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The best family of them all (i.e. MY family) gave me a very special gift for my 30th Birthday: They made a reservation for Hubby and me at Ikarus, a very upscale restaurant near Salzburg – AND are going to pay for our evening there! My brother and SIL have discovered the restaurant years ago and their enthusiastic rants about it inspired me to give my BFF and her then-new husband an evening there as a gift for their wedding. They, in turn, ranted enthusiastically about it afterwards as well. And now, now it’s my turn to rant enthusiastically!

A comfortably full belly after a glorious meal at the price of a short vacation, paid by not-me – what’s not to love? I’m not really sure they were aware of the financial commitment they got themselves into, but maybe we’ll work that out a little later.

 

It was an adventure in eating unlike anything I’ve ever experienced so far. I’m not saying I’ve tried a whole lot of upscale restaurants in my life, but I’ve had an outstanding meal or two before. But this? This?! This topped everything.

 

The restaurant is part of a complex dedicated to Red Bull-owner Dietrich Mateschitz’ passion for winged vehicles. Restaurant Ikarus, alongside an also very yummy café and a bar, is located in a hangar-shaped glass dome. From the balcony where we were seated, we overlooked a considerable collection of diverse aircrafts on display at a museum also located in the glass hangar. Very impressive surroundings to a gourmet meal.

At Ikarus, every month a different international top chef takes over the kitchen (or at least the menu – I take it they stay in Salzburg for a mere couple of days to train the kitchen staff). This month, it was Ryan Clift, from the Tippling Club in Singapore. One of the most intriguing things about the menu he created were the cocktails that accompanied every course. I had the vegetarian alternative menu, which included most, but not all, of his courses, so I didn’t have the pleasure of having a perfectly matched cocktail with each of my courses, but the drinks were really a whole experience by themselves. One, for example, was designed to match a perfume. It came in the perfume bottle and packaging, and when you removed the lid, you smelled the perfume before tasting the cocktail – which tasted exactly like the perfume’s fragrance. And it was actually very, very well matched to the food it came with.

and that's my personal menu in the background(in the background there, that’s my specially printed out personalized menu)

But let me start at the beginning.The service at Ikarus is outstanding and stylized beginning to end. Upon arrival, a genuinely friendly hostess accompanied us to the restaurant on the first floor, where we were greeted and seated by the head waiter. There were several waiters pacing the room at all times, but they were so unobtrusive, yet attentive – it was all perfectly perfect. The furniture was black and metal, with small statues of different kinds of birds attached to the tables. Very elegant and minimalistic.

We sat comfortably in black cushioned chairs and soon the waiters started piling the pre-courses onto the heavy silver underplates in front of us.

We had five (5!) amuse-bouches. They were flung at us like gunfire, and I hardly managed to take pictures of each one, but I got into my best white-trash-behavior and snapped away.

First was a vichyssoise in a flattened tube-like glass bottle. A cube of boiled potato sat on the bottle neck and was sprinkled with caviar (for me: tomburi; seeds that look like caviar). We were asked to sort of bite the bottle neck to get that potato and seeds in our mouths and then drink the soup. Fun. And SO tasty! My favorite amuse-bouche, right off the bat. And the picture I took was an afterthought when I realized this course would have been visually interesting, so no potato cube to be seen anywhere, sorry. But here’s the bottle with a bit of vichyssoise still clinging to the inside.

this is a glass bottle, actually, not some sort of rubber tube...

Next up: carrot cream with coriander. I believe the white granules on top of the carrot cream were some form of freeze dried coriander seed extract concoction, but I can’t be sure. This course was another smell-taste-interplay. Upon tearing the lid off the jar, we were hit with fragrant coriander. Also, we noticed that chef Clift had taken care to include at least three different textures into each of his courses, totally by the book. Here, it was creamy carrot cream, ever so slightly grainier coriander-leaf puree, and the chewy-crispy mystery-granules.

The next amuse-bouche was a soft-boiled quailegg “in the nest” with balsamic vinegar. I think the “nest” was made of balsamic vinegar that had been manipulated in some way to become this feathery, brownish-green bed, but I’m not sure. Could have been soy sauce or some extraterrestrial material, for all I know. I really liked the bowl this came in. I think it was a hollow glass tube.

Next in line was the first of many dishes containing truffles.

The soil the sprig of watercress (?) in this little red flowerpot is growing from consists of black truffle, hidden underneath is white truffle mousse. I’ve only seen this whimsical camouflage idea with desserts so far. And it was yummy!

This next amuse-bouche was my second favorite of the night: green peppers baked in black batter, served with whipped wasabi-soy sauce. And you were supposed to eat this with tweezers! Loved it!

The last one in this quintuplet of appetizers was smoked tofu with iced cucumber and sesame. It was nice, almost like a salad. What was interesting about it were the different temperatures in both actual temperature (very cool cucumber 😉 and lukewarm tofu) as well as taste (smoked tofu vs. crisp cucumber).

We were nothing near hungry by this point – but I have to say that the portions were very cleverly sized. I couldn’t have eaten another bite by the end of the meal, but I didn’t feel overly full either. Anyway, the first actual course was garlic soup with black gnocchi, parsley and chives.

