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New German Cuisine?


robyn
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There were wonderful Pfifferling in May already. Pfifferling season is not Steinpilze's. I agree that there were early Steinpilze this season, but that dos not change the fact that Steinpilze are lat summer, fall mushrooms and Pfifferlinge are summer mushrooms.

Are you familiar with the Porcini family, found in Germany. Notice the following list.

Boletus Pinicola (Kiefersteinpilz) season starts in Mai

Boletus Edulus (Steinpilz, Herrenpilz) Season July to September/October (best known)

Boletus Estivalis(Sommersteinpilz, Eichensteinpilz) Season Mai to July sometimes in September

Boletus Aereus (Schwarzhuetiger Steinpilz) Season July to October

Boletus Appendiculatus (Gelber Steinpilz) Season June to October.

One can say, that the season for mushrooms generally depends on wheather conditions. Sometimes in late september we'll have snow and snowrain and because of that mushroom season ends early. On the other hand there might be nice wheather in october and therefore season lasts longer, but definitely starts in Mai/July.

H.B. aka "Legourmet"

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  • 2 months later...

OK, I was wrong about Porcini. But not about scallops. Let's change the subject.

I went to Christian Bau in Schloss Berg and put pictures and comments here.

Now many already told me that the meal looks dull on pictures. And yet it was not. It was magical, exciting, exhilarating, included no frustration despite the tasting menu format.

My theory is that we have been accustomed to meals that look that precious and sophisticated at the expense of how they taste. But everything tasted great at Bau, and every dish was very well composed and so was the whole meal. Like I said in the end, it was like Rochat, only good (wouldn't it be a nice post title?): there's sophistication and at the same time respect of the basics of cuisine and taste.

The chef says he wants to renew the tradition of haute gastronomie (obviously not reinvent it from scratch, as you can judge from pictures), that he is from a new generation of chefs and cooks for a new generation of customers.

Back to the topics of New German cuisine, my beginners' experience with German three stars is that Germany is conquerring a market left more or less deserted by the Spanish and the French: the one of great and reliable meals and restaurants. It does not seem that anyone in Germany is really competing to be at the forefront of fashion, as the top 50 restaurants lists attest. But I can't think of many places in France where the level of quality is so constant and so high as it is in the top German restaurants I have tried so far.

That's also what the chefs say: that it is harder to get and keep three stars in Germany than it is in France and that, with their six or seven national guides and many specialised magazines, German chefs are under much harder scrutiny than their French or Spanish or American counterparts. And in the end, they seem to be in their kitchen more.

Edited by julot-les-pinceaux (log)
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  • 2 months later...

Nils Henkel succeeded Dieter Müller and is now the chef in the Restaurant "Dieter Müller" at Schloss Lerbach, Bergisch Gladbach. Will now serious coulinary changes occur in one of the best restaurants in Germany. Possibly not, because Henkel is since september 1997 at Dieter Müller's and some of his coulinary creations have been already on the manual. Dieter Müller will still run his coulinary school and act as the restaurant's patron.

H.B. aka "Legourmet"

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  • 4 months later...

Restaurant Vendôme, Bergisch Gladbach (27th August 2008)

Restaurant Vendôme is housed in a reasonably large, sturdy, squat building, but one that looks absolutely tiny next to the huge, muscular Schoss Bensberg which engulfs it. The Schloss sprawls across a forested hillside overlooking the Rhine valley; it houses a 5* hotel and Vendôme is intended to compound the luxury. First to say, this place delivers the highest quality without question. The cooking is as highly precise and technical; the flavours are as clear, bold and complementary (aside from one glitch); and the presentation, service and surrounds are all exemplary as you’d expect. More distinctly, the pacing of our dinner was also very clever, and the pauses were perfectly judged. This was all very impressive. There are three menus on offer: the carte, and a ‘classic’ and a ‘modern’ dégustation. But we’re here because we’ve read that Vendôme is one of the most exciting German 3*s, and one pushing a modern deconstructed cuisine – so the modern menu it is.

After some promising amuses, the first dish is startling: a succulent, pink shark-steak (despite changing climates, presumably not from the Rhine?) swimming in a shallow puddle of three complementary oils. This was packed with flavour that was further emphasised by the oils – indeed, pouring fresh, light oils at the table was a recurrent theme for the seafood courses. The next dish was crayfish with pork cheeks in jelly with a cabbage salad and caraway foam. This was a stunning dish – with six generous stacks of crayfish, jelly and pork complemented by the acute taste of the excellent salad. The very generous portion impressed still further.

