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Jola Vegan fine dining in casual atmosphere

Wednesday, April 20 2022
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Opening Times

Wednesday to Saturday 6:00pm - 11:00pm

Address

Jola
Salzgries 15
1010 Vienna-district 1
.How to get there

Contact


+43 1 233 34 45
.www.jola.wien

A passionate hostess who has been working in gastronomy since she was twelve + a talented chef who cooked for eight years with Paul Ivić at Tian (most recently as head chef at Bistro) = one of the most exciting new restaurant openings of the year.

"If we ever open a restaurant together, we'll call it Jola," the two newlyweds joked in 2020. Less than two years later, the joke became a reality: in March 2022, Jonathan Wittenbrink and Larissa Andres opened Vienna's first vegan fine dining restaurant.

The term is actually misleading in two senses: to categorise Jola first and foremost as a "vegan restaurant" would be too short-sighted, as it is first and foremost a place where creative dishes are created from first-class products.

And it has nothing to do with classic "fine dining" either. The atmosphere here is informal and relaxed. A small room with only eight plain wooden tables, loosely folded napkins on top, and the few pieces of cutlery placed on small knife stands. On the ceiling are gold-painted pipes and lamps in industrial design.

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The aim is to attract younger people, says co-owner Larissa. People like her, who are only in their mid-20s, like to eat well but have no desire for stiff fine dining. Instead: Dinner in a relaxed ambience. Or, as the two say: "An evening full of food". Full of culinary discoveries, experiences and lively table conversations. It's a bit like being a guest at a friend's house - except that they rarely cook at this level.

We start with a plate of spring: buckwheat tartelette with marinated radishes and spring meadow green chive cream. How is the pastry so crispy and paper-thin yet so perfectly formed? The buckwheat is first boiled, then mashed, spread thinly and baked in the oven before finally being pressed into shape and deep-fried. Don't worry: you only get such detailed explanations if you ask. You can just bite into it and enjoy it immediately.

The second course is also a messenger of spring, an ode to broccoli: the roasted florets are served whole and as a cream, with the stalk pickled. On top: home-inoculated koji oats. Broccoli doesn't have it easy because its image is still tarnished by the pale side dish role it had to play for decades. Here it plays the leading role, and it plays it excellently! People are talking about the best broccoli they have ever eaten at the next table.

The secret: reduced plates, whereby reduced does not mean simple. A (vegetable) product is explored in its flavourful and textural complexity. This is also wonderfully demonstrated by course seven, which is entirely dedicated to celery and proves that the tuber can do more than just provide the basis for soups and sauces.

A thin slice of the tuberous vegetable, folded like a taco, is filled with celery cream and bedded on celery jus (cooked from the leftover peel). It is almost creamy, dark, aromatic and of a depth of flavour that disproves all those who claim that you need fish or meat for a proper stock.

Such a product-focused, reduced cuisine needs the best ingredients, so Jola is in close contact with its suppliers. They experiment with old varieties, discuss planting plans for the coming season and create remarkable products together. For example, the Viennese food entrepreneur Thomas Marquardt, a pioneer in vegetable charcuterie, makes his own chickpea miso for Jola.

We can experience what this tastes like with the course "Chickpea, Bach Salad, Abi Roccoto". A baked chickpea pattie, fruity chilli cream and the first spring salad from the Viennese nursery Bach, dressed with a vinaigrette made from said chickpea miso.

At Jola, there is only a set menu - around ten plates, constantly changing depending on what has just been freshly harvested. On this evening, wild garlic is one of them, served as wild garlic beurre blanc with oyster mushrooms (the Viennese mushroom brothers grow them in the vaulted cellar of the old building, and they are therefore always in season).

What is not available regionally, such as olive oil, comes from carefully selected farms. Larissa and Jonathan spent weeks on Mallorca tasting through oils: They wanted it to be fruity and spicy, from artisanal production and biodynamic Demeter cultivation. The effort was worth it: the bread course with homemade focaccia, olive oil and olive oil-lemon emulsion is one of my (many) evening highlights.

The wines, too, are all organically produced. In addition, Jola also serves an innovative non-alcoholic beverage accompaniment - a topic that has long been neglected and is now (fortunately) receiving more and more attention. Almost everything is prepared on-site. The result is, for example, a white tea kombucha with roasted oats and basil oil. I love wine, mainly natural wines like the ones served at Jola, but with creations like this, even I like to switch over sometimes.

The evening ends as it began: With pastries and spring flavours. Poached rhubarb and mini doughnuts, cashew ice cream coated in pumpkin seed oil, canelés and biscuits filled with salted caramel are cooked into dessert heaven.

The perfect end to our "evening of food". And at the same time, a beginning, because the menu card we get at the very end with the espresso is laced with seeds so that, dug in and watered, it grows into lettuce.

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