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The art of soba: Muto in Nihonbashi (Tokyo)

Sitting in my room in Tokyo last year, suddenly a desire striked me: I love soba and what could be a better place to taste those lovely noodles than Japan itself ?! So I was looking for a restaurant that served classic soba menus.

So I started to google around a bit and found a wonderful article about Muto Soba in Nihonbashi. Finding the small restaurant in „real life“ was trickier than I thought though. After walking around the block 3 times and not finding it, I googled the Kanji for the restaurant’s name and looked for that…which was more successful.

Muto soba-ya: Outside

Muto soba-ya: Outside

Muto soba-ya: Kanji

Muto soba-ya: Kanji

Muto is a very small place. I was received by a middle aged lady (I think it was the chef’s wife) who told me – a little bit scared that a stranger found his way here – that there is only a 5-course fixed menu. After accepting that she guided me to my table in a small room. Soon she thawed and was very friendly and tried hard to talk to me in english which was really sweet. I started with a beer.

Turnip soup

Turnip soup

The first greeting was a turnip soup, very dense though elegant and full of taste. It was simple, yet beautiful. After some time Mr. Muto came to my table and we talked for a while. He is not only a wonderful cook but a very kind and polite person.

Dumpling of soba dough filled with fatty pig in a clear broth

Dumpling of soba dough filled with fatty pig in a clear broth

The next course was one of the best things I’ve ever eaten: A bit of Mr. Muto’s raw soba dough which literally melted on the tongue and built a mellow ground for the intense, meaty filling. This taste bomb was balanced by some horseraddish and greens, that added complexity to the dish. Just wonderful.

Cured baby fish

Cured baby fish

In the meantime I changed to Sake. It went perfect with the small cured fish – they have the texture of toffee. Kind of chewy and a bit sweet, perfect with the clean taste of sake.

Tempura (fish and wild vegetables)

Tempura (fish and wild vegetables)

Then some tempura was served. There was some fish (I think it were sardines) and wild vegetables, I’ve never seen in my life. The fish was perfectly fresh and tasted clean, the vegetables were wonderfully green and had bitter notes. The highlight in this course was the perfect execution: Only an idea of dough surrounded the pieces, fried to wonderful crunchyness. Not a bit fatty or heavy – you wouldn’t believe that fried food can be this elegant. Together with the dip this was shere perfection.

Soba

Soba

Then the main course came: SOBA. Mister Muto serves soba seiro style, meaning that the cold noodles are presented on a bamboo tray next to the rest of the ingredients. And what should I say – the noodles were the shere idea of soba. Nutty, crunchy, earthy – the beauty of simplicity. Together with the incredibly intense sauce they were a wonderful meal. Again different raddishes gave additional complexity.

In the meantime two gentlemen had started eating opposite of me. I tried to eat the (rather long) noodles „european style“ as I’ve learned from my childhood on…making no noise. At some point the lady came to me, looked somehow pityful at me and said „no no no“. Looking back at her she said: „You have to make noise. Japanese style“ and showed me with gestures how to eat. This was maybe the most beautiful service experience ever 🙂 So I started so sip loudly. But compared to what the two gentlemen next to me did some minutes afterwards I was still…silent.

Dip sauce with soba cooking water

Dip sauce with soba cooking water

After finishing the soba themselves I was served a vessel with cooking water of soba noodles. The dip sauce together with the water were blended into a thick umami-bomb-soup. This soup, containing all the wonderful components of the main course, was everything toghether: A childhood meal, a warm soup on a cold day, the soup your mother gave you when you were sick, the meal you will have when being old. It was all together. Simple, pure beauty. This is the soup I will never ever forget.

Desert (red bean mousse with roasted nuts)

Desert (red bean mousse with roasted nuts)

The desert was very good too, nutty and light.

Visiting Muto soba was a wonderful experience. It was not only an unforgettable meal but also a very good experience of Japanese hospitality. When I left Mr. Muto greeted me, gave me his card (excusing that it is only in Japanese) and even shaked my hand – an act that I appreciated very much (normally Japanese people seem not to be comfortable with it). So thank you, Mr. Muto!

Please get in line for Sushi Dai…and wait 3 hours

Last year I had the chance to visit Tokyo for a conference. Having a really hard jet lag it was not much of a thing to get up at 3 in the morning to visit Tsukiji fish market and see the tuna auctions. After the auction I headed for a sushi breakfast at Sushi Dai, a sushi place very famous on the net.

Sushi Dai is listed as one of the places to go for Sushi – beside the Michelin-starred high end sushi-yas. Many visitors claim, that they’ve had something like „Michelin-quality“ (whatever that is) for a much cheaper price. When I read about queuing for 3 to 4 hours I thought it would be an urban myth. But as I went over rigth after the tuna auction had ended, I found this:

Sushi Dai - The queue

Sushi Dai – The queue

And it was like…6:30 in the morning! Since there was nothing to do I lined up and: waited. A long time nothing went on, a lot of folks from China. It took a while until I found somebody for a chat. The thing is: After waiting for 2 hours there’s no way back. Losing 2 hours seems worse than waiting another one 🙂 At least I could take a walk, since a buddy kept my place in the line. A lady from the sushi-ya even brought us some tea since it was quite cold.

Just a few more steps...

Just a few more steps…

The worst part was actually the end: About 3/4 of an hour you see the shop – you are right in front of it and wait. All in all I waited 3.5 hours to get in. The good thing: I had nothing else to do anyway 🙂

Sushi Dai - Inside

Sushi Dai – Inside

It is a tiny place with maybe 8 or 10 seats. I sat down and my sushi chef greeted me. After ordering the omakase (fixed menu, but very unusual for a Japanese menu you can choose one last bit by yourself). The selection was in contrast to Europe excellent – for high quality sushi-ya it was rather conventional though. The overall fish quality was good. But have a look:

Sea bass with salt and chu-toro

Sea bass with salt and chu-toro

Both excellent – I liked their rather lean chu-toro very much. The sea bass with a twist of salt was very fresh and tasty.

Tamagoyaki

Tamagoyaki

I am not a big fan of tamagoyaki anyway. This was quite sweet, but far too cold.

 

Red Snapper

Red Snapper

Nice fleshy texture, clean taste. Very good, also with the chewy twist of the skin that formed a good contrast.

Uni - sea urchin roe

Uni – sea urchin roe

The sea urchin was actually very good, but served too cold. The taste was excellent – like a mustardy sea-ice-cream.

Mackerel

Mackerel

Soft, intense, beautiful. I just love mackerel!

Clam

Clam

The clam was served „alive“ (though I think it was a trick stimulating the nerves). Very firm with a waxy core texture. Nice.

Maguro (tuna loin)

Maguro (tuna loin)

Guilty pleasure: Blue fin tuna loin. Amazing, like liquid wax.

Maki rolls

Maki rolls

The maki were rather conventional. Good but nothing special.

White fish

White fish

Slightly grilled/flamed white fish. Was good, but nothing more.

Stuffed calamari

Stuffed calamari

My greek grandmother would make it similar to this 🙂

Tuna trinity - Magura, chu-toro, o-toro

Tuna trinity – Magura, chu-toro, o-toro

The o-toro was not 100% my thing. It was not very beautifully marbled and had a bit of a sluggish aftertaste.

Shrimp, chu-toro - abalone

Shrimp, chu-toro – abalone

The shrimp had a soft, waxy texture with a clean taste. And the abalone…well, this one was extremely chewy. I think they didn’t cut it perfectly, since usually the cut makes it at least „biteable“.

Baby shrimp - scallop

Baby shrimp – scallop

The baby shrimp were great, very sweet and rich. The scallop was not special, rather neutral.

My personal sushi chef

My personal sushi chef.

