Posts tagged ‘Gourmet’
Reinstoff is a restaurant in Berlin which had just received two Michelin stars. On a roadtrip back from Poland a couple of months ago I was in Berlin. We were running late to the train station from our initial planning and I had singled out reinstoff as the place where I’d go (after ditching my travelling partners) for lunch. I rushed over there with the iPhone guiding me only to find out that they’re closed for lunch… was I ever disappointed. So when I came back to Berlin for a couple of days this was the first restaurant on my list of must see. I had reserved a table for two, but my fellow food blogger had stood me up and I guess I was like the classic myth of a Guide Michelin tester, single man having reserved for two and then showing up alone. Before you get the menu a selection of small, salty tapas is presented to the diner. The duck liver between dry & crispy duck skin almost reminded a bit of Noma’s sandwich and the herbal iced tea lollipop was a funny way to start a dinner. What followed was a wild succession of dishes which offered superior flavours, interesting techniques and even ingredients that were new to me. I’m not going to ratlle off every individual detail of every dish. The ones I liked best were potato harvest (a potato variety) and the oyster with peas & pistacchio ice cream. The food felt very german avantgarde since the intellectual density and the absence of redundancy due to an enormouse concentration of information in every dish was exceptional. The dish I liked the least were the snails with wheatgrass, papadam and mushrooms. I think reinstoff clearly qualifies as a must-visit for anyone enjoying a sensual and intellecutal relationship with food. It’s an experience you won’t forget that quickly and it does away with the feeling of pity you get when you enter an average german supermarket, which sports sausages in jars and idustrial baked bread. reinstoff is a beacon of light and is the cornerstone of a radical development of a new understanding of food in the bustling german captial. I wish we had a place like this in Zurich. Prices where very steep (consider I spent 30 Euros on beer for the kitchen). A funny story I’d like to share was when I got into the taxi outside, I told the cab to take me to a bar (this was a tuesday night). He asked me if I meant a bar with girls and I replied “sure”. After a couple of minutes I’m put off by his smile and it begins to dawn on me. Awkwardly clearing my throat I tell him, that I didn’t mean a brothel but wouldn’t mind if the bar he’s taking me wasn’t an all male affair. After all this is the gay capital of germany. He laughs at me and says it was good that I spoke up, because he was taking me to an gentlemen adult entertainment facility and was glad I corrected our misunderstanding before we got there. He dropped me off at Savigny Platz, where I grabbed a good night cup at the Zwiebelfish.
Paris Moskau is a single house in the no mans land next to the Berlin Hauptbahnhof. I wanted to go there after a rave review from one of my two favourite sisters. Apparently the german politician Schäuble likes to dine here. The place has around 40 seats and is easy to reach by foot (if you like walking through dark parks). The menu looks interesting and my two companions and myself all pick different dishes. The rock lobster with peppers and pumpkin was a nice way to ease into the meal. The next dish had a couple of suspensful components such as trout cream, ham, roasted onions and pear. Surprisingly this worked to make a well-balanced and pretty unique plate. I was looking forward to the duck liver in tempura batter but got disappointed. Overall it’s a liquid mess and the whole richness, creamyness and depth of the liver is lost, since the thing is no longer in a solid state. My short ribs were on the dry side and the sauce with grill aromas didn’t carry enough punch. Nothing to complain on the venison, except maybe the plating. The big schmear of chive sauce was rather amateurish and looked like my own creative work at the age of six. You won’t be disappointed by dining here, but you’re better of going to a place like reinstoff if you’re looking for a more modern and avant-gardish gourmet dinner. Prices for three:
