A Persian New Yorker transplants Brooklyn grub to Kirchengasse
At Treubleiben, one of the more recent additions to the Kirchengasse gastro-strip, Kaveh Tabatabaie has recently revamped the menu, doing what so many expats have done before him: bringing his culture’s cuisine to his new home.
Comfort food is the name of the game, and it fits the establishment: Treubleiben means stay true, so nostalgia and culinary identity seem the perfect theme. A Persian guy from Brooklyn who used to have a delicatessen, Kav’s affiliation with the restaurant began when he and some friends launched an analogue photography magazine called Honest and Treubleiben hosted their issue releases. The owner, Karin Ginzel, wanted to revamp the menu and Kav saw his chance. “It happened out of homesickness on my part and curiosity on her part,” he explained with a smile. Karin had never tried most of the dishes he was proposing, but setting themselves apart from the rest of the food-heavy street was key.. “I’m not going to try anything French with Le Troquet right there. At Figar there’s some good, fancy, new-agey stuff. So I though we’d go old-school New York style.” He realized most people wouldn’t even have heard of some of the things he was proposing, like the Ouzi, a Lebanese rice dish, or Knish, a Jewish specialty, or even good old Mac ‘n’ Cheese.
They have just updated the menu. “We’re expanding our definition of comfort food,” Kav explained. “We’re all cooks, we get sick and tired of doing the same stuff all over again.” He and Karin do most of the creative work, but even their new Syrian cook Lazkin has contributed ideas. “We speak German in the kitchen and his German is way better than mine,” admits Kav, whose 6 years in Vienna outweigh Lazkin’s year and a half. The menu therefore became a combination of comfort foods, befitting a cosmopolitan city like New York or, increasingly, Vienna.
The recipe Kav shared with us is Penne à la Vodka; the origins of the dish are unclear, but most agree its popularity spiked in NYC. “It’s something I miss terribly,” says Kav. If you haven’t yet tried it, there’s nothing quite like it.
7., Kirchengasse 20
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Penne à la Vodka
Fry onion and garlic in butter in a large saucepan until they begin to brown on medium high heat. Add crushed red peppers and fry a minute longer, then add diced tomatoes and passata. Mix thoroughly. Once it’s simmering, lower heat and blend lightly with a hand mixer – the texture should be thicker and smooth but still have small visible chunks of diced tomatoes. While still on low heat, add heavy cream. Mix with a wire whisk until cream is fully dissolved, creating a beautiful pinkish orange color, and remove from heat. Once removed, add vodka and whisk vigorously for 2 minutes, then return to low heat and continue whisking for 5-7 minutes or until the steam given off no longer has a strong aroma of alcohol.
Mix 200 grams of sauce with 250 grams of cooked penne per portion, (good for 4-5 servings), and once plated, garnish with grated Parmesan reggiano and a generous amount of chopped parsley. Add freshly ground black pepper before serving.
Ingredients (Serves 4-5)
1 large yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
100 g butter
1/2-1 teaspoon crushed red peppers
1 (400 g) can of diced tomatoes
500 g tomato passata
250 ml heavy cream
4 cl high quality vodka
Salt (10-15 g rule of thumb) and pepper to taste