The meat and fish combination extended to a carpaccio of tuna with almonds and goose liver ice-cream – a clever combination that worked well. This preceded roasted calves head, served in cubes and with its subtle flavour augmented by a tremendous horseradish sauce. We returned to fish again with a Danube salmon resting on chanterelles and next to the concentrated flavour of onion gnocchi in a rich onion sauce. While this dish looked comparatively unspectacular, it worked well enough - if not perhaps delivering the excitement of some earlier offerings. All of these courses mentioned were matched neatly by a Diel Reisling (2005) recommended by the very thoughtful and rigorous sommelier.

A breather next (when we noted the clever pacing again) as a ragout of snails arrived in two small cones topped by frozen yoghurt and cucumber that bounced off the richer snails and the crunch of the cones to make this a surprisingly good dish. A small wait again while building the crescendo for the final dish… that stuttered unexpectedly. It was composed of excellent elements: it offered perfectly cooked lamb matched with meaty grilled red pepper chunks and some of the excellent, spiky cabbage salad from the crayfish course. This was all very good and worked perfectly well, except for two additional flourishes that made little sense to me. The first was a small side-bowl of tea-infused green olives – which was intriguing by itself, but I couldn’t see how the tea flavour worked with the lamb. Likewise, some small ricotta gnocchi in a brown, meaty sauce seemed still more alien to the lamb than the tea-flavour. Joachim Wissler’s palate is, of course, in a far different league from mine - but these little side-shows did nothing for me or Mrs. Kropotkin. And the shame is that this dampened the impact of the prior courses slightly. That said, the main desert was a peach and raspberry and ice-cream dish that zinged with these summer flavours. The kitchen was back on form now, and splendid petit fours followed - including a milk-skin effort that the waiter emphasised especially (presumably as they’ve recently crept South from the new Scandanavian cuisine).

In sum, this was an excellent meal as anticipated, although the excitement one secretly (and perhaps unfairly) hopes for with every dish at these places was a little variable. The atmosphere was relaxed throughout and, although not cheap at €418 for two, this meal provided decent value for the standards it reached. Indeed, the only thing intimidating was the huge Schloss outside, and the collateral costs we’ll probably accrue exploring other peaks of the new German cuisine.

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Having dined at Vendome about a year ago - I will add:

1. The hotel is definitely not 5 star - or 5 little buildings (I assume you are using the Michelin standards). It is a 4 (out of date plumbing - internet - no refreshing of things like fruit during a 3 day stay - etc.).

2. Although we booked a restaurant reservation 6 months in advance - and reconfirmed it when we checked into the hotel - when we arrived at dinner 2 nights later - they said they had no record of our reservation - and set up a table for us next to the service bar. I guess they thought that since we were the only Americans dining that night - we would ok with that. I wasn't. Even though the food was good - and the hotel attempted to apologize in a variety of ways the next morning when we checked out.

Note that we also dined at Dieter Muller (sister property) during that stay - and I found it up to 3 star standards in all respects. Robyn

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1.  The hotel is definitely not 5 star - or 5 little buildings (I assume you are using the Michelin standards).  It is a 4 (out of date plumbing - internet - no refreshing of things like fruit during a 3 day stay - etc.).

It's classified 5 stars by the official German classification system (in fact, I think they classify it as 5 star Superior), shown as 5 star on the Michelin website and has "5 buildings" in the 2008 Michelin guide. I have to say I've enjoyed staying there, but personally prefer Schlosshotel Lerbach (which feels slightly more "personal").

2.  Although we booked a restaurant reservation 6 months in advance - and reconfirmed it when we checked into the hotel - when we arrived at dinner 2 nights later - they said they had no record of our reservation.

I can sympathise with this as my parents fell victim to the same problem (luckily discovered far enough in advance to sort out a solution). However I think that the hotel has recognised that this was a weakness and have addressed it - all bookings are now confirmed through a table booking website. I've not had a problem on my last 3 visits.

Note that we also dined at Dieter Muller (sister property) during that stay - and I found it up to 3 star standards in all respects.  Robyn

Totally agree with this - I had the pleasure of dining there again recently and for me it was again a full 3 star experience. The influence of chef Nils Henkel is becoming more apparent on the menu (although there is a "Classic Dieter Mueller" menu for die-hard fans) but (for me) it is more a case of evolution rather than revolution. Whilst I mourn the passing of the cheese trolley, the "Selection of French cheese from Maître Affineur Tourette" was a truly excellent selection of (I think) 10 cheeses.

