Archive for the ‘restaurants-Netherlands’ Category

Inter Scaldes, Kruiningen

mai 8, 2010



Inter Scaldes is a quiet Relais & Chateaux property on the banks of the Oosterschelde. This means that the restaurant has a great advantage, as some of the finest seafood comes from this estuary, which lies a few houndred metres away from the kitchen. When I visited the restaurant in April, the lobster season had just started, oysters were there, and a whole bunch of other good things were also present.

The restaurant today was empty, with just one other table taken, but that didn’t disturb me all that much. The room is not too bad, a little old, although it could do with a remake here and there. It still is pleasant enough, although not comparable with the beautiful room at Hertog Jan, De Karmeliet or that of Oud Sluis, to cite but a few in the region. Service was very good throughout the meal and we were warmly greeted from the start.

The wine list here is good, even Domaine d’Auvenay wines are to be had here, although the pricing is rather steep. We drank a Viognier La Rosine from Michel & Stephane Ogier, which was priced at a rather hefty 95euro (that’s a more than 4 times retail price). The wine lacked intensity, balance and only the last few sips began to be enjoyable as the wine started to open up. Such things are rather sad, but well… For red we had a bottle of a wine from Carcassone, whose name escapes me. I remember it to be very interesting and well made, although it too must have benefited from a rather nice price rise.

The meal started with a few nibbles. There was a rather useless tuile, and a few spoons filled with: Pear foam, nuts and raisins; Foie de canard, red beet jelly; Fish rillette with curry, Tosazu jelly. Most of them were harmless, although the pear foam was plainly sweet, without much flavour. The foie gras had an intriguing texture, and the rest was decent. There was nothing phenomenal about these, but they weren’t bad neither. Harmless.

The Amuse was: Royal of egg with smoked eel, cauliflower. The royale of eggs was  flavoured with basil and rather tasty, especially the bits of eel were very tasty in it. Overall all this was more like it: Bold flavours, well seasoned and carefully cooked. Very good.

Our long menu started with CANARD PEKING: popcorn cream, quince, warm brioche. A Peking duck flavoured foie gras custard of some sort was hidden beneath a layer of popcorn foam and served with a spoonful of quince puree. Tastewise this one was interesting. The custard was very salty, and one really needed the quince to make the balance right (which the service advised us to do). If this was done, the taste was great, although either the custard or the popcorn cream made the whole thing seem a little cloying or heavy. I can’t share the enthusiasm of some of my convives on this, and must say it was no more than good.

Next came a first fish course: LEMON SOLE: puree of white turnip and burnt mustard, gravy of kombu. The overall taste of this dish was very enjoyable, although I hadn’t really discovered any burnt flavours in there, until I read the description… The problem here was the construction of the dish and the quality of the fish. The fish was alrgiht, but very mushy, without any remarquably great texture. In such a simple dish, it is primordial to use products of outstanding quality, or that are so impressive on their own, that the dish makes sense. To use a rather menial lemon sole, seems a little bizarre. This seemed like a weak course to me.

SEA BASS: poached in whey, curdled milk, sautéed orange, Bari olives provided a welcome change. This was spectacular. The sea bass was of fantastic quality. Cut from a very large fish, it was perfectly poached and it’s garnishes accompanied it marvelously. I really enjoyed this rather unusual dish, which really surprised me after such a mediocre start. Excellent.

The next course was a huge letdown to be honest, as my friend told me so much about its magnificence. TURBOT: poached in smoked milk, clove mousseline. Conceptually, the dish sounded more than interesting, although the problems became apparent rather quickly: First of all, it was the third course featuring cooked fillets of fish, the second of which, in which the fish was poached in a dairy product. Secondly, the fish was overcooked, and very dry and stringy on the outside. Also, the fillet was cut from a rather small turbot. Compared it to the monster we had at the Sportsman, or the fish Christian Bau, Christophe Moret or others serve, this really wasn’t all that outstanding at all. The mousseline was good, but overall this was another harmless dish, which in addition had a technical error. Poor for a 2* restaurant.

I had requested an oyster dish to be added to our menu, as this region of Holland produces fantastic oyster. Here it came: OYSTER: with green vegetables, tosazu, oyster foam. A play with a Belgian classic: anguilles au vert, this huitre au vert was served at 36 degrees Celsius, the temperature people such as Olivier Roellinger consider to be the best for the consumption of oysters, as they have the most complex taste at that temperature. The very meaty, large oyster sat beneath the green sauce/veloute and some oyster foam. It was brilliant, with bags of flavour and a really amazing mouth-feel. The green sauce was also very good, although maybe a tad to powerful for the oyster. However, considering the course this meal had taken, it seemed like a blessing. Very good.

