It is not a secret that out of all the Austrian states I prefer Styria. Not only do its Brettljausen repeatedly beat all the others, Styria is also incredibly varied: from the snowy mountains in the west and the lakes around Bad Aussee to the gentle green hills and vineyards in the south. It is upon my return from a weekend in those gentle hills that I felt a sudden urge to visit Klein Steiermark, a Styrian restaurant in Vienna, because a) I have never been there before, and b) its web site talked a lot about how good their spare ribs were.
To tell the truth, there is nothing Styrian about the ribs of Klein Steiermark. I found no Schilcher sauce and no pumpkin seed marinade on them, and that is probably for the best. If anything, the ribs bore a strong resemblance to those that the Strandcafé had used to serve before it got all high-tech and “neighbor friendly.” The similarity is such that I wonder if any of Strandcafé’s cooks had abandoned their former employer and moved to this restaurant. The ribs tasted freshly grilled and slightly burnt (unlike the present Strandcafé, Klein Steiermark does not have annoying neighbors, so it can afford having smoke coming out of the chimney without a fear of ruinous court cases), stuck to the bones quite a lot, had a nice flavor of rosemary and came with a small cabbage salad and very thinly cut roasted potatoes. Similarly to Strandcafé’s famous ribs, they were served with two sauces: the red grill sauce and the white garlic sauce.
It is with regard to the sauces that Klein Steiermark has, unfortunately, still some work to do. Although homemade, they were not on par with the famous red and white of Strandcafé. The grill sauce was not strong enough, tasting too much of tomatoes. The white one, while pleasantly garlicky, had a strange creamy consistency, as if it was intended to be spread over bread rather than used for dipping meat into.
I understand that the recipe of Strandcafé’s red sauce is almost as vigilantly guarded as the formula of Coke, but with a bit of experimentation (and chili peppers) Klein Steiermark could have come closer. Alternatively, the cook could be more creative and produce some totally original and wonderful sauces. Even now, however, the restaurant was a lucky discovery. Besides great food and a shady garden, it has a convenient location close to the central railway station, making it for me a logical choice for dinner after coming back hungry from hiking trips.