Ever craved schnitzel, spatzle, or maybe kavalierspitz? No? Well then maybe you need to be properly introduced to the “other” European cuisine, that hearty mountain food we often dismiss as something you eat when you drink copious amounts of beer. At two New York restaurants, Austrian and Swiss food gets a cool, modern update (without compromising on some serious wurst offerings).
Blau Gans is the more casual, boisterous sister to Kurt Gurtenbrunner’s Wallsé. Posters line the wall and a communal table runs down the middle of this laid-back Tribeca eatery. It’s like Austrian bistro pub food, done with a refined hand and really good ingredients. The menu has its share of schnitzel, which refers to meat pounded thin, breaded and fried. I had the jager schnitzel, which in this case was pork, served with a creamy sauce of mushrooms, crispy bacon and side of herbed spatzle (basically a bread-y noodle). I will not lie, it was dense and delicious, perfect for the cold day on which I ate it. There are lighter options, like wild striped pass with potato puree and saurkraut or a nice roast chicken, but you come for schnitzel and the great selection of wurst.
Café Select is Swiss, and the interior is an orderly blend of modern and rustic, overseen by an oversized Rolex wall clock reminding all of us how long we’ve sat there. The crowd is a bit younger (the owners of Cafe Select also own La Esquina around the corner) and by the time my friends and I left at 10:30, the small space was packed with an energetic crowd. Again, I ordered the shnitzel, but it was a lighter take, more like Italy’s chicken milanese- lightly fried, served over arugula with big slices of fresh lemon. At the server’s recommendation I ordered a side of potato-leek gratin (delicious). The big surprise of the night was a bottle of white Swiss wine (didn’t even know the Swiss made wine)- a Chasselas. Crisp, with subtle fruit notes and a light finish, the Chasselas was a lovely, if uncomplicated drinking wine. I might make it my summer wine of choice when I crave something easy and refreshing.
Blau Gans, 139 Duane between Church and Reade Sts in Tribeca. They are offering a winter promotion: 3 courses for $35. For more information and to see their menu, click here.
Café Select, 212 Lafayette St. Sunday night is Fondue Night: for $45 pp you get cheese fondue for 2, green salad, 1/2 Liter of white wine, 2 shots of Kirsch and a whole lotta dipping. To see their menu, click here.