Cafe Kristall Steps Up Its Viennese Waltz

June 8, 2012, 10:26 am

When the Swarovski crystal boutique opened in SoHo about a year and a half ago, it included Cafe Kristall, all sparkly and mainly white and beige, with light food and drinks by Kurt Gutenbrunner, the Austrian chef and owner of Wallsé, among others. Now both the cafe and the menu have been redone.

It‘s sparklier than ever, with impressive designer crystal chandeliers. But the look is more clearly Austrian, specifically Viennese, with burgundy Josef Hoffmann fabric on the banquettes and Thonet chairs; mitered cherry wood panels dividing different areas; and Expressionist posters on the wall. The menu has also been revised, with a variety of dishes, both light and substantial, that are also more Austrian. (Swarovski hails from that country as well.)

The chef is Francis Reynard, whom Mr. Gutenbrunner has known for years, and who has worked with many top chefs, including Alain Ducasse, Fredy Girardet and Daniel Boulud. Mr. Reynard is not Austrian, but he sees eye to eye with Mr. Gutenbrunner on the menu. There is an array of six different open-face sandwiches, a Viennese version of smorrebrod, displayed on Hoffmann trays from the museum shop at the Neue Galerie (where Mr. Gutenbrunner runs Café Sabarsky). Salads include one anchored with white asparagus, a seasonal ingredient that also is the basis for a soup. Entrees like spaetzle with rock shrimp, pan-seared trout, beef stronganoff, sliced roasted chicken with spring greens, and a classic wiener schnitzel, are also served all day, from noon to 9 p.m.

―This is an Austrian restaurant, so of course I have to have spaetzle and weiner schnitzel, Mr. Gutenbrunner said.
―You don‘t go to Vienna and expect to eat pizza. He said he hopes the revised cafe will be a somewhat ―hipper version of Café Sabarsky.
―It‘s a place to stop for a light bite when you‘re shopping or more of a meal later, he said. Downstairs there is a private dining room.

Cafe Kristall, 70 Mercer Street (Broome Street), (212) 274-1500.