My visit at Sushi Dai was surely nice. I had a LOT of sushi in decent quality and payed about 70 Euros with drinks for a satisfying breakfast. Not to mention that I could hardly move out of Tsukiji market afterwards 🙂

Sushi-Dai is not compearable to a Michelin-starred sushi-ya, don’t let the internet fool you about that. Regarding temperature, cut, variation, fish quality and finishing this place is good average. Rest assured – the Sushi is far better than in any standard European sushi-place. But from what I’ve learned in a REALLY good sushi place, it does not reflect the very idea of Japanese sushi. But that is another story…

25 years in a drop: A visit to Acetaia di Giorgio in Modena

After our lunch at Osteria Francescana in Modena we visited an acetaia – a small local producer of the iconic Aceto Balsamico di Modena. And our visit to Acetaia di Giorgio turned out to be the highlight of our short stay in the city!

First of all, Marcello of Acetaia di Giorgio was very helpful in advance. Since we had our lunch first, we couldn’t make it to a tour he gave to another group so he offered us a private tour of the acetaia one hour later. In perfect english 🙂

As we arrived at the adress, we couldn’t believe that this pittoresque house was actually a production site for vinegar…until we got out of the car and caught the intriguing smell in the air.

Acetaia di Giorgio - Outside

Acetaia di Giorgio – Outside

Acetaia di Giorgio - Sign

Acetaia di Giorgio – Sign

The tour before us was not finished, so we waited 10 minutes in the wonderful garden of the house, in which the Barbieri family lives and produces their wonderful vinegar. Giorgio, Giovanna and Carlotta Barbieri are one of the few, artisanal producers of Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena.

This vinegar is produced under very strict conditions, using only grapes from local producers. Moreover, the vinegar can only be sold as ABT di Modena, if its quality is approved be the consortium of producers. Original ABT di Modena then is bottled in special glass bottles designed by Giugiaro (wo also designed the Audi 80 and VW Golf I by the way …).

Marcello explained us the process of making vinegar and showed us the solera rows for the different vinegars they produce.

Acetaia di Giorgio - Barrels

Acetaia di Giorgio – Barrels

Acetaia di Giorgio - Barrels

Acetaia di Giorgio – Barrels

Acetaia di Giorgio - Tasting room

Acetaia di Giorgio – Tasting room

The highlight of the tour was a tasting of the different vinegars. It was amazing to see the big jump of complexity between 12 and 25 years of ageing. They also offer a variety of wood finishes like cherry and oak, that add deepness and complexity to this wonderful product. Every vinegar has its own character and taste profile. The highlight surely was „Carlotta“ – a 25 years old vinegar of a solera that was started with the birth of the family’s daughter and finished in different wooden casks.

Acetaia di Giorgio - Different types of Balsamic Vinegar

Acetaia di Giorgio – Different types of Balsamic Vinegar

Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena is a truly fascinating product. The price is reasonable if you consider that in a 100 ml bottle of 25 years old ABT di Modena the essence of approx. 200 Liters of grape must is concentrated!

I took with me a Capsula ORO D.O.P., their 25-years old all puprose vinegar. On special occasions I enjoy it, I savor the shere endless aftertaste and it takes me back to this beautiful spot in Modena, where I first tasted this beautiful product.

My favorite recipy to enjoy the vinegar is Bruschetta from Emilia 🙂

In Bourdain’s footsteps: Antica Macelleria Cecchini

Before going to Tuscany we watched the corresponding episode of Anthony Bourdain’s „No Reservations“ (S3E16) which is quite fun. In this episode Bourdain visits a butcher shop/burger joint/meat place of Dario Cecchini – seemingly a quite famous butcher. Being in the area anyways, we paid a visit.

Antica Macelleria Cecchini (the full name of this notorious place) is located in the picturesque village of Panzano in Chianti. As every village in Tuscany it has an antique castle and many, many vineyards. Since the village is located on a hilltop, the view is amazing. Dario’s place is located right in the center:

Antica Macelleria Cecchini - Outside

Antica Macelleria Cecchini – Outside

After seeing „No Reservations“ I was prepared for hundreds of tourists. And in high season that may be so. Since we went in June, there were not that many people around. If you enter through the historic front you come right into the butcher shop…

Antica Macelleria Cecchini - Butcher shop

Antica Macelleria Cecchini – Butcher shop

…in which Dario stands. A very friendly and humongous man, not exactly as theatralic as on TV. The butcher shop itself is rather disappointing as a shop – they basically sell, what they also serve in the restaurant plus some salumi. Through the back of the shop you enter the restaurant:

Antica Macelleria Cecchini - Inside

Antica Macelleria Cecchini – Inside

The restaurant is quite nice, with big shared tables and rather modern interior. They grill burgers and steaks on open fire as you can see. The restaurant opens to a big outside area (for the hundreds of Chinese tourists…). Dario offers during day a rather economic option called Dario DOC where he serves bits and bites made of – correct – meat. In the evening he also has a more sophisticated and intimate dinner option called „Officina della Bistecca“. We went for Dario DOC and started with the smallest (and probably most expansive) beer I’ve ever seen 🙂 Water is for free though.

Antica Macelleria Cecchini - Small beer

Antica Macelleria Cecchini – Small beer

This is an „Accoglienza“ plate (20€):

Sushi del chianti - Tonno del chianti - Arista n porchetta - Cosimino in salsa ardente - Fagioli

Sushi del chianti – Tonno del chianti – Arista in porchetta – Cosimino in salsa ardente – Fagioli

The beef tartare (sushi, left down) was very nice – meaty and juicy and quite pure as I like it. The arista are junks of medium fatty pork, roasted with herbs which were good but a bit too dry. Tonno del chianti (right up) was a fatty piece of pork, cooked and seasoned very well and it actually tasted like tuna – really great. The cosimino (left up) was to sweet to my taste – it was like eating meat loaf with marmalade. In the middle a bowl of the rather tasteless and ubiquitous beans. Together with a plate there were some raw vegetables to dip into salt and olive oil.

Mac Dario

Mac Dario

Mac Dario (10€) was a honest plate: a 250g beef burger, perfectly prepared and very tasty. Together with fresh fried potatoes with sage a great dish for a fair price.

Dario is definitely a fun place to stop by – maybe not worth a detour, but if you’re in the area you can take a look. Overprized for sure but on the other hand also fun (especially if you like Bourdain and have him in mind sitting there). I would love to try the Officina della Bistecca next time I’m in Tuscany…

A lesson about the difficulties of communication: Osteria Francescana in Modena

We spent our wedding-decenarry in Tuscany, Italy. Looking for something special on our anniversary date, I planned a visit to Massimo Bottura’s Osteria Francescana. Since we had been to Noma and El Cellar de Can Roca, it was also a logical addition to our bucket list in order to complete San Pellegrino’s TOP3. The outcome…well, interesting.

We went by car from Florence to Modena, which is quite a distance. Modena is a beautiful small city with a charming city center. Since we were too early for our lunch reservation we went for a walk in the pittoresque streets. Osteria Francescana is located on a corner in the backstreets of Modena:

Osteria Francescana - Outside

Osteria Francescana – Outside

We entered the restaurant and got into a quite dark foyer. We seemed to be the first guests (and the only ones on time, hello Italy!) so we had to wait a minute or so until a waiter brought us to our table. The restaurant is remarkably small and also through daytime quite dark. The decoration and table setting tried to play a modern-retro game (straight lines, old photographies), which didn’t play out that well for me. After all it is a rather formal place and not as comfy as I would have expected.

On our way to the table in the corridor we passed by three stuffed pigeon sitting on a stick over a black sack of waste. Why not. As I’ve learned later, this was a reminder of Bottura’s visit to the 2011 Venice Biennale, where he saw Maurizio Catelans pigeon installation. He seemed to like the idea of pigeons looking down at all the art and shitting on it 🙂

Osteria Francescana - Inside

Osteria Francescana – Inside

We decided to go for the classics menu (9 courses, € 165) which contains many of Massimo Bottura’s signature dishes. The sommelier who looked like a perfectly tailored figure out of a James Bond movie brought us the extensive wine menu. I decided to go with sparkling wine and he recommended a very nice bottle from a nearby region. Then we started our menu traditionally with bread and olive oil:

Bread and Olive oil

Bread and Olive oil

A rather rusty bread, very good and light oil.

