Schmelzgasse 9. 1020. Wien. www.elhans.at +01 968 17 23 $$$$
Monday to Saturday - 18:00 - 23:00 Sunday Closed
The fresh daily catch, the salt of the sea, and the indulgence of Austrian culinary practices:
That's El Hans.
Tucked into a corner lot on residential Mohrengasse, you'll find a bespoke Spanish restaurant housed within the unassuming white washed walls of Schmelzgasse 9.
In the summer, foodies from near and far make good use of El Hans' welcoming patio. In full purview of Johannes Von Gott Platz, the restaurant takes its name from the area's patron saint (Hans is from Johannes). But don't be fooled into thinking it's a typical quiet neighbourhood. Rather, it's full of activity as locals from Vienna's Jewish quarter meet at the crosswalk to catch up on the day's affairs, across from El Hans.
In the colder months at El Hans, guests head indoors to enjoy the warmth of the dimly-lit interior, which naturally lends itself to talking the night away over a shared bottle of Amontillado Gran Barquero (95 points) or El Hans' own 2014 Bio-certified Syrah.
Regardless of season, El Hans has become as much a part of the local fauna as the multicolored residences that pepper this little-known Viennese side street.
It all began a handful of years back when the team behind the restaurant captured the affection of the locals by importing Spanish goods to create their authetically tantilizing culinary creations.
Many of these signature ingredients can still be purchased on wooden market-like shelves just to the left of the restaurant's entrance.
It's their genuine penchant for quality that has ultimately won foodies over; top-end grocery shoppers and diners alike.
The menu is simple yet sophisticated, with an undeniable inventive stroke, which is something the savvy Viennese appreciate as well. From the starters to the mains, gastronomes will be pleased to know that this is not a standard-tapas serving Spanish restaurant. Rather, the dishes are along the lines of temple-of-European-culinary-prowess -Bilbao styled fare.
Pairing beautifully with the Austrian's knack for indulgence and dining practices, this combination has made El Hans a delight for the in-the-know culinary connoisseur.
This summer, we talked with the team behind El Hans to get a better idea of their food philosophy, inspiration, and dedication to detail. This is the new Vienna. As indulgent as ever, but without the schnitzel.
Special summer cocktails, fragrant olive oil, and bread baskets are a great way to start-off at El Hans. Feel free to peruse the menu, though we recommend letting the staff take care of you. Both a la carte and smart tasting menus offer a range of flavors sure to tease and please even the pickiest of palettes. The quality and richness of each ingredient, from sea salt to sunflower seeds, will be apparent from the first bite until to the last. This is clearly a place where you're in good hands when you ask waiters for their recommendations.
If you do insist on ordering for yourself, the Berberechos (cockles) and the Croquetas (croquettes) are a definite must. The freshness, and savoury nature is unrivalled. Mussels alone may never satiate your hankering for crustaceans again.
The croquettes are just one of many dishes featuring Jamón Ibérico by the way, which if you're a bacon lover may be best described as next level charcuterie.
Jamón Ibérico is a heavily guarded practice for piglet rearing and pork production. Taking place in Eastern Spain near the Iberian peninsula, these piggies are raised on a strict diet of whole grain cereals and oleic acid rich acorns. Then, full of the feed, they're given ample room to roam in the great outdoors throughout the fall and early winter months,
Raised until a year and a half old, the pigs feed on roughly 15 (6.5+ kg) pounds of acorns a day in order to reach their prefered 350 (160 kg) pound weight.
And, we all know that you are what you eat. In this case that means that the rich taste of the oleic acid, also present in olives, comes through in the taste of the ham. This rich flavor is what makes Jamón Ibérico so highly sought after, and no doubt, marks the signature taste of El Hans top-end cuisine which uses this ingredient throughout the menu.
Though, if you're not a red meat-eater, there are many savoury vegetarian and seafood based options to choose from like the Seabass served on top of a mint-and-split-pea puree, complimented by succulent artichoke hearts and ripened cherry tomatoes, or the ravioli filled with Spanish La Peral cheese and walnuts with a hint of mango. Ah, I'm getting hungry all over again just writing about these dishes.
El Hans, through the dedication of its food-loving team works hard to maintain delicate relationships wth Spanish farmers and fisherman.
The fisherman, for example, are as serious and dedicated to their craft as the chefs and staff of the restaurant. As such, the fisherman want to know how the freshness of their catch will be maintained, how it will be prepared, sold, and presented. They want to know that the people enjoying the fruits of their labor will notice the quality and special nature of Spanish fish, caught in sustainable ways.
El Hans selects their ingredients, with an equal amount of care. For them, "food is like dating and (we) ask the customers if they had a one night stand or if they want to get married."
It's safe to say that this will be a long term relationship for Travlr Blog & El Hans...
Oh, and those cockle shells we were raving about before? They are caught Tuesday, along with the bass, cod, and other Spanish seafood, packaged in ice and shipped to the restaurant within 24 hours: just enough time to be cleaned, prepared, and cooked to order for your Thursday evening dinner at El Hans.
5 Course Tasting Menu + 5 wine varietals, 88 € per person
A la carte options from 11 €