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Hi Stephen - We enjoyed our stay as well. It's just that the place didn't live up to world class 5 star standards. It did try though. Like when the internet in our room didn't work (wireless has a hard time going through the stone walls in the property) - they brought us up a huge modem so we could connect to the internet. One thing I really disliked about the room is it required extreme detexerity with a handheld shower (which I don't have) to avoid flooding out the bathroom during bathing. On the other hand - except for the restaurant snafu - the staff was really great.

I am glad you told me about your parents - because I was thinking that our missing reservation was intentional. Now I realize it was probably unintentional (but nevertheless annoying).

I am very surprised they did away with the cheese trolley at Dieter Muller. It was certainly the highlight of my meal - and probably the meals of many other people - the best cheese course I have had in years. I saw the cheese trolley when I entered the dining room - and ate very lightly during dinner just so I would have room to sample a lot of cheese. Robyn

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Thanks for the clarification, Stephen. Just for my interest, if you had to choose one of Muller’s or Vendôme for dinner, which would it be?

And on reservations: I’d never paid much attention to no-show fees until travel chaos almost left us facing a €150 per head fine at Vendôme. If they’re prepared to levy these amounts on non-appearing punters, then they were surely obliged to sort out their reservations system!

Edited by Kropotkin (log)
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Thanks for the clarification, Stephen.  Just for my interest, if you had to choose one of Muller’s or Vendôme for dinner, which would it be?

I'm not Stephan, but maybe can also answer as I know both restaurants quite well. Nils Henkel is gradually modernizing at Lerbach but this can be considered more classical. Wissler is more intellectual and abides quite far from the "classic" (the name "classic" for the menu with more luxury ingredients is misleading) using molecular techniques where necessary. Having said that to have a just yummy and delicious meal I would go to Henkel (more of an update on the recent developments soon) and if I want to be challenged as an eater if would choose Wissler. So for me, it is very much a question of the occasion, company and my inner state of mind. If you are not relaxed then Wissler can be too demanding...

But, the interesting question is: how do Wissler and Henkel with other 3* chefs worldwide?

And on reservations: I’d never paid much attention to no-show fees until travel chaos almost left us facing a €150 per head fine at Vendôme.  If they’re prepared to levy these amounts on non-appearing punters, then they were surely obliged to sort out their reservations system!

Both hotels belong to Althoff and do use an automatic reservation system which works well.

Have to endorse Bau as well. The recent visit showed a significant development towards a more mordern and leaner cuisine (see my blog for a very recent review). A definite go!

And, do not forget Juan Amador who is better than ever these days. Will do reviews of Amador, Wissler and Henkel soon so that you can make up your mind.

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Thanks for the clarification, Stephen.  Just for my interest, if you had to choose one of Muller’s or Vendôme for dinner, which would it be?

And on reservations: I’d never paid much attention to no-show fees until travel chaos almost left us facing a €150 per head fine at Vendôme.  If they’re prepared to levy these amounts on non-appearing punters, then they were surely obliged to sort out their reservations system!

I'm not Stephen either :) - but if you are coming from another country for a vacation - I would recommend staying in the area or one of the hotels which house the restaurants - and trying both places - they are "brother and sister" properties a short distance from one another - and they will limo you from either property to either restaurant.

FWIW - I liked Dieter Muller better - and my husband liked Vendome better. Which is one reason I recommend trying both places.

If you are a big eater - you can probably do the meals "back to back". If you aren't - you can - like we did - spend 3 nights with a "night off" in between dining at the 2. There is plenty to do in Cologne - a short train ride away - and the area around Cologne. Certainly 2 days worth of sightseeing (the Museum Ludwig is one of the best contemporary art museums in the world and the Cathedral is world class as well - there are river boat trips - etc.). You have to spend time in the Cologne area if only to drink Kolsch - the local beer (which my husband - the beer drinker in the family - really loved). This was our last stop on a 2 week trip to Germany last year - and we enjoyed it.

In terms of comparing the restaurants to other world class restaurants - these were the only 3 stars we dined at in Germany. Year before last - we were in Japan - and it's hard to compare Japan with Germany. Last trip to Europe before this one was in 2004 to London - where our best meal was at Gordon Ramsay RHR. I thought that restaurant was somewhat better than these 2 - but they are all definitely excellent restaurants. Robyn

Edited by robyn (log)
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Just for my interest, if you had to choose one of Muller’s or Vendôme for dinner, which would it be?