Tempura with carpione

Tempura with carpione

At first I thought this was a amuse bouche. But actually it was the first course. Inside the fluffy, savory tempura was a small aula fish (some kind of carp). This crunchy bite was topped with a rich ice cream of herbs, that added a nice texture contrast to this entrée. The name plays with the term „carpione“ that both refers to the species of the fish and to a marinade of herbs, wine and vinegar.

Bread again

Bread again

Then we were served bread again. As most mediterranean countries do, also Italiens like to have their bread near them while eating. It was a nice selection of small ciabatta breads, croissants and bread sticks. Since the menu itself was not very filling, the bread was a necessary addition. Soon we got the next course:

An eel swimming up the Po River

An eel swimming up the Po River

With this dish Massimo Buttura takes his guests on a double journey: it cites an eels travelling up the po river, bringing traditional products from along the river onto one plate. On the other hand it tells the story of the Este family, who had to move from Ferrara to modena in the 16th century. This dish brings a traditional product which is not very usual in haute cuisine – the eel – to the plate. The fatty, intense aroma of an eel is hard to deal with. In this case the eel was finished with saba (highly reduced must, the mother of aceto balsamico), giving it a sweet Japanese-style twist that countered the richness of the eel very nice. Up it had powder of burnt onion, that added some good depth. On the side it had a cream of green apple with a beautiful fresh acidity and some rich, creamy polenta. A very nice dish and maybe my personal highlight of this evening, since here the idea of connecting tradition, modernity, history and regionality worked out best and was communicated well.

Caesar salad in Emilia

Caesar salad in Emilia

Next up was an international classic: A Caesar salad. An admittingly flawless heart of lettuce was presented with 22 different tiny ingredients hidden in it – containing all the different parts of a classic Caesar salad. I liked the idea, but after all it tasted like…well, salad. My wife went nuts for it, since she loves salad.

Five ages of Parmigiano Reggiano in different temperatures and textures

Five ages of Parmigiano Reggiano in different temperatures and textures

Then we had the maybe most recognized dish on Bottura’s menu. I have to admit that I love cheese and have a deep passion for Parmigiano. So this was just perfect for me 🙂 On the plate came a warm sauce (24 months), a cold and rather firm mousse (36), a soft demi-soufflé (30), a wafer (40) and a foam of 50 months old (!) Parmigiano Reggiano. You wouldn’t imagine how many different flavors Parmigiano can produce – from salty, over milky-sweet to nutty. It was a shere pleasure to wander through the different textures, temperatures and tastes. A very complex dish, that I will remember all my life.

Contechino 365 days a year

Contechino 365 days a year

No italian meal without pasta. Contechino (a traditional pork sausage of modena) and lentils are a traditional winter dish (as we were told), usually eaten at New Year. But since they are so wonderful, Massimo Bottura loves to eat them all year long. Two wonderful ravioli with amazingly thin and perfectly firm-to-the-bite pasta, filled with lentils and fatty pork were presented. It was wonderful pasta, the one I would have loved to eat a whole plate of and maybe one of the best I have eaten so far.

In the meantime it also shows my problem with Bottura’s concept: If you have no memory of eating Contechino as a child, the dish’s concept is strange to you. Although the story is told by the waiters, you don’t feel it. Bottura is often recognized as enfant terrible of Italys kitchen. And he maybe is to those knowing Contechino as a traditional dish and wondering how you could change it into a pasta filling and then serving just 2 pieces of ravioli. But without this connection there is no scandal, no avantgarde – just good pasta. This evening I learned how difficult it is, to communicate feelings and ideas.

Snails under the earth

Snails under the earth

This was my least favorable dish of the day. The snails were enriched with earthy aromas of truffle, nuts and coffee and topped with raw potato cream and garlic foam. Not bad and well executed but also kind of banal.

All the tongues of the world

All the tongues of the world

A very pleasant journey through the world: In the middle a tender piece of veal tongue with an aromatic crust, around it different sauces representing culinary cultures all around the world, including lentil/curry (India), Teriyaki (Japan), passion fruit with basil seeds (South America), a salsa verde with ciltrano (Mediterranean kitchen), leche de tigre (Peru) and a wild-apple mostarda (?). Good idea, very pleasant dish but not extraordinary.

Foie gras crunch with Traditional Aceto Balsamico di Modena

Foie gras crunch with Traditional Aceto Balsamico di Modena

Another classic as pre-dessert, that was love at first glance: Since I love foie gras, nuts and Aceto Balsamico it was like heaven to find them in one bite together. The incredibly fine and buttery foie gras was covered with toasted hazelnuts and almonds. In it’s center a core of Traditional Balsamic Vinegar from Modena was injected. A wonderful variation on your childhood’s ice cream 🙂

A potato waiting to become a truffle

A potato waiting to become a truffle

Evidentially I was still hungry, so I forgot to take a picture or the actual dessert. You can find on „The chic brûlée“ though. The dish bases on Bottura’s idea, that it is more honorable to be a potato than a truffle – so he put’s the potato in the center of this dessert. It basically consisted of a potato soufflé (concealed in it’s own skin), topped with vanilla cream and black truffle. Again it was good, but also kind everyday – a dessert your mother would make for you (without the truffle kick). Unfortunately the truffle was virtually tasteless and added not much to the dish.

Espresso and petit fours

Espresso and petit fours

I finished my lunch with an espresso (good) and some petit fours (VERY good). When we left, the staff gave us a small bottle of balsamic vinegar (good quality, but of course not Aceto Balsamico Traditionale) as a present – a very nice gesture.

To be honest, when we left I was quite disappointed. Having heard about Bottura’s exceptionality I would have expected more. There were very memorable dishes (the eel, the Parmigiano, the lollipop) but also a lot of dishes that didn’t stay in my memory for long. Some months ago I saw a documentation on Netflix about Bottura, that helped me to understand him better. For sure he is a man full of inspiration, ideas. Pure avantgarde, an iconoclast who his up to smash tradtition and rebuild something new from it’s parts. As the pigeons in the corridor, his dishes are full of memories, endless variations an emotions. For some part he cooks like a postmodern artist (a good example for this is his variation of a ready-made: Oops! A broken lemon tart). His plates look like works of art. Like in modern art, the idea in many dishes seems to be more complex than the dish itself. Therefore some dishes are hardly accessible or seem banal (the Ceasar salad). In some dishes there was too much head and too few tongue. I suppose it is hard to communicate a whole set of ideas, feelings, memories, stories and history through a plate. For sure Bottura’s dishes would deserve something like a museum guide, that gives you the background to understand and fully appreciate them. If you plan on going to Osteria Francescana, make sure to watch a documentary on Bottura first – to have his manic passion and creativity in mind while eating.

El Cellar de Can Roca: Literally the best meal of my life

It started as a crazy plan with friends: After visiting Noma in Kopenhagen, the logical next step was El Cellar de Can Roca in Girona. Back then, reservations were quite tricky since you could get them only by phone on a certain reservation date. So on this given date, I called the number 120 times (!) until I got through – and ended up with a reservation 6 months in advance. But why not…the outcome: the best meal of my life.

We first went to Barcelona, where we had a splendid time and enjoyed amazing food (at Pakta and Tickets). Girona is one hour by car from Barcelona and a VERY small city with a beautiful old city center. I expected the restaurant to be in a fancy area, maybe standing alone on a small hilltop…the pics on the net give you the impression of being all alone somewhere. Actually El Cellar de Can Roca is situated in the middle of a living area with houses and small apartment buildings. The exterior is very reduced, with a wooden front and high bushes all along the glass windows – making the building almost disappear.

The bold and the brave

The bold and the brave

The inside is amazing. First you enter a patio, facing the family’s beautifully renovated, old house. A wonderful place to relax or take an aperitive. The restaurant itself is triangular shaped with another patio in the middle. All walls are panorama windows which give the room a very open and light atmosphere. Due to the good arrangement of the tables you never feel being watched and have enough space of your own.

Inside

Inside

We were nicely welcomed and brought to our table. First of all we were served a bottle of cava as a compliment of the house – a great start into the evening. El Celler de Can Roca offers 2 menues – we went for the tasting menu with wine pairing. They also got an impressive wine menue, which is such a big book, that it is brought to the table on a cart 🙂 The wine pairing featured mainly Spanish wines (with great exceptions like a 08 JJ Prüm or a 09 Egon Müller), but featured also Sake and a Meursault. All through the evening the Sommelière offered a lot of background on the wines.

