Sowieso: Das Wienen Restaurant, Fleischmarkt, Vienna, Austria
Set in a quiet street just outside central Vienna, Sowieso is laid-back, friendly and fantastic value for money. They serve a mix of traditional Austrian dishes including cream soups, veal goulash, schnitzel and apricot dumplings.
We sat outside, the Summer heat wave still inciting scores of residents and tourists to take to the streets in search of food, drink and in general, a good time. Sowieso was busy but the service, conducted by a friendly couple who spoke competent English, was fast and not at all intrusive. They made every effort to enable us to enjoy our experience, including offering advice on the menu and taking the hint that we needed more time to choose. And boy was it hard to.
Aside from the nine set menus that deliver three courses for anywhere between €15 and €20, there is a monthly menu and also an a la carte. To start, we opted for Austrian Tapas to share. A delightful platter arrived with taster versions of the restaurant’s most prized main dishes. Veal goulash was mouth-wateringly tender in a steamy tomato sauce; cream of parsnip soup had just a hint of nutmeg and spice to add that touch of warmth while crispy croutons floated near the top; a cold beef salad topped with slivers of red onion was shredded beef offset by the sharpness of balsamic vinegar and the nuttiness of the truffle oil, delicious! Finally breaded chicken and potato salad fell apart between your teeth, the choice of dark meat a good one to add that extra meaty flavour. Dainty pieces of baguette were useful for mopping up the juices.
A main of chanterelle mushrooms in cream sauce with potato dumplings from the August menu was a sure hit. The sauce was rich but not overpowering, the mushrooms with a full and nutty taste – even meat-lovers would be satisfied. The dryness of the potato dumplings was perfect to compliment to sauce – a real traditional treat we were told. I can’t disagree. Also from the August menu was fried Styrian chicken – Styrian being an area of Austria – the chicken was actually deep fried in a crispy dark breadcrumb batter served beside a potato salad with pumpkin oil. The batter held to the chicken well, though the breast was a little tasteless. The thigh and wing meat was tastier, as expected, though nothing outstanding here. The salad was better; the pumpkin oil delivering just a hint of the vegetable’s sweetness though the amount made it all a bit greasy and tart.
Finally came a minute steak with crispy onions and fried potatoes. The steak was cooked to be tender and the onions, rings so thin and delicate they were like ribbons of dew, were wonderfully light and crunchy. The potatoes were a bit too salty though and could have had less time cooking. The gravy serving was rather generous but, as we quickly saw here, portion size means nothing.
For dessert there was a typical creme brulee for those who can’t go without their caramel and cream. For the more culture-lovers, be sure to sample the warm apricot dumpling; made from semolina and topped with a sprinkling of icing sugar, this chewy, doughy dumpling has nothing of the doughnut texture that you might assume. Far from being rubbery or overly sweet, it has a great bite to it and inside hides a full apricot. Finished off by a dollop of apricot compote and crumbs of crystallised sugar, this dessert was the star of the show. It’s also available as two smaller dumplings stuffed with Austrian ice cream – apparently just as popular!
Sowieso is not fine dining but that’s not what you’re paying for; what you are paying for is attentive and relaxed service, generous helpings of good quality Austrian cuisine and an altogether pleasant evening. And here, you get what you pay for too.