Archive for the ‘restaurants-Germany’ Category

Schloss Berg, Nennig

octobre 14, 2010

As my regular readers will know, Schloss Berg is amongst the 5 best restaurants in Europe and I try to return as often as I can. Over the summer I had the chance to have two meals here, both of which were simply superb. What is striking with Christian Bau’s food, is how far he goes in perfecting every single element of the individual dishes. Take for instance his china. Whilst having been among the first to use the beautiful Hering plates, he now considers them too common and has ordered a series of plates from a Japanese artisan. Can you tell me other restaurants that go to such lengths in order to manifest their individuality?

However, it doesn’t stop there. The food has (mostly) become more pure and elegant too. Apart from a tuna dish, which was still rather complex, it now seems even more reduced and direct. One rarely gets dishes as powerful as his gamberoni with rice broth and cauliflower. Here, the product really speaks for itself, and all Bau does is create an altar for it. This particular dish must be among the finest to be had in European 3* restaurants at the moment.

Another fantastic creation was an artichoke variation. The vegetable was presented in a multitude of textures and structures (the latter is his description), resulting in a real firework of flavours. Here one really gets an idea of innovative vegetable-based cooking. He doesn’t simply serve a slice of tomato, or beetroot, but takes the simple artichoke and elevates it to something quite precious. A gem of a dish.

During both meals I was able to try a turbot dish. The first time it was paired with soft shell crab, leeks, citrus fruits and crab jus. Boy, this was good. The deep-fried soft shell crab on its own would be worth a trip. A little bowl of those would satisfy me! But, the turbot was of course not bad neither. No. It was fantastic as it usually is here. With the jus and puree it was another remarkable dish.

His new turbot dish combines a few favourites of his with a new « prima ballerina ». Iodine-tapioca, carrot chutney and Thai-asparagus create a magnificient background for a tranche of beautifully cooked wild turbot. This is cooking at the highest level, which one does not find in all that many places.

One cannot repeat it often enough: Christian Bau is undoubtedly one of Europe’s best chefs, and the fact that he is still relatively unknown outside of Germany (and even within it) shows how little quality and talent have to do with popularity. For anyone who has a serious interest in food, a trip down to the Mosel is in order!

Vendome II, Bergisch Gladbach

janvier 19, 2010

Joachim Wissler is without doubt one of the finest chefs in Germany. Alongside Christian Bau, he serves arguably some of the most interesting and innovative food this country has to offer, as far as I can tell. Both serve decidedly different food, which really shows how diverse German cooking is these days. Whilst a number of Flamish and Dutch restaurants all cook in one more or less similar style, in Germany one finds a variety of different cuisines: From classical French (say at Thieltges, Wohlfahrt), to more contemporary renditions of the French classical cooking at Erfort, over to Spanish contemporary cooking at Amador, over German haute cuisine at Elverfeld and Wissler to the Asian influenced cooking of Bau.

Vendome still is in this very grand setting of Schloss Bensberg a few minutes away from Cologne and the room is very beautiful, with huge gaps between the tables. Service was great throughout the entire meal, despite its length.

The menu here, in the 24 course edition costs 245euro, which is the highest price in any German restaurant. However, it is not that much, if one considers what one gets for that money. Shorter and cheaper versions do exist, but if you come all the way from Luxembourg for a meal like this, you go for the full thing. I started off with a glass of Bollinger Special Cuvee, which is probably my favourite brut non-millesime of the big Champagne houses. The wines for today were very fines ones indeed, and represented rather good value for the otherwise pretty pricey wine list. We started off with a bottle of 1998 Puligny Montrachet from Louis Carillon, after which we had some 2007 Sancerre Les Monts Damnes from Pascal Cotat and finally had a bottle of 2001 Chateauneuf Du Pape Les Cailloux from Brunel. All of them were fantastic, but the most amazing was easily the Carillon. A truly outstanding wine, which isn’t even that expensive for what one gets.

Carillon

The meal started with a croquette of pork snout, a ball of mussels and two crackers. One was topped with mackerel and the other’s topping I have forgotten to write down. Those were a very fine start, and the pork snout a truly outstanding piece of cooking. Excellent.

Canapes I

Canapes II

The meal itself started with Brachfeld [Steinpilze: Haselnussmilch : Esspapier]. This was a resolutely modern dish. From the look, to the conception up to the execution, it really was a most intriguing plate of food. The different cepe textures and preparations gave a very contrasting image of this fine mushroom. In combination with the very concentrated hazelnut cream, the length in the mouth was phenomenal. After having eaten one bite of this course, one had the flavours in the mouth for a very, very long time. From looking at it, it didn’t seem like anything I would love, but the taste delivered, it really was an exceptional, unique dish. Outstanding.

Pilze

Second part of the meal: Zarenfrühstück [Tatar: Wodka: Kaviar]. This was another picture on a plate, and a very delicious one it was. Two thin crisps of country bread sandwiched a very thin layer of beef/vodka jelly, beef tartare and caviar. On the other side of the plate, one had a quail’s egg yolk with a little dollop of caviar and a herb oil. This was an incredibly light, refreshing course, which presented the most delicious association of beef tartare and caviar in a slightly different way than Bau does it. Of course, quality of products and execution were faultless, and one of my friends just said, that he wanted to be a Tsar, if they had breakfast like that everyday. That’s a compliment in the best possible way. Excellent.

Petit Dejeuner

Rollmops [Sardine: Ochsenmark: Feldsalat] was one of the very few courses I found a little less unique. It was still a very very good plate of food, but less intriguing, compelling than the others. Not that that was a problem, as the plate was absolutely delicious as such. The idea of the German Rollmops was taken up, and turned into something much more refined and delicious. This adaptation of German dishes is one of Wissler’s greatest strengths, and something that makes his cooking so unique (although there are many other things too). In short, this was a delicious dish, although less special than the others. Very good.

Rollmops

Kalbskopf [ Königsberger Art: Bachkrebse a la Nage]. Another traditional German dish, the Königsberger Klopse was dressed in the finest of dresses, as this was a stunning dish. A Klops made out of veal head was served with crayfish, a creamy crayfish sauce, and a few capers, to have all of the traditional elements on the plate. The veal head was simply delicious and with the incredibly tasty sauce and perfectly cooked crayfish, it was a stunning dish. One can hardly think of a better way to present such a classic. Stunning.

Kopf

Kraut und Rüben [ geräucherter Hüttenkäse] was an interesting course, but not really that great after all. However, at the table, 2 out of three loved it, just to let you know how subjective things related to food are. Different preparations of beetroot were served with a slightly acid sauce, a smoked cheese and a little balsamic vinegar. Everything was, as always here, perfectly executed, although the whole thing used this nowadays pretty common idea of marrying beetroot, balsamic and some kind of fresh cheese… Very good.

Kraut und Rueben

Shrimps [Seeigelcreme: Chicoree: Madras Curry] was a stunning dish. Small shrimps deep-fried in their integrality sat atop a sea urchin cream, a few raw sea urchins and some shrimps. Tableside, a curry oil was added. The slight spiciness from the curry went beautifully with the strong sea urchin and the slightly less powerful shrimps, but the real star were, besides those urchins, the deep-fried shrimp carcasses. Their texture is just a pure crunchy pleasure. The idea of using the carcass as well, instead of only using a little part of the shrimps, is great, and so rarely seen in high-end restaurants. This dish was stunning.

Shrimps

Gänseleber [ Popcornschaum: gestockter Poulardensaft]. Not that pairing corn and foie gras is very new as an idea (after all the beasts get fed corn only), but the dish here, really was bizarre. A popcorn foam of a surreal texture came with a little praline of popcorn, a piece of pan-fried foie gras and a chicken stock. On top of the foie sat a few marinated pieces of some kind of root vegetable. The foam on its own wasn’t that stunning at first, however, if eaten with the liver, it was brilliant. The liver itself being of a most perfect texture. This was even better than the hot foie gras at the Greenhouse, as it had a very homogenous, supple but firm texture, which is what a perfect pan-fried foie gras should have. I suppose a method, similar to that Heston Blumenthal describes in his book is used here to cook it, as this produces some stunning results (it’s relatively complicated, but the most effective way of cooking this very fragile product). Outstanding.

Leber

If 24 courses are not enough, you need a little more. As one of us had eaten one of Wissler’s signature creations before already, we asked if we could have a little extra. Here finally came the mottled mascarpone raviolo with black truffles, old balsamic and white tomato foam (white due to clarification of the tomato juice, not the fruit’s colour) . A true masterpiece of comfortable flavours, which were outright perfectly balanced and beautifully brought together. Unreal, although a slightly older balsamico would even have been better for this, as this relatively young one, was a little too acidic. Outstanding.

