Tasting Tuscany


The front dining room of Komarek, the Mediterranean flair combined with subtle elegance | Photo: Todd Corboy

The 18th district of Vienna is not known for being progressive or international, so my curiosity was raised after learning of a new Mediterranean restaurant there. Walking up the quaint and quiet Edelhofgasse, the large orange sign announcing the restaurant certainly stood out. But Komarek’s sophistication was immediately evident, and a vibrant addition to the conservative neighborhood.

“We are trying to be a step above and a step to the side,” explained Todd Corboy, an American who has been sous chef in Komarek’s kitchen since January.  It seemed that not being typically Austrian was the central idea.

Upon entering the dimly lit dining room, a lush mixture of color and understated elegance, it appeared the mission statement was taken to heart.  The attentive waitress, rare enough in Austria, quickly seated us at a round dark-wood table allowing a view of both wings of the L-shaped room.

The wine list offered a wide variety of reds from Austria, Italy, Spain, France, Australia, South Africa, Chile and the USA. Indecisive, I surrendered the drink ordering to my companion and turned my attention instead to the ambience.  Painted Tuscany-red  terracotta, the liveliness was intensified by the dark wood panels on ceiling and floor and accented by white curtains and tablecloths. Stone arches led to the separate sections of the room, lending a Greek flair, loyal to the Mediterranean theme.

A golden angel hung on the wall opposite our table, staring at me through a black Venetian carnival mask, while a two-tiered candelabra stood dripping with melted wax in a near corner. The atmosphere was warm and despite the high polish, there was a hint of the casual.

The dinner menu—shortened, Corboy later told us, for the summer months—was a bit easier to navigate than the wine list and consisted of a variety of fish, beef and chicken dishes, all with Mediterranean panache.

We chose the beef carpaccio and an endive and avocado salad as starters after our first glasses of Zweigelt were poured, a finely blended dark red wine from Burgenland with a supple, fruity flavor.

The appetizers were testimony to the whole character of the restaurant: harmonious, beautifully presented and completely lacking in pretension.  The carpaccio was authentically thick and although fresh, could have used more vinegar. The greens of the avocado and endive were accompanied by mandarin oranges and garnished with black sesame seeds.  The delicate citrus-based dressing was in perfect accord with the simplicity of the dish. And the main courses for the evening:  chili prawns with a medley of peppers and fried bananas and a ricotta ravioli in an orange-tomato sauce.

The prawns were spiced to perfection in a homemade blend of dried pepperocinis and fine grade olive oil.  The multicolored peppers provided a contrast to the soft brown of the fried bananas, creating another aesthetically pleasing combination. The ravioli were soused in the bright sauce and garnished with orange slices and fresh parsley.  The tang of orange in the marinara was distinctive, complimenting the ricotta and bringing out the zest of fresh herbs.

The portions were small but satisfying and the timing of the kitchen and wait staff excellent – allowing just enough time before and between courses to enjoy the wine and conversation.

When we had finished eating, we divulged our journalistic purpose and were granted an exclusive with the sous chef. According to Corboy, the true essence of his work at Komarek is the creativity involved.

“I have put my heart and soul into my work here,” he told us over cocktails. “Six of the items on the menu are my creations alone, and the main menu changes every three to four weeks,” said Corboy, who trained under several renowned cooks in Annapolis, Maryland.  “Cooking is an art,” he informed us.  “And my abilities have improved 150% due to the ‘personal liberties’ I have been given at Komarek.” And he meant in relation to the food.

Thomas Komarek and Elizabeth Bahula, a Viennese couple, own the restaurant as well as the Anton Frank, a distinguished bar in the 18th District. Komarek has been in operation for two years and is definitely catching on, appealing to younger guests from outside the Währinger area. In spite of the up-scale location, most items on the menu and wine list are affordably priced, and the stylish ambience is suited to old and young alike.

It can take up to five years for a restaurant to truly establish itself, Corboy told us. Based on the evening’s experience, Komarek seems well on its way.



18., Edelhofgasse 13 

Tram 40/41 – Kutschkergasse

(01) 478 22 22


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