Returning to Schloss Berg just feels good. It is as simple as that, and one needs no further complications to express that feeling. There is the castle, the warm welcome, the great service, Britta Jäger the fantastic sommelier, Yildiz Bau, who leads the service perfectly, and of course the food. The food, the glorious, often unreal food of Christian Bau, who is easily one of the best cooks in the world.
A few words on the pricing. The menus go from ca 130 to 190euro (although the prices vary a little. The wine list must be one of the most friendly-priced in Europe, which is always great to see. However, Britta Jäger always prepares some very interesting wines by the glass, which will not disappoint, and complement the courses perfectly.
After a very cold December day, I rolled up the hill and was directly greeted by everyone. After being seated I had a glass of Duval Leroy Premier Cru, which was very pleasant. With it came the first selection of nibbles.
On the first slate from left to right was a hamachi sashimi with tapenade, a tomato tartlett and the classic swordfish/oyster kroepok with wasabi foam. Behind it was a glass filled with melon soup and buttermilk foam, and a few chorizo cream filled brik-tubes. These all show what great effort goes into this food. From the first bite to the last, everything is of the highest quality, without any errors, not even slips. After all, the 8 chefs work 16-18hrs every day, just to prepare dinner for at most 32 people. Compared to the divisions of cooks toiling away in French kitchens, this is high-energy cooking. Back to the food, the hamachi was of great quality, slightly cured in salt and herbs, it was very tasty, even if the olive tapenade was a tad too powerful. However, that was really looking for some kind of problem with a microscope. The tartlett and little cup are classics and were as good as always. The soup was a little less intensive than the beetroot gazpacho I had last time, but was a fresh drop for the palate. Last but not least were the very good chorizo rolls. All of these are already very, very good and make you want to find out what the rest will be like.
This little cornet, filled with shallot cream, on which beef tartare and a generous dollop of ossietra caviar sit is one of the most obscene bites in the world. When I first ate it, back in April last year (although with eel cream, not shallots), I was completely blown away by the incredibly precise tastes and powerful combination. A DIVINE bite.
Next up was a little variation of foie gras. One spoon contains the foie gras sorbet with mango ragout and a green tea chip, whilst the other had a gateau of foie gras with green tea jelly. Bau knows his foie gras, and serves some of the finest in the industry. His sorbet is absolutely devilish, and has the perfect texture, temperature and seasoning to boost the foie’s flavour in a most pleasant way. The other, more classical preparation shows how good a craftsman he, or the garde-manger cooks here are. A perfect cube, of perfect foie gras. One need not say more. Excellent.
The first course was one from the Gourmet Vision, a project of Jürgen Dollase (Germany’s most influential food critic, and one who actually knows something about what he does, even if his judgement sometimes remains disputable). In a series of articles in the FAZ, he describes a menu of a chef in great detail, which is unusual for a newspaper, and thus creates quite a bit of interest. I was served a glass of 2008 Puilly-Fume, Jonathan Pabiot, Loire with this course. It was 2x Sepia/Hamachi/ Seegurke/ Austern. A salad of sea herbs, and other herbs served as the fil conducteur for the seafood on the plate. In the middle there was a marinated oyster, some cucumber, raw squid and sea cucumber, whilst at the sides of the plate one had a brunoise of squid with marinated hamachi. Wow. When I saw the pictures of this dish in the FAZ, I could hardly have imagined how good this could be. Every element plays a role, be it to bring a new texture, taste or seasoning. The sea cucumber’s texture is still amazing for me, as was the squid, which was much more tender than I expected. The dish managed to create a very full, rich and complex mouthfeel, without using a lot of butter, or other heavy elements. Excellent.
The second course was 2x Blue Fin Tuna/ Pickles/ Japanische Essenz/ Rettich. This was a picture on a plate, even though it looked more classical than the rest, one can’t help but admire the incredibly precise plating here. The whole course was a play on a variation of tuna, I had eaten on a previous visit, and showed how quickly this kitchen moves. The seared tuna was meltingly tender and tasty, and the tuna tartare in the cup and on both sides of the plate was equally enjoyable. The beautifully rolled up pickled vegetables gave the plate a very subtle sweet/sour note, which complemented the tuna marvelously. On the side, the cup was more or less the same as the one I’ve eaten during my last visits. Very good.
Taschenkrebs Warm & Kalt/ Dashi/ Kaffirlimone was a complete re-arrangement of the previous version, which had included watermelon in two preparations. Now, the dish was much more focused on the salty elements, rather than the sweetness of the melon. I much preferred this version, as it brought out the slightly iodine taste of the crab, whilst giving (a less sweet) refreshment through the curry ice cream. Again Bau managed to deliver a stunning dish. Excellent.
For the following course I had a glass of 2008. Grauer Burgunder **, Alexander Laible, Baden. Blauer Hummer/ Quinoa/ Curry/ Passe-Pierre & Apfel is a dish which appeared on Bau’s menu during the summer, and which is growing on me. This is a course, which I didn’t enjoy that much on the first try, but which I loved this time. That’s how one can change his mind. The perfectly cooked and seasoned lobster works beautifully with the spicy curry, salty passe-pierre and slightly sweet apple. The crispy chicken skin gives the whole thing a little crunch, and the lobster jus finishes it all off. With the wine, this was excellent.