Raviolo

At this point of the meal the Carillon was desperately empty, so I had a glass of Sancerre to go with the few fishy dishes.

Sancerre

Süsswasser [Donaulachs: Rote Beete: Maronen Cous Cous]. A piece of Waller, or a kind of salmon from the Danube was served with chestnut cous cous, salmon caviar, Chioggia beetroot and a broth. This was perfectly fine in every sense of the word, but it didn’t really amaze me. The interesting thing about this was the pretty well cooked salmon (nearly well-done), which was unusual for such a “modern” restaurant. It did not disturb much, but the flavour was a little muted due to this degree of cooking. Very good.

Waller

Salzwasser [ Schwertmuschel: Meerrettich-Apfeljus] was much more successful again. A few razor clams, scallops and oysters came raw, sandwiched between some leaves, topped with an oyster air and sprinkled with apple/horseradish jus. A very light, very direct, and very clean dish, which I absolutely loved. The others however found it a little less exciting. Apart from the slightly iodine flavours, the perfectly balanced acidity was remarkable in this dish. This was great, natural/modern cooking. Fantastic.

Austern und Muscheln

Aal [Himbeerstreusel: Rosenkohlpüree] was one of those combinations, which just make you feel a little dubious. Wissler is a master of bringing together things, which you wouldn’t imagine to work at all. The lackered eel was given a little peps from the raspberries, and the Brussels sprouts puree gave it a little earthy character. Excellent.

Aal

Kalbsbries [Misocreme: Schwarzwurzeln]. A piece of roasted sweetbreads, with a Miso espuma, beef broth jelly and salsify made for a stunning little course. A glorious piece of sweetbread, paired beautifully with the foamy Miso mousse, and the fork with the jelly and salsify opened up the palate for the slightly more intensive, richer plates to come. Excellent.

Bries

Landei [Jabugo Bellota Schinkensaft: Nussbutter: Albatrüffel]. Another classic of Wissler, and yet one more truly memorable dish, was served at this moment. A poached egg yolk was layered between some parsley or spinach puree, Iberico ham jelly, brown butter foam and white truffles. The whole thing just was like diving into pleasure. When one took a bit of everything, one had an absolutely stunning taste explosion in the mouth. I don’t know how I can qualify this some other way, but this really was amazing. The combination of such delicious elements alone is enough to make one salivate in advance, and when it is done in such a convincing way, one can’t help saying: DIVINE. One of the best dishes of 2009.

Trueffel

For the meat, we drank a very enjoyable bottle of Chateauneuf du Pape (details above).

Chateauneuf

Ente [ Sesamcreme: Spitzkohl]. This dish came on two plates. On a first one, a piece of crispy duck skin, in the classical Chinese way was powdered with a leek powder instead of the traditional granulated sugar, and next to it came the dish itself, with various pieces of the duck, a sesame cream, some pointed cabbage and a strong duck jus. The skin was mesmerising: Incredibly crunchy and soft at the same time, the leek was noticeable, and gave it an interesting touch. It was so good I had  to have a second helping. The main plate, with the duck was no less good. I particularly enjoyed another piece of crispy skin, served with a little cabbage. This was another great combination, as were the pan-fried cepes and duck leg. The breast meat was of course perfectly cooked, and as tender as duck gets. The only slight problem was the rather heavy sesame cream, which had a consistency resembling that of a mayonnaise. Otherwise, it was excellent.

Ente

Hase im Pfeffer [geschmorter Sellerie: Datteln]. A piece of hare loin came with date puree, braised celery, a little braised shoulder, and a biscuit, soaked in the hare’s cooking juices. This was an incredibly light way of serving a hare, both in terms of calories and taste, as the dish was much less powerful than, say a lievre a la royale. Here, one had incredibly tender hare loin, which was less strong than the braised shoulder, and to balance these, there was the sweet date puree. I love hare, and this was easily the best of the meat courses we had. Excellent.

Hase

Vacherin Mont D’Or [Kartoffelschaum: Pumpernickel]. Atop black bread jelly sat some potato foam, with Vacherin at its centre. This was then topped with crunchy black bread, to give some texture to the otherwise rather creamy dish. I enjoyed this cheese course, and found it very interesting, as it made use of the traditional potatoes, which are often used with this cheese, and incorporated regional brown, or black bread, in a very successful, light way. Or at least, as light as possible way. Very good.

Vacherin

Butterkeks [Tamarillo: Kaffee: Kekseis]. Every German child has eaten these rectangular biscuits in their youth, so to use them inevitably brings back memories. This dessert, served in a Martini glass brought this biscuit into the dish in a most interesting way, and the ice cream had an incredibly buttery feeling, just like the biscuits themselves (which is what it was supposed to taste like anyway). The dessert remained light, and fresh enough to be served after such a long meal. Very good.

Dessert I

Next to it, we were served Dörrobst [Renettenlimonade: Muskatnusseis], which was an ice cream made with nutmeg, a foamed apple lemonade, and a little bit of dried fruits. Another very fresh little dessert, using the sour apples (this variety of apples is pretty sour, compared to a number of other apples) to give the dish a very light feeling. Otherwise, it certainly was very good, but not the best of the desserts served. Very good. (see pic above)

Hokkaidokürbis [Joghurt: Kreuzkümmel]. I think that this was my favourite of all the desserts served, and easily one of the best, I’ve eaten last year. Not only was this a stunningly beautiful plate, the way that the elements were brought together was equally stunning. This was hardly sweet, just enough to satisfy the taste-buds, and the cumin spiced things up a little. The incredibly fresh feeling of Wissler’s desserts was very present here again, which makes these little plates so easy to eat after a menu such as this. Outstanding.

Kuerbis

Meteorid [Grapefruit: gestockte Hefecreme: Sake]. Another highly interesting dessert. Again, a picture on a plate, here, the main theme was the bitterness in the levure, and that of the grapefruit. When eating all of the elements together, one had a completely new taste in one’s mouth, something that grew on me, whilst I ate the dessert. Excellent.

Meteorid

Schaumkuss [Mandarine: Pistazie]. A beautiful dessert this certainly was, but a pretty forgettable one too. The idea was good, using the different parts of the mandarins to create something that resembles it visually and in terms of flavour. However, the flavour in the mousse, which was all that filled this fake mandarin, was a little muted. Somehow, there was too little acidity and sweetness to make this a very successful affair. Good.

Kuss

Trüffel [ aus dem Perigord: Manjari]. To combine chocolate truffles with “real” black truffles is a highly interesting idea. As both can be brilliant together, this can really work, but as the truffle season was just about to start, Wissler must have used some cooked truffles, which didn’t have the punch of a fresh truffle during the season. Otherwise it was a perfectly executed, rather classical chocolate mousse, with not much more. Very good.

Trueffel

To finish things, we had a Pina Colada, served in a fun, and interesting way, and the inevitable Magnum [Vendome am Stiel]. Both were good fun, and very good.

Pina Colada

Magnum

Mignardises are on the same level as the rest here, and one can only say that this really remains one of the best restaurants in Germany and the world.

Pralinen

The food here was even better than what we had in April. Just like Bau, Wissler seems to get more and more focused on concentrating the flavours, and making the dishes lighter. In this 25 course menu, I had only a couple of courses, that I did not like that much. The rest was so good, that it would not even have been an option to leave them out. The most stunning dishes were easily among the best I’ve eaten last year, and the overall quality of the meal was stunning for such a long menu. With the remarkable wines, that we drank, and the great service, I spent a very enjoyable few hours. Wissler should belong on the wish-list of everyone who has a serious interest in the very best food served on this planet, as this restaurant is easily among the world’s elite of avant-garde restaurants, which serve incredible food, in a most relaxed, but sophisticated way.

Schloss Berg, Nennig

janvier 14, 2010

La Salle

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.

La Table

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.

Canapes

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.

Caviar, boeuf, echalottes

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.

Foie gras

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.

Sea cucumber, hamachi, oyster

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.

Thon

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.

Tourteau

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.

Homard bleu

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.

St Jacques

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.

Cabillaud

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.

Sole

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.

Ris de Veau

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.

Canard

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.

Fromages

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.

Dessert I

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.

Choco/Poire

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.

Petit Fours

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.

GO, THERE!

.

Schloss Berg, Nennig III

août 29, 2009

 

I had the chance to spend a few weeks in Christian Bau’s kitchen lately and will write about my experiences, if time permits. My last meal there, a few weeks ago was as good as the one in April, and the restaurant is definitely among my top 5. 