Interesting one this. On reading the question I thought it would be quite difficult to choose but thinking about it, it's not really. For me, if I could only ever have one more meal at one of the restaurants (a version of the "last meal" question) it would be a Friday evening, a la carte meal at Restaurant Dieter Mueller at one of the corner tables on the upper level. Sentimental reasons aside, the fact that I've not had a single thing go wrong (food or service) would just swing it for me.

Recommending one to somebody else though would be a lot more difficult. As IFS observes, Nils Henkel is more classic in technique, Joachim Wissler uses both classic and modern techniques. Food-wise, I enjoy both. I'm also a great fan of the service at both, with the exception of the Sommeliere (Romana Echensperger) at Vendome, who I have an active dislike of since she criticised my wine choice on my first visit. Her absence on my recent visit probably explained why I enjoyed myself so much.

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Thanks to all Stephens for your interesting comments! We'd visited neither place - so we selected Vendôme based upon the menus and a quick skim of this thread. I suspect we'll try Muller's next time, but I'm interested to hear the views of those who can compare both.

An additional tip for Cologne is the Chocolate Museum, which is more interesting than you'd suspect. It has a decent cafe too, right alongside the Rhine, to provide the chocolate fix that Mrs. Kropotkin was craving after touring the galleries!

This may be of use to others planning a trip: taxis from the city out to Bensberg were c. €30 - so staying in Cologne is very feasible.

Edited by Kropotkin (log)
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Have to agree with Stephen, both are enjoyable and imho compare very well with some of the best in the world. Wissler made the highest new entry in the Pelligrino list this year (as mediocre this list is but finally Germany gets at least some attention). If to choose jsut think of the occasion. For business dinner go to Nils Henkel - for a foodie dinner to Wissler.

Romana is sometimes a bit harsh, after a while you get used to it...

@Kropotkin: Interestingly in the spehrical olives arfrequently cited as not that pleasant - I wonder why he still does them. I assume your tasting menue was the modern one? What made you choose so? Did the price difference make any impact?

@robyn: as your visits are from 2007 - go back - it is much different now, especially after Nils has taken over in Lerbach... And I think both are way ahead of any Gordon Ramsey restaurant...

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Have to agree with Stephen, both are enjoyable and imho compare very well with some of the best in the world. Wissler made the highest new entry in the Pelligrino list this year (as mediocre this list is but finally Germany gets at least some attention). If to choose jsut think of the occasion. For business dinner go to Nils Henkel  - for a foodie dinner to Wissler.

Romana is  sometimes a bit harsh, after a while you get used to it...

@Kropotkin: Interestingly in the  spehrical olives arfrequently cited as not that pleasant - I wonder why he still does them. I assume your tasting menue was the modern one? What made you choose so? Did the price difference make any impact?

@robyn: as your visits are from 2007 - go back - it is much different now, especially after Nils has taken over in Lerbach... And I think both are way ahead of any Gordon Ramsey restaurant...

Business dinner at Lerbach? I thought the room was really romantic - with the windows wide open to the garden (this was in June - and a perfect early summer evening).

I doubt we will return to Germany - not because we didn't like it but because we are getting older - and have many places we want to see before we get too old to travel.

Regarding the lunch at Gordon Ramsay RHR - perhaps it was just one of those meals that "clicked" - three courses of some of my favorite things - langoustines and pigeon and chocolate - from the a la carte menu - cooked perfectly - coupled with a few hours at the Chelsea flower show after. I know that other people haven't enjoyed the restaurant as much as my husband and I did (FWIW - a lot of them had the tasting menu - what little I saw of it during our lunch didn't look that impressive to me).

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Business dinner at Lerbach?  I thought the room was really romantic - with the windows wide open to the garden (this was in June - and a perfect early summer evening).

Robyn, my comment was not about the atmosphere but about that food is too demanding at Vendome to have any conversation other than about the meal (at least I couldn't)... So, if you would take somehow to a business dinner in Bergisch-Gladbach, take him/her to Lerbach - that's my advice. Or for lunch, even better...

Maybe it is romantic - I never think about a high-end restaurant being romantic in the first place - I think about food, service, wine and whether I like the atmosphere;-) Personally, I find the Wintergarten a bit outdated and together with the rather formal service not romantic at all... But the food is great and that's all I'm interested in if I go to such a restaurant. For a romantic occasion I need to think...

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@Kropotkin: Interestingly in the  spehrical olives arfrequently cited as not that pleasant - I wonder why he still does them. I assume your tasting menue was the modern one? What made you choose so? Did the price difference make any impact?

We did take the 'Modern' menu: mainly because we thought we'd prefer the components and we liked the look of it. But also because we often like to try innovative, experimental, challenging styles rather than more traditional cooking (which is, after all, more widespread); and partly because we'd heard that Wissler is one of the foremost German exponents of a modern / molecular style (whatever that really is).

