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(Editor's Choice)

After hearing many good reports about it, even from waiters at other pricey places around the lake, I can now attest to my own sublime experience at Restaurant Schiffwirt.

They take an artistic approach to seafood preparation at this restaurant, treating it as though it were some kind of profound mystery. There is even a small brochure of arty photos spiced with recipes and "thought-for-day" kind of sayings.

By its name, I expected to find Schiffwirt housed in some sort of boat replica, but fortunately it is more tastefully located in a small house in a quiet corner of the lake. The atmosphere is comfortably nautical with a touch of elegance and a wry sense of humor. I sat in the small room in the front of the house that was decorated with a surprising number of fish heads mounted face forward, mouths agape as if shocked by what the restaurant serves. There was even a little mounted eel head.

Appetizers included two delicious choices, a plate of smoked freshwater fish for about $12 and a grilled plate of Mediterranean shellfish brimming with scallops, calamari, octopus, clams, mussels and scampi for about $13. A slightly peppery fish soup ($5) also contained a potpourri of mussels, clams and a scampi which had flung one of its claws over the edge of my small soup tureen. Then came a salad of mixed greens and marinated tomatoes with side dollop of vinegary potato salad. It was included in the cost of the main course, but served separately as not to distract from the full majesty of the fish.

Guests unsure of what to order may suddenly find the Schiffwirt's owner presenting them with a large platter of assorted fish from which to choose. He will even discuss options for cooking it: grilled, poached or pan fried. I picked the trout ($18), which was lightly breaded with spiced flour, then pan-fried whole and served with a lemon wedge and a rosette of garlic butter. The flavor was extraordinary: fresh, firm, fleshy, excellent.

Other fish choices include locally-caught pike and carp, as well as a wide selection of saltwater fish flown in from the sea, all served whole and therefore more suited to groups of two or more.

Dessert of choice is chocolaty nut crêpes for about $6. This was my final Wörthersee meal, which is unfortunate as it deserved a repeat visit.
Contact: Schiffwirt, Klagenfurter Strasse 172, A-9210 Prtschach, tel. +43/04272/22 71, open Mon.-Thur. 5pm-midnight; Fri.-Sun. 11am-3pm and 5pm-midnight.
Rating: Quality 17/20, Value 17/20


Since this restaurant also came highly recommended, I was surprised to find it completely empty. It didn't take long, however, to realize it was the season's first really sunny day and everyone with any sense was stretched out near the lake soaking up sun. Since I had driven a long way and was hungry, I decided to stay despite the awkwardness of being the only guest.

For a fairly pricey restaurant in such a beautiful location, the atmosphere at the Tschernitz is rather dull, even imagining it full of customers. It is located in a simple, somewhat modern house with a small patio, both of which are huddled close to the busy two-lane road that runs around the lake. Consequently, outdoors there is just enough traffic noise to be bothersome, while indoors one is left thinking, "Here I am at this beautiful lake, stuck eating indoors!"

Not surprisingly the service was crisp and responsive. After all, I was the only customer.

The food was good, though not great value. I started with Triestiner fish soup ($7), a mildly flavored broth containing chunks of tomato, onion slices, and flakes of salmon, pike and stockfish. Other starters included Tafelspitz - slices of Austrian-style boiled beef and vegetables - jelled in aspic and served with a creamy chive sauce. The cappeletti pasta stuffed with mushrooms and served with browned butter ($13) also looked good.

Main courses include fresh Wörthersee pike ($25) and roast lamb with rosemary potatoes ($26). I settled for Wiener Backhuhn ($17), a small chicken boned, breaded and expertly fried so that it was crispy on the outside and juicy but not at all greasy on the inside. It was fantastic. Accompanying it was about a kilo of sticky and much too finely-diced potato salad, topped with arty sprigs of fried parsley. Dessert was at an ice cream shop in town.

Except for the fried chicken which I frequently find myself thinking back on I don't know what the big deal is about the Tschernitz. Unless you are looking for exceptional fried chicken served in a formal atmosphere, you will do better at the other restaurants reviewed here.
Contact: Tschernitz, Sduferstrasse 112, A-9220 Velden, tel/fax +43/004274/3000, open Wed.-Mon. 11am-midnight.
Rating: Quality 13/20, Value 10/20

Alt Wiener Hof

Most restaurants at the Wörthersee cater to a captive audience of tourists, and for that reason aren't particularly good.

The Alt Wiener Hof, however, is an exception. Located in a little village just a short drive from the lake, it is one of those good Austrian places one finds in the countryside, with hearty dishes served in large portions and at reasonable prices. The Bürger family rolls out a warm welcome which makes the restaurant a pleasant and homey place to visit.

Soups run about $3, while main courses - bread dumplings with wild mushrooms and Schnitzels and such - hover just above $10. The portions are truly enormous: I heard one table gasp with astonishment when their Speckkndel mit Linsen (a large bacon dumpling served with lintels) arrived looking like someone had dropped a large softball in a bowl of bean soup.

This is also a good place for dessert, particularly the colorful plate of cream cheese dumplings served with wild berries and whipped cream ($6).
Contact: Alt Wiener Hof, Roseggerstrasse 119, A-9220 Velden, tel/fax +43/04274/51347, open (May-Sept.) Wed.-Mon. 11:30am-10pm and (Oct.-April) Wed.-Mon. 11:30am-2pm and 5:30-9:30pm.
Rating: Quality 14/20, Value 15/20

Kakl Buschenschank

A Buschenschank is a farmer's stand that offers only locally produced food and drink, a country version of a Viennese Heuriger although serving Most (apple cider) rather than wine. Usually it's a little she'd or farmhouse, with a half dozen or so wooden tables set out under apple trees, serving thick slices of bread piled high with shaved ham or salami, made to be washed down with a mug of yeasty apple cider. The Most is served pure or diluted with a half measure of apple juice.

Although only about a 10-minute drive from Velden, this Buschenschank seems like another world. Turn off the main road and soon you are enveloped by rolling green fields dotted with small farmhouses, and, on the horizon, smoky-blue, snow-capped Alpine peaks.

Clientèle is a nice mix of farmers, people from the surrounding towns, and a couple of swank holiday-makers fresh from the lake.

The fare is simple but very good. Osokollobrot ($4) is a long, thick slice of dark, chewy brown bread covered with thin slices of air-dried beef and topped with a wedge of egg, a slice of tomato, and a crinkled Italian pepper. Belegtes Brot ($3.50) is bread topped with a sampling of the different meats the house has to offer.

Larger appetites or groups can order butcher blocks served with mounds of sliced meats, bread spreads, pickles, and a basket of bread for $6 - $7. Those who don't like ham can try the tasty Haussulz; meat and vegetables in aspic splashed with roasted pumpkinseed oil ($6.50), or the Essigfleisch, a large pile of marinated beef and onion slices ($5). Most is served by the quarter, half, and full liter, for from $1.00, $2.50 and $4 respectively.

Good food, convivial drink and a relaxed atmosphere make the Kakl a wonderful place to watch the day's sun go down.x
Contact: Kakl, Unterjeserzerstrasse 18, Velden, tel/fax +43/04274/46 86, open Tue.-Sun. 5-10pm, April 1 June 23 and July 8-Sept. 29 and Oct. 14-Nov. 15.

A final note: for good coffee and pastries you can't go wrong at either the Julischka Politzky (Corso 3) in Velden and Café Wienerroither (Hauptstrasse 145) in Pörtschach.