We began the evening with a sequence of small starters:

Caramelized Olive

Caramelized Olive

The world

The world

I liked this one best: It presented a Burrito from Mexico (with mole poblano and guacamole), a stuffed wine leaf from Turkey (with lentil purrée, eggplant and spices, guat yoghurt and raw cucumber), pickled vegetables with plum cream from China, a delight from Marocco (almond, rose, honey, saffron, ras el hanout, goat yoghurt) and a Korean inspired panco fried bread (with bacon, soy sauce, snow peas, kimchi and sesame oil). A journey through the different tastes and textures of the world!

Coral: Pickled barnacles with bay leaves and albarino. Mediterranean lobster ceviche.

Coral: Pickled barnacles with bay leaves and albarino. Mediterranean lobster ceviche.

Crispy sesame and Carpano bombon with grapefruit and black sesame

Crispy sesame and Carpano bombon with grapefruit and black sesame

St. George's mushroom bombon and brioche

St. George’s mushroom bombon and brioche

Then we went into bread business (mostly white or light bread, as you would expect in Spain):

Handsome waiter offering bread

Handsome waiter offering bread

After this great series of starters the menue went on with soup:

Spring vegetable stock

Spring vegetable stock

This doesn’t look like much and when it was presented I was somehow disappointed…vegetable soup. But then the taste: This was my mothers vegetable soup, actually it was all mother’s vegetable soups together. An extremely reduced and tasty stock, together with vegetables, sprouts, flowers, leaves and fruits in different consistencys and degrees of cooking. A wonderful play with memories!

White apsaragus and truffle viennetta

White apsaragus and truffle viennetta

Maybe one of the most memorable dishes for me: The Roca brothers also run an ice cream parlor in the city called Rocambolesc. One of their creations is a white truffle and asparagus ice cream. And to be honest: It tasted even better than it sounds – a rich, dense and creamy experience with amazingly blended aromas of truffle and asparagus. A dish you could get buried in! There was also some asparagus (good) and a piece of truffle (tasteless, but looked nice).

Mackerel with pickles and mullet roe

Mackerel with pickles and mullet roe

I love mackerel – and so do the Spanish! This was marinated in sugar and salt and just perfect, maybe one of the best I’ve ever eaten. It came alongside mackerel sauce with white wine, lemon, capers and chillies in vinegar, fried tomato, mullet roe and mackerel infusion. Beside the specatular presentation the juice made of mackerel bones was great, it had a texture like liquid silver and a very pleasant fishy taste.

Salad of sea anemone, razor clam, royal cucumber and seaweed in escabèche

Salad of sea anemone, razor clam, royal cucumber and seaweed in escabèche

The days before I had enjoyed sea anemone and royal cucumber for the first time. Here it was all together in one dish: A very taste seafood-salad that played well with the different textures of the seafood. Again a dish that relied greatly on the perfect freshness of it’s ingredients.

A whole prawn

A whole prawn

I love prawns and have eaten a lot of them. But this was the shere idea of prawn: charcoal grilled, head juice with seaweeds and seawater, a sponge cake of plankton. The prawn was like liquid wax, melting on my tongue and filling the mouth with it’s amazing sweetness. This was as good as a prawn can ever get. The seaweed added some nice earthy and umami notes to balance the sweetness. Unforgettable.

Palo Cortado-steamed langoustine, bisque velouté and Jerez caramel - Preparation

Palo Cortado-steamed langoustine, bisque velouté and Jerez caramel – Preparation

Palo Cortado-steamed langoustine, bisque velouté and Jerez caramel - Final dish

Palo Cortado-steamed langoustine, bisque velouté and Jerez caramel – Final dish

This dish surprised me with it’s concept: The wine pairing was included into the dish. The langoustines were placed over hot stones, on which Palo Cortado Sherry was poured. Then the vessel was closed, so that the Sherry vapors could infuse the langoustines. First of all the langoustines were breathtaking: So tender and juicy. Their sweetness went unbelievable well with the aroma of the Sherry that also appeared in the velouté and the caramel. A great dish with amazing product quality.

Confit skate with mustard oil

Confit skate with mustard oil

This one didn’t work out 100% for me. The confit skate was really good and perfectly fresh. It came with beurre noisette, honey, chardonnay vinegar, bergamot, aromatic mustard, confit capers and smoked hazelnut. The different mustard aromas were quite intense and partly very spicy – for me the sweetness of the skate and the spicyness of the mustard didn’t blend together.

Surf and turf

Surf and turf

A great trompe l’oeuil: Sardine skin placed on pork jowl with charcoal-grilled sardine-bone broth, suckling pig sauce and chervil oil. The rich taste of the pig went well with the fatty fishiness of the sardine. The chervil connected the parts well and gave it some lightness too. A real treat with great presentation!

Spicy mandala of artichoke flower

Spicy mandala of artichoke flower

Again a wonderfully arranged dish that brought an exotic twist into play: Pieces of milk fed lamb-belly with lamb sweetbreads, curry yoghurt, beetroot, spinach, turnip, lemon, tangerine, sweet potato, leaves and flowers. The mellow taste of the sweetbread and the rich and fatty meatyness of the belly were nicely supported by the exotic and fruity parts. With their acidity they made the dish light and elegant. VERY nice.

St. George's mushroom and veal shin, marrow, tendons, avocado and beans

St. George’s mushroom and veal shin, marrow, tendons, avocado and beans

Another flawlessly executed meat dish – the bone marrow added a nice touch to the magically soft shin and tendons.

Pigeon trilogy

Pigeon trilogy

Botifarró and Tatjé pigeon breast

Botifarró and Tatjé pigeon breast

Pigeon heart and the cloud of rice

Pigeon heart and the cloud of rice

A perfectly prepared pigeon breast, with it’s tangy flavor. The heart on an airy rice crispy was great too. The Botifarro was the only service-flaw of the evening, since we had requested a meal without blood as ingredient. They assured us to offer an alternative and had noted the request, but it still landed on the plate.

Green salad: peas, liquorice and fennel

Green salad: peas, liquorice and fennel

I’m not a huge fan of vegetables in desserts. This pre-dessert was a nice transition to the sweet part though. It tasted very „green“ 🙂

Sourdough ice cream with cocoa pulp, fried lychee and Jerez vinegar macaron

Sourdough ice cream with cocoa pulp, fried lychee and Jerez vinegar macaron

This one was presented very spectacular: The base had a mechanism, that made the dessert move up and down a bit, like it was real „breathing“ sourdough. Kind of creepy, when you saw Alien III…the dessert itself was good though, a nice play of acidity and sweetness.

Chocolate anarchy

Chocolate anarchy

The main dessert was the sweetest form of anarchy: It had many different kinds of chocolate in different forms and consistencies. VERY good, VERY sweet but somehow also a bit arbitrary. Generally the desserts seemed not as well composed as the main dishes, which was a bit disappointing since I’ve heard many good things about Jordi Roca’s patisserie.

So it was time to end the menue with some sweets:

The most impressive sweet cart ever

The most impressive sweet cart ever

A platter for four...

A platter for four…

The sweet cart was really humongous, like you would expect on a funfair. We had a selection of all the sweets. Especially the fruit gelées were amazing. Since we couldn’t eat all of them, we took them home in this nice box:

Take away box for sweets

Take away box for sweets

Well, what to say? It was an amazing evening with good friends – a meal I will never forget. If I ever have to have a last supper – let it be this one! I was deeply impressed by the superior product quality in terms of variety and freshness. All dishes were flawlessly prepared and had a clear and accessible concept behind them. The service was unobstrusively but always there and helpful. We went home happier than before, which is the best possible outcome of a meal, I would say. Calculate 280€/person (including the menue, wine pairing and tip). It was worth every last cent.

Tapas at the circus: Get a ticket for Tickets!