LOBSTER: with yuzu, Maltese asparagus, Parmesan sauce. Now, Oosterschelde lobster is considered to be the finest of all lobsters by a very knowledgeable friend of mine. If it is well cooked it really is amazing (a proof of which I’ve had at Hertog Jan for instance). This lobster was also very good, although the dish really seemed like a home cooked dish. A bit of a decent puree, the lobster tail, very well cooked I must admit, and a rather watery sauce, which didn’t add much. Whilst very nice, I had expected much more from this course, what we had was rather boring and a little underwhelming. Good.

RAZOR SHELLS: from the Oosterschelde, jus perfumed with coffee, coconut. Ahh, finally another very enjoyable course. This was a nice, well thought out course, which I very much enjoyed. Very good.

The best course of the day was excellent, really excellent: SCALLOP: prepared in its shell with truffle and cauliflower. A scallop is trapped in its shell and then served with a cauliflower mousseline, a single cauliflower rosette and the cooking juices. This was great. The truffle had a very strong present flavour, which made the pairing of scallop/cauliflower/truffle work brilliantly. The quality and cooking of the scallop was also top notch. What I found rather bizarre, was that this was the second course, in which we had some vegetable that wasn’t turned into a puree (the first one being the single asparagus with the turbot). That certainly was welcome, as so many purees do get a little monotonous with time. Excellent.

PIGEON: with young carrots, Dai Dai ponzu, ginger sauce with lime. The pigeon here was perfectly cooked, very tender but lacked salt. The jus suffered from that exact same problem too, and would really have come together if a little more salt had been added. The carrots were tasty, if very much overcooked. Brilliant here was the little roll of cabbage. Overall it was a pretty good course.

‘BAL MASQUE’: apple and pineapple, vanilla foam, coffee bean ice cream with cardamom. A very pretty dessert, it was very good too. The flavours worked, the balance was there and it wasn’t too heavy. If one was looking for a problem, one could argue that the base of the sphere was much too thick, which creates quite an unpleasant mouth-feel. Good.

SOUFFLE: curd soufflé with Vanilla. Now, chef Jannis Brevet apparently bought an oven, especially created to cook soufflés for the rather impressive amount of 50.000euro. The soufflé we were served today was very good, that goes without question, but I can’t say that it was the best soufflé I’ve had in my life, as the Gavroche, Ledbury, Square or other restaurants manage to serve soufflés that aren’t worse than that.

Overall this meal really was quite a disappointment. Everything seemed to be alright, but rare were the dishes that got me excited. In fact, out of 11 courses (not counting amuses and nibbles), only 3 were very good or excellent. That is a pretty poor ratio. The problems were not so much in the technique or the products, although there were some issues with those too, but rather in the way most dishes and the menu were conceived. First of all, there was a rather large amount of puree-based dishes. These didn’t have any textural interest, and made no sense in the dramaturgy of the menu. Furthermore, most of the dishes seemed uninspired, without much that was interesting or exciting. This was all the more sad, as the scallop for instance was a real winner and showed that this kitchen is certainly able of very good food. From my experience, I probably won’t go back there, as there are too many other restaurants that are much more interesting, and easier to reach.

Publicités

Oud Sluis, Sluis

avril 20, 2009

 

La maison

La maison

 

 

Sergio Herman is probably one of the most influential chefs of the moment. Despite having studied at the Hotel-school in Bruges and spending some time in the  kitchen of a small restaurant in the region, he didn’t  work in many kitchens, other than that of his family’s restaurant in the small town of Sluis, around 15km north-east of Bruges. This is, most likely, one of the reasons for his very unique style. If one were to describe it, a few words might characterise it: Clear, clean flavours, complex textural plays, modern appearance and techniques, pure, light, entertaining with a healthy dose of Asian elements. The small restaurant’s rooms reflect these traits beautifully, as they are well lit, and contemporary and sparingly furnished.

 

La salle

La salle

 

 

 

The service is very good, but certainly isn’t very happy about someone who doesn’t drown himself in wine as we were asked at least three times if we didn’t want anymore wine. Apart from this, it was friendly, warm and efficient.

 

The bread is quite special. There is only one kind, not made in the restaurant, but made by a certain Monsieur Croquet from Lille. Just to give you an idea about how much he cares about his bread: Whenever he goes away, he takes the culture with him to monitor its development. The butter was from Bordier in Saint-Malo which says enough.

 The meal started with a procession of amuses. First up, were the Chips de legumes, crème de laitue et sauce BBQ. All of them were very tasty, each taste coming through very well with the lettuce cream and BBQ sauce complementing them beautifully. The fact that two of them weren’t simply dried pieces of vegetables, but made by a more complex way shows that no shortcut is taken in this kitchen.

