It is not everyday that I get to eat at a Michelin Star restaurant, so this post is a recollection of a really fine dining escapade (five hours in total). Alexander Herrmann is a famous German TV chef; his main restaurant/hotel is located in Wirsberg in Franconia (Southern Germany). Most guests stay at the hotel to eat at the restaurant, and the rooms were not that highly rated in the past, but we got some newly renovated rooms and they were quite inviting, spacious and with unique decorations.
Before dinner, we did a few lapses in the hotel pool to gather an appetite. Not too bad.
Dinner started quite slow but accelerated somewhere between the third and fourth course. There were two menu options: CONTRAST and OFF (the vegetarian version). A lot of the ingredients were locally sourced, although it is questionable if a banana from a greenhouse in Bavaria is so much superior than imported goods.
First, there was bread and a buddha shaped knob of butter. It looked quite fancy but I have to wonder if it is not a tad tactless. It is a religious symbol, after all. I mean, if there was a crucifix-shaped butter about to be cut up, I guess there would be a lot more controversy.
The kick-off starter was a cone filled with old beef and some kind of mousse. A solid start.
Next up, a very umami Bohemian truffle from Franconia. One of the strongest starters.
From the OFF menu: asparagus confit and fermented asparagus with tapenade and egg yolk vinaigrette. The fermented asparagus was a definite highlight with a soft texture and unique flavor combination. The confit was quite acidic and just a bit too sharp for my taste.
From the CONTRAST menu: Bavarian shrimp tartar with ceviche stock and rhubarb, asparagus and shrimp mayonaise. Delicate taste of the shrimp tartar and delicious asparagus on the side. The cracker and rhubarb were not quite as refined but still a delicious treat.
CONTRAST: Ikejime char with radish and clover. Ikejime is a slaughtering method that is supposed to conserve the freshness and fine taste of the fish. When we asked the staff, they could not really explain it any further than that, which is a shame because I would expect them to be able to explain more about the dishes. You cannot just put the word Ikejime on the menu and not be able to explain it. The fish was fresh and the chef knows what he is doing, but I am not sure the Ikejime added anything to it.
OFF: braised and charred leek with tomarillo chutney and crispy spices. One of the strongest dishes from the OFF menu. Creamy texture, smoky flavor and a taste of Christmas crunchies from the spices.
OFF: sautéed pak choi with mustard oil and pine nuts with stock from buddha’s hand. The biggest let-down of the evening. Maybe you should not use exotic ingredients just to impress. Pak choi is the most standard ingredient in Asian cuisine and I was really looking forward to a fusion interpretation, but the pak choi itself was just a bit wilted and did not integrate with the mustard sauce. The buddha’s hand looked quite nice but did not really give anything to the dish.
CONTRAST: Luma pork with hazelnut cream cannelloni and sherry gel with pickled peas and morels. This one was a winner: pork aged with edible mold for a nutty flavor and delicious morcels of morels.
The fake oyster was full of citrus notes and saltiness and a good refresher to cleanse the palate.
CONTRAST: braised lamb with kohlrabi and salty citrus with grain risotto. Another strong dish with melt-on-your-tongue lamb flavorful root vegetables.
OFF: hay-smoked celeriac with celery stock and cream cheese. The highlight of the evening: very smoky flavor with a rich glaze and a fresh stock to balance out the punchiness.
The cooked cheese with Franconian Parmesan and Baba au Port was on both menus. Not bad but at this point of the menu too rich and fatty. Could not finish.
Gin Tonic sorbet (not shown) – another refresher.
CONTRAST: citrus cream with yogurt baiser and salted nut butter ice icream with pumpkin seed cake. The butter ice cream was just a delicious juxtaposition of sweetness and creaminess mixed with a bit of interest from the salt. The lemons add a bit of freshness and the pumpkin seed cake provided a more rustic finish.
OFF: (see header) puristic chocolate cream with banana and whiskey ice cream and caramelized pepper pearls. This one would have been great if the banana and ice cream had not been doused in alcohol. As I do not like the flavor of alcohol that much, it was not for me.
And as a farewell treat: forever young, an ode to the chef’s 103-year-old grandmother who still roams the hotel with her rollator. The treats were a Franconian matcha and lime gel (quite sweet and did not taste that much of matcha), a walnut and dried fruits candy (too rustic), a lego stone made out of blueberry paté and chocolate (nice) and a Darth Vader praline filled with passionfruit (delicious!).
As a conclusion, I appreciate very much that there was a vegetarian menu filled with interesting ingredients without being overloaded with cheese or meat substitutes. I also liked the use of simple ingredients like celeriac, kohlrabi and leek in combination with exotic spices and flavors. Some dishes were not quite to my taste but that was to be expected, not everything can be a highlight. While I also liked the use alcohol to elevate dishes, I want the added aroma but not the taste of pure alcohol. All in all, it was still an amazing experience with a lot of sensation for the taste buds.
May 20th, 2018