Since I couldn’t make it to Ferran Adrià’s El Bulli back then, a visit at his tapas-bar Tickets was a must for my stay in Barcelona. I love the concept of tapas (of course, they stole it from the Greek mezedes….) and so I was very thrilled what a culinary genius like Adrià would make of this traditional way of enjoying many different flavors in small portions.

Together with our friends Babsi and Jan we had reserved a table two months in advance through the BCN50 website. It was a bit of a run, sitting at midnight in front of the computer, but we got our table 🙂 Tickets is situated in a vibrant area of Barcelona with many nice restaurants and bars around, just round the corner of Pakta. You see the windows from far away:

Outside

Outside

The entrance already promises what you will get: A circus of flavors, a joyful and uncomplicated evening. Since we were one hour too early the lady at the door recommeded us to have a drink at the Xixbar around the block to pass the waiting time. So we did an had an amazing G&T there – don’t miss it!

Entrance

Entrance

The inside holds what the outside promises: Entering Tickets you dive into another world, a colorful and loud circus. Everything you dreamt of as a child: Lights, colors, sugarcandy and smiles everywhere. At first it is a bit overwhelming, but you quickly get used to the atmosphere and this incredibly chilled mood full of curiosity.

Inside

Inside

Life is a circus

Life is a circus

After we sat down our waitress introduced herself and brought us the menue. You can order single dishes or have a surprise menue of about 2 dozen dishes, for which you can exclude certain ingredients or have a specific dish included. We went for the surprise menue and ordered a bottle of Cava as pairing. All through the evening the service was swift, very friendly and helpful. Since Tickets is a project by Ferran Adrià we were expecting a lot of molecular tricks…and were positively disappointed.

At Tickets you eat with tweezers, which at first is strange but then becomes more and more natural. Since you are mostly served smal bits and bites, the tweezers are the perfect tool for grabbing them…

We started with 4 very small dishes:

Sangria Infused Water Melon, Pistaccios, Tempura Peanuts, Nori and Sesame Cracker

Sangria Infused Water Melon, Pistaccios, Tempura Peanuts, Nori and Sesame Cracker

A very nice start into the evening: The water melon was amazing, refreshing and full of fruityness. The temura peanut reminded me of Kelly’s Snips – in the good way. The crackers were a very nice contrast in taste and texture, offering the salty umami notes of the seaweed. The peanuts…well peanuts, no false bottom here.

Seaweed Tempura with Seaweed Sauce

Seaweed Tempura with Seaweed Sauce

Very nice one: The seaweed tempura tasted perfectly fresh with the salty twist of the ocean, offering a thrilling contrast between the crunchy crust and the soft seaweed. The seaweed sauce was wonderful – just look at this science-fiction like color 🙂

Two kinds of olives (ginger / lemon-garlic-herbs)

Two kinds of olives (ginger / lemon-garlic-herbs)

A signature dish from El Bulli: Spheric olives. Our waitress brought big olive jars in which the „olives“ were pickled. This evening they offered ginger and lemon-garlic-herbs. The experience was amazing: Sliding the olive in my mouth, it felt incredibly soft yet compact. Biting on it, a waxy gel full of taste filled my mouth. Wow!

Crispy bread with tomato and sardine

Crispy bread with tomato and sardine

One of the dishes that never gets old: A slice of crispy bread, mouth watering fruity tomatos and a fresh sardine fillet. So simple, so amazing.

Makkaroni made from basil water, parmesan infusion and cracker, pine seeds

Makkaroni made from basil water, parmesan infusion and cracker, pine seeds

One of the few dishes with a molecular twist this evening: The maccaroni were quite firm with a slight taste of basil, not really special. The parmesan infusion around it was very tasty though. I liked the idea of turning around this traditional dish, although it was not so convincing to me.

Menchego Airbag

Menchego Airbag

Manchego is a traditional part of Spanish tapas. Here it was presented as fluffy, light airbags. A beautiful contrast between your expectation of cheese-texture and the airy texture you actually get.

Foie gras, pickles, bread and sauce escabeche

Foie gras, pickles, bread and sauce escabeche

This one reminded us of Pakta the night before. The piece of foie gras with its intense fatty notes was lightened up by the fruity sauce escabeche. The pickles gave some acidity and spice, great dish!

Tuna/tomato/tobiko roe, cone with nori and marinated apple

Tuna/tomato/tobiko roe, cone with nori and marinated apple

This was a nice one too: From the looks you would expect something sweet. Actually it was a simple yet sophisticated starter: The tuna and the roe were supported by the intense fruityness of the perfectly ripe tomatos. The cone was very interesting too, adding umami notes and some acidity from the apple.

Razor clams with tomato

Razor clams with tomato

I love razor clams! These were perfectly fresh, went perfectly with the tomato sauce and were beautifully presented. Nothing more, nothing less.

Nordic style: Bread, beef, onion and vinegar powder

Nordic style: Bread, beef, onion and vinegar powder

One of my personal highlights: A very thin slice of rusk, topped with small pieces of raw beef and onion. The meat was so tender, just perfectly temperatured and very juicy. The vinegar powder added a very inspiring acidity to the dish! Wow!

Oysters and white sauce escabeche

Oysters and white sauce escabeche

Another déjà-vu from Pakta: Fresh oysters, sauce escabeche. Very nice, but very similar to the ones we had around the corner.

Avocado cannelono with crab

Avocado cannelono with crab

Avocado is always right: The thin slices surrounded a nice crab filling. Nice one, yet not really memorable.

Pak choi, cucumber, kimchi and pulpo

Pak choi, cucumber, kimchi and pulpo

One of the most amazing dishes this evening: The pulpo was wonderfully soft and tasty. The firm, spicy vegetables offered a beautiful contrast in taste and texture. Their green, spicy taste played well along with the grilled and full bodied notes of the pulpo.

Baby squids and alomonds

Baby squids and alomonds

Another favorite: I love baby squids so much! Toghether with an almond filling and some sauce escabeche they were just perfect.

Prawns with coffee powder, soy sauce with coffee, mushroom noodles with parmesan

Prawns with coffee powder, soy sauce with coffee, mushroom noodles with parmesan

Maybe the most sophisticated dish this evening: The perfectly fresh and tasty prawns were topped with some coffee powder. In the pot they served noodles made from mushrooms with parmesan, that added bosky notes and some umami spice to the equation. I liked the combination of the prawn’s sweetness with the coffee powder very much. Also the parallel texture of the prawns and the mushroom noodles (firm, yet waxy) was nice. The soy sauce with coffee brought – to my taste – too much coffee notes into play. Overall very nice, a combination I would have never thought of.

Pork chops marinated southern Spain style, potatos with beans and bacon

Pork chops marinated southern Spain style, potatos with beans and bacon

With this one everything was right: Fat, tasty, perfectly marinated meat. The vegetables absorbed this taste bomb just right.

Pork sandwich

Pork sandwich

I love sandwiches: This one was so great! Mouth-watering pork (cheek/neck) in a tasty, juicy, slightly sticky bun. I could have eaten 20 of them….

Strawberries with cream

Strawberries with cream

Strawberries and cream: Beautiful things don’t need to be complicated.

Our lovely waiter with the icea cream trolley

Our lovely waiter with the icea cream trolley

Caramelized ice cream

Caramelized ice cream

Ding-Ding – it’s the ice cream trolley: Our waitress came with an old-school trolley and served us ice cream. The cones were made of thin caramel, the ice cream on top was slightly caramelized with a blowtorch. Very nice, made with a lot of love for small details.

Hijacked Toblerone :-)

Hijacked Toblerone :-)

I love chocolate. Toblerone is a childhood memory, the angular chocolate in my moth and the pieces of caramel sticking to my teeth. Tickets hijacked this memory with a great premium interpretation of this legendary chocolate.

Waffles with chocolate

Waffles with chocolate

More chocolate please: My favorite dessert at Tickets: Soft cocoa waffles with an incredibly tasty chocolate cream and some chocolate flakes. Amazing!

Chocolate rocks

Chocolate rocks

Since we haven’t had enough, we ordered another dessert and got some chocolate rocks. Quite traditional and solid patisserie, fluffy and sweet. Very nice.

