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The service at Grünauer Bistro on the Upper East Side calls to mind a time long ago, when servers addressed patrons as “Sir” and “Madame.” It opened in March, but it has the feeling of a place that has been around for decades. This week in teh New York Times, Pete Wells says the place “seems to be a holdout from Yorkville’s past, when businesses fed the Czech, Slovak, Hungarian, Austrian and German immigrants who lived side by side in microneighborhoods that replicated the arrangement of Mitteleuropa.” It’s a quiet place, with a pianist on Thursday nights, and a spirit that “tends toward contemplative twilight.”
The owner, Peter Grünauer is no stranger to the New York City dining scene. He made his mark on Manhattan in the 1970s and 80s as the owner of Vienna 79, another Austrian restaurant, but with a modern twist. This restaurant is more traditional, but elements of Vienna 79 remain. House-cured gravlax with whole-grain mustard sauce, were Grünauer’s original restaurant and they’re “worth getting.” Applesauce cut with horseradish is also back, and goes well with “tafelspitz, beef braised to tenderness with root vegetables in a light broth.”
Beef consommé, and goulash (made with beef and not veal) are both good. Skip the vegetarian spaetzle. Wiener schnitzel comes with “lingonberries (intact and not too sweet), potato salad (on the mild, creamy side) and marinated cucumber slices (classic).” Certain nights, veal cutlet is perfect, and others, the crust isn’t quite as crunchy as you’d want. In the chicken paprikash, the white meat chicken can be dry. As far as vegetables go, there is a salad of vinegared beets in “several colors” that comes with “big white puffs of whipped goat cheese,” that Wells describes as “very nice.”
For the most part, desserts are good, as they had “better be” at an Austrian restaurant. “Kaiserschmarrn, a dense, eggy pancake broken into pieces that were white with powdered sugar and stained dark by fruit compote” was “ridiculously good.”
The wine list is better than you might expect, and it’s certainly more robust than the one that had been at Vienna 79. Most of the bottles are under $70, and the list includes “notable” producers. At the end of the meal, you’ll get a bottle of apple brandy- or at least you probably will. It’s possible the restaurant was trying to impress Wells, though he doesn’t think they “spotted the critic.” You’ll also be asked whether you want your coffee after or during dessert, a nice touch that accompanies already good service.
Overall? One star.
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