Being on your way to Hangar-7 can mean one of three things: either you’re into air planes, love art or are a foodie par excellence. In any event, you’re up for something memorable! On second thought, aviation and haute cuisine are not necessarily concepts that you’d typically expect to find combined in one place.
But Red Bull’s Hangar-7 located close to Salzburg airport is a perfect example of how well those two distinct subjects can be introduced and realized, literally under one roof. True, the Ikarus may be among the most expensive restaurants in Salzburg, but certainly is the most extraordinary one.
For the night owls, a floor above the restaurant is the Mayday Bar and The Threesixty skybar floats right below the hangar ceiling; a narrow bridge connects the restaurant to it – unfortunately neither one of them we were able to experience first hand – they were closed when we visited (at noon).
Frequently Changing Art Exhibitions
While the Greek figure literally got burned for flying too high, there is little chance that it’ll happen to his namesake in Salzburg. Dadalus Eckart Witzigmann, the patron of the restaurant and chef de cuisine Roland Trettl presented the so-called ‘guest chef‘ concept with the Ikarus’ debut in 2003, introducing guest chef appearances by a new international cook each month. Across a broad spectrum of cuisines and with chefs including Jean-Georges Vongerichten, David Thompson, Marc Haeberlin, Lea Linster and Dieter Müller Ikarus manages to wow its visitors every 4 weeks anew, keeping the culinary momentum. The list of past and upcoming chefs speaks for itself, this restaurant attracts the best and most creative chefs in the world.
Gianluigi Bonelli, guest chef for the month of April, has cooked with Ferran Adrià at El Bulli, with Heston Blumenthal at The Fat Duck, with Massimiliano Alajmo at Le Calandre and with Alfonso Iaccarino at the Don Alfonso – all four are Michelin stars awarded chefs and indubitable among the top chefs globally. Admittedly, we have not heard of him before but the places and chefs he worked with were reference enough. Having been in charge of the kitchen at the Kee Club, one of Hong Kong’s finest private clubs, as well as his earlier engagements with for instance the Intercontinental Hotel Grand Stanford (HK) have certainly contributed to the Eastern influence in his cooking – his menu compilation fell nothing short of exceeding our expectations.
scampi – 3 x cucumber – white balsamic vinegar – cress
What appealed to us immediately was the thought of experiencing molecular gastronomy first hand, especially in light of Gianluigi Bonelli’s experience gained at El Bulli. Not surprisingly the presentation was excellent, our photos barely do them justice. The taste – even better.
scallops – carrot – potatoe – cardamom – coffee
A fantastic, out of this world menu, completed with in fact two desserts. One being a chocolate – apricot – tarragon creation, while the second one served with an espresso then finally concluded our 6+3 course lunch. +3 because three additional not-listed courses were squeezed in (and no, we didn’t tell them we were going to write about our visit) – how many courses would have been added to the alternatively available 15 course menu, we still keep wondering…
Our first acquaintance with molecular gastronomy was far better than expected. It wasn’t merely reduced to a combination of strange ingredients in unusual forms and shapes coming straight from the kitchen laboratory. The various tastes of the served courses seemed perfectly balanced and their unusual state even boosted the whole experience. Who would have thought cucumber mousse could have such a distinctive taste?
tortello – red onion – pumpkin – marjoram
Perhaps the one exception to the otherwise perfect menu was the pork’s belly, a notorious dish known for its ability to divide people’s opinions (so we were told). Other than that minor demerit (again this is just us, for someone else it could have been their top choice) the entire menu didn’t leave anything to wish for.
Interesting to notice was the fact that each course seemed to either cover a full spectrum of tastes and thus would create a very powerful, rich in contrast experience, while other courses appeared to focus on a set of “adjoining” flavors and rather go in-depth, in more subtle, nuanced way.
Most impressive course or taste (per N.): The Valrhona chocolate mousse (chocolate – apricot – tarragon). With a rather untypical firm consistency somewhere between butter and – pardon me – Nutella, a singular chocolate debauchery. Best. Chocolate. Experience. Ever.
O’s pick on the most impressive course or taste: The scampi – 3 x cucumber (foam, mousse and gel) – white balsamic vinegar – cress. The scampi taste was incredible, the consistency unusually soft. And I know that the answer to how the scampi could have been prepared kept O. thinking all day.
black currant – praline – blueberry – pistachio – olive oil – chocolate
For a high-end restaurant great service should be a matter of course, but Ikarus’ impeccable service has just raised the bar to a record high that’ll be difficult, if at all possible, to beat. A very well informed staff, utmost attentive, yet never too present – if that makes sense. By the standards of the restaurant, the butter as well as our glasses of water seemed to have had an extremely thin temperature tolerance and was exchanged/refilled steadily, yet unobtrusively. Even our inquiry to shoot the one or other photo was responded to with a big smile – in other cases we’ve read about restaurants going berserk and threatened to sue people… here we’re being basically invited to.
Good news and bad news. Bad news first, the month of April is over and Gianluigi Bonelli passed on the stick to the next guest chef. So if you’re intrigued specifically by his cuisine, you’d have to pay him a visit in Hong Kong. Good news is, however, that Frank Zlomke will ensure to keep the high standards and spoil Ikarus’ May guests with his creations.
The upshot of it: To put things a bit into perspective, it suffices to say that while it has been a delicious culinary adventure that inevitably will occupy all your senses, I can’t see myself craving this type of cuisine. Will we have it again? Absolutely! But will I wake up in the middle of the night and be thinking of it? Probably not. I don’t intend to impair the experience, but to point out that rather traditional cooking will always have its place. We’ll be back…(October maybe?)
Here is the complete 2006 list of guest chefs:
January 2006: Juan Amador, Amador, Langen, Germany
February 2006: Gabriel Kreuther, The Modern, NYC, USA
March 2006: Vivek Singh, The Cinnamon Club, London, Great Britain
April 2006: Gianluigi Bonelli, KEE, Hongkong, China
May 2006: Frank Zlomke, Bosman’s Restaurant, Paarl, South Africa
June 2006: Robert Feenie, Lumière, Vancouver, Canada
July 2006: Yoshii Ryuichi, Yoshii Restaurant, Sydney, Australia
August 2006: Roland Trettl, Hangar-7, Salzburg, Austria
September 2006: Andrés Madrigal, Balzac, Madrid, Spain
October 2006: Jin Jie Zhang, Green T. House, Beijing, China
November 2006: Jean-Georges Klein, L’Arnsbourg, Alsace, France
December 2006: Alex Atala, D.O.M., Sâo Paulo, Brasil
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