Sometimes, you meet people who just fascinate you from the very moment you say hello for the first time. That happened to me during a trip to the beautiful Wachau region in Austria in the beginning of April on the occasion of the sixth edition of the Wachau Gourmet Festival.
My purpose was to cover the clash of the two star chefs, Mads Refslund and Adam Aamann, who in united approach where going to make a 8-course menu paired with the transcendent wines of the Wachau region – a dinner so extraordinary that it had to be an event in a church.
During a reception held the day before the dinner, a group of local chefs presented dishes from their respective restaurants. Here I got to meet Thomas Dorfer, head chef at Landhaus Bacher in the small village of Mautern. With two Michelin stars until the guide decided to stop covering the Wachau region and 18 points out of 20 in the Gault&Millau guide, Thomas Dorfer has proved his talent.
Despite that fact, he is the most humble and pleasant person I have met for a very long time. He simply has a burning passion for food and a great talent for cooking, and he has no need to show off.
The next day, I had the honour of being invited to lunch by Thomas at Landhaus Bacher, a lunch that I really would like to share with you.
Landhaus Bacher was established by Lisl Wagner-Bacher, who introduced a well-made, Austrian cuisine at a high level. Then her daughter Susanne married Thomas Dorfer and today, Landhaus Bacher is one big family business with Thomas in charge of the kitchen while Lisl Wagner-Bacher and is still in charge of the business together with her husband Klaus Wagner-Bacher, who has been taking good care of the wine cellar throughout the years,
The lunchroom is designed as a very comfortable living room with a fireplace, book shelves full of books and furniture in light colours. Despite the fact that this is a gourmet restaurant, everything is very relaxed, and two young families had brought their children and their prams with them. It is a true quality mark that there is room for everyone instead of concerning about dress codes etc.
We started with a number of savoury appetizers of which you will get some of the highlights.
Now the first dish arrived, an enormous langoustine with variations of cucumber, pickled, thinly sliced bands and a light, fluffy cream. Heart salad and pickled unripened elderflower berries with a slight bitterness accompanied the juicy, perfectly cooked langoustine as well. A fresh and light way to start the meal.
We moved on to the next dish which turned out to be very well-made. Braised onions in an onion stock with tapioca pearls were the foundation of the dish. A perfectly poach quail egg was hidden under a thin melted slice of the french cheese Mimolette and a very decent amount of grated and sliced truffle brought heavenly aromas to the table. A creamy sauce was poured over at last. The umami flavours were extremely present and all the components just melted together. Beautiful.
Now we were ready for the main course of this extended lunch. Perfectly medium-rare lamb with new green asparagus, a compote of eggplant lying on baked eggplant, small, dried tomatoes, boiled and puffed quinoa grains, respectively. Finally an intense jus of lamb were poured over the dish. The meat was spotless with great tenderness and a crispy layer of fat which’s crispiness was enhanced by a layer of the puffed quinoa, which’s toasted, nutty aromas I really liked. The green asparagus brought freshness while the compote of eggplant added depth to the dish along with the small tomatoes that were sweet as dried cranberries. Not to forget was a croquette with braised shank of lamb. I must say that I felt very happy about this dish.
After this great main course we were ready to enter the desserts. My companion went for a very fresh, delicate dessert which reminded me of the good, old tarte au citron meringuée. Though, it was his dessert so I cannot go into very specific details about this dish.
Instead, I went for a dessert with the theme chocolate and sea buckthorn. The elements were a cylinder of Valrhona Alpaco 66 percent chocolate rolled in cocoa powder, creme of caramel, sorbet and a sphere of sea buckthorn. A meltingly soft chocolate soufflé with a purée of sea buchthorn in the bottom was served apart. The mix of dark chocolate and very acidic fruit is not always that succesfull, but in this dessert, the rich, dark flavours and creamy textures of chocolate really melted together with the sour elements of sea buckthorn.
This lunch was a great pleasure and a great example on Thomas Dorfers culinary talent and his use of local, top class ingredients. I have not been mentioning the wine in this article. Primarily, the sommeliers stick to the excellent wines of the Wachau region, which I definitely applaud. The wines are light and intense at the same time and are therefore the natural extension of Thomas Dorfers culinary visions.
I recommend a visit at Landhaus Bacher to everyone, who seek gourmet food on a top level in the Wachau region, just an our away from Vienna by car. Immediately, you sense the strong family band between now three generations of Bachers and Dorfers, and you fell welcome from the moment you enter the door.