 

La maison

La maison

A few words about the chef should be said. During my two weeks in his kitchen, he was there at every single service, during the whole 16 to 18 hours of the normal day and closed the restaurant every night. Not only was he there, but he also cooks most of the sauces, prepares and cooks the fish and many other things. Nothing leaves this kitchen without his blessing. I was certainly impressed when I stood in front of three boxes of tomatoes waiting to be peeled, when suddenly the chef came along and peeled them with me. Such things only show too well how much this man and his brigade work.

DSCN1184

Now, to the meal, which is the reason for this post after all. We started with a glass of the house Champagne, which is a very pleasant blanc de blancs and not too costly for a 3* (I think it is 14euro). The first nibbles that arrive at the table already show the immense attention to detail and complexity of the cooking here. The diner is presented with a few brik-tubes, filled with Parma ham mousse today, a cold soup with some air (today it was a beetroot gazpacho with buttermilk air), a few almonds and a little selection of canapés. The crunchy cannelloni were very enjoyable, as were the almonds. The soup, which at the last visit was a little underwhelming had great intensity and power this time. The combination with the buttermilk worked marvelously well too. The stars of this first round of treats are plated on the slate board though. At the top left, one has crab bread with swordfish/oyster tartar and apple foam. This is very fresh, with great textural (crunchy, creamy and airy) combinations. In short, a great little bite (and classic here). Also on the plate was a tomato, pesto, mozzarella tartlett, which was very good, as usual. The last part was a cracker with cream cheese, two kinds of tobiko caviar and a chicken skin crisp. This was not bad at all, but I don’t fancy cream cheese that much. Excellent.

 

Gazpacho, croustillants et amandes

Gazpacho, croustillants et amandes

 

Canapes

Canapes

 

Next up was a new version of the little cornet, I had eaten at the previous visit. Today it was filled with avocado cream, yuzu sorbet (a slightly salted one), hamachi tartar and wasabi foam. This was just one fresh, rewarding mouthful. Amazing in every sense, if a little less gourmand than the beef/eel/caviar version, I had tried in April. Excellent.

 

Cornet avocat, hamachi, yuzu, wasabi

Cornet avocat, hamachi, yuzu, wasabi

Moving on with the next round of amuses, we had a Bau classic: Two spoonfuls of foie gras. One was an ice cream with a little cherry compote and the other a gateau, with coffee, hazelnut and cherry. The foie here always impresses. This time it didn’t fail to do so neither. It was tasty, creamy, perfectly prepared and great with the slightly bitter coffee jelly. The hazelnuts gave it a little crunch, which I always adore. The ice cream of foie is another winner. It is very intense and unbelievably creamy. Once you have it in your mouth, you wonder how a thing this unctuous can actually stay in shape that well (on the plate). Outstanding.

 

Foie Gras, noix, cerises, cafe

Foie Gras, noix, cerises, cafe

Up next was another Bau classic, in a different version this time. The clarified gazpacho came with olive and mozzarella drops, cucumber sorbet, sea cucumber and carabineros. The flavour of every element was outstandingly present, fresh and clear and the combination of the different parts worked marvelously too. The stars of the show were undoubtedly the sea cucumber and carabinero. I had the opportunity to try a little sea cucumber in the kitchen a few days earlier, so I knew what amazing texture to expect, but I was still startled. It is only poached in grape seed oil, and thus remains very clean in terms of taste, and possibly the best way to discover a product such as this. This was one of the most interesting and satisfying, completely new textures I have come across up to now. The carabinero (large red shrimp that live off the Spanish coast) was as good as they get (which means very, very good). The only problem with such products is the exorbitant price. However, if the chef serves it, all you can do is eat it, no? Outstanding.

 

Gazpacho

Gazpacho

Another serving of spoons came right up. This time it was a langoustine variation. A base of tartar with trout caviar was topped with some deep-fried langoustine. The second spoon featured a “raviolo”: tartar wrapped in lardo di Colonnata and crowned with Ossietra caviar. This is an absolute masterpiece. One can’t say anything about this dish but note that it gets pretty damn close to what perfection could taste like. The deep-fried langoustine is coated in the thinnest, crunchiest of batters and gives the creamy, rich tartar both crunch and a different structure. This is really worth a trip on its own. This was one mouthful for which I wouldn’t have minded a couple of hours driving. I really can’t say just how unbelievably good this was. However, there was another spoon awaiting me. This one wasn’t exactly what I would call disgusting neither. Despite being based on the same tartar, the lardo/caviar combination gave it a totally different feeling. The melting lardo, the briny caviar complemented the tartar utmost perfectly. Another outstanding dish based on langoustines within a month’s time (after Hof van Cleve’s terrific langoustines). DIVINE.

 

Langoustines

Langoustines

Just to remind you, we are still at the amuses. Yes, maybe you can see how much effort is being put in to every part of the meal here. These creations are more complex than whole dishes at other high-end restaurants and don’t even make up a big part of the meal. The last plate to come as a “greeting from the kitchen” was a salmon/oyster raviolo with asparagus and wasabi/courgette cream. This was a slightly modified version of the version we had eaten in April. A subtle change can make a huge differnce, as we were about to see. The raviolo was lukewarm this time, which made all of the tastes come out beautifully (oysters are best eaten at 36 degrees Celsius as they have much more complexity). Also added this time was a wasabi cream, which I must say, was very welcome due to the spiciness of it. This was absolutely delicious again.

 

Saumon

Saumon

 

The first few courses were the same as the ones I had in April, so I will only give brief explanations about these.

 

The first was the Crab Marinated and Deep-Fried/ 2x Watermelon/ Dashi Jelly. It comes as a croustillant and as a salad. The watermelon is served in the form of a sorbet and as a grilled slice. As the watermelon is relatively sweet, this dish is a little too sweet for my taste, if eaten without the sorbet. The freshness of the sorbet however, balances the whole thing beautifully. The fritter is one adorable mouthful, which was the star of the dish. Excellent.

 

Watermelon

Watermelon

The next course was as good, if not better than last time. The blue fin tuna tataki/ Crispy & Sour Vegetables/ Ponzu/ Japanese Essence with Ginger Ale is a classic of the house, and rightfully so. The dish doesn’t only present you with the ever perfect quality of the ingredients, but is also very clever in terms of the construction. The tuna itself is slightly grilled, tender, tasty,… The vegetables (without the abalone this time, which I found a little annoying in the first version of it) were perfect, as was the soup with tuna/avocado tartar. The vegetables gave you a slightly acidic note, whilst the soup had a most complex taste, which complemented the tuna very well. Excellent.

 

Thon

Thon

 

Thon II

Thon II

 

Thon III

Thon III

Here comes a new one: Blue Lobster/ Tepid Quinoa/ Passe Pierre & Green Apple/ Cream of Corail/ Aroma & Oil of Curry from Madras. This is another accomplished dish. It is very complex as it features a salicorne puree, curry mayonnaise, pan-fried salicorne, green apple sticks and foam, the lobster, a lobster jus, the corail cream, cury oil, quinoa both popped and cooked with the lobster claws and chicken skin. Taste-wise the different aromas work very well, as each gives a little bit to the whole thing. One can mix the diverse elements in any way, and will never be disappointed. I particularly enjoyed the corail cream, which has incredible power and very pleasing texture. Another great dish. Excellent.

 

Homard

Homard

Up next was another classic. Coquille Saint-Jacques/ Seawater Tapioca/ Chutney of Carrots/ Foam & Aroma of Raz el Hanout. The scallops were of very high quality (as French ones are out of season, the chef uses Scandinavian ones) and were cooked perfectly. I was kind of sad about the fact that they were halved, but one can’t do much about it. This crime seems to invade the continent too. The tapioca has an interesting, but pleasing taste, which again, works well with the other elements on the plate. This was excellent (sorry for being repetitive, but that’s the way this food is).

 

Coquille St Jacques

Coquille St Jacques

Now came one of my favourites. A tempura of frog’s legs, with enoki mushrooms, a watercress soup, spinach and wasabi cream. The main part is made up of the deep-fried legs, with raw and deep-fried enoki mushrooms, spinach, wasabi cream, parsley and garlic. The little cup contains some of the smallest ravioli I have seen so far (they must be about as big as a 2cent coin), some boned frog leg meat and watercress soup. The legs were brilliant, crunchy batter, tender,tasty meat and a great cream to dip them into: all one can ask for. The spinach seemed to be a base for the little beignets to stand on more than anything else, but that didn’t matter at all. The wasabi cream was lovely and spiced things up a little, which isn’t a bad thing seeing that it was a dish which contained mostly deep-fried elements. Watercress isn’t something I have liked for a long time, but this soup was stunning. Every leaf is hand-picked to produce a soup of an intensity and tastiness that is unheard of. I guess a healthy dose of butter and/or cream helped to get to this, but I really didn’t mind. This was terrific.  Outstanding.