A friend told me about a place called Dakini and a guy called Vale Fritz cooking there. Being the ever inquisite omnivore a trip to this restaurant was high on my list. The Dakini is a B & B by day and late night, Vale and his crew run it as a small restaurant during the evenings. Atmosphere is informal and the crowd is rather young. Certainly not your regular Gault Millau type of diner will be found here. The menu is simple, there are four courses and you get to choose how many you like, but that’s it (unless you have an allergy). Even though personally I have a hard time understanding why people will eat Fugu on a trip to Japan, but are fearful of getting a rash on their butt for eating peanuts…. Vale Fritz puts me in a good mood by sending a Ceviche as an amuse. I personally liked the dish, it wasn’t extremly elegant but captured the essence. I also think that this dish shows exemplary how the US is making great strides in the culinary world. Originally from Peru, ceviche is now known to housewives in Baltimore, whereas in Europe it still is more of a novelty item. Next dish was a white asparagus in a white wine sauce with some hazelnuts on top. It actually worked well together, however some creaminess would have made it better. The intermediate course were some scallops with vanilla-corn cream and some apple. Here the chef showed some real ingenuity. The flavor profiles came together nicely, the scallops (even though they weren’t seared) had enough salt to balance the sweetness of the corn and vanilla. Obviously the apple contributed the needed acid. Main course was introduced as a “masculine dish”, which consisted of tatare, carpaccio and warm beef fillet. The absolut winner on this plate was the red wine reduction which was paired with the beef. The plate was a intelligent and playful combination of temperatures and textures. Visually it wasn’t stunning. If you look at the chinaware – they send a very old school, thrift shop message. To a hip and trendy place, I think this could be solved in a better way. Dessert was a cheesecake with a nice level of saltiness and not of the usual oversweeted kind. Nice way to end the dinner. But the best part were the prices. The whole feast was a ridiculous 58 CHF. Jackie Donatz cheapest veal chop is more expensive….
The Vale Fritz at Dakini reminds me a bit of the Bonvivant in Basel, albeit a younger, wilder and less refined version. Overall it’s playful, innovative and extremly fair prices – there’s a lot of raw talent here.
You might remember the infamous Soup Nazi figure from the Seinfeld tv show. Drawing on a similar concept, by being vey strict about what you can order, the Bon Vivant in Basel only has a single menu and there are no varying or switching items. The table next to me asked for the second appetizer as a main dish, friendly but firmly their request was declined. The restaurant is in an old silk band factory about 5 minutes away from the train station, excellent if you’re taking the train from out of town. The meal started fantastic with a cold ratatouille soup with some buffalo mozarella. You could clearly taste the vegetables, the mozzarella was excellent and it was a simple, non fussy dish. In the same stride the tuna tartare with some coriander and a perfectly ripe avocado on top. I was in a great mood and was already thinking how to expand this concept to London or New York. The scallop was a tad underdone and the risotto was lacking acidity. Main course was beef from basel on cellery, chanterelles and white polenta, nice but not thrilling. Dessert was back on track, the slightly sour apricots on the bottom were beautifully contrasted by the sweetness of the creme and the sorbet. While I liked the menu, the idea and the execution, the main course showed the weakness of this concept. With just one dish as the main course, there will always be a bit of compromise. Meat, polenta and vegetable is not the most surprising combination. I would have preferred if the menu would have continued in the same simple and clear matter as the first two dishes. Still kudos for the relative radical approach, by letting the kitchen make the selection for the diners. Prices are high (normal for this level) and I’d still recommend the place just for the experience and the overall high level of cooking skill.
