Austrian Fried Chicken

by W
January 21, 2006

139 Duane St
(W Broadway & Church St)
New York, NY 10007

Kurt Gutenbrunner’s latest German-Austrian bistro, Blaue Gans, has been high on my list of must-try restaurants. My eating buddy Jason Lee was in town, so we tried it together with a group of friends. I am honored once again that Jason has contributed the following review to Cravings (read Jason’s first Cravings review on San Francisco’s ). Two comments I would like to add: 1) The fried chicken was an unexpected knockout. I eat very little chicken these days and I couldn’t believe how tender, moist, and delicious it was. 2) A side note on the blood sausage dish — the flavor of the blood sausage when diced becomes so mild it is barely noticeable, but as a potato dish, it is perfect. So perhaps the dish should be renamed, because if you are really craving the flavor of blood sausage, you might not get your fill. The rest I leave up to Jason. — Celia

What most surprised me about the food at Blaue Gans was the remarkable cleanness of the preparations and flavors. Many of the dishes had a wonderful flavor balance that made me want to keep ordering more beer and more food, reminiscent of spending a long day at a beer garden or a long night at a Japanese izakaya.

My friends and I agreed that one of the standout dishes was the appetizer blood sausage with sautéed potatoes and sauerkraut. Although we expected the blood sausage to figure more prominently, combining it with the familiar richness of fried potatoes, the refreshing sourness of the sauerkraut and the subtle white heat of the horseradish produced a perfect flavor package.

Many of the dishes that I expected to be heavier or muddier in flavor were delightfully clean and at the same time richly flavorful. For example, the pork wiener schnitzel and the crispy fried chicken, which are both breaded and fried, were two of the most rewarding entrees: the meats were notably juicy, the levels of saltiness and flavoring were perfectly controlled and neither was greasy.

Touches to many of the side dishes — like the deep sweetness of the red cabbage that accompanied the roasted pork belly, or the refreshing (yes, refreshing) coolness of the potato salad that accompanied some of the other entrees — were carefully designed and executed. In particular, I thought the potato salad was a masterful vinegar-y, mustard-y, fennel-y treat.

I wasn’t a huge fan of every dish, however. For some reason, all restaurants seem to have a different interpretation of goulash, so I’m never really sure what to expect, but the heavy cumin flavor in Blaue Gans’ goulash was a big turn-off. I suspect the cumin flavor was from the generous use of caraway seeds, which are used in some variations of goulash, but I thought it overpowered the dish, turning it into something too reminiscent of American chili or a curry (both of which I love, but which are not goulash). In addition, I imagine goulash to be stew-like or soup-like in consistency, depending on the interpretation, and being served something that looked more like cubes of braised meat with a little reduction sauce — without any notable paprika- or vegetable-derived sweetness or heat — was also a bit disappointing. The preparation of the dish was still quite good, however (as was the case with all the other food we ordered), and others may disagree with respect to preferred flavors and consistency.

Comments about the goulash aside, Blaue Gans is a place I would eagerly recommend. Usually my main criterion for recommendation is whether I would go out of my way to go eat at a place. In the case of Blaue Gans, you can bet I’d be willing to go far out of my way to eat there. The combination of heartiness and refinement at Blaue Gans creates very accessible and satisfying food that is at the same time stimulating, delicate and smart.

Also in Austrian, Chicken, German, Tribeca

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