Frankfurt – When Milica and Matthias Scheiber announced to open a second restaurant after their first venture Weinsinn turned out to be a tremendous success expectations were clearly high. Despite the fact that bistronomic concepts are still quite rare in German, the Scheibers did not just clone their Weinsinn but opted for a family concept, with the younger brother Gustav being more progressive in design and more down-to-earth in its clearly regional philosophy.
What’s the next generation of German chefs doing? To be sure, the development on the top, in the three star segment, has been breath-taking in the last couple of years – chefs like Juan Amador, Christian Bau, Thomas Bühner, Klaus Erfort, Nils Henkel and Joachim Wissler have improved significantly and developed very distinctive own handwritings, all at a consistently high level. This poses the question whether they are the only culinary pacemakers in Germany? In other countries, there are many young chefs that left their mark in the culinary world by creating a unique approach or selling a comprehensive and coherent dining experience. Among others, René Redzepi (obviously needs to be mentioned here but he is already somehow established), Kobe Desmaraults of In de Wulf, the whole bistronomia movement or more recently the ‘le fooding’ group in France have demonstrated that you don’t need three or even any Michelin stars to become a destination dining restaurant.
And how’s the situation like in Germany? Between 25-35 there are a couple of upcoming and very promising chefs – but, most of them are known only in Germany and have not yet achieved bigger awareness. Let us start a new series on the most promising young chefs and apply the case study method to investigate.
Sometimes it is just a pleasure to literally watch how a chef develops. Almost in slow-motion, dishes pass by and tell a story of modernization, of self-discovery… Like a sculptor a chef needs time to set his unique picture, his style free.
At Français in Frankfurt, Patrick Bittner is a fine example how this evolution can actually happen. Having dined there in regular intervals (and increasing frequency I have to admit) one observation is clear cut: whereas his cuisine in 2008/9 was very good but rather classic the first star in November 2008 was a big turning point and milestone in his development. Bittner had been working towards this goal for some years – so the moment of liberation was quite substantial.
How has this impacted on Patrick Bittner’s cuisine?
Fond of electro, techno and house music? Ever heard of the DJ legend Sven Väth? If yes, the Cocoon Club in Frankfurt should be immediately on your mind. If no, but you are food-interested, or maybe a real foodie, you should definitely add this location due its fabulous restaurants Silk and Micro where Mario Lohninger is both chef de cuisine and host… Restaurants in a club, hmmm…
Here the story goes: Sven Väth planned the whole Cocoon project for about three years, got to know Mario when he was chef de cuisine at Danube in New York and then, on Mario’s 30th birthday, Sven’s wife asked Mario whether he wanted to head the restaurants in the new Cocoon Club. This was the starting point of a quite unique gastronomic project.
Silk is a bed restaurant – a bit inspired by the Supperclub in Amsterdam and the Bed Supper Club in Bangkok. But, to be honest, none of these is so consistent in its approach as Silk and offers Michelin-starred cuisine. Wait, Michelin has awarded a star to Silk (early in 2006), a restaurant without proper tables, proper table cloths and high-end cutlery and porcelain – in Germany?
When it comes to fine dining I am usually somehow conservative in that I very much prefer tables where I can sit and eat properly. But Silk is more than just a restaurant – it is an oasis, a state of mind. It is a place to feel at home, to relax and to abide with all the quarrels of each day. It is even intimate for a romantic and cosy dinner…
An anniversary year for Michelin in Germany – the 100th edition. So, time for ground-breaking news? What is very apparent from the stats is that Germany has seen a rather promising development since Juliane Caspar had taken over in 2004 – including the loss of the third for Winkler and Bourgueil, the promotion of Wissler (2005), Bau (2006), Amador, Erfort, Lumpp (2008) and finally Elverfeld in 2009. Moreover, a couple of young and unconventional restaurants received the second star (alone five new ones in 2008). Now, Mrs Caspar heads the Guide Rouge in France (scandale!) and her deputy Flinkenflügel has taken over.
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).
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.
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.
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.
£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.
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.
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).
There is a second dining room in pure white with black Bauhaus chairs (with tablecloth) mostly used on busy weekends.
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…
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…