 

Grenouilles

Grenouilles

Turbot is a fish I particularly enjoy if it is very fresh (thus very firm). I know that most people will prefer it slightly matured, but that doesn’t interest me in the least, as I find this firm, meaty texture most impressive. The best piece of turbot I have tasted in my life was at ADPA, where the thick cut completely redefined what turbot should taste like. Here it was very good, but not quite there yet. Bau buys fish that are about 5,5kg and therefore deliver some meaty fillets. The current version is called Atlantic Turbot/ Smoked Eel Glazed over Charcoal/ Eggplant-Miso/ Shiso Pesto/ Deep-Fried “Ladyfingers”. This dish showed Bau’s penchant for Asian and Japanese cuisine in a good way. The techniques are clearly French, but the spices, condiments, and combinations are inspired by Japanese cooking. The turbot was, as I mentioned, of top quality and had great flavour and texture (not to mention the perfect cooking). The real star of the dish was the smoked eel. I absolutely adored its strong flavour, which was only enhanced by glazing it over real charcoal. The highly complex vinaigrette and aubergine miso cream complemented each element beautifully. Excellent.

 

Turbot

Turbot

Up next was a fantastic local product: Saddle of Venison from Eifel/ 2x Pointed Cabbage/ Apricots& Chanterelles/ Jus of Venison with Bitter Cocoa and Mild Chili. These are wild animals that are being brought to the restaurant by a game dealer based around 50km north of Nennig, in Trier. Bau served the rack covered with a slice of foie gras, which starts to melt as it is presented to the guest. This doesn’t only enhance the dishe’s flaovur, but also makes the fat-free meat a little more interesting. The cooking was perfect as always during the weeks of my internship. They hardly use any sous-vide  here and manage to cook every piece of venison or lamb to an exact temperature; every day. I must say that sous-vide is great for an amateur, but a 3* restaurant should take the effort to cook meat traditionally, which many, sadly, don’t do anymore. The perfect cooking results not only in very tender meat, but one also has the lovely gamey flavour, which worked beaufitully with the cocoa/Piment d’Espelette sauce. The garnishes were girolles with dried abricots, a combination I adore, as girolles smell of exactly these dried abricots. The cream and sushi of pointed cabbage were as good as in a hare dish I had eaten last December. All in all, this was another excellent dish.

 

Chevreuil

Chevreuil

 

To move to the sweet side of things, one is served lemongrass ice cream coated in white chocolate. On the base of the little bon bon, one finds zeta peta, which came rather unexpected for my companion, who couldn’t help displaying a bright smile. Very good.

 

GLace

GLace

Moving on, we had the first of three desserts. I must admit that I find the look of that spoon, crowning the “Small Iced Coffee” a little too classic, but the dessert wass highly interesting. First of all, it is nearly devoid of any sweetness. When one starts to eat it, a very strong taste of coffee dominates. As I progressed, I got to like it more and more, as the subtle sweetness of the mascarpone cream does come through eventually and balances the dish in a remarkable way. The spoon gave the whole thing some crunch and further sweetness, making this a perfect little pre-dessert. Very good.

 

Cafe

Cafe

 

The Gariguette Strawberry/ Mild Ginger/ Yoghurt/ Sorbet of Yuzu was a real winner. There is nothing in the dessert world that  I despise more than some kind of soup as a dessert. I just don’t have any good memories of sweet soups. This time, the story was a little different. The strawberry soup was spiced with a little ginger, which gave it a kick and made the whole thing delicious if eaten with the (sweet) yuzu sorbet. The little strawberries with their different balls on the side made me think of Hof van Cleve. On the other side sits the yoghurt bonbon, which is yoghurt sorbet, sandwiched between crunchy sugar. This was a most refreshing, spicy, interesting dessert. Excellent.

 

Soupe de fraises

Soupe de fraises

Nothing against the two previous ones, but the last one did steal the show. Chocolate & Passion Fruit Canache and Cream/ Salpicon of Exotic Fruits/ Marbled Coconut Ice Cream. It was a play on Bau’s classic, which I had in December last year. Today the chocolage ganache was paired with a passion fruit cream or jelly of sorts. A base of praline gives the dessert crunch, as do the tuiles. I was astonished how well the different pieces of fruit worked with the bitter chocolate. After all, such combinations are often unsuccessful, so to see one, that actually does taste marvelous was pretty much new to me. The little tower contained a brunoise of the same fruit, the marbled ice cream and some sort of chocolate cream. All in all, this was a fantastic dessert, which closed the meal more than beautifully.

 

Chocolat

Chocolat

To accompany your coffee you are of course presented with a few petit fours and mignardises. On the slate you see from the bottom to the top: An after eight Negerkuss, an olive pate de fruit, a cherry filled with some kind of rice and a lemon tart. With it come a few nuts covered with chocolate and two kinds of marshmallow. Also served, but not pictured was a wide selection of pralines. Out of all these treats I disliked the cherry/raspberry combo, but the rest was excellent. I particularly enjoyed the lemon tart, the Negerkuss, the pralines and the pate de fruit.

 

Petit fours

Petit fours

This meal only demonstrated too well how good Christian Bau cooks. Not only is there an immense amount of work in this food, but also a passion for cooking and gastronomy that is driving things forward here. He travels to restaurants, spends as much time as his cooks in the kitchen, closes the restaurant and doesn’t let anything happen without his personal ok. This is a serious cook, who deserves to get much more attention, not only in Europe, but also world-wide.

 

A trip to Nennig will always be worth any distance traveled.  The cooking and seriousness here is just mind-blowing. Coupled with the great service and fantastic sommeliere, Britta Jäger, your time spent here, will be time well spent.

Gaestehaus Klaus Erfort, Saarbruecken

juillet 6, 2009

 

La salle

La salle

 

Klaus Erfort is one of the very few 3* chefs, who not only own their restaurant, but who also have no incomes besides it. Nonetheless, he manages to survive financially, even in such tough times. Erfort’s cooking is what one could call neo-classical. His plates are centred around perfectly cooked fish or meat and are accompanied by equally well done garnishes and sauces. As the Saarland borders on France, Erfort sources most of his produce from there. His Simmental beef and veal for instance is re-imported, as the whole production is exported to France. His poultry comes from the legendary producer Jean Claude Mieral, who along with Paul Bocuse and Alain Chapel strived and still strives towards perfection in the elevage of birds in the Bresse.

 

Le jardin

Le jardin

 

The restaurant itself is located in a beautiful villa dating from the turn of the century and is surrounded by a magnificent park. The rooms are coloured in a bright beige and furnished relatively modernly. They are comfortable and do not distract from the plate. 

Erfort has one unique feature, which only few restaurants of that class have, or indeed use: A spectacular garden and terrace. When the warmer days come, one can enjoy his whole meal on this lovely terrace and gaze into the garden, in which the city seems far, far away. It is quite rare to have a three star serve meals outside, and when it happens, it usually maximises the diner’s pleasure. The only time I experienced so far was at the Louis XV.

 

La table

La table

 

Today, we were having a special deal, available at 59euro per person (only if you are under 30). As this is laughably cheap, one can imagine, that the kitchen can’t show as much of its strengths as it can on the normal tasting menu (160euro, last time I checked).

To start the meal, one is always approached with a procession of delightful little bites. The first to land on the table were a macaron filled with foie gras and smoked eel. This was very well made, although the only thing it shares with a macaron was the shape. This combination is one that I am particularly fond of, so one can’t argue about it. A good start.

DSCN0893

Also, we enjoyed a terrific flammekuechle, an Alsatian institution of a dish. It is composed of bacon, cream and onions, which are laid on bread dough. This little canapé is a bit of a signature here, as I’ve had it during my previous meals too. This was very good and precise as always.

 

Flammekuechle

Flammekuechle

 

 

A poached quail’s egg with parsley, crispy chicken skin and summer truffles was the best of the amuses. The textural variations in this dish were perfectly balanced and the summer truffles surprisingly tasty. Excellent

 

Poached egg

Poached egg

Following this, we were brought a martini glass filled with tomato jelly and some kind of crustacean at the bottom.  The jelly had very deep, intense tomato flavour and was very refreshing. Exactly the kind of amuse one wishes for on a lush summer evening. Very good.

 

Tomate

Tomate

Bread was good, with the focaccia being the best by far. The butter is Echire, which was very pleasant. I didn’t understand why we had to ask for a refill of the bread twice, but it might be that the house doesn’t want people to fill up on the bread, as the food is worth the wait.

