Marktachterl: The Catch of the Day

Glacial waters bring the freshest fish to market at the Karmeliterviertel’s newest upper-crust gourmet bistro

Mouths water at the fresh fish terrine in the Karmeliterviertel’s new pride | Photo: David Reali

The Marktachterl on the Karmelitermarkt used to be a worn and friendly Gasthaus that was a favourite for breakfast. Next door was a little fish market that too has since shut its doors, meaning an end to fresh fish in the neighborhood. It seems like a lot to regret. But according to Georg Schilhan, one-half of the creative genius behind the “new-and-improved” Marktachterl, what has resulted is far more than the sum of the parts.

Today, after much time and renovation, the Marktachterl has combined with the Fischviertel to offer a selection of fresh catch and modern Viennese-international cuisine in the Karmelitermarkt, “der beste Markt in Wien” (the best market in Vienna) according to Schilhan, who joined us as we settled in at our table. I glanced at my companion; surely our host wasn’t going to stay? “Probably only for a drink or two,” came the whispered response. But stay he did, and proved a very attentive and gracious host, lending us his company throughout the meal, and enlightening  us on the specifics of the local and international bio-fish world of the Marktachterl.

But first, our cocktails – an essential foundation to any culinary experience, and mine especially so. The Market Fizz, as it was dubbed, was a summery drink of gin, Aperol, homemade white wine syrup, lemon juice and soda water. Schilhan expressed his satisfaction with the first sip, provoking our waitress to look up in surprise. “That’s something new for you!”

We let Schilhan do the ordering, giving free rein to his passion for fish – and of course his familiarity with the menu. After starting out in the hotel business, Schilhan helped build the hugely popular fish restaurant chain Nordsee. With his partner, Dieter Kaas, they are now pouring their time and passion into the food business on the Karmelitermarkt. His daughter has the small shop “Kaas am Markt,” and together Schilhan and Kaas have also recently opened a wine bar.

For Schilhan, quality is of the utmost importance. He buys his vegetables and fruits at the produce stands on the market and has fresh fish delivered three times per week. “The fish always have fresh water, so the Omega 3’s [fatty acids] stay in,” Schilhan explained. “You can really taste it!”

After our tutorial, the first course arrived: crispy Wienerschnecken (escargot) on a bed of pork ragout and Stangensellerie (celery stalks). A Viennese tradition, this dish was new to my foreign taste buds. The flavors, however, mixed surprisingly well and my plate was cleared away absolutely clean.

The wine was paired with the fish: a light and crisp Grüner Veltliner that had so far done its job well. It complemented the first course, cleansing the palate and clearing the way for the array of fish that was to come.

Next was a fish soup, frothy and filled with mussels, scallops, shrimp and saffron. “It needs more Kraft!” Schilhan exclaimed after his first taste, adding a dash of olive oil and fresh pepper to my soup. “Try that,” he said and made sure that the kitchen knew this dish wasn’t quite wie es sich gehört.

Our main dish was not on the menu, a variety platter chosen for the three of us, including Schnapper (red snapper), Branzino (sea bass), Forelle (trout), Garnelen (prawns), calamari and Seezunge (sole). In all honesty, I was hesitant. I’m not usually a fish person – it’s my companion who loves seafood – but everything I tried on here was tasty; it was fresh and it was simple, and very flavourful. In fact, it contradicted all my prejudices, that fish is overwhelming and reeking of the sea. But maybe it was all that fresh water and those Omega 3s that made the difference. And the side dishes of roast Speisekartoffel and Swiss chard, lightly sautéed in olive oil with a touch of lemon, were right on.

For dessert, Schilhan went out of his way to make our final course an event.

A shot of Beluga vodka was our pre-dessert drink, very smooth, sliding down effortlessly. A glass of Moët & Chandon, tart and creamy raspberry sorbet and a rich chocolate cake with a melted centre left me feeling totally fat and happy. For me, the loss of my two old haunts was now, without question, worth the gain. ÷

 

Marktachterl am Karmelitermarkt
2., Karmelitermarkt 96
(01) 21 44 792
www.marktachterl.com

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