By Pete Wells
On the first undeniably cold night in November, an idea began to take shape in my head. The shape was specific, and it looked like the map of Austria. As in my grade-school geography books, it was illustrated with images of natural resources: amber waves of Wiener schnitzel, nuggets of goulash the color of iron ore, the gentle white slopes of Salzburger Nockerl.
There is no wrong time of year to eat Austrian food, but the approach of winter always brings it to my mind — a lifelong habit of associating strudel and schnitzel with snowflakes that stay on your nose and eyelashes, thank you very much, Julie Andrews. So when I first saw that map, I knew what it meant: Time to go back to Wallsé.
For 17 years, Kurt Gutenbrunner has been serving Austrian cuisine underpinned by farmers’ market produce at Wallsé, in the West Village. It was his first restaurant as chef and owner, the start of a minor Austrian empire that now includes Blaue Gans, where there are more wursts on the menu and more elbows on the tables, and Café Sabarsky in the Neue Galerie museum, where people sit upright over cups of milchkaffee and slim wedges of Linzer torte.