Sunday, August 31, 2014

Carpe Diem Finest Fingerfood (Salzburg, AUSTRIA) ★★☆☆☆

If you haven't already watched the movie "Dead Poets Society" by the late Robin Williams, I strongly encourage you to go get the DVD now. It's a very powerful movie. One of my favorite scenes was John Keating (played by Robin Williams) challenging his students to "seize the day" and live life to the fullest. I was deeply inspired by this philosophy and it's been my motto ever since.

Interestingly enough, when I was checking out the three Michelin starred restaurants in Salzburg, one of them is named "Carpe Diem". The term came from a Latin aphorism that is often translated to "seize the day". I thought I had to check this one out myself.

Carpe Diem Finest Fingerfood became our second Michelin-starred restaurant in Salzburg (after lunch at Restaurant Ikarus @Hangar-7) for the second meal in a roll. Opened in 2005, the restaurant is under the watchful eyes of Austrian Chef Franz Fuiko, a former "Best chef of the Year" award winner in Austria (1994). After stints in Marseille and Colorado, Chef Fuiko returned to Austria in 1997. His cuisine is known to be classic yet a little playful.

Before dinner, we spent some time hanging out at the Old Town of Salzburg. It's small but really well-preserved and charming. 

Carpe Diem Finest Fingerfood is a dining concept created by Dietrich Mateschitz, the inventor of Red Bull. Housed in a 2-story building. it combines a ground floor café and bar with a first-floor fine dining restaurant all under one roof.

My first impression of the dining room, looks a little more like a tea salon.

The restaurant offers a fairly extensive a la carte menu and a few set menus differed by the number of courses. We ended up ordering the 4-course set at €75 which we thought gave us the best value for money.

Bread was first served with a special sea-salt and plain butter.

So this is where the name "finger food" came from - fast finger food that was served in cones. It's also our welcome dish from the Chef - a beef tartare with mashed potatoes served in a cone (6/10).

A further amuse bouche came in the form of a poached char fish with broccoli, pea purée and radish (4/10).

The first course of the set menu was an innovatively designed starter with langoustine, sweet corn, chorizo and coconut. A circular cracker made with sugar was sitting on top of the plate with some edible leaves, spicy chorizo, sweet corn purée, chili powder and coconut ice-cream atop. Underneath the cracker were a few pieces of poached
langoustines resting on a sweet corn pudding.

Honestly, we didn't know where to start with this dish. Neither did our server offer any hint on how the chef thought we should proceed to best enjoy this course.

We ended up crushing the cracker and tried to enjoy each piece of langoustine with a little portion of the sweet corn pudding, the cracker and the coconut ice-cream. 

I felt they had something special going with this creation. The taste was very complex - contrasting flavors and textures coming together but too bad they failed to harmonize with each other (5/10).  


The second course was less complicated this time - a Danube salmon showered with a parsley foam and served with an avocado flan and fermented garlic. This was my first time having Danube salmon. 

I have long heard about its delightful texture and taste which is quite similar to tuna but it was surprisingly disappointing. The meat was very mushy and the taste was a little too fishy for me. I didn't like this dish at all (1.5/10). 

Barbarie duck followed and finally we had something with a passing grade. The duck fillets were nicely roasted to medium before finishing with some lavender, peach and fennel cream (6/10).

Last in line was our dessert named "Walk through the forest". Despite the decent presentation, it was a poorly executed one that included a pistachio mousse, white chocolate mousse, black currant jelly, black currant sorbet, wild berry ragout and fresh wild berries. 

There was only sour taste in it but nothing more (2/10).

Apart from the largely underwhelming food, service was also under expectation. It has been one of the weakest Michelin starred restaurant we have ever dined at.

Food Rating: 5/10
Price: $$$
Address: Getreidegasse 50, 5020 Salzburg, Austria
Tel: +43 662 848800

Restaurant Ikarus (Salzburg, AUSTRIA) ★★★★★

Restaurant Ikarus at Hangar-7 first got on my radar almost a decade ago when they were the first restaurant in the world to adopt the "guest chef concept". Under the ambitious concept, the restaurant would bring in a different top chef from a different country or continent every single month (actually 11 out of 12 months to be exact. More on this later) and have them take over their kitchen with collaboration with the Ikarus Team. 

Eckart Witzigmann, Chef of the Century and patron of Restaurant Ikarus, was the person responsible for implementing this concept from 2003 to 2013, along with Executive Chef Roland Trettl. Following the departure of Chef Roland Trettl in 2013, Chef de Cuisine Martin Klein took over and is now the main man here at Ikarus. 

I have long been fascinated by Ikarus's "guest chef concept" and was really excited to finally get the chance to experience it personally.

So much for the background information. Let's talk about the drive from Munich to Salzburg and Hangar-7. It was a dreadfully slow drive with all the traffic jams and construction work! At the end, it took us almost 3.5 hours to get here and by the time we arrived at this beautifully decorated dining room, it was well past 2pm.

But to their credit, the Ikarus team was calm, poised and composed as ever. No, they did not give us a hard time for showing up late which made us a little more guilty.

Fortunately, we didn't have to think long about what to order as there were only 2 menus to choose from, a short and a long one and we wasted no time picking the shorter one due to the shortage of time we had.

Oh, did I mention the visiting chef on this day? There was no guest chef in August 2014 (Sigh). To be brutally honest, I was slightly disappointed when I first found out about this almost 2 months ago during my reservation. But when I came to think of it, I was curious in what Chef Klein and Team had waiting for us. So this was kind of exciting too. 


They started us off with an impressive array of interesting nibbles beginning with a delicate crab gazpacho shot. A molecular dish to kick off our meal, I didn't expect that.