After literally weeks of trying I finally managed to secure a room and a table at the Schloss Schauenstein. Located in the Domleschg, you take the train to Thusis and the pickup service will drive you to Fürstenau where the Schloss Schauenstein is located. The place is pretty amazing, tastefully refurbished chateau, located on a small rise in the village, surrounded by houses and a small park. The rooms aren’t cheap but certainly are individual and elegant, like you’d expect it at a boutique hotel. Dinner starts by grabbing a drink in the dedicated bar room and snacking on some tibits prepared by the kitchen. If people ask me about fine dining and what makes it so excellent I fall back to the example of a beefsteak tartare with fries and a sauce. If you’re in a restaurant and one of the items is really good, you might actually remember the place. If two of the items are good you’ll think of coming back and if all three are great you’ll like the place and you would recommend the restaurant in question to your friends. Now in a top notch restaurant that beefsteak tartare with fries and sauce is just one small part of a group of components in a larger dish, but still matches the quality of that restaurant you would recommend. One of the tasty tibits was a tartare in a crunchy cornet (reminds me a bit of Thomas Keller’s French Laundry style) and nicely fits into the mentioned example. A lovely tartare, expertly seasoned matched by the crunchiness of the cornet makes this a perfect small bite. The love in every detail here is stunning and even though it looks like just a small cocktail snack, it’s simplicity and beauty are hard to match. And that was just one of the small bits served while you look at the menu and made up your mind. A nice touch is that with every dish you get a small card which says what you’re eating. The same cards explain in the bathroom the rationale behind “Fuck like a beast”…. The food is light, creative with impeccable detail and love. The favorite dish was a saibling. The only thing at this level which was a bit strange, was that the same herbs were reused multiple times (maybe a concession to winter) and the cheeses weren’t as exciting as I would have liked the to be, as an example a extra spicy (extra rezent) Lumbreiner has more Oomph than the selection here. Still this is my absolute, undisputed, new gourmet heaven in Switzerland. To let the evening slowly end, head up to the room with the fireplace, smoke a cigar, have a digestif and read a book. You’ll feel like at your imaginary grandparents place. Funny thing was that the next morning when Andreas Caminada himself drove us to the train station and I stated that his job must be tough, he just smiled at us and said yes, especially if you’re out until 4 AM and have to work again at nine. My kind of guy. Unfortunately not quite my kind of bill (I did order every course possible):
Continuing our series of Saturday lunch outings, we headed to Andre Jaeger’s Fischerzunft. It actually has a very nice dining room, comfy and classic, an air of grandeur and a bit of Grand Hotel charm can be felt. Something which always startles me if they serve you an amuse bouche before handing you the menu. Ever since I’ve ran into a scam in younger years in a tourist trap, I go into full battle mode, the same way you would do in sleazy strip joints in Eastern Europe if suddenly a bottle of champagne appears on the table. The maitre de reassured me that we will get a proper menu after our amuse bouche and I was able to relax. Gluttony is my favourite sin and I attempt to commit it on a very regular basis. We opted for the menu and added another dish, some Langoustines with fried vermicelli. Look at the pictures and compare it to Didier de Courten. Mr. Jaeger’s artistic line is much less strict, more flowery and elaborate but beautiful and special, just look at the pictures. On the second amuse bouche a truly perfect green asparagus and a piece of salmon were served. Never have I eaten such a perfectly cooked and slightly sweet asparagus. This simple piece of greenery showed perfectly what can be achieved if you buy absolute top quality food and prepare it expertly (taking into account about 25 steps instead of 3 as you would at home). You’ll find yourself balking at anything else you get in normal restaurants if you oversaturate yourself with Michelin star places… The most interesting dish was the duo of lobster served in two glasses. One was upside down filled with black tea smoke around a lobster navarin, really displeasing, the flavours were off and the smoke a joke at best but it certainly didn’t add to the experience. On the other hand the lobster cocktail was perfect. A combination of lobster tiered with an advanced adaption of a cocktail sauce and a biscuit like layer inbetween. You got the creamy- and crunchyness as well as the distinct lobster taste and texture. I’m not sure if this is the Ying and Yang concept of having a screwed up and a faboulous bit of food on the same plate. The dish which made me chuckle was the intepretation of roesti and eggs with some Vacherin cheese. Quite frankly, Mr. Jaeger’s roesti is nice but it isn’t stellar. Such a comfort food must be done in larger portions, I’m here to try the sea urchin sauce and necessarily the roesti. He took a risk on that dish and it only played out partly. The funniest thing were the other guests in the place, a gay couple around 50, celebrating the birthday of one of the gentlemen. It became quite clearly who was the wife and who was the husband in this group. The elder of the two kept ordering for both of them. It’s very strange if a 50 year old grown man states that Mr. So-and-so will be having this and that as if Mr. So-and-so was an 8 year old boy…
