Christian Bau – The Gourmet Vision

What is a vision? Apart from its medical meaning it could be a long-term goal (in management – where does my company want to be in 10 years?), an inspirational experience (in spiritual terms) or a hallucination (a vivid conscious perception in the absence of a stimulus).

Now, infamous German food critique Jürgen Dollase collaborates with important German chefs to elaborate seminal menus which should open up a new world for all senses: the Gourmet Vision series to appear in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung in loose sequence. In describing its objective Dollase points out that “besides technical mastery it is the magnetism of a new idea, of the unknown, the very touch of discovery and novelty which transfers us into a state of pure ‘degustation’ ” (some kind of culinary frenzy, I suppose;-)). So, it is likely that he refers to a rather spiritual experience. I will come back to that.

The new Gourmet Vision has a well-known protagonist: Christian Bau. Dollase approached him to work on a “Japanese” menu as a natural continuation and culmination of Bau’s already taken path (already obvious in the last 18+ months or so).

Bau fingerzeig

Where is the Vision?

So, I went to Schloss Berg immediately. To see what new dishes Bau had produced. To see how far Bau can go without giving up his so carefully developed style. To see whether it has sustainable elements which might be able to show us a glimpse of future cooking.

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Christian Jürgens – Update (July 2009)

“What is a three star experience like?”, some foodie and non-foodie friends use to ask me. What is the difference between a one, a two and a three star restaurant? In Michelin terms the answer is straightforward:

The Stars (hm, Macarons)

The Stars (äh, Macarons)

In essence the Michelin ratings pave the way of planning trips. Sitting in the very restaurant, however, is a different matter – how to really say a meal or dining experience would be worth three stars? First, let me stress this is a very personal matter – I am not a professional tester (good for me as I can choose rather freely what to eat) but I think I have eaten enough to be able to tell the differences… Second, I have personal likes and dislikes but in any review I try to point out where this might ve relevant. So, it shouldn’t affect the statement made and I prefer to give solid reasoning when praise or criticism is appropriate.

Personally, without going into much detail and without elaborating on a sophisticated 100/100 scale (which I do not use anyway) the overall satisfaction is a function of the product quality, cooking precision, composition of dishes (pairing of flavours, sensible use of textures, dimensioning), creativity (unique/novel pairing of flavours, new techniques, unique handwriting), menu composition, consistent quality, service, ambiance. What I ‘borrow’ is the grading system (very good – one star, excellent – two stars, outstanding/exceptional – three stars).

At a three star restaurant I just take product quality and cooking precision for granted – there is no excuse for faults here. If one just takes the best products available, cooks them impeccably and composes dishes in a stringent way, that can be very well three stars as numerous examples (like L’Ambrosie, Ducasse, Auberge de L’Ill or Thieltges here in Germany) show. Some might find this boring but it is just an immense pleasure to eat something which cannot be made better. Kind of risky because this approach dramatically fails if there are only minor deficiencies. Readers of my blog might have noticed that I prefer a cuisine that surprises my in a distinct way and shows some uniqueness, be it a unique style in pairing flavours (like Amador or Bau) or a unique approach to cooking (like Redzepi or Achatz).

Christian Jürgens

Christian Jürgens

Where was I? Why am I telling you this an intro to another visit of Christian Jürgens at the Überfahrt? Because, in Germany, the highest laurels seem to be in sight for him and Thomas Bühner. (Personally I would like to count in Michael Hoffmann of Margaux but he needs to get the second star first…) Maybe these thoughts can help in evaluating my recent experiences and make it transparent why I think there could be a promotion or not…

After my last visit at the Überfahrt about a year had passed – it was Jürgens’ first year at the Überfahrt and his early steps at his new domain were rather impressive. So, time for a short update – before the new guides come out…

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Joachim Wissler – Up to New Heights?

Vendome (thanks to Food Snob)

Vendôme (thanks to Food Snob)

A new menu concept? Interesting. Exactly when I dined at Aqua I received a mail about a new menu concept at Vendôme – 8 courses (plus desserts) at €150, 12 courses (plus desserts) at €190, and finally 16 courses (+ 8 desserts) in the grand “explorative voyage” at €245 – full stop.