 

Pains

Pains

The first course today arrived promptly. The foie gras with pineapple and pepper is a classic of Klaus Erfort and one can easily understand why. First of all, every element on the plate, notably the foie, is prepared expertly and has a distinct role. The liver is perfectly creamy and divinely seasoned. It is wrapped in thin slices of marinated (very sweet) pineapple and topped with a little crisp and almonds. The whole becomes better with every bite one eats which is a rare thing as far as I can tell. It is a picture book perfect dish, which relies on superior product quality and preparation. Excellent.

 

Foie Gras

Foie Gras

The main today was far better than anything I have had at Erfort during my previous meals here. This Mieral pigeon with celery, parsnips and summer truffles was a terrific piece of poultry. Erfort lets the pigeons mature, which boosts their gamey flavour even more, giving them a whole new depth and punch. He then cooks them to perfection by poaching them sous vide. The accompanying summer truffles were surprisingly tasty, the first time I come across specimens that are noteworthy. The jus was equally tasty and flavoursome and combined the elements perfectly. The real star of the dish remained its main protagonist: The pigeon. It was very close those of Herman or Moret which are the best I can recall eating. All in all, this was outstanding.

 

Pigeon

Pigeon

Dessert was also much better than I had remembered. This time we had a play on Mon Cheri, a chocolate Germans enjoy a lot. The original version consists of cherries, dark chocolate and Kirsch, a classical combination, which Erfort turned into an interesting dessert. The two sorbets were yoghurt and cherry, both well made, and tasty. The main piece of the dessert was a chocolate ball, which was made up of chocolate mousse, cherries and a bit of Kirsch. The balance between the alcohol and the other elements was perfect. The addition of a crunchy element gave the ball the textural interest it needed Very good.

 

Dessert

Dessert

The petit fours we were served consisted of a mint sphere, a raspberry tartlet, a passion fruit pate de fruit and a few chocolates. All of them were very enjoyable, whilst the pate de fruit, and tartlet were my favourites. The passion fruit pate was delightfully tart and had a most pleasing texture.

 

petit fours

petit fours

To end the meal, a little ice cream was served. It was a coffee ice cream coated in chocolate and praline. Somehow, these little treats are always a winner, especially if as well made as here. Very good.

 

GLace

GLace

All in all, this meal was terrific: The pigeon was one of the finer specimens I have encountered up to now and definitely was the stand out dish for me. The foie was equally well prepared, although the sweetness seemed a little too much on a starter (this is a matter of personal taste though). The dessert was maybe the weakest part, I simply haven’t encountered a single dessert in Germany that was as good as those in France. The terrace is one of the biggest assets that the restaurant has, and luckily enough, it is used. Often restaurants of this type do not serve an entire meal on their terrace, which is a pity if the weather permits it. The dining experience is just like no other.

It was interesting to see a 3* fully booked on a Tuesday night. Especially, if one takes into consideration, that the Saarland is not the most prosperous region of Germany. After having talked to the chef, I was told that they usually are that full, or close to being fully booked. These days, it just is relatively rare to see a restaurant fully booked. I suppose the relatively low wine and food prices (starters start at 19euro) make up part of that.

 

La salle II

La salle II

Schloss Berg, Nennig

avril 30, 2009

 


Le chateau

 

 

 

Le chateau

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s been 10 years now since Christian Bau and his wife have taken over the restaurant of Schloss Berg. The restaurant itself is set in a picturesque 12th century castle and is located a stone’s throw away from Luxembourg and France. The famous village of Schengen (where the treaty has been signed) is about 10km down the river.

 

le chateau-2

le chateau-2

 

 

Apart from a nasty little casino adjacent to the castle, the restaurant’s situation is wonderful. The vineyards are extending down to the Moselle, the weather is mild, sunny, nature is coming back to life…

 

My first visit had left me with the impression of Bau being a most intelligent, hard-working chef. Someone, who constantly seems to re-work dishes until they work, really work. The service back then was good too, only the horrible design of the room was a bit annoying.

 

Photo: Schloss Berg

Photo: Schloss Berg

 

 

Happily enough, they changed the whole interior a couple of months ago. Now, the diner is greeted by a light, warm, welcoming room, which suits the cooking so much better than the previous one. To get away from the international standard Coquet or Bernardaud crockery, Bau now mostly uses Stefanie Hering’s fantastic porcelain, which underlines his food beautifully.

 

 

The service, led by Yildiz Bau, the chef’s wife and Britta Jaeger, the sommeliere, has become much more personal, warm, relaxed, friendly, welcoming. They really know how to treat their guests. Put it in a few words: You feel very well there.

 

La salle

La salle

 

la table

la table

 

 

Bau’s concept of delivering perfection from beginning to end is already clear from the first bites that he sends each guest. In this case they consisted of a cracker with oyster and swordfish salpicon and apple foam; tomatoe/pesto tartlet; yellow-fin tuna with avocado cream. All of them already featured amazingly intense flavour explosions and showed how much effort is put into each element here. Bau certainly doesn’t take any shortcuts to achieve what he strives for. I couldn’t think of any better canapés, only those of Ledoyen come somewhat close, somewhat. Outstanding.

 

canapes-1

canapes-1

 

 

Following this came a melon soup, which tasted a little empty. Melon season isn’t quite at its height yet. It might have been the only miss of the meal, but one that isn’t too problematic. With it came very good chorizo cream-filled philo pastry cannelloni. The latter were excellent.

 

canapes-2

canapes-2

 

 

Still in the lounge, we were approached with a cornet holding a smoked eel cream, beef tartar and imperial ossietra caviar. It’s always nice to see someone use real caviar instead of the cheaper and less good, farmed versions from wherever they might come. Here the combination of flavours resulted in an orgasmic mix. You simply can not describe how perfect this little thing was: The crunchy cornet, smoky creamy eel, hearty beef and slightly salty caviar…heaven on earth. Give me ten of these and I’m fine for a (short) while.

 

canapes-3

canapes-3

 

 

One further little amuse came before we went to our table: A tomatoe and olive oil gazpacho with mozzarella and olive bon-bons, tomatoe sorbet and calamaretti. Having tasted this in December already, I knew what to expect. Not only was this as good as then, but it made much more sense as an amuse-bouche, being very fresh and light. A perfect palate-cleanser and starting point for the rest of the menu. Excellent.

canapes-4

canapes-4

 

 

After having been escorted to our table, we were approached with yet another amuse: A foie gras royale with a healthy serving of Perigord truffle and Parmesan air. Again, you simply can not describe how perfect the flavours were. The was truffle heated just enough to release its fantastic flavour, the royale smooth, silky and perfectly seasoned and the parmesan air just bringing both together. Another divine little creation.

 

amuse-1

amuse-1

The bread then made its apparition coming in various forms and varieties. All of them were very good, but the slice of focaccia served at the beginning, sourdough and the wheat baguette were by far the best.

 

les pains

les pains

The final amuse came in the form of a salmon raviolo filled with oyster, served with a salad of asparagus, salicorne, char-caviar and a wasabi/apple foam. I am no fan of salmon, but when it is used as well as in this dish, I’m happy to have it. The air deserves to be mentioned, as it was remarkably tasty for a foam. This could easily have been a whole course in any other restaurant, but here you get al of it as part of the prelude. Fantastic.

 

 

amuse-2

amuse-2

 

 

The first starter was Taschenkrebs & Melone/ Mariniert & Gebacken / 2x Wassermelone / Dashigelee. This was simply one refreshing, iodine dish, where sweetness, saltiness and acidity were balanced in the utmost perfect way. The marinated watermelon gave a little bit of crunch to the creamy crab salad and the dashi gelee a salty background, combined with the sorbet you had a piece of summer in your mouth. The little fried crab gave the whole dish a luscious, indulgent note. Excellent.

 

crab-1

crab-1

 

crab-2

crab-2

 

 

Following this came Gaenseleber aus dem Elsass / Gruener Pfeffer / Gelee und Knusper vom gruenen Tee / Mango. Well, what can you say about an ice cream made out of pure foie gras? Nothing. Only that it is out of this world. The texture is quite simply nowhere near anything I ever had before. I guess the Paco-Jet does help here, creating the smoothest, creamiest ice cream I have found so far. This however, should not make the little gateau stand back in any form. It was just as perfect and mind-blowingly well made. A slightly bigger portion would make it perfect. I do not like huge portions, but a little more can’t hurt. The appearance of the dish didn’t really appeal to me, but that is entirely due to personal taste. All in all, it was an outstanding foie dish.

 

foie

foie

 

 

Langoustine / Sushi / Tartar /  Spargel / Dashi. Lightly cooked langoustines, wrapped in spinach, with a tartar, dashi broth and asparagus resulted in a really well made fusion dish. The whole thing was simply centred around the amazing langoustines, which were of the same quality as the ones I had at Oud Sluis a couple of days earlier. Such products just dno’t need tons of butter or heavy sauces. A light broth suffices. Excellent.

