Martin Klein and the Ikarus Team

The festival month of August – a grand culinary performance at Restaurant Ikarus

August is the only month of the year that we don’t welcome a guest chef to Restaurant Ikarus at Hangar-7 (2015 being the exception, when our Ikarus month was November). Instead, we write our very own culinary play – in the language of aromas and flavours, and with a storyline based on all culinary experiences and developments from throughout the year. The cast takes the form of unusual ingredients from outstanding suppliers in the region, ranging from a king prawn startup near Munich to a traditional vegetable gardener in South Tyrol. The two chefs Tommy Eder-Dananic and Jörg Bruch each set off on a separate research trip to find some special ingredients for this special menu.

My own destination is a little closer than usual: the neighbouring town of Grödig, where Walter Grüll breeds fish. As a regional specialist, he supplies us with the Danube salmon for Hans Haas’ course on the menu for Eckart Witzigmann. This time, I’m visiting Walter to procure some top-class sturgeon caviar. It takes at least eight years until a sturgeon is large enough to be used as a source of caviar. The animal is only killed if sturgeon fillets are ordered at the same time. Otherwise, the breeders remove the caviar very carefully without hurting the fish. The work is exhausting and risky. Many of Walter’s ponds are hidden somewhere in the hinterlands, where Salzburg’s mountain water flows and the delicious fish are shielded from the eyes of thieves and competitors. Walter is a purist. He only adds salt to his caviar – unlike most other producers, who treat it with a preservative. That’s ideal for us, as it means his caviar couldn’t be any fresher when arriving here at Restaurant Ikarus. To create a small caviar taco, we have cured the sturgeon fillets like ham and left them to age on rice for two months. Cut into wafer-thin strips, they lie inside a crisp made of rice, together with a flowery but spicy cream of nasturtium, Walter’s caviar and a mild vinaigrette made from the plant's flowers.

Just as unique as the Salzburg caviar is the top-quality seafood from Bavaria, where chef Jörg visits Fabian Riedel and Maximilian Assmann. The pair breed freshwater king prawns in a village north of Munich. Their aim is to produce “perfect prawns” in order to show that shrimp farming doesn’t have to be harmful to the environment. The quantities have been very limited so far. Jörg tries the king prawns for the first time in a small kitchen next to the large breeding tank. The question is: are they as tasty as their wild-caught relatives? Yes! In fact, they taste even better – sweet and firm. Prawns this fresh simply can’t be found anywhere else in Central Europe. And the gentle slaughter method prevents  stress hormones being released in the meat – you can definitely taste the difference. Jörg draws inspiration from the shrimps’ Bavarian origins, suggesting a dish that contains poppies, radish sprouts and beer. It sounds simple, but the preparation is very elaborate.

Service manager Matthias Berger visits the wine-making family Tement in southern Styria, on a mission to find the best wine to accompany a baked sweetbread. Super-crunchy, it lies atop a very delicate, steamed cream made from egg and miso with a very dense dashi, a shiso with citrus notes, and one or two drops of yuzu. Finding the perfect wine isn’t easy. But the wine is very important, as it provides a refreshing intermission in the rhythm of the long menu. It comes directly before the main course. The wine must not be too powerful, but nor should it be overshadowed by any of the preceding “Grosses Gewächs” wines. This precise balance is exactly what Matthias often looks for when trying to find the perfect accompanying wine. Like in a jazz song, the slightly off-beat chord gives the overall piece the right groove. When trying a sample from the barrel with Armin Tement, the oenologist of the family, Matthias finds the solution – and its not one of the wines from the most famous Tement vineyard, Zieregg. Instead, a Sauvignon blanc made from old vines from Grassnitzberg has precisely the right amount of freshness, grassy notes and a blackcurrant aroma. It goes perfectly with the soft citrus flavours that accompany the sweetbread.

Later, on his way to the Gasser family’s nursery, Tommy finds a
variety of shiso with strong lemon undertones, which makes the combination of sweetbread and sauvignon even better. The young Gassers are growing rare varieties of vegetables on their grandparents’ farm – in the middle of the South Tyrol mountains near Barbian, four generations are helping to maintain a small paradise. Tommy has contacted the gardening couple in his own time in the past, for he enjoys experimenting with unusual vegetables at home whenever he has a day off. But this is his first visit to the farm. When the Eisack Valley suddenly reveals itself around the last serpentine bend in the road, Tommy is overcome: amidst this magnificent countryside stands a farmhouse surrounded by sunflowers, lettuce, and children climbing in ancient tree houses. The gardener lets Tommy stop now and then between the vegetable patches to sample the different produce. Even the experienced chef isn’t familiar with some of the blossoms, herbs or roots being grown here. The gardener and the chef choose some purple, white and red radishes for us. Back in Salzburg, Tommy ferments the first harvest. At the height of summer, some very fresh, crunchy radishes are grated over smoked sablefish. With white-blossomed vineyard peaches, the fish provides a contrast to the spicy radishes. In the kitchen, we spend hours refining the final version of the recipe. It isn’t until the last minute that we decide to use sablefish instead of hake. The fillet is a little fatter. It is perfectly suited for smoking and elegantly melts into small pieces on the fork. To our surprise, Gasser then not only delivers radishes but also the radish blossoms – they’re just as colourful as the roots, but much milder, making them the perfect addition. The entire menu is characterised by accents set by the fine vegetables from South Tyrol: in one of the courses, young kohlrabi are given a leading role. For the ceviche, Gasser suggests wasabi and rocket. Yet our selection is still limited, since we can only use vegetables that will grow quickly. The large quantities that are needed here in the Ikarus kitchen must be specially cultivated in the small nursery. We’d better start planning the menu for next year’s Ikarus month very soon!

Recorded by Hans Gerlach

Restaurant Ikarus

Wilhelm-Spazier-Str. 7A
5020 Salzburg, Austria

Tel.: +43-662-2197-0
Fax: +43-662-2197-3786

ikarus@hangar-7.com

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