Well beyond the price point of any other German three star restaurant (Amador is second with €209 for his 20+ course menu including micro menu and dessert tapas). In the midst of a quite substantial crisis which has hit the high-end gastronomy worldwide. Brave?

On the other hand, the old menu consisted of 7 courses together with some amuse, pre-dessert and petit four priced at €185. So, more value for money in the end?

Or does it only mean that all “extras” ar listed including amuse etc.?

Besides the numbers, what’s the philosophy behind? Surely, this can’t be about simply serving more courses. When introducing the menu concept on the website Joachim Wissler talks about “development” and that his menu is more than just serving small successive courses combing nature’s best products. He stresses that “the “how” and “what” are the aspects that truly characterize this new step. In it more attention is also placed on some of the treasures of our own neglected cuisine, which is generally referred to as “New German Cuisine”.

Enough questions, time for answers. Booked a table for four, but unfortunately Steve P and Mrs P could not accompany us. So, only the two of us went end of May.

Our menu:

Our Grand Voyage

Our Grand Voyage

Somehow, the layout immediately struck me as something quite familiar having dined at Alinea… And I could not figure out the meaning of the bubbles here, but never mind.

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Hidden Gems (I): Landgasthof Adler*

£48 for a five course Michelin star menu – Andy Hayler has shown us how this works in last Sunday’s Telegraph issue. But, you have to travel quite a bit back and forth in the UK (637 miles to be precise). Fuel bill added on top this might not be a true bargain…

In the end, this is exactly what I am after when not hunting down stellar culinary treasures – I want good to very good food at a reasonable price, maybe not for every day but for every other. Therefore I start a new category which will include some hidden gems with a very good price-quality relationship and regionally inspired cuisine.

To start with here’s one of my favourite restaurants in Germany: Landgasthof Adler in Rosenberg. Well, whereas many German foodies know this place I guess not that many have been there due to the somehow remote location about 90 minutes from Stuttgart.

The Restaurant

Situated in a former post station* in Rosenberg the Adler was sold to the church in near Ellwangen in 1468 and belongs to the Bauer family since 1858. Josef Bauer took over the Landgasthof in 1972 and renovated the Adler step-by-step now exactly signaling the marriage of traditionalism and modernism.


The Landgasthof

After parking the car (hard to reach with public transportation) next to the Linde tree in front of the house (planted in 1877) one enters a special world as immediately after stepping in one is exposed to a rather modern room in pure white to the left. Then an old stairway reminds you again of the rather old building. One level up bright colours spring to your eye as the hall has been painted mostly in green in combination with blue which is continued in the first dining room (Professor Alfred Lutz’ handwriting, a local designer). Note that there is no tablecloth on the white lacquer tables – I still somehow struggle with that. But in a sense it is pure and straightforward (like the cuisine).

Dining Room I

Dining Room

There is a second dining room in pure white with black Bauhaus chairs (with tablecloth) mostly used on busy weekends.

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Aqua – Play it Again, Sven!

After all the recent praises you might wonder whether I would ever again report about bad meals (remember King Kamehameha and Can Fabes!). Contrary to professional restaurant testers I can choose the restaurants I visit and most of the time I choose wisely, especially in the last months 🙂 So don’t be disappointed that another highlight will follow now… (Actually I had two quite dissatisfactory meals whereas I will not report on the first as it is not worth the effort and maybe needs some double-checking on the second).

In the last months a lot of foodies approached me to get insights about how Germany’s new three star chef Sven Elverfeld is doing at Aqua. Although I had been to Wolfsburg in November last year for the International Food & Wine Festival (a very good diner of Passard by the way) I had not eaten the creations of Sven Elverfeld since November 07 when the third star was clearly in sight. Time for an update…

The Ritz-Carlton in Wolfsburg

The Ritz-Carlton in Wolfsburg

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Perfect Christian Bau?

