No one has ever called me a woman of few words, but I was reduced to one, awed “Wow” when I walked into the restaurant of the then-ten-day-old Park Hyatt Hotel in Vienna, Austria. The handsome stone building, built in 1913 on the graceful square called Am Hof, formerly housed the Lower Austrian Escompte Bank. Hence, the new restaurant’s name: The Bank.
Wow Factor #1: The open kitchen. Actually the two open kitchens. One for savory courses; one for sweets. Each a vast sprawl of marble and glass with elegant finishing touches that will knock the socks off even the most jaded foodies. Between the two spaces sits an oversized dining table where a party of up to eight guests can gather for a special menu, served family-style.
Wow Factor #2. Soaring ceilings, stunning chandeliers and shimmering floor lamps that pay tribute to the famed Secession art museum, which is just a short walk away. Home to Gustav Klimt’s Beethoven Frieze, the museum is visited by virtually every visitor to this city.
After oogling the surroundings for a good long while, I settled down to a still-life of Ricotta Maultaschen, which is a delicate Austrian version of ravioli. The oversized pasta package was light and thin; the cheese filling rich and creamy. And a flurry of snipped wild herbs polished an already shimmering production.
I also loved The Bank’s velvety white asparagus soup that was creatively topped with hazelnut pesto. And braised lamb, teamed with an aromatic red pepper stew, eggplant and creamed polenta, was superb.
Only the "de-constructed" blue cheese tart left room for improvement; its attractive “components –-- Blauschimmel blue cheese, toasted walnuts and apricot compote --- desperately needing something to hold all the flavors together.
Dessert, on the other hand, needed no help whatsoever. The Bank’s rendition of Meringue Glacée was sensational with luscious semi-freddo-like chocolate ice cream in one bowl, Viennese whipped cream in another, and crumbly “slices” of meringue in yet another.
As a hotel restaurant, The Bank has to provide all the basics along with the cutting-edge cuisine, and it does so with panache. There are some nice vegetarian options, simple pasta dishes, and a couple of steaks with interesting sauces.
As a hotel restaurant, too, it has to have flexible hours. We arrived after a concert, at 10 pm, when most center-city restaurants had closed their doors. Pearl, the hotel’s bar/lounge also stays open late and offers a nice menu and terrific people-watching.
The Vienna Park Hyatt has now been open for about two months.