This is the cake I bought for my recent birthday - and yes, it looks like sushi! This is seriously the most beautiful/coolest cake I have ever seen. I saw it on display at Sweet City Desserts in Vienna and just had to have it!
I absolutely love Greek food, but I have been bad about exploring the local offerings (mostly because the husband is not overly enthusiastic). I kept hearing fantastic things about Vienna staple Plaka Grill, so I decided to try it out on my own. I was not disappointed! Plaka is in a tiny strip center location off of 123. One whole wall is painted with a mural that took me straight back to San Torini, Greece. The food was equally nostalgic for me.
Plaka is famous for their signature Gyro sandwich - spit grilled pork sliced and served in pita bread with tomatoes, onions, fries, and tzatziki (a yogurt and cucumber sauce). They also serve the more familiar "Chicago Gyro" - pressed lamb and beef that is grilled and sliced. I have tried both, and they are fantastic. Some may say that it is sacrilege, but I usually prefer the Chicago style. I like that the meat has a more uniform texture with just a bit of crunch on the outer edges. I have also tried the Tyropites - phyllo dough triangles stuffed with feta and herbs. They are amazing - creamy and tangy on the inside, crispy and buttery on the outside. I would love to try their spinach filled cousins - the Spanakopites. Plaka also serves one of my favorite Greek desserts, which is not Baklava (gasp! i know), but Galaktoboureko - phyllo dough filled with custard and soaked in an orange scented honey syrup.
I have also tried their Moussaka dinner plates (one of my favorite dishes, if you couldn't tell from my post. It was very good - tender eggplant, rich tomato and meat ragu with lots of cinnamon flavor, creamy bechamel on top. It comes with a Greek salad, and some lovely roasted potatoes. It also comes with pita bread, which is nice except that there is really nothing to dip it in or eat it with. I had to order some tzatziki on the side.
**EDIT - How could I forget to mention the fries?! They are so good - hot and fresh and coated in salt, garlic powder (?), and herbs. They definitely do not need ketchup.**
Ever since our favorite local sushi place (Sakana) closed, we have been on the hunt for a new sushi haunt. We have passed Yoshi many times on our way to Bazin's and finally made a reservation to go. Reservations are pretty much required on weekends because this place is TINY. They have maybe 12 two-tops that they can push together in different configurations. They were full to capacity the entire time we were there.
They only have one unfiltered sake, but it's one that we like, so that was ok (we both prefer unfiltered sake pretty much exclusively). We started with pork gyoza dumplings that were very good - crispy on the outside, tender inside. Then we were served miso soup and salad, both were standard - the salad is iceberg, but the ginger dressing is good, and there were sliced radishes. I ordered a sashimi sampler (tuna, white tuna, salmon, yellowtail, eel). The portions were nice and the fish was fresh. My tamago omelette was a bit grey, but still sweet and tasty. We tried a few rolls - the yellowtail and green onion was fresh and light, though redundant with my yellowtail sashimi. I really liked the crispy salmon roll - salmon, eel, cream cheese, and avocado wrapped in rice paper, deep fried with black sesame sauce - but Jasper did not. He thought the crispy outside was too poke-y (you do have to be careful when you eat it). I thought it was warm and comforting and savory - the black sesame sauce was particularly interesting. I normally don't like cream cheese in rolls, but when it is fried it's ok because it gets warm and melty. We also tried the bagel roll - cream cheese, smoked salmon, avocado - which neither of us liked mostly due to the cold cream cheese issue. The Center St roll was good - similar to a caterpillar roll you would get at other places (shrimp tempura, eel, avocado, and asparagus wrapped in tuna, avocado). We were excited to see that they had fatty tuna on the menu, it was delicious of course, but also expensive. They also have fresh wasabi, which is a must for us. The real stuff is vastly different from the dyed green horseradish paste you normally see.
Overall, best local place we have found so far (still not as good as Sakana, which I miss dearly). I would like to come back and try the cooked dishes like sukiyaki and yaki niku.
We didn't want to get our kitchen dirty again after having just cleaned it, so we decided to go out. I suggested Bonaroti - an Italian restaurant in Vienna that I had heard good things about. It is located in a strip center and the decor (over the top old world luxury) reminded us of Cafe Renaissance* - which we hated - so we were a little worried. But luckily our fears were unfounded, Bonaroti is quite good.
