A few days ago, my wife, Ms B, and I had just returned to London respectively Frankfurt from lovely Vienna, I decided that I needed a distinctly Viennese culinary booster to get me over the dark days and cheer me up.
Mario Lohninger’s eponymous restaurant on the south bank of the river, which is also known as Museumsufer (museum riverbank, because of the large number of nearby museums), just two minutes’ walk from Sachsenhausen’s “Schweizer Platz”, has been receiving sterling reviews ever since it opened in 2010.
Initially considering a career as a pro downhill skier, he helped out from a very early age in his grandparents’ bakery and his parents’ restaurant in Leogang near Zell am See. It would seem likely that my parents and several uncles and aunts, who went together on skiing holidays to Leogang every single year for more than a decade before I was born, would have enjoyed a strudel or goulash at the restaurant, but it’s been too long in the past for them to remember.
Mario then embarked on a long tour of the culinary world, which involved stints in the U.S. and Paris. While still working for two-starred Danube (now closed) in New York, Sven Väth, one of the most famous techno DJs, met Mario and offered him the role of head chef at the two new adjoined restaurants Silk and Micro, at his then new techno club Cocoon (now all closed) in Frankfurt. In 2005 Gault & Millau awarded him “Chef of the Year”, in 2006 the Michelin Guide awarded him one star for Silk.
From day one, his mother Erika and father Paul have been very closely assisting Mario, his mother running the service at restaurant Lohninger, and his father running the kitchen during the day. Lohninger showcases the Austrian cuisine in a classical, traditional, no-nonsense kind of style in a section called “Heimat” (Home) and international, mainly Asian and French cuisine in a menu section called “Welt” (World). For a chef as gifted, ambitious, and celebrated as him, it is surprising how he keeps the “Heimat” side of the menu completely free of any innovation, sparkle, or sophistication by the look of it, aside from a couple of amuse-bouches that try to purvey some air of fine dining, and – of course – the magnificent two art nouveau dining rooms which provide the setting.
Just having come back from the capital of all schnitzels and after having sampled some 6 schnitzels at Vienna’s most reputable schnitzel manufacturers, regularly cooking schnitzel at home in London for my wife and me, I feel like I can say with some authority that this schnitzel, which came with a price tag of €29 (more than any of those we had had in Vienna), was good, but by no means extraordinary, perhaps a 7.5 out of 10. It was a tad too small, slightly too thick, the batter way too flat, lacking any of the large waves of bread crumbs you can normally observe, and apparently without any distinct seasoning. The potato and lamb’s lettuce salad, that accompanied it, was divine, in terms of looks, texture, crunchiness, taste, dressing.
The ‘pomegranate surprise’ sorbet with chilli popcorn was not bad, but certainly not particularly impressive either. For €14 not good value in our view.
In 2016, Gault & Millau rated Lohninger with 17 out of 20 possible points, on the same level as many Michelin-starred venues. This makes us think that maybe we should come back and try out the other side of the menu: ‘World’. Nearly all of the courses sounded attractive, including the signature yellow fin tuna tartare with shredded fennel and champagne jelly.
Did we whet your appetite for more Frankfurt restaurant reviews? Read our reviews of two-starred Lafleur, La Scuderia, and Black Bulls. Or check out our reviews of Berners Tavern and one-starred Aquavit in London, or Vienna’s Cafe Englander.