Sunday, December 23, 2012

Cafe Sacher, Vienna

Do I feel a little guilty engaging in the most touristy of pleasures? Why yes, I do. You know how much I like seeking out hidden gems, but when you're traveling to a new city, that just isn't an option - either you're on your own, walking the streets, or else you're looking at reviews from other travelers who validated their own 'hidden gems' that, by virtue of said internettal validictory, aren't so hidden any more. This is how mediocre local restaurants can rise to the status of 'must do', potentially because the owner speaks English.

But that's all by way of silliness, and here we are outside Cafe Sacher, ready to eat some eponymous torte! Wait, it's a tourist spot, isn't it. We're ready to wait in line to eat some eponymous torte.

It wasn't THAT bad though. We waited less than 30 minutes in the rain with the pushy, smoking Russians, and this was probably prime-time. You can see by the almost-dark of the sky that it was between 3:30 and 4 (daylight, like life, is quickly extinguished in Eastern Europe), and for the most popular cafe in Tokyo, on a Saturday, at that time...sheesh.
So inside, we were subjected to the 'Wiener Tax' for the second time that day. "You must check your coats. 1 Euro each," and escorted into the lovely salon. The hostess tried to sit us at a table 1 meter from the door, and with both chairs facing it; when we declined, she whisked us off to the porch, which is darker and has none of this atmosphere. They use the Philippino staff for service out there. It's for troublemakers and Russians.
Not wanting to make any more trouble, we just ordered coffee and cakes. I guess it's a distinguishing feature that the melange at Sacher includes whipped cream; only time I've seen that in 4 or 5 melanges so far. But the coffee was iffy, much as you'd expect from an overworked tourist highlight. Too bad.
Apfelstreudel for the second time (hell, 'Viennese Cuisine' only has 10 or 15 items, so you might as well get the best ones). This was excellent, with the apples sliced thin, cooked to softness, spiced a lot, and sweetened adequately. Oberlaa needs a lesson.
Well, there it is. The dream of every girl visiting Vienna (and of the Japanese girls next to us, who were as startled as us when the waitress addressed them in perfectly pleasant Japanese). This may be the best Sacher Torte there is (although we've only had two so far). The cake wasn't dry, the doubled layer of apricot jam (top and middle) helps more, there's something seductive about the thickness and texture of the chocolate on top, and the dark chocolate medallion gives you a bit more bitterness to finish it off.

I'm sure as hell not telling you this is going to change your life, or you need to visit Vienna to try it (especially if you live in Tokyo and are accustomed to any of the good cake shops there), but it's incrementally better, and the ambiance is sweet (if the service is brisk), and for chrissakes, it's Sacher!

You've got a better recommendation, I'm all ears.
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