Our evening at Tickets was a great experience. It was far more traditional than I was awaiting: Most of the time it was about great products and the traditional tastes of Spain. You could feel the love for the Spanish tradition of eating, drinking and enjoying life together. I liked that very much. And what I’ve learned: Cava is just the perfect pairing for tapas. Since we had visited Pakta the day before, the dishes with sauce escabeche were not really new or surprising to us. But that’s not their fault 🙂 After all it was beautiful, very relaxed food experience, offering a wide variety of tastes. We (4 pax) paid 110 € per person, including tips and two bottles of cava – definetely a good deal if you look at the prices for tapas in other bars of barcelona. Afterwards we went for a nice cocktail at 41° – a relaxed way to end the evening in a cool atmosphere.

PS: It was nice to see that Ferran Adrià was enjoying his meal with a party of friends this evening in the restaurant. Always good to see the boss eating his own food…

Weinbesprechung auf captaincork.com

Da hatte ich doch tatsächlich das Glück von CaptainCork beim #Matrosentrinken eine Flasche zugeschickt zu bekommen. Der Deal: 100 Leute bekommen eine Flasche ohne Etikett und mit Blindkorken zugeschickt. Man genießt den Wein und schreibt dem Portal ein paar Zeilen dazu.

Der Mystery-Wein über den Dächern Wiens

Der Mystery-Wein über den Dächern Wiens

Hier also meine Notizen:

Nachdem es sich die mysteriöse Flasche in paar Tage am Fensterbrett zum Rasten gemütlich gemacht hat habe ich Sie auf die Dachterrasse entführt. Mit Blick über Wien, auf den Wienerwald und die untergehende Sonne entkorke ich das gute Stück (gut, das ist Fiktion, passt aber schön zum Bild oben). Die Flasche von außen erinnert mich an die rustikalen Rotweine aus meiner Heimat, dem Burgenland.

Als der erste Schluck ins große Rotweinglas Glas rinnt, dann die Überraschung: Enorm dunkel kommt er daher, selbst gegen das Licht ist da nur ein dunkles Rubinrot, mit noblen purpurnen Reflexen drin. Kurz geschwenkt, massive Kirchenfenster – wie eine dieser üppigen Barockkirchen hier in der Stadt. Ausladend auch der Duft aus dem Glas: Der süße Duft nach Sonne und überreifen Beeren (ganz dunkelrote und schwarze, lange eingekocht) lässt mir warm ums Herz werden. Dieser Wein kommt aus heißen Gefielden, keine Frage. Beim zweiten Schluck macht sich auch der Alkohol bemerkbar, ein schwerer Bursche kuschelt sich da ins Glas.

Ein Portweinabend am Kamin, eine Idee des nie dagewesenen Sommers kommen mir vor Augen. Diese wunderbare Flasche Ruby Port vor ein paar Jahren, mit ihren nie enden wollenden Beerenaromen. Der Garten der Eltern kommt mir in den Sinn, mit dem alten Zwetschkenbaum und dem Johannisbeerstrauch, den Brombeeren mit ihren Stacheln. Irgendwo auch Griechischer Mavrodaphne, von Krise keine Spur hier. Die Gedanken schweifen ab, selbst der kühle Wind hier am Dach vertreibt die schwüle Hitze aus dem Glas nicht.

Dann kommt nach einer Zeit noch Tinte, Graphit, ein bisserl Mon Chérie dazu. Ein Wein voll barocker Lebenslust, der mit seinen Reizen nicht geizt. Vielleicht ohne doppelten Boden, aber mit offensichtlicher Freude und Verlockung. Der Alkohol hält ihn, hinten am Gaumen macht es sich ein bisschen streichelweiches Tannin gemütlich. Nach dem zweiten Glas ist’s mir persönlich aber genug, die Süße spielt sich dann zu sehr in den Vordergrund. Zu dominant ist mir dann die Kombination aus fruchtiger Süße und massivem Alkohol, die keine Zwischentöne mehr zulässt.

Bestimmt würde der Wein sich schön mit einem Hirschrücken vertragen, oder einem kräftigen Wildeintopf – die herben Aromen des Wildes würden sich perfekt mit der Fruchtsüße des Weines ergänzen. Oder Blauschimmelkäse. Da könnte man – wie es die Engländer mit Port halten – den Käse damit übergießen. Könnte auch funktionieren. Oder zu einem herb-süßen, dunklen Mousse au Chocolat, auch fein.

Wo kommt er her ? In Österreich haben wir dafür zu wenig Sonne. In Frankreich erzeugt das Klima mehr Eleganz und Leichtfüßigkeit. Für die USA ist er zu wenig holzig. Südafrikaner könnte er sein, aber wegen der enormen Hitze im Glas würde ich letztlich auf einen jungen Syrah-Merlot aus Australien oder Südamerika tippen…

Meine gekürzte Rezension wurde hier veröffentlicht. Nach der Auflösung war es ein Ceres Anesidora I vom Weingut Ômina Romana für schlanke 82,00 Euro ab Hof. Was wieder mal mein Vorurteil gegen hochpreisige, italienische Rotweine bestätigt 😉

In jedem Fall Danke an CaptainCork für das großzügige und interessante Weinerlebnis!

Nikkei cuisine in Barcelona: Pakta

A food trip with our dear friends Babsi&Jan – sounds great and so it was 🙂 When they first told me to visit a Japanese/Peruvian restaurant in Barcelona I didn’t feel any need to go there. Sounds like a weird idea, but finally we all ended up in Pakta. Thanks god!

Pakta is a project by Ferran Adriá, mastermind of El Bulli. The story behind it’s cuisine is fascinating: Peru was the first country in Latin America to accept Japanese immigration. Immigrants brought also their cooking with them, but had to improvise when it came down to ingredients. The result was Nikkei kitchen – a blend of Peruvian and Japanese kitchen and food culture.

Pakta is a very plain restaurant, very minimalistic inside and outside. As often in Spain – even though you are in a high-end restaurant, it feels very modest and „normal“, a nice place for eating and chatting with friends. We were welcomed and brought to our places.

Pakta - Outside

Pakta – Outside

Pakta - Inside

Pakta – Inside

The offer two different menues, we went for the big one (logically called the „Machu-Picchu Menu“). The waitress told us the drill: The menue is a series of many, many small dishes, served in a certain rhythm. If you want to pause (e.g. for toilet) you should tell the personnel a bit in advance. Sounds weird, but worked quite well in fact. They have a wide variety of drinks, also some really nice sake-based cocktails and of course also special sake-pairings. Since none of us really loves sake from the bottom of his heart, we sticked to the excellent cocktails, which were a great pairing for the food.

We started the menu with a „Honzen Ryori“, a traditional way of serving Japanese food on a specially arranged platter.

Honzen Ryori

Honzen Ryori

The Honzen Ryori came with an amazing roll of toro (tuna belly) filled with spicy cream. Simple perfection here, the best tuna I’ve ever tasted. Then there was a very fresh razor clam with tamarind sauce and nori: extremely clean taste, with a nice balance of sweet and umami notes. The avocado tofu with yuzu and wasabi and some fish roe on top was beautiful, like a light, vegetal yogurt. The corn tuile was just ok (well….corn) but the cherry with kimchi was amazing. The chilled cherry exploded in your mouth and intensified the fruity and hot kimchi. Just great.

White asparagus with kimizu

White asparagus with kimizu

Up next we were served white asparagus with a special sauce. The dish reminded me a lot of the traditional asparagus with sauce hollandaise 🙂

Oyster with wasabi and iced apple

Oyster with wasabi and iced apple

A real star, since you hardly find so small Gillardeau oysters outside of France. Those were 4/5 – so really just one small bit. But just amazing, very concentrated and tender, extremely fresh with their characteristic nutty aftertaste. The iced apple was just too cold for me but added in combination with the wasabi a nice freshness to the relatively fat oysters.

Crispy yuca with huncaína sauce

Crispy yuca with huncaína sauce

Looks like fritters….and were fritters. Made of the palm tree they had a very nice texture (kind of like those peanut-snips). After all one my least favorite servings.

