We first heard about Délice from some friends who'd been before. They'd warned us about its tiny size and high price, but promised us a dining experience unlike any other. We made our reservation about three months in advance just to make sure we'd get a table on the night we wanted.
We arrived right when the restaurant opened at 19:00, and were the first ones there. True to their word, the restaurant look like a small, underground wine cellar with a low, vaulted stone ceiling and a small, open kitchen in the center. There were just five tables in the establishment, and ours was one of them. The tables were set with white linen and multiple wine glasses, while the jazzy electronic music and hanging glass balls lent the space a very modern feel.
We were greeted at the door by Evangelos Pattas, one of the owners and also the server/host/sommelier. He looked a bit like Christoph Waltz in person -- a bit thicker and with slightly more pepper to his grey, but with strikingly similar facial features and the same style of humor. Though our food German is pretty advanced, we asked him if he could speak to us in English for the evening so that we didn't miss anything, and he was happy to oblige.
We never met the chef, Andreas Hettinger, but could easily see him bustling about the tiny kitchen and preparing every dish to perfection. According to their website, the pair have a history working at Michelin-rated restaurants, and have come together to start their own restaurant with Délice. Other than them, there was just one other woman in the restaurant helping to serve, making it an overall very intimate experience.
The experience was so intimate, in fact, that our very first choice was whether we'd want our five-course prix fixe menu to be a surprise or if we'd want to know the menu ahead of time so that the chef could make any changes for us. Our friends were blown away during their visit by the chef's willingness to craft a menu just for them, and as tempting as the option sounded, we decided to stretch our taste buds and opted for a surprise.
But first, we chose our aperitif. The sommelier asked our preference between a muskateller, sekt, or champagne, of which we opted for the Muskateller feinherb from Weingut Knab, a tiny village in Baden-Württemberg near the border with France. With each wine, he explained where it came from and what we should taste. The muskateller was sweet and bubbly on the tongue but with enough acidity to cut the sweetness and leave a light herbal ending.
With our aperitif, we were served an amuse-bouche that consistent of two silver spoons, one with a square of Celeriac Quiche and the other with a Veal Tartar on toast with Bärlauch cream. The quiche was salty and buttery, with a subtle celery flavor, while the tartar had a nice blend of textures and flavors from the melt-in-your-mouth veal to the crispy toast and garlicky Bärlauch (wild garlic).
I felt a bit crass taking photos in such a fine restaurant, and so when the amuse-bouche was first served, I asked the sommelier if it would be okay if I took some photos to remember the meal. His response was "Of course! We're not not like those other fine dining restaurants. We're cool." After that, I was completely relaxed enough to fall in love with the whole experience!
To our surprise, we then got another amuse-bouche of Asparagus Soup with hemp seeds. The little cup of soup had a silky, smooth texture with just the right amount of umami to the cream base. I could have eaten a whole bowl of it for dinner and probably have been happy. At this point, I was thoroughly excited for our menu to start.
Also at the table, we were served a number of breads, including walnut bread, wheat bread, and French baguette along with an unsalted French butter and salt from the second biggest river in Australia (which I later googled, and think it's the Murrumbidgee River). I can't say the salt, or the butter for that matter, were any more special than "regular" butter and salt (apart from the lovely pink hue of the salt), but I really did like that each food and wine served to us began to have an origin story, suggesting that the owners took much care in their food choices.
We decided to go all out and order the wine tasting with each course. For our first pairing, we were served the Sauvignon Blanc Lafóa from Colterenzio in the South Tyrol. The taste was light and crisp with floral grassy notes. It paired very well with our first course of Marinated Mackerel. The small fish filet had been marinated in ginger, basil, and olive oil and served with a lightly spiced curry couscous drizzled with watercress pesto and dressed with small bites of cucumber, green apple, and avocado cream. True to what I love about fine dining, the dish was artistically crafted with a pleasing blend of tastes in all the right proportions. I was especially pleased by temperature of the fish, which had a crispy skin on the outside and a warm, but still uncooked, almost-sushi-like texture on the inside.
