Travemünde has more to offer than the fabulous two star La Belle Epoque where chef Kevin Fehling is at the forefront of a new generation of young German to be aware of. Literally across the street, the A-Rosa Grand SPA Resort and its gourmet restaurant Buddenbrooks offer a quite different take on fine dining, yet not necessarily a worse one.
Here, Christian Scharrer impressively proves that he is back on the block, maybe even stronger than ever. After his formidable time at the Schloßhotel Bühlerhöhe where he was awarded 18 points in the Gault Millau and also elected chef of the year 2005 he somehow needed a break in the Frankfurt Airport Club before he started at the AROSA two years ago.
Another great chef from Baden, Scharrer grew up with his grandparents having a local restaurant (“Gasthaus”) and a small farm so that his way into gastronomy was kind of pre-determined. A couple of important chefs are on his CV: his first post was at the Colombi hotel in Freiburg where Alfred Klink served as a tough but technically very elaborate and advanced master. He moved on to work for Jörg Müller in Sylt and, most importantly, as a sous-chef of Harald Wohlfahrt at the Schwarzwaldstube to name just the most important stints he served. So, utmost precision and product excellence can be expected…
Buddenbrooks is located in the Lübeck room of the former Kurhaus which is now part of the AROSA complex: huge and impressive at first sight but still comfortable and not intimidating, for me a place to feel at home immediately. But, I have to admit I am big fan of Jugendstil interior with high ceilings, stucco and the like…
Scharrer offers two menus, one more regionally oriented Menu Terroir and one more internationally oriented Menu Visite both priced at 119€ for six courses. I opted for a mix of both and let Mr Scharrer choose for me. .
And, I let the sommelière (who unfortuantely left the restaurant shortly thereafter) prepare a wine pairing using mostly wines from Baden. A not too bad idea as it turned out…
To accompany a very nice 2005 Malterdinger Bienenberg Pinot Sekt brut from Bernhard Huber, the kitchen served a three piece arrangement of small nibbles – delicate lobster, intensive suckling pig with lentils (already gone on the picture, greedy me…) and a bit too dominant roll of smoked herring (as far as I recall). In a sense these set the stage as especially the suckling pig was programmatic of the menu with strong rustic flavors that in turn was a bit too intense for an ouverture.
The first amuse pleasantly surprised and even wowed – the combination of slightly warm pigeon, pigeon cream, foie gras cubes, Jerusalem artichoke (fried and as pieces) and pigeon/truffles jus was very harmonious and showed precisely constructed flavors, proportions and textures. Only one foie gras cube more would have balanced out the dish and some herbal notes could elevate this even higher. Excellent.
The only let down of the whole menu as this was not really fitting in the overall context and had a difficult stand after the excellent first amuse. Stand-alone a very good dish, in the overall menu dramaturgy a bit lost and misplaced.
The first course was again on the high level of the pigeon amuse: a traditional dish from the Northern part of Germany, pear, beans and bacon are cooked as a stew, often also with potatoes – a simple, cheap and satiable ‘working class’ dish… Christian Scharrer’s version is very different and offers an interesting transparent decomposition of the different elements: lukewarm eel to add intensity and smokiness, crsip pork belly, pear cubes and jelly, bacon cream, fried bacon and some lardo played a wonderful concert of textures, temperatures and flavors. Both the eel and the pork belly showed diligent craftsmanship – excellent to outstanding overall, a real winner!
The parade of rather rustic flavors continued with an intensely roasted scallop coupled with some crunchy barley, tender tongue and a onion sugo to die for. Just immensely yummy and brilliant.
Loup de mer with cabbage and truffles was next – unfortunately the loup had been under the hold-o-mat for a little too long and the skin was not that crispy any more. But besides that, a very good dish with a nice interplay of earthy notes of truffles and slightly sweet cabbage.
A surprising declination of different consistencies of potato (puree, mousse, espuma and tiny fried bits) – creaminess kicked in at first with an archetypical potato aroma, then the caviar added some smokiness that was amplified by the use of bacalao. Surprisingly light and excellent.
Maybe not anyone’s favorite, but I simply loved it as it stretched the boundaries of fine dining demonstrating that seemingly simple rustic ingredients (one could also use some ordinary liver pâté) can be just amazing. The key insight here was that boudin noir and Sauerkraut just work fantastic together – building on that Scharrer used this basic accord, strengthened it by the roasted pastry dough with boudin noir filling and toned it down through the use of a light cream and an espuma of Sauerkraut. Transparent, not too heavy and to the point. Excellent!
As a main, the wild rabbit had enough strength to stand up against the intensity of the former courses. Nicely accompanied by different beetroot structures and a classic Sauce Rouennaise. Very good.
As I learned, Christian Scharrer always presents his dessert ideas in two servings letting him more freedom to improvise around an idea. Never before did I have a combination of coffee mousse, malt jelly and thinly sliced marinated mango that turned out to be as it would just have to be this way. Again a rustic and earthy touch whereas the malt’s sweet side served as a catalyst for the coffee not to be too strong and thus built a bridge between the coffee and the mango. Excellent.
To be fair, I didn’t take notes of the second serving but as far as I recall it didn’t live up to the level of the first combination…
Christian Scharrer’s cuisine has character and emotion. In his creations he shows a certain reflection of his character in that he goes with his gut feeling and is absolutely dedicated to his cooking. Scharrer loves strong and rustic (could we say “German”?) flavors and successfully demonstrates that there is room for a declination of rusticality in fine dining as he does so with diligence, insight and precision. For many others, such a cuisine could badly backfire as here the thin line between fine and ordinary “Gasthaus” cuisine is hard not to cross. Mr Scharrer does exactly this with bravery.
In combination with the splendid service led by Nathalie Meyer I can’t wait to be back. Thanks to the whole team!
Phone: +49 (4502) 3070835