The crab spherification definitely tasted like crab and the gazpacho helped to provide that extra kick. And of course the "explosion".


 .....Followed by porcini ice-cream served on crispy crackers.

More crisp cracker, this one with miso cream and what tasted like wasabi powder on top. Absolutely love the refined and contrasting flavors there.

Saving the best for last, there's this wonderfully prepared veal tartare burger from Chef Klein. It's as mouthwatering as it gets for a mini-burger. 

This is a stunning set of amuse bouches we just tasted here. I am very impressed (9.5/10).

They really got my attention now. Let's see what they've got for appetizers. I went with their marinated seafood salad with fennel and lemon-olive oil espuma which was very refreshing and indeed a great start to this very pleasant meal (7/10).

The second starter, Caesar salad with roasted breast of quail, was all about re-inventing the all-time classic and it proved to be nothing short of spectacular. Different ingredients from the Caesar was rolled into this gigantic "salad stick" and then served with poached eggs, roasted quail breast and a special mayo. A very innovative dish showing a great deal of creativity and imagination (8/10).

Now they've just set the bar very high for themselves. Will the wheel start to fall off? Not at all. Loup de mer with artichokes, fregola and Lechuga sauce was nicely executed with amazing depth of flavors (7.5/10).

Braised knuckle of veal with potato dumplings, porcini and leek was equally prominent with perhaps a minor blemish of a slightly too overpowering sauce (veal jus?) (6.5/10).

Dessert was a refreshing peach soup with fresh peach, cherry and kefir. That was the perfect end (almost) to our delightful meal kicking off our stay in Salzburg (7.5/10).

Petite four, including a piece of chocolate, madeleine and macaron, came in a very nice box which we could bring home as a souvenir.

Afterwards, we still had enough time to check out the aircraft museum at Hangar-7 which is located right underneath Restaurant Ikarus.

Chef Klein's cuisine dazzled us from start to finish like a true Michelin starred stalwart with the amuse bouche setting the tone right from the get-go. Without a question, Ikarus is well worth the stopover.

Food Rating: 8/10
Price: $$$
Address: Salzburg Airport, Wilhelm-Spazier-Str. 7A, 5020 Salzburg, Austria
Tel: +43 6622-1970

Hotel Auersperg (Salzburg, AUSTRIA)

After a short stay in Munich, we began our drive down to Salzburg on our way to Slovenia and Croatia. Since this will be another short visit to the home of Mozart, I thought I better stay a little closer to the action.

I love to stay at hotels with a great deal of history and Hotel Auersperg was precisely what I was looking for. As a member of the "Historic Hotels of Europe", the beautiful architecture housing this gorgeous hotel dates back to 1892.

This is truly a nice retreat in the middle of the city, away from the hustle and bustle of the tourist area.

The rooms are tastefully designed with a touch of modern European elegance.

And they're using all the space very wisely.......

Apart from a little flooding accident from the bathroom (as there was no door to the shower room), everything was just perfect.

They've got a very lovely breakfast restaurant too but if I want to be a little picky, I thought the breakfast selection wasn't particularly good. That was perhaps a very small blemish of our stay.

Can't beat the location as it's only a comfortable 8-10 minute walk to most attractions including Getreidegasse (Grain Lane), the historic pedestrian in Salzburg.

Rating: ❤❤❤❤
Price: €€€
Address: Auerspergstraße 61, 5020 Salzburg, Austria
Tel: +43 662 889440

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Café Maelu (Munich, GERMANY) ★★★☆☆

If you are searching for an airy café in the heart of Munich, Café Maelu may just be what you are looking for. Situated on Theatinerstraße near the Hofgarten, Café Maelu has the city's best selection of pastries, tarts, pies and macarons.

The signature pastry here is their chocolate mousse cake. Needless to say, we had to grab one before heading back to our hotel.

Food Rating: 5/10
Price: $$$
Address: Theatinerstraße 32, 80333 München, Germany
Closest Metro Station: Odeonsplatz
Tel: +49 89 2429-2597


Café & Bistro Dallmayr (Munich, GERMANY) ★★★★☆

Dallmayr is a luxury delicatessen food store in the heart of Munich that dates back to the 17th century. Perched on the first floor of the building are two restaurants - Restaurant Dallmayr that serves a Modern European menu from Michelin-starred chef Diethard Urbansky and Café & Bistro Dallmayr better known for its modern bistro food.

Since we were only staying 16 hours in Munich, we decided not to waste time on fine dining and instead focus more on exploring the city. Café & Bistro Dallmayr seemed to suit us just fine.

Our table has a nice view of the garden at the Marienhof from across the street.

At Café & Bistro Dallmayr, we can find all sorts of drinks and cakes one would expect from a grand European café. Let's start with a nice cup of hot chocolate, shall we?

The hot chocolate was alright but I thought the iced dark chocolate was a little light.

We haven't eaten (or slept) properly for nearly 24 hours so our eyes were glowing when this lobster cream soup with cognac arrived (4/10).

More exciting was the next dish, a roasted scallops with pine nuts, mountain lentils and salad of mango and papaya (5/10).

I liked this last dish - fried king prawns with spinach fettucine and cherry tomatoes in a lobster sauce. This was meant to be a little soupy (6/10).

Following dinner, we spent some time at the delicatessen food hall on ground floor and checked out some of these gourmet food. It reminded me a little of Harrod's food hall. This is heaven for any foodie!

Food Rating: 5.5/10
Price: €€€
Address: Dienerstraße 14, 80331 München, Germany
Closest Metro Station: München Marienplatz
Tel: +49 89 2135110