The Aardvark Speaks : essence, effervescence, obscurity. Established 2002. A weblog by Horst Prillinger. ISSN 1726-5320

May 23, 2005

Florian Holzer and the best lamb curry in Vienna

Austria has a small mafia of restaurant reviewers. No matter which newspaper or magazine you read, you'll notice immediately that the restaurant reviews are either useless, or they were written by one of three specific critics, who publish a lot in many different media.

One of them is Florian Holzer, who writes for Falter and Der Standard among other things, and while I appreciate his style and wit, I find myself disagreeing with his restaurant reviews at an increasing rate. Which is especially nasty as he seems to be the spearhead of the Viennese bobo community, who will pick up any of his cooler recommendations and turn them into major hypes.

Like this one restaurant which Mr Holzer liked a lot and which was subsequently booked out for the next few months. I once managed to get a seat there by mere chance, and while the interior architecture was, well, moderately interesting, the food was pretty average. Not worth queuing for. Not even worth booking in advance for.

Or this other restaurant, specializing in Asian food, which he reviewed very favourably, and where I found the red Thai beef curry pretty much inedible, due to a spiceless sauce and cheap, low-quality beef. I was beginning to suspect that Mr Holzer either has a better writing gift than tastebuds, or he was deliberately luring the bobo crowd away from the really good restaurants to the pseudo-stylish bobo enclaves so that they would stay among themselves rather than contaminate his favourite places to eat.

And then last week, Mr Holzer heaped a lot of praise on a newly-opened Pakistani restaurant, where he called the lamb curry not just "perversely delicious" , but also stated that it was "the best in Vienna".

Now I don't really want to discredit this restaurant, because they were very friendly, have incredibly fair prices and really good food, but on trying the food, I found that the review may be a showcase for either journalistic exaggeration or the relativity principle of restaurants: compared to other Indian/Pakistani lunch buffets in Vienna, their food is easily among the very best, if not the best; compared to à la carte food in similar restaurants in Vienna, it's pretty good. Compared to what I or Mr deedee cook, it's almost identical (the aloo gobi tasted exactly like mine, and the beef curry exactly like Mr deedee's, but I like my dal better). Finally, compared to Indian/Pakistani/Bangladeshi restaurants in London, it's kind of average.

No use luring the bobos there either, because even though Mr Holzer called it "cool and relaxed", it's probably too relaxed and not cool enough to make the bobos feel at home there.

But, you know, I really wonder how serious Mr Holzer was when he wrote this, and if yes, how many lamb curries he has eaten in his lifetime, and where.

Posted by Horst on May 23, 2005 11:30 PM to reviews | Tell-a-friend

nora said on May 24, 2005 02:06 PM:

bobo? i admit i had to look it up. here, i am surrounded by suv democrats and lexus liberals. anyway, when i click on your link, it brings me back to the samesame page. you wouldn't be?

bobo ... in vienna, that could be pretty ambiguous. i am thinking of my best friend's in-laws, they are no doubt bourgeois, and very bohemian, the vondraceks.
gee, i am salivating for germknoedel ...

dieter said on May 24, 2005 03:15 PM:

I must agree with nora. Either you missed a hyperlink there, or this is a very fine way of auto-criticism...
However, the way you write about bobos indicates that you do not count yourself amongst them. So, just a stupid linking error. Darned.

dieter said on May 24, 2005 03:17 PM:


I bet Florian Holzer has never tasted *your* lamb curry...

Horst said on May 24, 2005 03:34 PM:

Yes, the missing link was an oversight on my part, not ironic self-reference. It has now been corrected.

No, Florian Holzer has never tasted my lamb curry (and neither have _you_, by the way), but I did briefly consider inviting him to one of my and Mr deedee's Indian soirées, just to provide some perspective.

dd said on May 24, 2005 04:01 PM:

horst, that is a splendid idea! let´s invite florian horvath and cook a 6-course meal together. I´ll make tamatar shorba, rogan josh and daal. you could make your wonderful vindaloo, aloo gobi and biryani, and miss pinkNgreen could provide the naan, raita and mango lassi. yum.

dd said on May 24, 2005 08:40 PM:

that should have been "holzer", of course. florian horvath was playing on the radio before I wrote this, which seems to have led to some confusion on my part.
but then again, we can invite him, too. he could sing for us after dinner.

nora said on May 25, 2005 01:08 AM:

i'm in vienna early august. how about you guys cook some curry for me, and i'll sing? deal?

dieter said on May 25, 2005 11:54 AM:

Horst, could I read your comment as an invitation?

anishb said on May 29, 2005 08:26 PM:

Greetings Horst,

I stumbled across your site by looking up the name of Gene Cernan and came across your astronaut's webpage. Nifty page that. I looked through the rest and found out you like food from the Indian subcontinent. Being an Indian, I am naturally prone to ask, WHY? Do you have any Indian connections, or have you been to India? Forgive my curiosity :)


Horst said on May 30, 2005 01:19 PM:

anishb: Nothing specific really, just lived in the UK for a while and ate a lot of Indian food there.

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