Bistronomics, those nice little bistro-style outlets where high-end cuisine is served is not a totally new phenomenon – in 2008 when in Barcelona I had a couple of splendid meals at places like Gresca and Embat. Around the same time, in France new culinary hotspots emerged, yet with a distinct edge against any dogmatism so present in the usual guides, lobbying a “no rules” approach to dining and emphasizing both the emotional and culinary aspects of dining out. Early in 1999 the ‘fooding’ term had been coined by the food journalist Alexandre Cammas, a new art word stemming from ‘food’ and ‘feeling’ which then, in 2000, led to the founding of the ‘le fooding’ restaurant guide together with Emmanuel Rubin. In a nutshell, it’s all about democratizing fine dining.
Meanwhile, in Paris: an armada of restaurants were ready to challenge conventional French snobbery and luxury dining, among them places like Frenchie, Saturne, Le Chateaubriand, Rino, Yam’Tcha*, La Bigarrade** or Passage 53**, to name but a few. Even though they are not hunting the stars, some of them receive them, with the second star for Passage 53 being recently awarded in this year’s Guide Rouge. And most importantly, this does not lead to changes in the concept or catapulting prices: at La Bigarrade, the 12-course tasting is still at reasonable 65€/85€ (lunch/dinner), at Le Chateubriand the five-course mystery menu is still at 45€, despite being number 9! (and thus the best restaurant in France) on the polarizing San Pellegrino list. To take a long story short, given the only minor developments at the top Michelin places in France in recent years, the music plays at these vibrant, cool, young and fun neo-bistros where ‘fine dining’ is so successfully re-defined as those places are hard to get a table at. And, the idea spreads to Denmark (Relœ) and Belgium (Neptune, Veranda)…
And Germany? There seems to be some hope for food enthusiasts looking for a excellent fare at reasonable prices as two Amador disciples have begun to cook in a neo-bistro manner, André Rickert at Weinsinn in Frankfurt and Christoph Kubenz at Schaumahl in Offenburg (where no Frankfurter would normally set a step, but it’s worth it). But, and that is gratifying, they are not pure copyists of the French, but very distinct and unique protagonists of a maybe developing German bistronomic scene… Let’s see how Rickert is doing lately at Weinsinn…
André Rickert has undergone his initial apprenticeship at Thomas Bühner when the latter was still cooking in Dortmund. In the following years he became an Amador disciple, lately being part of Caro Baum’s team at the formidable Amesa in Mannheim. His cooking or better plating clearly speaks the Amador ‘language’ in that dishes are plated in a modern, precise and transparent manner to let the main product be in focus whereas all other ingredients are perfectly proportioned and balanced. Clearly, in a bistro-style ambiance like Weinsinn one cannot serve cutting high-end dishes like at Amador or Amesa but he comprises only to some extent and most visitors are pleasantly surprised to see such a modern cuisine in a wine bar.
Weinsinn was originally opened as a wine bar/restaurant by the owners of the museum caterers in Frankfurt with the initial card comprising both small bistro plates and proper restaurant dishes. Soon, they offered only a small a la carte restaurant selection of three entrées, three mains and three dessert whereas one can also chose a surprise menu at very reasonable prices (3 courses at 45€, 4 courses at 52€ and 5 at 59€). This concept is still valid, so we can truly say this is a good bang for the buck…
Stepping inside, one first encounters a small bar with several dishes written up on a chalk board to the right and is then escorted into the two-folded dining room whereas the first room was presumed to host the wine bar…
…and the second the “restaurant”. Now, it’s one concept whereas I like the second room more. Bistro-atmosphere, no table cloth and unpretentious but diligent service completes the overall picture of a real fun place to meet friends, discuss food, enjoy excellent wines and delicate modern dishes.
We let André cook for us so that we were relieved from having to choose from the menu card.
And, of course, we selected some nice wines from the 200+ wines selection… But, honestly, I can’t really remember what we drank…
The dance began with a nice tortilla nibble, intense, light and not too dense as we often encounter for this traditional potato omelet – followed by luke-warm potato salad with cucumber and baked chicken (‘Backhendl’) – again a light version of a traditionally heavy savory dish. Very good.