Mixed tiradito with "ají amarillo"

Mixed tiradito with „ají amarillo“

There we go. The nikkei cuisine has a very special and characteristic sauces: This dish came with „leche de tigre“. Raw sea bass, squid, razor clams and percebes/goose barnacles were served with this finger-licking good sauce. The fish was of AMAZING quality, I have never tasted so fresh and clean fish ever in my life. The sauce was great: fruity, spicy and very complex. Like a orange fruit of glass exploding on your palate. Not a single drop was left on the plate!

Nigiris

Nigiris

Nigiris! Yes! Flamed salmon, tuna and sea bass – all of them as good as a nigiri can be. Perfectly tempered rice, a well balanced portion of extremely fresh and tasty fish. My favorite was the salmon, since I really like the smoky aroma of the flaming in combination with the clean taste of salmon.

Nikkei Shimesaba

Nikkei Shimesaba

I love mackerel! This one was just perfectly marinated and cooked, in a green spicy green sauce made with chili, daikon and tomato. The spicyness was well balanced by the tomato on the side. A great dish, that actually tasted like it’s colors 🙂

Ceviche of "guanábana" fruit

Ceviche of „guanábana“ fruit

A Peruvian standard: Cevice. Supposedly the best Ceviche I will ever eat in my life and by the way a HUGE portion. Amazing raw seabass, perfectly marinated. Simple. And so delicious.

The Causas

The Causas

Under the title „causas“ (a famous style of Peruvian streetfood in various forms) we were served a squid maki causa with soy sauce and mentaiko, which was very nice: Very soft squid with nice salty and vegetal accents. The other one was a fried causa with chicken and huacatay, a fried chicken ball basically – very nice.

Fish "sanguchito" with "acevichada" mayonnaise

Fish „sanguchito“ with „acevichada“ mayonnaise

Outside of competition: This serving brought the idea of a sandwich to a whole new level. Seriously. Forget every fish sandwich you have ever eaten. This is the real deal. A crispy, waxy and incredibly render bun. Inside a small but extremely taste piece of fried fish. A mayonnaise that made love with your palate. And I think there was even salad. Wow. Just right.

Suckling pig gyoza

Suckling pig gyoza

What could come after this? Well, gyoza is a good competition. These were amazing, the dough was waxy as it should be with a rich filling of juicy, fatty suckling pig. And the sauce, usually the weakest point with gyoza….just great. Hot, fruity, yummy!

Nikkei soba tsuju

Nikkei soba tsuju

I love soba! These firm to the bite noodles are just great. The Japanese way to eat these by dipping them into soup or sauce is great. The surface of the noodles transports a lot of taste right to your taste buds. A perfect interpretation of this classic!

Warm ceviche with "rocoto"

Warm ceviche with „rocoto“

This warm ceviche with „rocoto“ orange color pepper was a nice variation to the cold ceviche before. The temperature alone made a significant difference in taste, though I liked the cold one better. But again, a dish with amazing product quality.

Grilled chicken "Anticucho"

Grilled chicken „Anticucho“

Up next was a more rustic dish, some skewers with grilled chicken and potatos. First of all the presentation was thrilling. The chicken itself was juicy, tasty, perfectly prepared and seasoned. The potato had the Peruvian sauce that came quite often during the menue. Although it appeared that much, you never got tired of it because the variation of the ground product made it always thrilling and interesting.

Fried rockfish with "escabeche" sauce

Fried rockfish with „escabeche“ sauce

I know something about fish. And this one was amazing, absolutely superior quality. The mullet was covered in panku and deep fried, of course perfectly to the point so that the meat was still juicy. It came with vegetables and sauce escabeche (vinegar, sage, black pepper). The green notes of the vegetables and sauce were a very nice counterpart to the sweet and fresh meat of the fish.

Duck liver nigiri

Duck liver nigiri

Until this point I thought, that I’ve seen it all. Then came this. One bite. A tiny one. But oh my god. A slice of lukewarm duck liver, coated with black pepper sauce. It was amazing, mouthfilling, with an eternal aftertaste of spicy, ducky fattiness. Paradise.

Deserts Honzen Ryori

Deserts Honzen Ryori

Deserts Honzen Ryori

Deserts Honzen Ryori

Back to earth 🙂 Back to the start with a Honzen Ryori of deserts. There were sweet patato „picarones“ with cinnamon honey (the doughnut), then a coconut pearl and a banana bonbon with umeshu gel (in the palm leaf). And of course the black sesame and yoghurt tree. Well, I’m not a big fan of Asian deserts. I liked the banana bonbon best, with it’s intense, mellow fruit taste.

Cocoa cona with lúmuma ice cream and coffee

Cocoa cona with lúmuma ice cream and coffee

Due to it’s earthy notes, this was a nice way of bringing your taste buds down again after so many interesting and complex flavors. Very straight, very nice.

Chicha candy

Chicha candy

And then, just before finish, a small candy to pick you up again. Citing a sweet Peruvian drink, this candy hit your taste buds with sweet/sour fruitiness.

Pakta Sweets

Pakta Sweets

As a last course they served some chocolate, the white one made with sakura and beautifully painted with Peruvian folklore art. A really nice last surprise, also in terms of sitting toghether, chatting and having some bits of chocolate.

I’m so happy that we’ve been to Pakta. It was an amazing experience. The staff was very relaxed, friendly, helpful and explained a lot about the food and the ingredients (in a charming version of Spanglish). All through the menue you could taste superior product quality, without any flaw. The presentation and preparation were very sophisticated, but still easily accessible. Great, one of the most beautiful restaurants I’ve ever been to. Including drinks and tip we paid 155€ per pax.

Enjoying Andreas Doellerer’s Cuisine Alpine

Salzburg is one of Austria’s most beautiful spots ever. Amazing nature, friendly people and interesting local culture are the ingredients of a splendid time in this great place. Of course there are great restaurants (like Obauer) around. One of most most renowned in the last years has be the Genießerrestaurant Doellerer.

The empire of Doellerer is situated right in the middle of Golling, a small village near Salzburg city. It actually is a real empire, since it deals with all channels of tourism: They own a hotel, a normal restaurant, a high end restaurant, a butcher’s shop and sell a lot of branded merchandise and souvenirs. Sounds odd, but is quite charming once you see it for yourself.

Outside

Outside

We went there for dinner. You immediately realize how the staff is dressed in traditional garb and very friendly. Entering through the lobby, on the left is the „normal“ restaurant (that serves amazing beef soup!) and to the right the backdoor of the butcher’s. The fine dining restaurant seemed to be a breakfast room for the hotel decades ago and is situated in the very back of the complex. It was renovated 2 years ago and persuades with a cool, yet comfy look.

Inside

Inside

Our table was somehow in the middle of the room, so we politely asked to change it – which was granted very friendly and easily. They offer 3 different menues, which have only slight differences and are named – as it is fashionable now – after their duration (e.g. big journey – 3.5h). I went for the 12 course degustation menue and after some informations on the wine pairing also for that. Our waitress was very friendly, although she already had been in the restaurant at midday when we had lunch. Respect for that!

Raw bluntau valley char, cigarillo of smoked trout, bread cream

Raw bluntau valley char, cigarillo of smoked trout, bread cream

First, the amuse bouches: A cigarillo with smoked trout mousse, a wonderful intense fishyness with the twist of the cracking strudel dough. Remarkable a small bowl of bread cream on cabbage with fried chicken skin on top. The bread cream provided an intense, malty sweetness that was balanced by the freshness of the cabbage. The chicken skin added some fatty crunch. Amazing how the parts played together in this small dish. The last amuse was a rice chip with some raw arctic char from the Bluntautal (a valley nearby). Nice waxy texture, clean taste and perfect temperature.

Bluntau valley char with nasturtium, pickled, braised and crispy, jelly and juice

Bluntau valley char with nasturtium, pickled, braised and crispy, jelly and juice

Another char – this time the local variation. The meat was very nice marinated with beautiful waxy texture and perfect temperature again. The jelly of pear and rhubarb was really fitting, adding some acidity to the composition. The peanuts (cream and whole nuts) were basically a good idea, though their intense nuttiness didn’t fit with the other rather subtle aromas. All in all a nice dish, that was paired with a 2010 Sauvignon Blanc by Domaine Stürgkh (Winkler Hermaden, Styria) – a wine with notes of cassia, yellow fruit and some astringency.

