Exclusive: MAZA Visits Chef Kurt Gutenbrunner at Wallse
Impression of contemporary interpretation of the elegant Austrian tradition.
It’s a sunny morning when we arrive at Wallse Restaurant. Today we are shooting with chef Kurt Gutenbrunner for the February Issue of MAZA. He opened the restaurant 10 years ago and since then the place is the beacon for the elegant Viennese cuisine. He found the place while doing his West Village bicycle laps. His contract with Monkey Bar was about to end and he was ready to open his own place. The area was much different back then, more controversial and less innocuous, however Kurt had a vision and despite his friends reservations he opened Wallse. I remember years ago when for the first time I walked by the place. I was captured by the beautiful flowers arrangement at the windows. The velvet curtains at front door set the feeling of a stage curtain – once unveiled you are in a different space and time –Wallse, the modern interpretation of a traditional Viennese restaurant. The interior is rendered in soft creamy tones, the soft lighting highlights the brush strokes of the oversized paintings on the walls. The space feels inviting and refined. I feel happily overwhelmed that we are here and most importantly we will shoot two of the recipes from Kurt’s new cookbook “Neue Cuisine: The Elegant Tastes of Vienna: Recipes from Cafe Sabarsky, Wallse, and Blaue Gans”. Chef has a charming way to make you feel welcomed and part of the family. We share the same passions – we dream about food, we love going to farmers markets, we are excited about art and classic music and family is the most important ingredient in our lives. His eyes get a soft glow full with humbled proud when he talks about his kids.
After having a quick espresso we are ready to start the photo shoot. The room is filled energy, excitement and curiosity. We decided to choose recipes that haven’t been shot in the cookbook. The starter is a fennel salad with blood orange – a vibrant in color and expressively fresh in taste combination, once you have a bite will not be able to stop nibbling. For main entrée we have Cod strudel with sauerkraut in Riesling sauce. In the beginning I was afraid the recipe would be too complicated to make. For start the difficult name to pronounce made me a bit resistant. When I expressed my fear to Kurt, he looked at me and said “Natalia, quite the opposite, it’s very easy. First …” and he started explaining how it will be cooked and by the time he finished I fell in love with the idea of making the cod strudel and to be more precise I was craving to discover the light taste of cod wrapped in the crispy filo dough, with the sharp taste of the sauerkraut and finished with elegantly creamy Riesling sauce. I was impressed by the sophistication of the dish. Modern-day grace is KG signature.
What a beautiful day!
Fennel and Blood Orange Salad
¼ cup very coarsely chopped walnuts
1 teaspoon walnut oil
2 medium fennel bulbs, stalk trimmed, fronds reserved, for garnish
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon Pernod, Ricard or other anise-flavored liqueur
2 blood oranges
1 tablespoon paper-thin shallot slices
10 small mint leaves
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon grated lime zest
In a dry skillet, toast the walnuts over medium heat until fragrant and lightly browned, for 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the walnut oil.
Slice about ½ inch from the bottom of the fennel bulb and discard. Starting with the flat bottom side, slice the fennel very fine on a mandolin. Transfer to a bowl. Season with salt and pepper and add the lemon juice and Pernod.
Using a sharp knife, peel the oranges, removing all the whit pith. Holding the fruit over the bowl containing the fennel, cut between the membranes to release the sections letting them drop into the bowl; discard the seeds. Squeeze the juice from the membranes into the bowl.
Add the shallots, mint, olive oil, and the walnuts, and toss gently.
Mound the salad on a platter or plates. Sprinkle with the lime zest, garnish with the reserved fennel fronds, and serve.
For tips and variations see p.92 of “Neue Cuisine: The Elegant Tastes of Vienna: Recipes from Cafe Sabarsky, Wallse, and Blaue Gans”