Coquille St. Jacques/ Entenleber/ Schwarzwurzel/ Trüffel. Here I was poured a 1998, Riesling Zellberg, Domaine Ostertag, Elsass. This dish was stunning. Perfectly cooked scallops, pungent fragrant truffles, a foie gras cream, salsify puree and foie gras foam made one delicious combination of flavours. The somewhat classical combination was absolutely perfectly executed, and presented in a most contemporary and interesting fashion. You can hardly say more than outstanding.
Kabeljau/ Brokoli/ Aubergine/ Muschelkompott. Served with this course was a 2007, Cedre Blanc, Chateau du Cedre, Pays du Lot.
Having the great honour to be the first to try a new course was one thing. If that first try is that good, it is even better. A very fine piece of cod, poached in grapeseed oil, if I remember correctly was topped with a miso cream and then slightly gratinated. This was served with a little Japanese aubergine cream, broccoli with yuzu zest, and a razor clam filled with different mussels and a slightly acidified yoghurt. This dish was incredibly fresh, and light in both taste and appearance. If the presentation will certainly change over time, the flavours were already spot on. Here, on saw again, how careful Bau constructs his dishes, and how sure he is in matching flavours and bringing them together. The most striking fact in this dish, apart from the combination, was the texture of the cod. Despite being poached very gently in oil, it retained a deliciously firm texture. This really was a fine piece of fish. Excellent.
Seezunge/ Artischocke/ Parmesan/ Jabugo Bellota. This dish was served with 2008, G.P.S., Domaine Pignier, Jura. A slightly modified version of a sole dish, I had eaten last December, the very thick double-fillet of dover sole was coated in a crunchy coating of dried Jabugo Bellota ham, sauced with a Parmesan foam, a Jabugo Bellota jus and served with an artichoke cream and pan-fried artichokes, parmesan ravioli and some spinach. A fairly classical dish, that was magnified by a most perfect quality of the products and the incredibly precise execution. The sole had the fantastic firm flesh that makes this fish one of the finest things swimming in the ocean, and the ham components gave it a richness, which complemented it beautifully. The new parmesan ravioli with a liquid farce were also very enjoyable, and great fun to eat. An outstanding dish.
Kalbsherzbries/ Yamwurzel/ Schwarzer Knoblauch/ Miso. Served with a great wine: 2007, Fossiles Pinot Blanc, Chateau Pauque, Luxembourg. A few words on Aby Duhr, who makes these stunning wines in Luxembourg. Of all the fairly good, and sometimes very good Luxembourgish wines, he makes the best. These wines can match some very fine German and French white wines in both intensity and complexity. For anyone who ever sees this stuff on a wine list, go for it. They’re a hell of a lot more expensive than the usual Luxembourgish wines, but really worth it.
The dish here was one more from the Vision, and really was an exemplar rendition of Bau’s theme: Japanese influenced French haute cuisine. The Coeur de ris de veau, the finest part of the sweetbreads, which sits at their centre was pan-fried and served with a few preparations of yam, black garlic crumble, a miso sabayon and veal jus. The pairing here was fantastic. The food too. Perfectly cooked, creamy, tasty sweetbreads worked beautifully with the rest. A truly outstanding dish.
Mieral-Ente/ 2x Sellerie/ Café/ Tamarinde. Served with a 2004, Morey-Saint-Denis, Domaine Charlopin Parizot, Burgund. This was a terrific dish. In essence it was the duck I had eaten in April, with the addition of a pastilla of the duck leg. The perfectly cooked duck breast, from arguably the Bresse’s finest producer, was served with a simple duck jus flavoured with tamarind and coffee. With it came a celery cream and a bit of pan-fried celeri branche. The pastilla was stunning. Crispy on the outside, perfectly seasoned, creamy leg meat and simply delicious. The duck too, had great flavour and represented another faultless dish, which was absolutely great. Excellent.
I had a selection of Bernard Antony’s fabulous cheeses, with which I was served a glass of 2007, Albersweiler Latt Gewürtztraminer Auslese, Weingut Rebholz, Pfalz. A great wine, with great cheese. That’s all one has to say.
Joghurt & Olive/ Passionsfrucht/ Knusper/ Bonbon. Served with both desserts was a very, very nice 2006, Riesling Beerenauslese, Dr Loosen, Mosel. This first dessert was probably the best I have eaten here. The combination of the three elements worked marvelously. There was a tamed contrast, which led to an enhanced overall flavour. A great sweet, which was both incredibly fresh and pleasant to eat. Excellent.
Schokolade/ Bschibirne/ Pan-Dan/ Ingwer. A last course from the Vision was a “Japanised” version of Bau’s classic chocolate tartlett. Here, the Nashi pear, pan-dan ice cream and ginger spiced things up, and made the chocolate feel incredibly fresh again. Excellent again.
The last part here is always the very well made, and very large selection of petit-fours, which is always very very good. As is the coffee.
This was yet again a world-class meal. No dish had the slightest technical mistake, let alone slip. Every single of these highly complex dishes worked brilliantly, and made it feel incredibly simple, which really is what makes Bau stand out. I still believe that Bau features amongst the very best chefs in the world and this meal solidified my belief once more. This restaurant really lives up to the Michelin’s description of 3*, both in the green and red guides, as the food here is always exceptional and well worth a trip.