 

langoustine

langoustine

 

 

To continue on such heights is a challenge, not many chefs would be able to live up to. Bau certainly can. Blue Fin Tuna / Tataki/ Gartengurke / Japanisches Gemuese mit Abalone / Kimizu raised the bar yet higher! Not only do I like to receive 3 different plates, but when they are all as perfect as these were, you simply can not argue. The tuna being as tender as Wissler’s but so much lighter and cleaner (taste-wise), the accompanying cucumber gave it some crunch and freshness and the dashi the great heartiness you sometimes miss in such light dishes. The little bowl of tuna tartar with apple/wasabi/sake sorbet and cucumber/tapioca soup was another little star. The third cup contained some thinly shaved vegetables and abalone. I didn’t really need the abalone, but can’t say it was misplaced neither. Divine.

 

tuna

tuna

 

 

Coquille Saint Jacques / gegrillt / Meereswasser Tapioka / Karottenchutney / Schaum & Aroma von Raz El Hanout. Now, you get some delicious scallops in London, Paris, Sluis, anywhere you like, but you rarely get some of this quality. The beast was of considerable size and perfectly, really perfectly cooked. Even if it was cut in half (oh oh oh), the reason here was clear: One half had to transport the carrot-chutney. The accompanying tapioca and quinoa (one crunchy, the other cooked with oysters) gave the dish a great textural stimulus and the raz el hanout foam some spice. Outstanding.

 

scallops

scallops

 

 

After all of these mind-blowing dishes, you wait for a less stunning one. Well wait my friend, wait for quite a while, because I haven’t come across anything that wasn’t 100% perfect here yet. The following dish too, wasn’t anything but perfect: Steinbutt aus der Bretagne / Sot-l’y-laisse mit Hoi Sin glasiert / Kraeutersalat / Anchoisaromaten / Krustentierbearnaise. A nice tranche of turbot, grilled to perfection came with a few spring onions, lobster béarnaise and chicken oysters. The absolute star of the dish were the chicken oysters. Just the absolute best piece of chicken you can find on these birds magnified in a most interesting way. The béarnaise, even if very classical, was a welcome partner for all of this. Wow, I don’t know when I had such a perfect meal since my last visits at ADPA or the Louis XV.

 

turbot

turbot

 

 

Hold on to your seats. I thought these dishes were good, but then came along a real beast. Blauer Hummer / in Butter pochiert / Spitzmorcheln / Dicke Bohnen / Vin Jaune. Breton blue lobster is probably my favourite ingredient. Morels aren’t anything I despise neither, nor are peas or green beans. The whole thing served with a little vin jaune beurre blanc makes it a nice little collection of some of my favourite things on earth. Good lord, this was good. Rarely do you get such perfectly cooked lobster, glased with jus and full of flavour. The morels were amazingly powerful as were the beans and the pea puree. All in all, I guess that this is as close to heaven as you can possibly get on this earth. Absolutely, outstandingly- divine (sorry for being repetitive, but go there and you’ll see why I am that enchanted).

 

lobster

lobster

 

 

Bresse-Ente von Mieral / Ravioli von der Keule / 2x Sellerie mit Orangenaroma / Entenjus mit Tamarinde & Café. This dish didn’t have the easiest of tasks. To follow a dish as perfect as the last one isn’t something I’d like to have to do. But, Bau being who he is, he managed to pull out another stunner. Jean Claude Mieral is probably the best eleveur in the Bresse region. He works with most of the better French 3* chefs and deservedly so, do they rely on his fantastic produce. It is from him, that Bau gets all of his poultry, to the great pleasure of his guests. The duck was cooked to perfection, both the breast and the braised thigh stuffed in the raviolo. The celery puree was a concentration of pure celery taste with a nice buttery touch too it. The rich jus had a slight hint of sweetness (from the tamarind) and a very subtle bitterness from the coffee. Divine quality, divine execution and divine conception and that’s it!

 

duck

duck

 

 

 

 

duck

 

 

But don’t think that we were done with our meal. The real highlight still had to be served. Golden Label Beef “Japan-Style” / vom Holzkohlegrill / Auberginencreme / Gemuesetempura. Now being served Wagyu beef is not something you are likely to get everyday. Here it was A10, American quality that was absolutely beautiful. Luckily enough Bau knows that such a product doesn’t need thousand bits and pieces to mask its outstanding quality. He simply grilled it over charcoal and served it with smoked aubergine puree, jus and vegetable-tempura. This must have been the absolute perfect piece of meat: Tender as butter, immensely  tasty, rich, sumptuously marbled and cooked to the utmost perfection (again). The very interesting aubergine puree gave it a nice background, as did the jus and the tempura. Such products just leave you speechless and stay in your mind for quite a while. I don’t think I’ll ever eat any other beef in Europe, that should say enough.

 

wagyu,pre-cooking

wagyu,pre-cooking

 

wagyu, post-cooking

wagyu, post-cooking

 

 

 

 

wagyu, post-cooking

 

tempura with wagyu

tempura with wagyu

 

 

 

 

 

The salty part of the meal being finished, we were more than willing to let the three desserts come. This concept of serving three little desserts instead of a big one, is one I really enjoy as it allows you to taste a much wider range of preparations.

 

But before this we were allowed a little ice cream. Some white chocolate-encased passion-fruit ice cream. Excellent.

 

pre-dessert

pre-dessert

 

 

The first one started on a good level:  Rhabarber mit Streusel / Mascarpone / Ingwereis. A perfectly made rhubarb-crumble, a little crisp filled with mascarpone cream and a quenelle of ginger ice cream provided a refreshing first step into the sweet world. Each element was well executed and had distinct textural aspects. Very good, even if it left room for improvement (taken up by the following two desserts).

 

rhubarb

rhubarb

 

 

The second part was a big step up the scale: Interpretation sauerer Zitrusfruechte.  The main plate featured a yuzu jelly and sorbet of dazzling cleanliness. To the left was a lemon tart and further left still, a kalamanci jelly on a bisquit, topped with different confit zests. All of these elements were of such clean, refreshing taste, with a perfect balance between sweetness and acidity that you only get in very, very few places.

 

citrus-1

citrus-1

 

 

With it came an Amalfi-lemon cream with some marinated blood orange. Here again, the bowl was just pure pleasure.  Such simplicity relying on spectacular products and great maturity from the cooks is something you would like to find more often. Divine

 

citrus-2

citrus-2

 

 

The third part featured some grapefruit espuma and salad. You won’t be surprised that this was another really well made little creation that simply is that much better than much else, even if it’s not as complicated as many other things.

 

citrus-3

citrus-3

 

 

The third and, unfortunately, last dessert was Valrhona-Schokoladen “Erde” / Maracujacreme / Knusper. Now this earth, which Ferran Adria and his brother Albert invented a few years ago in Roses can be very good, or less so. Here it worked beautifully with the slightly sour maracuja jelly and the coffee cream underneath it. The whole thing was an etude in bitterness and acidity. Not something the general public will enjoy, but I loved it, as it moves away from the sweet desserts you so often get. This and the citrus fruits were the better of the three desserts. Excellent.

 

chocolate

chocolate

 

 

To finish the deal, you get the obligatory petit-fours, marshmallows, pralines and cocoa coated, caramelized nuts. All of them show, once more, the incredibly high standards this patisserie has, as they were pretty much all perfect.

 

petit-fours

petit-fours

 

 

 

After having eaten at Oud Sluis, Vendome and Schloss Berg in less than a week, it was clear, that the last stop was by far the best. Whilst maybe not being as modern as the other two, Bau has the ability to marry tradition and avant-garde in a most impressive way. His dishes aren’t purely classical French, nor resolutely modern. They are much more a mix of the great combinations, that the classic French dishes use (the turbot, lobster, duck dishes show some of these), combined with some modern elements and techniques thrown in here and there for good measure (chocolate dessert, the various airs, slow-poaching of the lobsters). Also, it is great to see, that such a gifted chef is so open to new ideas. Having been to Japan recently, Bau introduced Japanese elements into many dishes in a most delightful way (dashi, yuzu, abalone, tuna).

 

One thing that struck me was the constant evolution here. From my visit a mere 4 months ago I certainly remembered a very good meal, but this was even better. It seems that Bau is going further and further in order to find the absolute perfect combinations. It is this hard-working, realistic, down to earth side to him, that makes him a most impressive chef.

 

After the refurbishment of the room, a meal here is simply a complete, rounded experience, as is Vendome. It is quite bizarre to see this place nearly neglected by the foodie community, whilst much less good restaurants are constantly in the spotlight.