Chips de legumes - Amuse 1

Chips de legumes - Amuse 1

 

 

 

The next element came on a very pretty plate: Sandwich de saumon en gelee de moutarde et d’aneth. Salmon, cured in house, a jelly of the very Germanic sweet mustard and dill were a nice play on a classical combination. Yet again, the different elements came through beautifully and were remarkably present without overpowering the others.

 

Sandwich amuse-2

Sandwich amuse-2

 

The third piece came on a remarkable piece of Crockery by Piet Stockmans, which you also see in a very good Monegasque restaurant. The Couteau marine au codium was a dive into the sea: The fine iodine tastes of the razor clam and samphire in combination with the Asiatic vinaigrette turned this into the third remarkable miniature.

 

couteaux amuse-3

couteaux amuse-3

 

Following these three came the fourth (obviously!): Boulgour a la crème de carottes, salicorne et coques. Spectacular use of the Boulgour, which came in two textures, one toasted, one normally cooked. The smooth, velvety carrot and samphire creams gave it a little creaminess, whilst the cockles were once more, of extraordinary quality and freshness.

 

coques amuse-4

coques amuse-4

 

Sardine, legerement fumee et artichaut surgelee. A remarkable piece of Sardine, paired with lemon gel, artichocke ice cream and puree. All of the tastes came together in a coherent, if rather classical dish.

 

sardine amuse-5

sardine amuse-5

The sixth amuse, Tomate, basilic, anchois, et olives was a play around the classic Mediterranean pairing of tomatoes (marinated), anchovies (creamed), olives (creamed, marinated and as a cake) and basil (as a snow and naturally). Being such a classic taste, it was rather unsurprising that these elements worked so well together.

 

tomate amuse-6

tomate amuse-6

 

Huitre, vinaigrette au kaffir et yaourt Thailandais was the seventh and last of the amuse-collection. It was also by far the best. The extraordinary oyster from Zeeland, different toasted grains, Thai-yoghurt and vinaigrette created a very complete bouchee. All of these were of extraordinary quality and made clear that this kitchen turns out some of the most original and complex food in Europe.

 

huitre amuse 7

huitre amuse 7

 

The actual menu started with the Coquilles Saint Jacques marinees, ficoide glaciale, bergamote, fenouil et vinaigre de chardonnay. The many different elements went remarkably well together and provided a refreshing, start to a long menu. All of them were of supreme quality and were represented in several forms, giving you different textures and tastes with every bite. Excellent.

 

saint jacques

saint jacques

 

 

Following this came a dish that Laurent already tried earlier this year. Langoustine legerement fume et marinee, lard chinois laque, betterave rouge et radis. First, the langoustine was of absolutely outstanding quality: Firm, nearly crunchy, perfectly cooked, very lightly smoked and beautifully seasoned. A second preparation featured raw langoustine wrapped in beet. With it came different structures (a word Herman likes to use) of radish and beets: Meringue, raw, jellified, marinated and as a vinaigrette. The raw, unseasoned radish and beet slivers were very unpleasant, as were the jelly cubes. They were just unbelievably dry- cut too long in advance – and overpowered the remaining bits. The meringues and pork fat provided some sort of reconcilement. The logic behind the dish did escape me, as I’d rather have the two langoustine preparations, the pork and sauce on its own. Outstanding for the langoustine, unpleasant for the vegetables.

 

langoustine

langoustine

Herman being Herman, the next dish was back on the level that one expects of him. The Crumble de foie d’oie featured various textures (terrine, cream, icea cooled, dried) of foie gras, Pedro Jimenez and apple, that created the unbelievably strong foie flavour with about any possible texture. Excellent.

 

foie gras

foie gras

 

 

The next dish was even better, featuring a local ingredient. Huitre de Zelande au concombre, artichaut et pourpier, vinaigrette de fleur de sureau, en croquette. The main plate was certainly one of the simplest dishes of the whole menu and didn’t need the textural gadgets the others had. The meaty oyster was simply poached, covered with a dollop of sabayon, accompanied with the vinaigrette, marinated cucumber cream and cucumber, artichoke cream and a few leaves of different herbs. The accompanying crisp is a Herman classic, that I already had tasted a year earlier. It is the most pure, refreshing oyster taste encapsulated in one mouthful. Here, the shell is made out of oyster juice, filled with oyster and apple salad and topped with oyster shots (iced oyster). Both of these were terrific.

 

huitre-1

huitre-1

 

huitre-2

huitre-2

 

 

 

 

Next up were two more local ingredients: Asperges blanches de Zelande, jaune d’oeuf legerement fume, crème de morilles et macaron a la biere, homard et jus de Bernardus et citron vert. The combinations in this dish might be a bit strange (caviar, truffles, morels, lobster, beer, asparagus?), but did work if eaten in parts. The farmed Italian caviar was rather forgettable, and barely noticeable on the egg yolk, which had a most interesting texture (in a good way). The lobster was slightly overcooked and therefore a bit rubbery, but the tartar inside the macaron was cooked just right. The morels obviously went well with the egg, asparagus and lobster but lacked a bit of punch. The truffle coulis was more of a decoration than anything else. The problem in this dish were not the many pars, which did go quite well together, but rather, the egg yolk overpowering the other elements. Overall good but nowhere near the two previous dishes.