The additional costs didn't put us off the 'Classic' menu, but we did notice the quite marked differential (c. 25%). This might be enough to dissuade some (although I guess anyone visiting a 3* knows it won't be cheap)?

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Business dinner at Lerbach?  I thought the room was really romantic - with the windows wide open to the garden (this was in June - and a perfect early summer evening).

Robyn, my comment was not about the atmosphere but about that food is too demanding at Vendome to have any conversation other than about the meal (at least I couldn't)... So, if you would take somehow to a business dinner in Bergisch-Gladbach, take him/her to Lerbach - that's my advice. Or for lunch, even better...

Maybe it is romantic - I never think about a high-end restaurant being romantic in the first place - I think about food, service, wine and whether I like the atmosphere;-) Personally, I find the Wintergarten a bit outdated and together with the rather formal service not romantic at all... But the food is great and that's all I'm interested in if I go to such a restaurant. For a romantic occasion I need to think...

Men Are From Mars - Women Are From Venus :smile: ? (Famous book in the US)

I cannot separate the food at a restaurant from the atmosphere. Sitting at a table by an open window overlooking a beautiful garden at Dieter Muller with the smell of roses in the air was really quite wonderful. Sitting next to the service bar at Vendome wasn't. The service at Dieter Muller was very formal - but that was better than the "friendly" service at Vendome trying to make up for the fact that it lost our reservation. I guess - bottom line - that losing a reservation you have made and confirmed and reconfirmed at a 3 star restaurant anywhere is really inexcusable (and tends to wreck your evening - even if they "comp" you a glass of champagne and some other much more expensive things to try to make up for the lapse in service). Robyn

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Men Are From Mars - Women Are From Venus  :smile: ? (Famous book in the US)

I cannot separate the food at a restaurant from the atmosphere.  Sitting at a table by an open window overlooking a beautiful garden at Dieter Muller with the smell of roses in the air was really quite wonderful.  Sitting next to the service bar at Vendome wasn't.  The service at Dieter Muller was very formal - but that was better than the "friendly" service at Vendome trying to make up for the fact that it lost our reservation.  I guess - bottom line - that losing a reservation you have made and confirmed and reconfirmed at a 3 star restaurant anywhere is really inexcusable (and tends to wreck your evening - even if they "comp" you a glass of champagne and some other much more expensive things to try to make up for the lapse in service).  Robyn

Seems so... But in your case with the cat table (Katzentisch in German) I would also have complained - but in the end you liked it, or?

@Kropotkin: did you have an insight whether most of the diners took the modern menu? It is clearly targeted at the experienced diner as most of the ingredients are not for the once in a year celebration diners... It is an interestng attempt to abide with luxury products in a menu and go for more modern interpretations of local produce... I wish some more 1* go that way and do not imitate 3* food product-wise...

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Seems so... But in your case with the cat table (Katzentisch in German) I would also have complained - but in the end you liked it, or?

It was hard not to like it. The food was excellent - so was the service - and the Italian maitre d' tried his best to make us think we had the best table in the house (being Italian - he almost succeeded :smile: ).

And I'll tell you - when we complained to the hotel staff before we checked out the next morning - well they were more than apologetic. They comp'd both our limo ride from the train station to the hotel - and our limo ride to the airport. And they put together a gift basket containing an excellent olive oil and vinegar - and a teddy bear. Due to airport restrictions - all I could take home was the teddy bear :smile: . Anyway - I would be an idiot if I didn't think this was a sufficient apology for a reservation mistake. Robyn

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Italian Maitre - don't tell this Miguel Angel Calero Novillo - he is Spanish heart to heart;-) Good to hear that they reacted so nicely! We just had a deseaster lunch at Can Fabes and the only thing they did was to take off the 5Euro (sourcing price for them) Santi Chardonnay and two glasses of Cava off a very high bill...

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Italian Maitre - don't tell this Miguel Angel Calero Novillo - he is Spanish heart to heart;-) Good to hear that they reacted so nicely! We just had a deseaster lunch at Can Fabes and the only thing they did was to take off the 5Euro (sourcing price for them) Santi Chardonnay and two glasses of Cava off a very high bill...

Are you sure he's Spanish (the fellow I'm talking about is relatively young and good-looking)? Perhaps he was Spanish - my husband speaks a little Italian but we both speak pretty good Spanish and perhaps that's why he was able to charm us in 2 languages :smile: . Robyn

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