Tastewise, this was definitely my highlight. I also thought the black gnocchi looked prettier on the plate than the meat eater’s white razor clams.

Oh, by the way, the wine we had with this? Oh my god, the wine! I don’t think I’ve understood before what all those wine snobs were yapping about when sniffing out all kinds of fragrances and before- and aftertastes in their wines, but now, having had actual high quality wine for the first time, now I do. The wine accompanying this soup had a distinct coffee and vanilla fragrance and I thought I could also actually taste the coffee. Another wine I had with a later course very distinctly smelled and tasted of pears and was actually refreshing, even though it was bone dry. Fascinating. I’ll have to become one of those wine snobs. Sorry, no way around it now.

Texture-wise, the next course takes the cake: Kuzu-noodle ginger broth with sea grapes and tomato. In my version, the center-crustacean was replaced with edamame beans. I imagine they were both equally tasteless – and I mean that in the best possible way. The whole idea of this dish, I think, was texture. The puffed white strings on top were perfectly crispy, the beans (and maybe the crustacean) were squishy with a bit of a bite, the kuzu-noodles were delightfully slimy, and the teeny sea grapes (threaded onto those fuzzy green pipe cleaners) burst one by one when you bit down on them. Of course the dish had a taste, too. Ginger, mostly, I think. Really what I remember are the textures and the surprisingly refreshing quality of the tomatoes. The drink that went with this was a cold mulled wine of some sort. Very nice.

Next up, one of Mr. Clift’s alleged favorites: carrots with carrots and carrots. I mean: carrot gnocchi in carrot broth, with avocado oil and pistachios. I didn’t take a picture (me=airhead), so I stole one from the clip on the Ikarus website.

This dish was basically different textures and preparations of carrot. Silky smooth carrot gnocchi, crisp carrot slices, crunchy half carrots, and the flavorful, shimmering broth. The main event was the drink that came with this. It was served in a pocket flask, looked and smelled like tomato juice, but tasted very strongly of blood orange. It was spicy on the first sip, but the more we ate of the carrot dish, the spicier the drink became! Extraordinarily interesting.

My next dish had nothing to do with Ryan Clift’s menu but was the vegetarian in-house substitute for Hubby’s yellowtail mackarel with chorizo and smoked paprika.

My dish was called Leek-Potato with Beurre Noisette. There weren’t any leeks involved in the making of this course, but the potatoes were prepared to look like leeks. That was some work went into that, and I simply can’t get over how whimsical this idea was. I just love it!

One of very, very few glitches of the evening was the fact that the vegetarian menu had seven courses while the original, meat-containing menu had eight. The waiter quickly suggested an intermediate course of sorbet for me while on the other side of the table, porkbelly in mozzarella skin on black trumpet puree with black salsify, was devoured.

Of course, there was something unusual about my rhubarb sorbet as well: It was served on an ice disk. Clever, no?

While the carnivore had roasted pigeon with freeze-dried raspberries, red beets and red quinoa (picture can be found on the Ikarus website; I forgot to take one because I’m ditzy), I had home-made Schupfnudeln with celery and black truffles, another in-house substitute. The celery was prepared three ways and there was also Beurre Noisette involved. It was very tasty, but apparently Hubby’s pigeon dish was positively rave-worthy. The waiter had initially offered to substitute it with another item from the menu. It seems that less adventurous eaters don’t particularly like the thought of pigeon on their plate. Well, two waiters were told afterwards that it was by far the best dish of the night and anyone who substituted it with anything else would have deprived themselves of a top-class culinary experience. It was also very interesting visually. All burgundy red, almost archaic-looking.

Okay, now, I’m just gonna go ahead and admit that I’m a dessert person and no doubt about it. So I had to be impressed by the fact that there were two (2) dessert courses AND a huge dessert cart with petit fours stacked two storeys high.

The first dessert was a crispy cookie with freeze dried berries and caramelized peanut butter in a tube, which was gone in a matter of seconds.

The second dessert was milky white and described simply as “Milk, yogurt ice cream, sago, coconut”. It looked like an iceberg and consisted of styrofoam-like white honeycomb pieces underneath which was hidden a perfectly white scoop of frozen yogurt on creamy white, rice pudding-like sago pearls. Something in there tasted like coconut. It actually looked like nothing to write home about, but it was a worthy completion of a perfectly molecutastic dinner! And it came with Ryan Clift’s take on a Mojito, which is another big plus in my book.

But it wasn’t over yet! Ikarus has three cheese carts, and when they are wheeled up to you for drooly viewing and picking from a plethora of cheeses, they enclose the table completely. Like a fortress made from cheese. I have never felt so protected by squishy, tangy produce.

The cheese guy (I’d never seen a cheese guy before. Wine guys, yes, but cheese guys? Mahvellous!) asked us about our preferences and tailored perfectly balanced cheese plates for each of us. To be eaten from left to right – mild to tangy. When the dessert cart finally came around, I had my very first opportunity to try macarons and see what all the fuss is about. I had one with pistachio flavors and one with yuzu, as well as a small chocolate confection with marula. Yummy!

 

This was one fricken fantastic foodfest I will remember for as long as I eat!

ThANk YOu!!!

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