Tian is the model of success for the vegetarian gastronomy not just in Vienna, but in Europe. The chef de cuisine Paul Ivić, winner of the Trophée Gourmet A la Carte, deserves more than one Michelin star for his exquisite tasting menus staring seasonal vegetables in the inventive, beautifully presented contemporary plates. Non-vegetarians often dine at Tian since the superb gourmet experience balances their diet with less animal protein and increased conscience, plus the eco-conscious Austrians are now more open to eschew fish and meat at least for this dinner.
The eclectic interior feels authentically Viennese. An ornamental stuccoed ceiling with oval mirrors is jazzed by nature evoking contemporary elements like rustic chandeliers and green plants hanging on the walls. The street level dining room has a refreshing and 19th century elegant feel. There is a bar with tables and more private seating downstairs, but we much prefer dining above the ground.
Wine pairing experience at Tian
To embrace healthfulness in its holistic nature an aperitif can start you off with the blended non-alcoholic drinks at Tian, and continue with the bottled water traveling from the nearby Austrian Alps. If you like wine though as we do, ready yourself for a palate opening tasting. Savouring at its purest the water of the gods, the organic, demeter (in Europe this certification means biodynamic) or natural wines promoting sommelier may introduce you to some quirky, and other wowing vinous bottlings.
Tian offers two wine pairing options. My adventurous soul is the suitor of the unknown, so I went for “Experience Wine“. With each course comes a revelation or you can opt for a new glass with every other course if you want to guard your daily allowance. You will encounter the liquid pleasures from more adventurous and often lesser known producers such as Alexandre Bain from the Loire or unexpectedly tasting wines from well known regions such as the old clones of Furmint and Harslevelu blend by a small-scale Hungarian producer Attila Homonna made dry not sweet like the typical Tokaj. Fermented and aged in used large barrels, this wonderful wine seeks its natural expression of salty mineral and lively dry sherry like acidity of the volcanic soil on which it was grown. No chemical spray dripped on the vines. Another highlight was the white blend Joiser Reben wine for Tian Vienna was made by Markus Altenburger in Neusiedlersee just Southeast of Vienna. The classic Wiener gemischter Satz by Uhler winery in Vienna was as easily drinkable as is typical for these simple local blends, but organic. Recently, I loved the 2013 red Trenzado, Suertes del Marques from the volcanic Tenerife island in Spain. The sommelier further offered a glass of a biodynamic French Gamay instead of the heavier St. Laurent & Blaufrankish grown in the nearby Neusiedlersee that was on the Experience Wine board. At the end the wine experience is customised to your liking.
A pink, slightly bittersweet vermouth made by Peter-Juranitsch-Andert was served with the desserts, but again I opted for a German Spätlese by Joh. Jos. Prüm that my husband had in the Signature wine pairing. Ideal for any wine lover leaning towards security and more typical highly rated wines. A dry Kabinett by Prüm, Ornellaia 2001 vintage, established Bordeaux (such as Château Pape Clement) or Premier Cru Burgundy pop out on this fancier board.
I do not advise the non-alcoholic beverages tasting ‘Tian Refresh” though. Most of the blends are too sweet and often more spoil than enhance the dishes. Earth of verjus with verbena or Shrub from pomegranate and sitherwood sound exotic, but rather stick to water or tea, perhaps? With each new course arriving, my mocktails started to accumulate on the table, and despite just arriving from Asia and being heavily jet lagged, I sipped from my husband’s glass of wine. Would you miss Styrian Ex Vero 2008 by Werlitsch? Not me, it turned out.
Feel the food and get into the slow mood
As the jazz music quietly hums in the background, the pleasant and very professional servers gently flow into a slow food sequence. Dining at Tian is a decelerating, mindful experience in the fast urban world we live in. Drop your anxieties at the doorstep and give in to the unknown, where local ingredients meet culinary curiosity in the exquisite ‘Signature Taste by Paul Ivić’ menu and his team in Vienna.
Only tasting menus are on call at Tian, accommodating dietary restrictions. Still, you have flexible choices between six, eight or 10 courses of Tian Experience Taste. There are vegetable-centred two starters, two soups as you never had them, two a bit larger veggie mains, two cheese variations and two desserts to choose from. Pick what you want, just the number of courses must fit.
In the past year the same but enjoyable amouse-bouche of a marinated mushroom tasting like a scallop in a glass bowl with puffed rice and cream cheese emulsion was served with a raw mushroom tartare on a fried root cracker with kombucha vinegar.
A bread zebra of dark and white garlic roll and crackers were served with flax, Italian and Austrian olive oil and salt flakes in glass test tubes. From then on, aside of the palate refresher of a sorbet with buckwheat crumble or an ice lolly themed around “I love ice cream” and popcorn, you got what you ordered. Well, some sweet teasers were offered with tea or coffee at the end if you fancied.
