaten his fill, yet doesn’t feel in the slightest bit “full”, this is probably the greatest compliment he can give me», says Dorfer, who apprenticed in a traditional hotel kitchen and never lost touch with those honest roots.
That said, he also dares to attempt dishes from which the international culinary elite might well shrink back: such as a bouillon of soured rump roast with classic added ingredients, or apricot dumplings. If apricot dumplings aren’t perfect, they appear almost trivial; whereas as those created in the kitchen of a traditional country inn, on the other hand – so says the lady sitting at the table next to me – are an almost erotic experience: the filling of Wachau apricots is both captivatingly sweet but also beautifully sour, and the curd-cheese dough tossed in buttered breadcrumbs wonderfully airy.
Especially those seemingly simple dishes live and die, of course, by the quality of products from which they are made. For example, the physalis used in the vegetarian appetizer was supplied by young Upper Austrian, Clemens Wurm, and tastes completely different to the imported product from South America. With the help of dedicated farmers like Wurm, the promotion of biodiversity and cultivation of special plant varieties is one of the cornerstones of this marvelous cuisine.
Dorfer profiles the tomatoes grown by Erich Stekovics out in the open field more sensitively than anyone else. As you savor his amuse-bouche featuring Stekovics’ tomatoes with buffalo ricotta, you might well let out a squeal of pure joy, if it weren’t for the fact that your half-consumed treat might end up inadvertently scattered across much of the table.
Südtiroler Platz 2,
A-3512 Mautern an der Donau
Tel.: +43/2732/829 37