 

homard, asperge

homard, asperge

 

 

The following dish mad up for it, as it was arguably the best savoury dish of the entire meal. Couscous epice au crabe, crambe maritime et zostere, vinaigrette de finger lime et jus de crabe et epices. This was truly spectacular. Real 3* food. Even if you didn’t find any couscous but boulgour in this plate, the whole thing was just a real pleasure to eat. The creamy, rich bisque, sea-grass, sea-cabbage, boulgour (again toasted and normally cooked) delivered a coherent dish that had strong shellfish flavour in its best form. Divine.

 

crabe

crabe

 

 

Unfortunately, the main course was unbelievably weak. Agneau de Lozere, barbecue aux tomates et assortiment de courgettes, burrata, basilic frais et roquette, jus d’agneau epice.Not only was the lamb partially completely overcooked (grey and dry), but also was it far from being anywhere near tender. The little fat, was nicely caramelized but had not been re-crisped after resting, which shows that the kitchen can be sloppy at times. The strangest thing was that they had forgotten to plate the burrata and tomatoe jelly, which was brought only after we had finished the dish. We then were left with empty plates and the little cup of burrata and olive oil. Something like this just shouldn’t happen, having a badly cooked piece of meat, and such a mistake in plating just doesn’t give the diner the best impression of the dish. The vegetables were fine, but far from being great (after all, tomatoes are far from being in season).  One should praise the lamb jus, which was very good. Sadly, the whole dish was poor.

 

agneau

agneau

 

 

The savoury part of the meal being over, it was time for the three desserts, Herman serves at the end of his menus. The first was Chocolate Rocks, galangal, menthe et citron vert. The chocolate mousse under the chocolate dusting had the most creamy, airy texture, which was complemented beautifully by the custard it enclosed. The mint sorbet sitting on a cocoa sable gave a refreshing little bon-bon that provided the needed acidity. Very good.

 

chocolat

chocolat

 

 

 

The second dessert was the best: Blanc pur, riz, coco et cheese-cake, mangue epicee. A smear of cheesecake cream was covered with a few towers conceiling a coco-macaron, a little ball of white cocolate filled with mango jus and a rice pudding with coco-sorbet and crumble. This was as good as I had remembered Herman from last year, speaking to all of the senses in equally high terms. Outstanding.

 

pure white

pure white

 

 

Trois herbes, basilic, citron-melisse, verveine, fleur d’oranger transparente et poudre d’amande. This was an interesting play on textures and tastes of herbs, resulting in another very good dessert.

 

3 herbes

3 herbes

 

 

The countless post-dessert snacks were all very, very good and finished the meal in the best of ways.

 

passionfruit, white chocolate

passionfruit, white chocolate

 

abricot, coco a gauche, rhubarbe sur la droite

abricot, coco a gauche, rhubarbe sur la droite

 

petit fours

petit fours

 

 

 

 

All in all, I had very great expectations for this meal. After all, the dinner I had here a year ago was truly inspiring, to this you had to add that the whole driving took 7hrs and the restaurant had received rave reviews recently. What did this 6hr lunch make me feel?

There was certainly some truly amazing food. After all, the crab, amuses, foie, oysters and scallops were outstanding: High-quality ingredients, complex but perfectly balanced combinations, technical perfection and a highly innovative approach to cooking.

The langoustine itself was also a fantastic piece of shellfish but the dish itself couldn’t match the beautiful presentation.

Then, there was the lamb. And that lamb was bad. I don’t believe I ever had such a thing happen to me, not even in a bistro. Bringing the lost part of a dish after having eaten the whole thing really doesn’t make any sense to me. Also the fact, that the lamb was of such poor quality really made me quite mad, as Herman can deliver some spectacular meat dishes. 

It’s this sloppiness that scared me a bit. The other thing was the trend of using a lot of sweet, sugary elements in the savoury cooking, which was quite a prominent feature in most of the amuses and some of the courses here too. Not that I didn’t enjoy the meal, the highs were high enough to let me love the place, but the lows were quite low for a three star. Herman just really doesn’t seem like a sloppy cook, nor is he one who needs to search for beauty over taste. It was just sad, that the garnishes of the lamb and especially of the langoustine, were very pretty but rather bland on the palate.

 

I hope this was just a bad day, as I really like this restaurant. Seeing Herman go down from here would be an enormous pity, as he is one of the most talented chefs in Europe. One who developed a truly unique style, that makes sense and isn’t only enjoyable after hours of research.