Most of the plates at Tian are finished on the table in front of you so the art on the plate is presented in its pure state at first before the sauces, broths, soups, or liquid chocolate spoil the form, but complement the taste. During our first visit we detected cinnamon in most of the dishes.
In winter you can find Parsley root with chicory and the best of its class Piedmont hazelnuts; a superb cinnamon scented shredded Red cabbage with mushroom stuffed onion, reduced cabbage juice, a slice of raw button mushroom and crunchy mushroom crumble. Grilled Jerusalem Artichoke with its purée, cinnamon and mountain hay broth that was intense yet showed the diverse use of the artichoke. Zen Garden of a celeriac terrine in Japanese flavors of yuzu with miso in a very reduced intense celery and miso broth which was excellent. Moving to richer, larger plates of Cauliflower with Pom Pom Blanc and seabuckthorn and Pumpkin Pistachio Sloe, you were assured that you won’t leave craving more food. The Bull’s Blood Beetroot, melon and yeast was also solidly pleasing and so was the last vegetable themed plate of Artichoke, fennel and parmesan. Then came the cheese. Between two options you can go for a more touched up cheese course such as the Morbier cheese with Vienesse fig and coriander we had in winter or La Bêle – sheep’s cheese with almond and spring garlic. There is also the classic raw milk cheese plate of European mature picks by Maitre Anthony and Jumi.
The spring menu was equally delicious but the vegetables were totally different. Starting with Kohlrabi ravioli with minced mushrooms and a birch sauce served from a raw kohlrabi ‘bowl’, the sophisticated dough-free pasta highlighted the pure and precise vegetarian cooking of Paul Ivić. Ramson was served with whole leafy radishes and a creamy curd cheese. The wild garlic aka ramson is also known under the bear leek and is traditionally used in Europe to flavour herbed cheese. At Tian the chef softened its pungent taste by the curd cheese.
The uniquely flavoured soups were a stroke of genius by the chef. The Central European tradition of having soup before the main meal is elevated at Tian into concentrated expressions of plant infused pleasure. Perhaps only Alain Ducasse and chefs of his renown can deliver such a complex yet pure liquid delight. Both, the Tea infused verdant nettle and spinach broth, and the bolder Potato with mizuna shoots and a juniper kick were by a tiny flick the best plates of the tasting menu. More, we agreed that these were the most interesting, delicious soups we have had to date.
Yet, we could not discount the joy delivered by the Fava Bean with morel mushrooms and black poplar shoots and the Fiss’ Barley sauce with spruce and soft egg that came later. The main larger portion of grated Celeriac in a cream cloth of green cress and woodruff (in Germany traditionally steeped wine to add flavour), like a rich meaty tartare was the heaviest dish of the night. I liked more the Marshfield white smoked Asparagus with a cream laden asparagus sauce, peas and bishop’s weed.
The pastry chef keeps his desserts quite similar over a long period. The Bean to Bar grand cru chocolate cake (Piura Porcelana) with cocoa-like Amazonian cupuacu fruit was finished with a pour over of a dense liquid chocolate. A liquorice brach with raw cocoa nibs served with it was an edible play to nibble on in between. The Thai flavours evoking Pandan Cereal with granola and coconut was an outlier, so different creation, straying from the smooth flow of the service, but still very good.
The flawless menu could benefit from a more efficient beverage service and a more precise English explanation of each dish by the staff. The chef Paul Ivić should be rewarded for his outstanding contribution to the gastronomic, vegetable-centric movement that now sways over the world. His food is better than any awarded vegetarian or vegan restaurant I have dined at – from Jean Georges’ ABCv, Dirt Candy and the vegan kaiseki (shojin ryori) Kajitsu New York, LA’s Crossroads by Tal Ronen, Plant food & wine by Matthew Kenney in Miami to Milan’s Michelin stared Joia and even the three star Parisian institution L’Arpége by Alain Passard. Tian in Vienna is showing the highest level of culinary sophistication from the vegetal world. Now, with his second restaurant in Munich and more casual veggie eateries* around Vienna, the awareness of excellent, more sustainable dining is deeply planted by the Tian group in Central Europe.
*Tian operates more casual vegetarian bistros offering also plenty of vegan plates. The bistro Am Spitelberg has the best evening atmosphere, while the Tian Bistro inside the KunstHausWien museum embodies the nature adoring spirit of the famous Austrian architect and eco activist Friedensreich Hundertwasser who designed it. There, under the organically curved ceilings, you must order the exquisite Flamkuchen (known as Tarte flambée in Alsace) savory flatbreads.