With the table bread, they serve olive oil and balsamic vinegar, olive tapenade, and sun dried tomatoes. Jasper ordered Prosecco to start and they brought out a tiny bottle that was very good. We also ordered a very nice Chianti Classico. For our first courses, we had beef carpaccio, caprese salad, and risotto with scallops. The carpaccio was lovely - fresh and very thin, with only lemon juice, olive oil, and shaved Parmesan. The caprese came with Mozzarella di Buffalo that was soft and creamy and wonderful; large, ripe slices of tomato; and huge fresh leaves of basil drizzled with balsamic and olive oil. The risotto was the perfect texture and the scallops were nicely cooked. The sauce was savory and not too fishy (unlike Assagi Osteria). For our entrees we both ordered pasta. I had the spaghetti "Chris Cooley" (local football player), which is served with a bolognese sauce, truffle oil, fluffy meatballs, and a little dollop of mascarpone cheese. It was tasty and satisfying, but I must say that I was jealous of Jasper's capellini carbonara - angel hair pasta in a rich cream sauce with Parmesan, bacon, onion, and egg yolk. It was decadently delicious. I also had a side of creamed spinach in a Parmesan bechamel sauce - very creamy and comforting. Neither of us were able to finish our pastas because the portions were so large (comforting since each was $20+). We decided to try dessert anyway. I had a cream puff cake that was pretty much like a cream puff in cake format, and a wonderful moscato. Jasper had a chocolate mousse cake and a tawny port. Just when we were ready to be rolled home, the waiter came back with complimentary sambucca and biscotti.
While Bonaroti is too expensive to be a weeknight haunt, it would be lovely for a date night or a big lunch.
*I never got a chance to write about Cafe Renaissance, but it was awful. The server was pushy, the food was so-so, and the wine made us instantly sick (and sick the whole next day) after one glass.
We have eaten at Bazin's on several occasions, and are never disappointed. It is in a cute, oldtimey looking stretch of Church street in downtown Vienna. The decor is traditional American - with exposed brick walls, exposed wood ceilings, large stretches of windows, and a pub style bar. DO NOT try to do a walk-in on a weekend night, as we did the first time we went, it fills up completely and quickly. Luckily we were able to snag some space at the bar (after waiting about 45 min). After that, we have been careful to always make a reservation.
They have a few signature drinks, my favorite being the fleur-de-lis - vodka, elderberry liquor, and grapefruit. It is incredibly crisp and refreshing. The peanut butter dessert martini is also pretty special.
The pre-meal bread is lightly toasted and warm, which I love (toast being my favorite food). I usually like to order a selection of appetizers instead of an entree, because I like to sample lots of different tastes. One appetizer that I make sure to always get is the lamb lollipops - a generous portion of char-grilled rack of lamb that tastes like the outdoors and summer - I'm not even kidding. They are served with dollops of goat cheese crema and red grape relish. I order this as an entree all the time, it is definitely filling enough.
The asparagus salad is a mix of crisp asparagus (obviously), warm roasted fingerling potatoes, a warm goat cheese fritter, spicy arugula, edamame, and fresh tomatoes in a citrusy vinaigrette. The combination of cold and warm, crisp and creamy, spicy and acidic make for a very satisfying dish. The chopped salad is a bit of a Mediterranean departure from the usual - involving feta, pistachio, chickpeas, and olives in a lemon dressing.
The potato and onion ravioli is so intriguing that you will find yourself taking bite after bite wondering "what is that?", and suddenly it will be all gone and you will be craving more. The filling is so creamy, and the ravioli is perfectly cooked. It is served with a creamy lobster sauce with generous chunks of tender lobster, drizzled with herb oil, and sprinkled with chives. It is a perfect combination of savory and sweet with plenty of tangy acid. One of my favorite pasta dishes was a special that is not regularly on the menu but should be - a gemelli pasta with pesto and speck. It was so perfectly creamy and salty and fresh and herby - yum!
I rave about the appetizers but don't get me wrong, the entrees are very good as well. Jasper usually orders a steak, and he has also tried the scallop dish. He is always very pleased. If you do order an entree - make sure you get the truffled macaroni and cheese as a side. It is the god of all macaroni and cheese - decadently creamy and rich with plenty of truffle flavor - served piping hot and oozing over the side of it's individual size dish.
The deserts are good, but not stunning. We enjoy the berry crisp and the creme brule. My favorite dessert, however, is a nice glass of moscato After writing this, I am really craving some Bazin's... maybe we will go tomorrow...