Juan Amador is one of Germany’s greatest chefs. Naturally so, you could think, as he carries three prestigious Michelin stars. But, there is more to it – he is emotional, controversial, thought-provoking and strives for perfection. Moreover, his cooking shows a unique handwriting… Let’s see how he is doing these days….
After the closure of his Langen restaurant, he moved his whole team to Mannheim in August 2011 where he had been operating his second restaurant Amesa. Located in the former Schildkröt area, the restaurant is a bit hidden and only accessible via the Metro parking lot. Entering from there the restaurant is in the left right corner…
The interior is spectacular and modern and has not been changed dramatically since the opening of Amesa in 2009:
Juan Amador offers one tasting menu with eight courses and several snacks to start and to end with for €230 – quite a price for German standards but given the effort (and costs) going in it seems very well worth the money. On Tuesdays to Thursdays, there is also a smaller menu with three courses but I strongly recommend to go for the full bounty… I dined there with a good friend and we paid the full price, of course;-)
As it was beautiful outside, we took the first nibbles on the terrace in the backyard and were blown away by the quality, execution and taste. The first bite, “eatable shell” was a fresh start with the Japanese lemon Yuzu playing nicely wit the iodic flavors of the formidable petoncles and algae.
Spectacular in appearance, “the tree” resembles the pear wood elements that Amador has in his entry area. The trea is made from dried pear and is filled with boudin noir and parsley cream in combination with some pear piece coated with parsley. With a twinkling eye, it is a modern version of “Himmel & Erde” a dish quite popular in the Cologne/Rhineland area. Fantastic flavors with a nice interplay of the sweat/earthy boudin noir and the freshness as well as acidity of the pear and parsley.
Next up was a take on chicken Bombay with tender sot l’y laisse perfectly ensnared with mango and cocos. Yummy!
One comment, though, should be made about the number of snacks before – formerly, Juan served a micro menu before the core courses involving miniatures of dishes he had developed before or wanted to develop further. As playful as this was, one always had the impression that in the course of the full choreography it was too much and made it difficult for the core elements to be enjoyed in full. Good decision to shorten at this end and focus even more of the “real” dishes.
These started with a bang: Gillardeau oyster paired with sour cherries (real ones and a sorbet), Joselito (crackers and some jus) and verbena which lemon touch balanced the dish out. This is exactly one of Amador’s strokes of a genius as he seamlessly pairs the seemingly un-pairable. Big one!
And the next one was even slightly better: iced beurre blanc (an element Juan likes to play with) served with an delicious gazpacho of cucumber and dill, diligently roasted scallops and cucumber elements. Here, the hot-cold contrast opened an additional dimension compared to the oyster and made it more complex and spatial. Divine!
Another highlight was the pairing of foie gras (served as a mouse in lego stone format), slightly grilled langoustines and an intense elderberry vinegar. The sum is more than the singular elements, a clear example of culinary synergies: despite the elderberry vinaigrette being too sour on a standalone basis pairing it with the foie gras and the langoustine brought it all together and an multidimensional faceted picture of different textures and flavors enfolded. Whereas the foie tamed the acidity of the vinaigrette, the vinaigrette scaled the fattiness of the goose liver down, an almost symbiotic relationship, that crowned the langoustine. Outstanding!!!
The announced Mannheim asparagus turned out to be a real one and not virtual as Juan had served it stellarily in Langen. Here, the asparagus was marinated in verjus (jus of unripe grapes) and decidedly sour as some vinegar has found its way in the marinade. The construction of the dish is not classic in the way of eating asparagus with some garnish but to discover different facets of it whereas the typical asparagus taste is rather hidden by the vinegar. The pairing with the salty crispy Cecina de León and the different Chantarelle varieties worked amazingly well and put the asparagus in a completely new perspective! Outstanding!
Carabinero with pork belly is a typical Amador dish as he just loves to combine land and sea (mar y muntagna) – here the caramelized pineapple underneath the saffron/pineapple jelly brings in the surprising element and enlarges up the flavor space. Amador’s signature carabinero jus adds complexity as a fundament. Needless to say that both carabinero and pork belly were impeccably cooked and of excellent quality. Excellent to outstanding dish overall!
The Mieral pigeon with purple curry is an Amador classic, one can really state that he introduced Ingo Holland’s spice mix into haute cuisine. Often copied never reached, this dish is just as perfect as in its beginnings in Langen. Divine!
The Pauillac lamb was served in two ways: first was lamb tongue with sorrel and smoke, then an incredibly tender and rightfully large piece of the lamb back with structures of Jerusalem artichoke and sorrel. Yummy, delicate and intricate but more on the classic less surprising side. Excellent!
The first dessert was again an absolute highlight as Amador plays nicely with different beets, red cabbage jus and iced curd as the center of the dish. A very interesting eat, one just hopes that the dish would never end!
Inspired by a Japenese Zen stone garden – KARE – SAN – SUI literally means “dried landscape”, the last dessert course displayed three stones that turned out to be almond cream, nougat cream and pistachio sorbet coated by chocolate. Whereas all elements tasted good, there was no real combining element, a bridge, between them. Well, obviously there can’t by a sauce in the Zen garden but it turned out to be to dry and not-aligning. This being the only critical point of the whole meal, so we can be really happy altogether, can’t we?
This was Juan Amador at his best. His handwriting has become even more accentuated: surprising flavor, textural and temperature combination, perfect execution, excellent product using the whole spectrum of modern techniques without over-emphasizing the technical elements too much. And, it just tastes great – it was a outstanding meal!
Young sommelier Sascha Schömmel accompanied unconventionally with only Spanish wines that also enhanced the overall experience! This restaurant deserves to be listed on the Pellegrino list and not on position 100 as in 2010.
From an international perspective clearly a must go! Let me correct my entering statement: Amador is a world-class chef! Don’t worry too much about all those regionalist chefs (that are good for their own sake) but go for taste, for unexpected moments with lots of emotions and fun.
One can only wish that there will be more excellent restaurants in the nearer region – with Daniel Schimowitsch at Freundstück in the palatinate and Tristan Brandt at Opus V in Mannheim Center there are at least two candidates who have 1*+ potential…
As I always saw looking back on an Amador evening I promise to be back soon – hopefully it won’t take me that long again. So a double-fold promise this time!