I couldn’t resist to wonder whether a amuse really needs to be part of this down-to-earth bistro concept? On the one hand, amuses have really become inflationary with the simplest Italian place next door proudly presenting some completely over-cooked vegetables soaked-up in oil that is nothing but disgusting. On the other hand, it is maybe a good idea to show that a simple yet refined amuse can be sooo different without pretending to be a traditional Gourmet place. Thus, it could be differentiating factor to make a small attention step for the diner to actually forcing him to also focus on the cuisine in this wine bar…
Tataaaa: the first course, marinated veal with celery and truffles vinaigrette was a joyful, spot-on starter emphasizing first and foremost the product character of the veal that was marinated to add some acidity enabling it to counter the other ingredients. This seemingly simple dish clearly showed the potential of Mr Rickert as it was very well thought-through and perfectly executed: celery in textures brought earthiness and a slightly hot acidity, the truffles vinaigrette (with real truffles of a quality solid enough to achieve a truffles effect) being rich and creamy, reduced and exactly dimensioned in the right proportion and, last but not least, some herbal jus of the parsley (I guess) to balance out the dish. In essence, this appeared like a light salad despite the normally rather heavy ingredients. Very good to excellent.
The next course was the star of the night: the lukewarm cod was impeccably cooked at low temperature (without having a fancy Julabo at hand in the kitchen) and met ingeniously with structures of apple, soy jelly, an wasabi ice cream (with exactly the right and thus non-dominating amount of wasabi). The trick here was the interplay of the different temperatures and textures with the cod being accentuated by slices of apple and small cubes of radish. Again, Rickert was able to shield the character of the main protagonist (by the topping and nice roast flavors) but at the same time was able to pair it with the wasabi and soy as if this would be the most normal thing in the world.
Many starred restaurants could be proud if they would be able to serve such a delicate and compelling combination. Excellent to outstanding!
The lobster raviolo was a big yummy species with a thin but not too thin dough and some lobster pieces as ‘garnish’. The carbonara (egg, bacon and cream) combination worked out surprisingly well and didn’t cause us to waive the white flag due to over-stuffing. Very good.
More traditional on first sight, the loup came perfectly cooked with herbal leek puree, potato/leek mash and a pointed mustard jus that did the little extra to this creation. Key was the formidable fish, perfect execution and the dialogue of herbal and acid notes. Very good to excellent!
What a main: with a deep bow to the usually so underestimated pork (besides the now so fashionable Spanish Black Feet or Acon porks) Rickert presented a formidable parade of different pork pieces from sausage, back, loin and shoulder in combination with a simple slightly sweet, rich and spicy bell pepper sauce emphasizing the rustic character of the pork and playing yin and yang with the onions (nice repercussion of the sweetness of the bell pepper yet in a different tone). Excellent!
After a splendid pre-dessert (a compote of exotic fruits), the main dessert reminded a bit of Christian Baus chocolate/peanut combinations… A perfect closure to a formidable meal, although we really felt full at the time as the portions had not been that reduced versus the normal à la carte ‘weight’. Very good.
Let’s recapitulate: two men in the kitchen, a 5+1 course dinner at 59€, an extensive and very reasonably priced wine list, unpretentious and knowledgable service – how can one not go here in a city of daylight robbery where prices have sky-rocketed due to the target audience of expense account fiddlers??
To put this performance into perspective (and I have not eaten there several times): André Rickert is already among the best chefs in town, only overtaken by Patrick Bittner and Mario Lohninger. And that is at about half the price of Ernos Bistro, Villa Merton and the like. A nearly always fully booked restaurant tells the same story, many of the diners being pleasantly surprised about the quality of food, presentation and fun factor.
From an international perspective (and this is why I am writing this in English), Weinsinn is good and bad news as it shows that there is at least one example of bistronomics in Germany, but that is ridiculous in the end. In times where fine dining still suffers from the aftermath of the economic crisis, there must be room for such concepts such that, finally, something like a culinary “Mittelstand” will be established in Germany. Which is, in turn, very important for the top notch places as it introduces younger diners to more ambitious concepts and then will also potentially cause some spill-overs to the starred end of gastronomy!
I can only wish that André Rickert will keep that very high level and continue to delight us with his unconventional and thought-provoking but nevertheless delicious cuisine at very reasonable prices. So indeed, a fooding place not only for foodies!
Weinsinn Restaurant / Weinbar
Fürstenbergerstraße 179 (Ecke Leerbachstraße)
60322 Frankfurt am Main
Phone: +49 69 56 99 80 80