 

 

 

Restaurant Vendome, Bensberg

avril 26, 2009

 

La (grande) maison

La (grande) maison

 

 

Drving up the hill in Bensberg and reaching the very impressive Grand Hotel Schloss Bensberg, where the restaurant Vendome is situated, is quite strange thing. One moment you are in the most banal German little town, a few seconds later, you find yourself in a place that has about nothing in common with the rest of the town.

The restaurant itself isn’t even in the main building, but in the old stables, which are bigger and more impressive than most houses you come across nowadays. From the room you have a stunning view on Cologne and the sorroundings. The décor is very modern indeed, with photos of the place Vendome in Paris and the famous coloumn made out of the cannons, Napoleon conquered after the battle of Austerlitz in 1805. The tables are widely spaced and the napkins the biggest I’ve come across (they really are big).

 

La salle

La salle

 

 

The service is as good as it gets. Smiling, attentive, knowledgeable and charming. Miguel Calero is easily on of the best restaurant managers in Germany and leads his brigade in a most efficient way, that suits the cooking and the restaurant very well.

 

Joachim Wissler is certainly the most innovative and interesting chef in Germany, and one of the most singular chefs worldwide. His cooking is unlike anything else served in other restaurants of that level. He not only tends to use cuts that other 3* restaurants wouldn’t even dare to offer on their lunch menu, but he also goes for some really stunning, unusual, strange combinations, that work every single time. He also deserves praise for bringing pork into Germany’s 3* restaurants, with which he does some spectacular things.

 dscn0386

Recently, the whole menu structure has changed, and you are now able to enjoy a 24-course meal, which is quite printed quite similarly to Alinea’s big menu. The only difference being the bigger portions here. Driving there from Luxembourg, the shorter menus didn’t even look like an alternative and so I was in for quite a ride…

 

The arrival of the amuses already showed how far German cooking has gone over the last few years. All of them were extremely well made and of impressive complexity. From the top, they were eel with figs, goat’s cheese with cress, mackerel with baked polenta and seaweed and poularde braised and stuffed into a crisp round of pastry. All were excellent.

 

Amuses

Amuses

 

 

After this, the first course came very quickly. Knäckebrot Krabben | Muscheln | Frankfurter grüne Sauce. A thin layer of bread, with some crevettes grises, mussels and herb sauce (from Frankfurt) marked a light, very good first course.

 

Knaeckebrot

Knaeckebrot

 

 

Blätterwald Gemüsekrokant | Ziegenjoghurt – Dip was a very thoughtful and innovative way of presenting vegetables. Out of the various varieties, cauliflower was the strongest, with the others being too sweet. The goat’s cheese dip was very good. All in all, whilst being good this didn’t figure amongst my favourites of the day.

 

 

crackers

crackers

 

 

Coralle Parmesan | Foie Gras | Basilikum – Pistou. This was a combination of a Parmesan “coral” , a foie gras panna-cotta and a pistou, a form of the Ligurian pesto originating around Nice. All elements were perfectly well made, and worked together, even if I’m dubious about the link between the foie and the other two elements. They certainly did bring different textures to the dish: The Parmesan coral being crunchy, the foie panna-cotta creamy and the pistou somewhat between liquid and velvety. The other characteristic feature of Wissler’s cooking, that this dish displayed, were the very present flavours. All of the elements had clear, pronounced, well-seasoned tastes, that make them stand out from some wishy-washy dishes you might get elsewhere.

 

parmesan

parmesan

Auster Grüner Apfel und Sauerkraut | d’Aquitainekaviar. This, following course, certainly doesn’t exist in many other restaurants. It was the first time for me to get Sauerkraut (in the form of pearls) served with caviar and oysters. But I hope it won’t be the last, as this was spectacular! Each flavour working remarkably well with the others and lifting the whole dish to (nearly) unknown heights. The products Wissler uses are of course of the finest, which won’t have to be mentioned in every single course. The accompanying green apple and wasabi foam gave the dish un peu d’air sur terre as the ad for a French fashion house states. Excellent.

Auster

Auster

 

Langoustine Sushi gegrillt | Tonic und Ingwer. Here came another strange concoction. This time, there wasn’t any German element in it, but instead of serving some sort of Langoustine bouillon, Wissler made a sauce out of tonic and ginger. The combination with the langoustine (topped with a cream made out the corail) worked fantastically well. However, the quality of the langoustine was not as great as it could have been. Despite this, the dish was still very good, as were the accompanying Dashi/shiso crisps.

 

Langoustine

Langoustine

Next up was a Wissler classic: Octopus Sepia | Tintenfisch Marsh Mellow. This dish didn’t have any odd flavour combinations, but a Squid Marsh Mallow certainly isn’t part of your everyday feast. All of us were stunned by this little gimmick, that was at least as good as the “main” part of the dish. Here, again, he delivers the most fun and unexpected sensations for all of the senses, the dish being of great complexity and the flavours working remarkably well. Outstanding.

 

Squid

Squid

 

 

This was another German element. A rather posh, but very classic dish: Leipziger Allerlei Bachkrebse am Waldrand. All of the classic components of the dish were present, albeit in slightly altered form. The crayfish were pan-fried and accompanied by a bisque, the asparagus featured as a mousse and salad, the morels just pan-fried and some green beans provided another sign of spring. First of all, the idea of serving such a local classic in a 3* deserves praise. If it’s that well made, it really does stand out. The crayfish and the bisque were truly divine, the asparagus too, the only problem were the cold morels and the dominance of the crispy bread. As the photo shows, there was a bit too much of that. Excellent.

 

Leipzig

Leipzig

 

 

After these German products, came another German product: süsses Wasser

Seeforelle | Meerrettichkren | Saiblingskaviar . This lake trout from Bavaria was gently cooked and served with the Austrian Kren (which you traditionally get with the Tafelspitz amongst others). With it came some char-roe, the crispy skin of the fish, cucumber, rape-seed oil and a clear spiced broth. All in all the flavours were very clean and light, especially after the powerful dishes that preceded it. The skin was great, crispy without being greasy, the roe had the lovely exploding texture one always seeks in it and the cucumber  and horseradish gave it some fresh note. Very good.

 

Forelle

Forelle

 

 

After the sweet-water comes the salt-water (fish). salziges Wasser Rochen | Kurkuma – Koriandernage | Reisgnocchi. This piece of skate was of pristine freshness and delightfully firm. The coriander/curcuma sauce gave it some power and the rice-gnocchi and soy-sprouts could be described as decent garnishes. Excellent.

 

ROche

ROche

 

 

After some relatively big portions (for a 24-course menu), came a small serving of Weinberg Schnecke umhüllt . These snails were encased in their jus and served with vinegar caramel, morel powder and some parsley puree. Perfect combination of flavour and texture resulted in another excellent dish (can’t rave about it as snails don’t really make me that happy).

 

Schnecke

Schnecke

 

 

The following course sounds really interesting when being read: Thun Fish & chips | Pommes frites nicoise. However, the expectations were not met. Not at all. The chips were soggy and greasy. The tuna was oily, but remarkably tender and tasty (which I greatly enjoyed). The tomato powder, and the dip were very good, but the latter did come quite heavy. Unfortunately, this was a missed opportunity, as good chips really aren’t that hard to make and the dish could have been a nice little nod to the other side of the channel. Ok.

 

Thunfisch

Thunfisch

 

Fritte

Fritte

 

 

 

Kabeljau vom Kopf bis zur Flosse. Reading this, you might wonder what will come – at least if you understand German. Now, cod has some very tasty parts, it’s liver, kokotxas or tripe do feature on some menus, but I never came across cod tongue. This however, was amazing. The accompanying fillet, peas, lardo and pea veloute were equally well made, but the tongue just completely blew me away, both taste-wise and texturally.

Great to see, that Wissler still tries to look for other ingredients, that you might not get in any other 3*. Outstanding.

 

Kabeljau

Kabeljau

 

 

This next dish has a great title: Schweinerei zum essen. A Schweinerei is some kind of mess in German and you might know that Germans do like their pork. This was unlike anything porky I ever came across. One side of the plate held a piece of pork paper (made out of pork-jus), the other a spoonful of pork-liver “Berliner Art”. The paper was incredibly fragile but unbelievably tasty. The liver, with mash, fried onion rings and apple pieces was a spoonful of heaven. A serving of ten of these would have done me right. Divine.

 

Schweinerei!

Schweinerei!

