Mraz & Sohn: A Journey from Fear to Fascination

Enticed by sesame scallop soup and sweet, soft strangolapreti, connoisseurs fit right in at this upscale Brigittenau restaurant

Mraz & Sohn’s subdued décor balances its artistically dressed dishes | Photos: D. Reali

When you venture away from the Ring in search of a new restaurant, you enter a strange mixture between fascination and fear. Stumbling on Mraz & Sohn in Brigittenau in the 20th District one Wednesday evening, we found a bit of both.

It all began with an inconspicuous detail: A tiny bell secretively pinned to a locked door, a sign outside flashing the name of the restaurant in an ostentatious blue – this had to be the place. Within moments we found ourselves entering a five-hour delirium that by the end of the evening would prove to be the most intense culinary journey we had ever taken.

First, the simplicity of the décor: Two barely-lit dining rooms seating 20 were still more than enough for guests to feel at a safe distance. The staff, though, had been conjured up for our sheer enjoyment, other than the mild discomfort that they were far better dressed than we were. With the lounge music, the candles, the ambience – all vaguely reminiscent of a spa – soon enough the blur of pleasure began inducing a vividly trance-like state.

We received the water menu, yes, water menu: a transparent rectangle filled with liquid, listing over 20 varieties of bottled water. “This water better mean everlasting youth”, I whispered to my companion as I pointed out my Wasser choice. But then, as though that weren’t enough, the champagne trolley arrived.

Things were about to get interesting.

The menu came rolled up in a tube on a wooden carved tablet, and two small surprises, hidden underneath: a piece of chicken curry served on a crispy rice stick with parmesan cheese and an herb-infused pork entrecote, discovered the way children find treasures. We looked at each other uncertainly, finally venturing a bite. The tastes were intricate, unrecognizable and seemed to become stronger in our mouths.

Our appetites whetted, we ordered the chef’s three- and five-course menus. Our starters – a sesame scallop soup with bone marrow and white alba truffle, mackerel with quinoa and bacon, garnished with fennel drops and almonds – were a melding of rich, comforting goodness. Then came a strangolapreti, tongue of veal in eggnog, which was sweet, tangy, soft. And all the while, we were transcendentally floating around the room.

With wine complementing each dish, we were brought a cocoa-celery Perch with caramelised onions and a coat of nut butter, and a pork neck with green cabbage, horseradish and dates. The first made my senses tingle, subtly blending composition, spice and finesse. The second, however, was ill-defined: The overwhelming pork lacked a contrasting flavour and the gravy seemed stingy, but maybe it was just its large container.

The pièces de résistances, though, came in small portions. Compliments of the house were two literary gourmet masterpieces: first a chocolate-textured walnut lookalike with a langoustine tartar and sherry filling called “The Nutcracker,” rendered on a namesake figurine, then the “Walk through the Forest”, marinated Chanterelle mushroom on an aged Gouda cracker with grated prosciutto, served on a large platter of tree bark and moss. Evolving, elaborate flavours seemed to probe the limits of our ravenous taste buds.

Masterminding this night of excess was 21-year-old Lukas Mraz, the chef that night. Grandson of the founder and the “son” in “Mraz & Sohn,” with his father Markus, he trained in Holland and France with star chefs such as Jonnie Boer. Staff and family are close, and a couple of waiters live on the family property that Grandpa Mraz bought back in 1990 from an old Beisl. A favourable review by the Austrian daily Die Presse in the mid-’90s proved to be the game-changer, and things have been on the up and up ever since.

But be warned, the next day was a rush of visual and gustatory flashes – a guilty pleasure, too exclusive, too decadent for every day, a secret, hedonistic club. This isn’t not your average Stammlokal – even though it does hide a regulars’ table in the kitchen. It is an adventure, and maybe the extravagant price tag (we spent €200!) is just as well.

But it should definitely be experienced occasionally, through the rosy lens of lightheartedness, until nostalgia banishes you back to real life.

Like baritone opera singer Tom Krause once said, “If you only do what you know you can do – you never do very much.”

 

Mraz & Sohn
Mon.–Fri., 11:00–15:00 and 19:00–24:00
20., Wallensteinstrasse 59
(01) 330 45 94
www.mraz-sohn.at

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