For our second course, we sipped on a glass of 2014 Cuvée Weiss from Weingut Knauß in Baden-Württemberg. The blend consisted of pinot blanc, pinot gris, and chardonnay and had been aged in oak barrels, giving it a complex, direct flavor that hit the roof of my mouth, but slipped creamily over my tongue. The wine was paired with a Lobster and Arctic Char Cannelloni that had been dressed with a tomato sauce made from the shell of the lobster and topped with a sorrel salad drizzled with lavender-honey. What surprised me most about this dish was the paper-thin cannelloni dough that was a blend of white dough and squid ink dough. It had been very gently wrapped around a large piece of lobster meat and a second large piece of fish inside, rather than having a blended filling, so that I could clearly make out the texture and taste of the ingredients.
For our third course, we moved into the reds with a glass of 2007 Haideboden Cuvée from Weingut Umathum in the Burgenland region of Austria. The blend of cabernet sauvignon and Blaufränkisch grapes had a very light jammy taste that became surprising earthly when taken together with our food, a course of Guineafowl. The bird was cooked to juicy perfection served atop a bed of pea purée and au jus and sprinkled with bits of snow peas, sage, morels, and cashews. I really liked the composition of this dish. The thin layer of buttery fat surrounding the slice of guineafowl breast was particularly tasty, as were the soft morels (my favorite mushrooms) and pea purée.
By this point, it might sound like we'd had a lot to eat, but the dishes had been small and nicely spaced out so that we were still looking forward to our fourth course. Our wine pairing for this one was a glass of 2007 Hundsrück Spätburgunder from Weingut Rudolf Fürst in Bavaria. Spätburgunder is the German name for pinot noir, and while I haven't been impressed by many of the German reds from the immediate area, this one had a deeper flavor than most with black berry and earthy notes. We sipped it alongside a Veal Filet with Potato-crust served atop three very seasonal sticks of white asparagus and broccoli rabe drizzled with a madeira sauce and a blood orange hollandaise that was to die for! The dish was probably one of the simplest of the four we'd thus-far had, but the potato-crust on top of the perfectly tender veal and blood orange hollandaise helped it go from simple to exceptional.
Before our next course, we were served another dish as a kind of entremets or "palate cleanser" of Pineapple Foam with chunks of pineapple on the bottom and sprinkled with a vanilla crumble and lime leaves. The foam was beautifully plated and perfectly sized to prepare us for our final course.
Our fifth and last course came with a glass of 2015 Bricco Quaglia Moscato d'Asti from La Spinetta winery in the Piedmont region of Italy. The sparkling wine had a brighter acidity and finish than the moscato with which we started, and the sommelier joked that it was basically a delicious lemonade. It made a nice companion to our Strawberry-Rhubarb Cake that was made of layers of strawberry, rhubarb, and hibiscus flavored mousse with a white chocolate ganache on top of a layer of delicate almond cake. The sides were sandwiched with thin pieces of white chocolate and the cake square was topped with fresh strawberries, basil leaves, and an almond crunch. On the side was a light, creamy moscato d'asti ice cream. The dish was an explosion of flavors that helped bring the meal to a light ending that didn't weigh our stomachs down.
And just when we thought we were finished, our friendly sommelier brought us a dish of orange tea cakes, white and raspberry truffles, and chocolate nibs to nibble on while we took care of our bill. It was easily one of the most expensive meals we've ever purchased at 109€ per person for the five courses plus another 45€ for the wine pairing, but it was money very well spent. We were surprised to look down at our watches and see that the time was already 23:30, making our meal a solid four-plus hours long.
What we really paid for, then, was the full experience: the tastes, the wine knowledge, and the performance from our friendly, bubbly sommelier. Best of all, I never felt like the evening was rushed or passing too slowly, and I never felt a snob-vibe from the staff despite the fact that we rarely get to dine in this manner. They really were "cool". I should also add that I've have had some beautiful meals in my life, including fine dining experiences in Paris, Washington, D.C., and New Orleans, and I can easily say that this was a real treat that was on par with them. It was one of my top-five meals for sure, and one that I hope to repeat again in the future.
Délice is located on Haupstätter Straße next to the Österreichischer Platz U-bahn station along the U1, U4, and and U14 lines. They are open from 19:00 until midnight Monday through Friday. I highly recommend them, but be sure to make a reservation in advance.