Moving over to the salon, where smoking is allowed, there is a huge cognac bottle held in some kind of tipping contraption to pour for guests. Only Mr. Jaeger is allowed to operate this machinery and the price for a glass is rather steep with 36 CHF. Speaking of prices, even if you only stick to tap water the hit is rather steep, and I once again let censorship prevail:
Sometimes I find places by wandering around. I wanted to eat at a place at the Manesseplatz, drove past it to park and found the Delmonico Fine Arts Restaurant. I changed my plans and entered. Dimmed lights, white table cloths and no one there except a waiter and myself. He told me that they specialize in menus and that they’re actually doing good and that it would be difficult getting a table on a Friday or Saturday night as a Walk-in. I sat down, was handed a big menu and got an explanation. Every menu page has a theme (eg. “Meat delights”) and there’s a first and a second combination which both reflect this theme. A combination then again contains 2 to 4 different small dishes, the first combination is more of an appetizer and the second one is more of an entree. But you can also order all the individual components a la carte, if you wish to do so. Certainly a first for me. I mixed the first combo from the game with the second combo from the pasta themed menus. I was warned by the waiter, he said that the pasta part would be weighing roughly 300 grams, but I decided not to change my order.The waiter was extremly attentive, since I was the only person present, it just felt strange having the guy look at me all the time to see if there’s anything he could do. I concentrated on my newspaper. The amuse bouche was a vegetable soup in a shot glass which I found bland and not very creative. My first combo arrived, a plate with three dishes a Carpaccio of young pork ham with autumn salads and cheese, a game liver mousse with pistacchio and hazelnuts and a game bratwurst on a endive-mushroom ragout and onions. The bratwurst was excellent and was nicely matched with the ragout. I wasn’t happy with the other two dishes, the mousse had bitter notes which didn’t belong there. The ham, salad and cheese dish was off, the flavours didn’t connect and it just felt like a bunch of components lying on a plate. The plate which followed was quite something, it contained four pasta dishes. Pumpkin gnocchi with butter, parmigiano and black truffles, Cocoa-Tagliolini with game meat ragout, “Harp” spaghetti with sepia-carbonara and tortellini filled with cheese in a fonduta. Again it was a disappointment, the sepia-carbonara spaghetti were nice, especially the cubed bits of sepia were a surprising idea. All the other pasta dishes were bad, none of the dishes made me happy, the tortellini even reminded me of a tv dinner. I feel it’s sad that a chef of this caliber is wasting his talent. He obviously is able to cook, but he’s not focused. I had seven dishes on two plates and only two were okay. Throw out the complicated menu and refocus.
I’ve tried for some time to get a table at Restaurant Rigiblick. The lesson here is call three weeks in advance for a Saturday night. We had a reservation for 20:15 and the Seilbahn Rigiblick conveniently brought us to the restaurant. Felix Eppisser used to cook at the Bären in Nürensdorf, a place where roughly 10 years ago I actually had my first encounter with fine dining. A colleague of mine and I decided to go out for a “real” meal and we since we knew this guy working as a cook at this place, we went to Nuerensdorf. I’ll never forget how corteous we were treated even though we were a bit out of league in an establishement which didn’t have many 20-year old diners. Naturally I wasn’t recognized by either Mrs. or Mr. Episser when walking into “Spice”, the gourmet restaurant on the first floor of the Hotel Rigiblick, must be the graying hair… At places like these, I always like to look at their wine specials to see how much many I’m saving by going with a regular priced bottle instead of some Mouton Latour de Quelquechose and I found a couple of good examples on the “Tresorkarte”. Essentially the meal paid for itself by picking a decent priced bottle. I’m not going to go into all the details on the food. There are two menus Aurum and Spice, one more asian, the other more french influenced. You can mix and match any way you desire. The best dish I had was a trio of salmon, intricate, delicate flavours and a perfect balance. I did commit a cardinal sin, I was enjoying the food so much I forgot to write down what I ate in detail……. The only thing I disliked was again the dessert. Together with the plate of friandises – there was too much sweetness after the cheese. I’d prefer another warm, savoury dish instead of the endless dessert orgy overpowering my palate. Two dessert courses plus a plate of friandise puts the complete meal off balance. The place is great but expensive:
On the same day I enjoyed a light lunch I had a dinner reservation at the Le Buffet de la Gare des Eaux-Vives in Geneva. Now “buffet de la gare” reminds me of train journeys with grandparents as a kid and basically quick meals in between changing trains. Spiez and Olten are two towns in Switzerland which only seem to exist because they had a Bahnhof Buffet. So I was kind of doubtful as to what place this was going to be. Boy – was I in for a surprise. Arriving at 7:30 the place was empty and we were the first people to arrive. A nice cart was wheeled to our table (which was the second nicest in the back corner of the restaurant) and we we’re asked if we cared for an aperitif. Being the thoughtful people we are, we cared and decided on a Blanc de Blanc (only later did I notice that a glass was charged at a whopping 24 CHF). A small ball of rice with some trufle infusion was the appetizer. A nice twist of simple and luxurious. Also the application of the truffle infusion had a playful twist, since there was a plastic squeezable container you could use. Amuse-bouche was a bit mixed, not a great fan of the foie-gras bit but the soup was lovely. Pumpkin soup and layered on top truffle foam, a nice combination. Next course was a Pithivier (a type of pastry) with mushrooms – the french description was lengthtier and sounded better. It was a terrific pastry, beautifully arranged and all the accompaning components worked with it in a harmonic way. My main course was slow roasted pork in three different pieces with some crunchy onions, some sort of potato, a bit of sorbet and smudges of roast juice, pesto and caramelized cider. Too give it a nice appearence, brussel sprout leaves were strewn over the plate. I like plates where you can take little bits of everything and combine them into different compostions to taste and this was a lovely combination. For dessert I tried a pear and olive combination. After a let down at Greulich with Olives for dessert I wanted to see if it would be better here. The olive and pear worked nicely giving an interesting flavor combination. The only thing off was the Hüppen (cigar shaped pastry), it was chewy and tough. What really excited me about the whole meal is the beautiful presentation of all the dishes. The plating was exquisite, delicate and vibrant. The only downside is, that if just four hours earlier you already had a gourmet menu with cheese and dessert, you feel a bit stuffed after a second one on the same day. Still this has become one of my places of choice in Geneva. The financial hit is steep:
I took a week off and decided to spend it wisely. After having been at the Gault Millau rising star of the year in the geman speaking part of Switzerland, I saw that the the equivalent in the french speaking part is in Chardonne. David Tarnowski is running a place called Le Montagne. It’s a lovely place, you can reach it by taking the train to Vevey and from Vevey there’s a funiculaire which takes you up through the vineyards. From Chardonne-Jogny it’s a five minute walk to the le Montagne which is just opposite a small grocery shop. This all has a romantic sound to it, but once you enter the restaurant you notice this is an establishment serious about dining. The fun begins, my french is okay but all the “infusion de quelque chose” and the “melange d’autre choses” make it a bit difficult. I didn’t understand all the components of all of the dishes. So I went the easy route and opted for the menu foret d’automne. The amuse bouche was a small glass of carrot soup. It followed with a very heavy, thick and intense soup unfortunatley I didn’t understand what it was made of. The absoulte highlight was the bacon which was in the soup. It was salty and dominated all flavours, taking a bit away from the poultry and chestnut which was also in the soup. The next course was the one I cared least about, the pigeon was okay but the cellery puree which was mixed with a herb infusion was off. The flavours just were all over the place and not a very concentrated effort. I’ve come to enjoy wild boar and the next one looked like it was boar. The professional waiter told me it was “sanglier”. I wasn’t sure what that was and asked him “C’est l’animaux qui est manger par Obelix ?” (Obelix is a french cartoon character who eats wild boar). Seldomly have I seen a waiter in such a fine dining establishment grin with such pleasure, but he confirmed my suspicion. Again I wasn’t especially thrilled about the meat, but the accompanying vegetables where a delicacy. The mix of the different items accented the sauce in a complimentary fashion. To finish the meal, a nice tarte with an excellent ice cream was served. It turned out to be citronelle (lemon grass). Feeling good about going out to lunch in this place I decided to get kinky on the cheese and actually tried Stilton. Now I like neither Gorgonzola nor Roquefort, but was surprised that the English actually make a great blue cheese. My two and a half hour lunch finished on a high note with the espresso and some friandise (a not over the top platter). The chef even appeared personally at my table to make some chitchat. I though that was nice, but I’m probably not the world’s foremost expert in making french smalltalk, so I wasn’t too sure what he talked to me about.
At the end I was presented with a bill, which shows that such a lunch is a special occasion: