Some people prefer their home to feel safe and comfortable. Others prefer the rush in public spaces.
In Vienna, where hospitality is an inseparable part of tradition, most restaurants and coffeehouses provide you with both the coziness of your lounge-room on a rainy Sunday and the vivacity of a public playground on a rainless Sunday; where people whisper while sipping their Melange, they can still hear each other despite others cheering while downing their beer. Perhaps it is the curtains that divide the space, or the discreet manner of the people in-between them, that always provide you with a space to suit your state of mind.
Another inseparable part of Viennese tradition is the waiters’ occasional incorrect assumption that you are sitting in their lounge room. But if you show gratitude for their countenance instead of pointing out that they are mistaken, they will make you feel at home before long. But that’s beside the point.
There are several families who share among themselves the legacy of Viennese culinary tradition. One of them are the Figlmüllers, who perfect the Schnitzel since a little over 100 years. Who the others are is beside the point, too.
Johannes Figlmüller opened their first restaurant in 1905. Despite the economic adversity at the time, he insisted on the best quality of food available and a strong sense of morality toward his guests and staff alike. Those values, which form the foundation of the Figlmüllers’ restaurants, have endured the century and continue being lived and applied by Johannes’ grandsons Hansi and Thomas. They still prepare those legendary Schnitzels and they afford their staff to feel like being part of a large family, some of which – contrary to the prevailing trend of high fluctuation in hospitality – stay on their payroll all the way to retirement.
In 2012 Hansi and his brother launched JOMA Brasserie in downtown Vienna, a modern interpretation of the traditional Viennese restaurant. Surprisingly, at Joma the Figlmüllers do not default to the Viennese Schnitzel as their signature dish, instead their menu offers an international mix of fine foods from around the world.
Wouldn’t it strike you as being a little daring to change a recipe that has left a satisfied smile on countless guests over the course of a whole century?
You would not if you were able to snatch a table and have breakfast, lunch or dinner at JOMA’s. Their delicious food may be the best evidence that their chef has a passion for and loves what he is doing, and so, at least it seems, do the rest of their complacent and confident staff. Apparently there is more to good food than just good food. The Figlmüllers’ sincerity and fairness accomplishes something that cannot be devised or measured, something that will only come about if unexpected, something that doesn’t need to rely on Schnitzel, and that is love.