Heirloom tomato salad with scallions and pea shoots $18
A tower of thick, meaty heirloom tomatoes. Hefty chunks of sweet, fleshy fruit, tossed in a light vinaigrette. Sprinkled with thinly sliced scallions for extra punch and garnished with a heap of fresh, earthy pea shoots. A refreshing way to begin the meal.
Wiener Schnitzel with potato-cucumber salad and lingonberries $34
This dish was a tasty version of an Austrian classic. Similar to the Italian Milanese, the veal escalope had been coated in a light layer of breadcrumbs and then gently fried. On top was a thick slice of fresh lemon, which I promptly squeezed over the meat to add bright citrus hints. As I dug in, the golden brown breadcrumbs, buttery and crunchy, slowly peeled away from the meat. Though, I found the veal slightly too tough; a little bit too much cutting and chewing for my preference. The small scoop of tart, sugary lingonberry jam was the perfect sweet hit to add balance.
All of this was served with a vast portion of potato-cucumber salad. In fact, this was more akin to a potato mayonnaise: big chunks of potato in a thick, stodgy sauce, muddled with a few slivers of soggy cucumber. It was overwhelmed with heavy hitting amounts of vinegar. I don’t know if this is a traditional side but, for me, it wasn’t my favorite.
Salzburger Nockerl with huckleberries $14
Apparently another Austrian classic (and a highly recommended dessert), this dish is a typical sweet soufflé that originates from Salzburg. As Chef Kurt Gutenbrunner explained to me, the peaks of the dessert are meant to represent the mountains surrounding the city. It is prepared by mixing egg yolk, flour, sugar, salt, vanilla and milk to create a thin dough. This is then baked to craft a fluffy concoction that is very similar in taste and texture to a marshmallow. After breaking the crisp, crackly shell with my spoon, the warm and gooey inside is light and airy. At the bottom was a small amount of refreshing, tart huckleberries, which added a much-needed dose of flavor to the dish. Dusted with powdered sugar.
Of all the places I’ve encountered so far, Wallsé is one of my favorites. On the far western edge of the West Village, Chef Kurt Gutenbrunner has established a relaxed outpost serving modest, unpretentious Austrian cuisine. It’s a perfect space: nicely lit (neither too dim, nor too bright), simple, modernist furniture and muted tones. There’s also a bar with a friendly bartender to prepare your drinks. The food is just right, striving to explore its Austrian roots but never overstretching, delivering solid results every time. It’s clean, crisp and perfectly plated, plus, the portions are generous. The best thing, though, is that you can dine outside. There are about five small tables along the sidewalk where you can sit, savor your meal and, if all goes to plan, enjoy the sunshine while doing so.
344 W. 11th St.