 

 

Having started on the pork-orgy, we certainly didn’t want to miss out on another Wissler classic: Juvelin – Ferkel Liebstöckel | Flönz | Berglinsen. This dish presents three different cuts of pork, each of them treated differently. On the left, was a cutlet on top of a melon salad, in the middle the braised chin with crackling and Castelluccio lentils and behind this, a piece of black pudding with Jerusalem Artichoke. Besides this, was a bit of lemon salt. I do not know where to start as all of the elements were just beautiful. The crackling, which Wissler and his colleague Dieter Mueller serve are certainly some of the better ones you can find. The process is as complicated as a whole dish elsewhere and the result just knocks you off your socks. All of them, culet, chin and black pudding were as good as you could hope to get. Divine. Again.

 

Ferkel

Ferkel

 

 

Yet another German dish was to served before dessert: Sauerbraten vom Ochsen “sous vide” | Holzofenbrot – sandwich. This one really comes from the region and was beautifully modernized. The piece of beef is marinated in vinegar (hence sauer) and then slowly cooked sous-vide. Along with it came a sandwich filled with vinegar jelly, minced beef and the toasted. Also on the plate, a piece of delicious bone marrow and Stielmus-puree. Sorry for not having a translation for Stielmus, but I came across it anywhere but the Ruhr-region. Another outstanding dish.

Sauerbraten

Sauerbraten

 

 

Having a whole cheeseboard in a menu of such length wouldn’t really make sense, so Wissler serves a small cheese course, which shows equally interesting combinations than the rest. In this case, it was Fontina Auberginentatar | eingelegte makrele, which was very good indeed. The aubergine, mackerel and Fontina went together very well, even if this probably wouldn’t be everyone’s favourite. Very good.

 

Fontina

Fontina

 

 

Haut kross von der Milch. This first dessert was quite spectacular. The milk-skin was incredibly pleasant to eat and the mascarpone mousse going remarkably well with it. This really showed, how pleasant avant-garde cooking can be. Excellent.

Milchhaut

Milchhaut

 

 

After this came another German favourite: Käsekuchen Eis | Mürbteig – Krokant. Here the Kaesekuchen was turned into an ice cream and served with abricots. Simple but excellent.

 

 

Kaesekuchen

Kaesekuchen

 

 

It seems to be a trend among chefs to serve snowballs as desserts. This particular version must have been the best I have come across. Schnee ball gefüllt. It was just perfectly well made and showed how good a rhubarb dessert can be. The little macarons were just as amazing as the rest. Divine.

 

Schneeball

Schneeball

 

Ball-2

Ball-2

 

 

 

 

Having a cake as ice cream is a nice idea, at least if it is as well made as this one (again). Crème catalan tarte Tatin – Sorbet. This, second ice creamed-cake, with it’s burned milk panna-cotta was simple and excellent. The burned milk gives it some slight bitter background, beautifully counter-pointing the sweetness of the rest. Excellent

 

Milch

Milch

 

 

Speaking of unusal elements: Macaron Fourme d’Ambert | Himbeersorbet. I’m sure this too, isn’t what most would like to have in their dessert. The fourme d’Ambert macaron, filled with raspberries was remarkably well balanced. The raspberry “earth” next to it gave the dish some crunch. Excellent.

 

Mac-on the left

Mac-on the left

 

 

Schaum kussbeschwipst. You might have to be German to understand this, but it was very well made too (what a surprise!). The rum cream was simply encased in some dark chocolate. This was a acloholised version of a German sweet, that has the politically un-correct name of Negerkuss. Here Wissler plays with his clients’ childhood memories, as this wasn’t as good as the others. Very good.

 

Kuss

Kuss

 

 

The next part was equally reminiscent of our childhood: Magnum Vendôme am Stiel. I guess Magnum ice cream has traveled over Germany’s borders, but in Germany it is part of any summer. Here, it was coco ice cream with plain dark chocolate. Very good.

 

Magnum

Magnum

 

 

To close the deal, you get another German dish: Mohr im Hemd

Zartbitterschokolade | Eierlikör. This name is another racist dessert name, but in the end it is a chocolate cake (warm), which was served with Egg-nogg. Excellent.

 

Mohr

Mohr

 The petit-fours were as good as the rest. Here too, you could see, how much effort goes into this kind of restaurant, as there was a multitude of different varieties of pralines. All made in the patisserie.

 

Petit-fours

Petit-fours

 

 

 

Wow! After around 6 or 7 hours of such stunning food, you can’t be anything but dazzled. It takes some time to reflect on all of this, as the cooking here is taken to another level. Wissler is one of the very rare German chefs to really go into German culinary traditions and explore them. He does so with great intelligence and uses his (immense) skill to create little sensations. Another Leitmotiv of his, is the sensoric element in cooking and eating. Most dishes have some play on textures in them, which do make it that much more exciting to eat.

A third thing he likes, are cuts and flavours that not many other chefs dare to use. This and the essentially German dishes make Wissler and his cuisine truly unique.

 

Even if the portions might be a touch too big for such a long menu, this restaurant offers a complete experience, where service, kitchen and ambience all add up to something amazing. Wissler and Calero show, yet once more, how spectacular German cooking is these days. All I can suggest is: Go there!

Schloss Berg-Christian Bau

décembre 19, 2008

17th December 2008

 

Schloss Berg is a nice little castle in the Obermosel next to a horrible casino. 

The room itself is very classic and is not likely to get an award for interior design. However, the few tables are very nicely dressed and the friendly service makes the atmosphere rather comfortable.

We started with a glass of champagne, accompanied by a trio of little treats: smoked sardine with pear and aubergine, tomato tart with pesto and olive and kropoek with salmon and apple. All very refreshing and excellent little miniatures. Also served as canapes were very nice cucumber soups with soja air, chorizo rolls and some salted and sweetened almonds.

Similar to ADPA and Les Ambassadeurs, you don’t have to hold your menu yourself. It rests on a little stand in front of you so that you can continue to enjoy your aperitif. 

After having chosen 7 courses from the « Voyage Culinaire » we were served a variation of Tuna consisting of four mainly raw preparations, which were all excellent. 

The first course of the menu was « Tomate & Olivenoel ». A tomatoe gazpacho with little olive and mozarella bonbons and small squid. This continued with the very refreshing, clean flavours present in the earlier dishes. Also very good.

After this followed « Gaenseleber aus der Landes ». The Foie Gras was accompanied by some cherry and coffee  jelly and hazelnut meringues. Excellent Foie, smooth, rich in flavour and quite simply delicious.

We skipped a scallop course and came to a Langoustine dish. This consisted of langoustine sushi, with japanese rice, ponzu air, salicorn tempura and braised salicorn. a part, we were served an outstanding langoustine broth, with very subtle asian spicing. This was sushi of the best quality, with a perfect portioning of each component (as on all of the other dishes to). Again Bau serves a perfect dish.

As fish we had a Sole with Parmesan viennoise, Jabugo-Bellota ham juice and artichokes. This was one of the best dishes of the night. The sole was perfectly fresh, firm, with wounderful flavour, even though it could have been cooked a tiny bit less. If one takes into account that Bau’s cooking is realtively classic, it was perfect. One of the best dishes of the year and the best sole dish I have come across so far.

Main course was wild hare from Sologne with cabbage, topinambour and Mole. The star of this dish was a croquette of topinambour and delisously creamy boudin noir. The hare and rest were also outstanding and could hold the very high level of the meal. The sauce, with Mole was so good, that it had to be finished with some of the excellent bread we were served.

The only weak dish of the evening was « Lychee, Cassis & Joghurt ». It seemed like a combination of cassis sorbet, a creme with passion fruit and (supposedly) lychee and a crunchy bonbon filled with yoghurt. Each element was very good, but the composition looked a little out of place, especially if one considers that the rest of the dishes were perfectly planned. It looked like a nice pre-dessert, but appeared as first dessert on the printed menu.

The Chocolate & Peanut dessert was another highlight. A very good chocolate mousse, peanut cream and salted caramelised peanuts formed the centre part of this dish. A perfect Valrhona ice cream and some marinated mango accompanied it. All in all this was another outstanding dish, whith each element playing a very clear role.

THe petit-fours were as good as all of the rest and therefore our meal finished as perfectly as it had started. 

 

One problem I have, which doesn’t concern Christian Bau, but rather the Gault Millau and some other journalists is the fact, that he was reproached of copying the culinary trends of the day and lacking a personal style. My meal gave me the impression, that Bau has found a very clever style, focusing on the product as Ducasse or maybe Pacaud would do and sorrounding it with perfect, maybe playful garnishes, which one can find in Sergio Herman’s cuisine. 

Christian Bau along with Helmut Thieltges at Sonnora are the best chefs in the Luxembourg region and make it a must visit for anyone interested in contemporary classic cooking. If one is already in the region, the 8-course pasta menu at Mosconi, Erfort in Saarbruecken and L’Arnsbourg in Baerenthal could let you spend a few very enjoyable days.