After a couple of meals last year at Christian Bau’s Schloss Berg I followed Trine’s example of taking a break to see how the cuisine develops over some time. But, sooner that I thought the idea came up to show very good friends of mine real three star cooking and somehow Schloss Berg appeared as the perfect venue (honi soit qui mal y pense…)

The interior of the restaurant has been completely refurbished in January while they were closed and now really fits to the more contemporary and modern cuisine of Christian Bau. I particularly liked the new chairs which had been exclusively made for the restaurant. You can exit without having to move the chair by just turning the upper part… Very comfortable…


A Reflection of Bau's Cuisine

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Margaux – One of A Kind

Most chefs at high-end restaurants are obsessed in a very positive way – either with execution, product quality, presentation or creativity. Michael Hoffmann of Margaux in Berlin is all of that but maybe to an even greater extent. In the last couple of years he built up an immense knowledge of herbs both known and forgotten and developed a touch for vegetables which overall results in a very unique cuisine. Unique not only with respect to Germany (only Kellermann is similar) but worldwide. Let’s go…



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Thomas Kellermann – A Rising Star

Thinking about Germany one might have in mind pittoresque castles in a remote landscape above in the hills stemming from medieval years. Most of them are ruins (like Burg Schwarzenberg where Jonnie Boer performed some magic recently), some can be visited but very seldom they shelter a culinary treasure.

At Burg Wernberg, that’s different – since the Conrad family has leased the Burg from Wernberg in 1992 and opened the Hotel Burg Wernberg in 1998 after extensive renovation. Jürgen Benker was the first chef de cuisine and Christian Jürgens the second. Jürgens began to further developed his potential at the Burg and is now regarded as one of the next potential three star candidates. After Jürgens signed to the Althoff Group in mid 2008 Conrad could “persuade” Thomas Kellermann from the Vitrum in Berlin to become the new chef de cuisine at the Burg.


Burg Wernberg

One has to admit that Kellermann’s new domain is not so central when looking at a map of Germany. It is rather very near the Czech border but this could be a very nice trip from Nuremberg especially around Christmas time (about 40 minutes by car). After almost seven years in Berlin it was time for Kellermann to go back to “his” region and nearer to the skiing areas…

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The Frankfurt Files (III): Français*

After the Guides had been out it was clearly time to revisit the Restaurant Français at the Steigenberger Frankfurter Hof, the only Grand Hotel in Frankfurt. After the hotel and the restaurant have been renovated before the Soccer World Championship in 2006 Patrick Bittner, the chef de cusine at Français, had been cooking with new esteem but the brigade and very much the atmosphere stayed the same.

We made a short-hand reservation and were surprised that a new face greeting us as both mâitre and sommelier. Mr Walter comfortably led us through the evening…

The Restaurant

Classic but nevertheless with a modern touch the new Français is far brighter compared to the old interior. It is clearly positioned as a business restaurant with a reasonable lunch offering and opening times only during the week. The audience is truly international – a good showcase of the diversity of Frankfurt’s guests… This clearly limits the array of culinary adventures a chef could possibly create here. Just keep that in mind when reading about the menu. There is a clear need to serve this audience.

Francais Interior

Français Interior

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The Frankfurt Files (II): Großfeld – Gastraum der Sinne

Ha, this is not a Frankfurt restaurant strictly speaking, you might say and you are right. Großfeld’s Gastraum der Sinne is located in Dorheim, a part of Friedberg about 20 minutes from Frankfurt. But, my files files intend to give you some orientation on your journey to culinary delights when you are in and around Frankfurt. Maybe the “around” enlargement is due to the fact that in Frankfurt itself good fine dining is rather rare.

So, after King Kamehameha Suite I will this time report a very good experience especially as it is a new and relaxed concept for a Michelin starred restaurant in Germany. Not a bistro in the strictest sense but the atmosphere is close. Clearly, it is more upscale than the Bistronomias but in a way it tries to transport the same vibes…

The Restaurant

Finding this place is not as difficult as getting to Mugaritz or Extebarri but it is not too easy. Unlike for the former two a solid navigation will do. Be sure to bring a rather small car as parking space is limited.

Interior of a German Michelin Starred Place? YES!

Interior of a German Michelin Starred Place? YES!

From the outside it reminds me a bit of Amador as it seems to be a normal residential buiding, yet not as old and timbered as in Langen. The interior is much different then: you have basically one large room painted red equipped with bistro-like furniture. The service brigade is young and not as polished as usual making it overall a very pleasurable atmosphere. As I frequently hear it really takes away the fear of the unknown for people new to starred restaurants. A look around on a normal day affirms this as the average age is much lower and people are dressed up more casually. I stress that as it is important to attract new and younger people to our beloved restaurants which is accomplished here.

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