AMON´S Gastwirtschaft in Vienna is one of those old-fashioned, family-style restaurants that serve the community as an unchanging and irreplaceable social institution. I imagine it´s a popular place for large wedding dinners, baptisms, kids´ birthdays, grown-ups´ birthdays. The dining area is huge, so there is plenty of space to accommodate large parties and the restaurant is divided into several different sections to suit different preferences. There´s even a kids´ room, to help give tired parents a break. I went there with my babe, my brother and my sister-in-law, their friends and the families of their friends after a day of skiing in the Austrian Alps.
The menu looks great, though we unfortunately arrived late and had to order a bit too hastily. Only later did I see all the things I had missed when I was scrambling to pronounce “schnitzel” correctly: Austrian vineyard snails, liver dumpling consommé (also popular in Hungary under the name májgombóc leves) and the Wiener Zwiebelrostbraten (roast beef coated with crunchy onion strings).
At AMON´S you have access to a salad bar with a wide array of options to choose from. Given the heavy, meaty, greasy nature of most classic Austrian specialties, salad is generally a good idea to squeeze in on the side. We had some pickled cabbage flavored with caraway seeds, pickled slices of cucumber, tomato and a potato salad made with vinegar and onions that reminded me of my grandmother’s potato salad. In fact, the overall pickled nature of this salad bar reminded me very much of Hungarian meals, in which “salad” almost always means a collection of pickled veggies brought home from the market in plastic bags. It´s a great cultural adaptation, since the acidity in the veggies cuts the lard in which the entrées are prepared, making for a balanced and delicious meal that won´t leave you in a coma for the rest for the rest of the afternoon. We had a must-have, the Wiener Schnitzel of veal, served on its own with a wedge of lemon. When in Vienna… A thinly pounded cut of veal was treated with flour, egg and bread crumbs, then fried in a deep pan of lard before being pulled off and served. You can tell it was cooked in lard, because the crust got extra crispy and took on this intense golden color that oil just cannot achieve. My slice was nice and even, the meat inside perfectly soft and thin enough to chew easily. I was a bit envious of my neighbor´s plate, because her schnitzel had several small pieces as opposed to one large slice. I prefer the former, as smaller pieces usually crisp up more and are easier to portion out. They also remind me more of my grandmother´s version of this dish, ultimately 10 times better than anything you can get in a restaurant either in Budapest or Vienna.
That best bite at Amon´s… that Geröstete Kalbsleber. This is a deeply comforting dish of sautéed calf´s liver and onions, flavored with marjoram and bay leaf. Here it was served with a side of Erdäpfel-Röstitaler, three potato hash brows fried to a fantastic golden brown. The dish had wonderful flavor, the slight funk of the liver balanced expertly by the herbal spices. The livers were correctly rid of chewy veins and membranes, then cooked until tender and juicy. The onions, too, became translucent and caramelized but were not overcooked. Each forkful was succulent and moist, with plenty of sauce to hydrate the innards and add a glossy texture to the exterior. The hashbrows were delicious as well, with a very crunchy exterior and soft, mushy inside. They were great also for soaking up the leftover juices on the plate.