Bluntau valley arctic char, cucumber, miso cream, fermented garlic, tapioca crunch

Bluntau valley arctic char, cucumber, miso cream, fermented garlic, tapioca crunch

Char the third: The piece of fillet was fried on the skin and unfortunately a little bit dry. The fermented garlic and the miso cream contributed soft umami notes, the tapioka (sophisticated popcorn and fermented berries) was funny, but more an optical than a sensorical delight. It was accompanied by a fabulous aged Riesling Terassen 2002 by FX Pichler, that was the highlight of this course.

Goose liver with parsley, macadamia, duck fat "grammeln" and iced red currant

Goose liver with parsley, macadamia, duck fat „grammeln“ and iced red currant

Have I mentioned that I LOVE goose liver? This one was a nice praline of liver – I was very thrilled how it would work out with duck greaves. But to be honest, there wasn’t much happening – the fatty notes of the greaves and the liver somehow drowned each other. The macadamia and especially the iced red currant with it’s fruity acidity were an amazing partner though. Solid. The course was paired with a very interesting italian sweet wine, a Ramandolo 2007 by Il Ronca, that reminded me a lot of a nicely aged VinSanto.

Tauern rye bread and bacon butter

Tauern rye bread and bacon butter

Until here I was wondering why there was no bread. It turned out that the „side“ was promoted to a „main“ here. A cob of wonderful, freshly baked rye bread was brought to the table on a wooden platter. It came with whipped butter with bacon, some salted potatos and rye seeds. The bread was shere perfect, steaming hot and full of taste. A great idea to honor this wonderful product!

Pike perch in brown butter, horseraddish with bread ("semmelkren"), crispy cured tongue, lettuce

Pike perch in brown butter, horseraddish with bread („semmelkren“), crispy cured tongue, lettuce

Pikeperch is a wonderful fish, this one was wild catch from the Chiemsee: Amazing product quality, that you could taste. The fillet was perfectly prepared, though a little bit too salty. A shame that 4 scales found their way in our mouths…that’s poor cleaning for a restaurant of this league. The overall combination was kind of weird: The dish cited an austrian beef classic – tongue with horseraddish and spinach. The parts were excellent (especially the half breaded piece of tongue was WONDERFUL) – but the fish didn’t quite fit in. It came with a Capomartino 2010 from Friaul, a beautiful white.

Fennel with it's glacier hull

Fennel with it’s glacier hull

Baked fennel, glacier ice cream, rouge apple juice, sturgeon caviar from Walter Grüll

Baked fennel, glacier ice cream, rouge apple juice, sturgeon caviar from Walter Grüll

Not much alps until here. UNTIL here: A platter with a brown, sculpture-like form in the middle of grey sand. As the waitress explained, the sand was the abrasion of a growing glacier. Out of it they made a dough, in which a whole fennel was baked as presented on the platter. The abrasion is supposed to give the fennel some minerality and saltiness. So far for the presentation – then the actual dish was brought: A piece of this fennel with apple and sturgeon caviar (from the wonderful Walter Grüll), topped by „glacier ice“ – actually a sour cream ice. A quite sophisticated presentation! The fennel was very nice and perfectly prepared, with a slight touch of minerality and coal – hardly to realize but still present. It went very well along with the overwhelming taste of caviar. The ice added some cool freshness, although it melted quickly and left the rest of this exquisite dish in a strange rather tasteless liquid. All in all an amazing and entertaining dish! The sommelier paired it with a breathtaking Carillon Puligny Montrachet 2010 with wonderful minerality, fruit and length.

Charcoal-grilled fennel, "charcoal", beetroot and fermented leek juice

Charcoal-grilled fennel, „charcoal“, beetroot and fermented leek juice

Two hip trends in one dish: Fermenting AND burning stuff together on one platter 🙂 In my view two overrated trends…. Well, the leek was nice – with just the right amount of scorchedness. It was topped with a „charcoal“, a small crispy cruller colored with sepia ink. Nice to look at, but rather neutral in terms of taste. The combination with beetroot didn’t work out for me. I mean, I get the idea – balancing the burnt notes, the fermented umami notes with some vegetal sweetness. But it just didn’t taste right for me. What made it even worse was the pairing with a Loacker (yeah, the guy with the cookies) Gewürztraminer. The wine’s aromatic sweetness doubled with the beetroot and got into a serious fight with all the rest, leaving with a terrible astringency. Not nice.

Farm chicken, asparagus, peas, crispy rice, grilled vegetable broth

Farm chicken, asparagus, peas, crispy rice, grilled vegetable broth

A very pleasant chicken dish – flawlessly prepared and very juicy. I liked the combination of asparagus, morels and peas. The intense vegetable stock was a perfect combination – yes! As wine pairing they served a very well balanced Morillon (chardonny) Schusterberg 2007 by winery Maitz in Styria.

Lamb saddle with broccoli, smoked bernaise and buddha's hand lemon

Lamb saddle with broccoli, smoked bernaise and buddha’s hand lemon

Then, after a long long break, we were served this nice piece of lamb. The meat was surprisingly firm to the bite, yet juicy and tender. It was topped by an amazing fat crust – a real tastebomb. They used the stem of broccoli as a side, quite fitting with the interesting texture of the meat. The broth and the bernaise were nice additions, as well as the cest of buddha’s hand lemon that was rasped over it. This great and balanced dish was paired with a 2005 Passopisciaro from Sicily, an extraordinary wine with both cool fruitiness and fresh acidity.

Aged cheese by Ignatz Feuerstein, carrot, pistacchio, anise

Aged cheese by Ignatz Feuerstein, carrot, pistacchio, anise

Up next a very interesting variation of the traditional cheese platter. I liked the idea of creating a seperate dish from cheese very much. It brought together three things meant to be together: cheese, nut and something sweet. The cheese was aged „Bergkäse“ (mountain cheese) and it went perfectly with the nutty notes of pistacchio (sponge and chopped) and the sweetness of the carrot (cream, sliced). Some fresh anise brought green notes into play – very nice. The cheese came with a German Riesling, a 2012 VanVolxem Rotschiefer, that supported the intense taste of the dish perfectly with its minerality and sweet-sour balance.

Cream of goat cheese, rhubarb, sorrel

Cream of goat cheese, rhubarb, sorrel

As a small pre-dessert we had a very refreshing cream of goat cheese, that actually tasted more like strained yoghurt, topped with braised rhubarb and a granite of sorrel and coriander. Good stuff!

Childhood memories 1: semolina porridge, apple, cinnamon, caramel

Childhood memories 1: semolina porridge, apple, cinnamon, caramel

The main dessert cited a dish, often served to children in Austria – „Grieskoch“, a semolina porridge. It was perfectly prepared with just the right consistency. A huge portion, but it was so finger-licking good that we finished it. It was paired with apple, cinnamon and caramel and some citrus fruit in different textures, that made the heavy porridge a bit lighter. An absolutely wonderful dessert 🙂 The wine pairing was a Johanneshof Rheinisch Roter Veltliner Auslese, not too sweet with present acidity and buffering the intense notes of the dessert quite well.

By this time it had become after midnight – more than 4.5 hours had passed (so much fo the menue’s name). The room was almost empty, the waiters seemingly tired but our dinner just had finished. One girl came over and more or less openly asked us to take our coffee at the bar. For me this was a bit blunt, but understandable. However, we just wanted to sleep too – so we asked for the sweets and the bill.

Sweet hiking farewell

Sweet hiking farewell

The „hiking farewell“ was presented very beautifully, I especially liked the look of the rocks. We ate the fries, which tasted quite weird – not sweet, not salty – and came with an even stranger version of ketchup and mayonaise. The pralinés and the chocolate rocks were packed for us and we enjoyed them at home the day after.

During the evening our service was ok – the waiters were very attentive, though they couldn’t reply to some questions concerning the ingredients and also didn’t bother to get the information elsewhere. The maître was an excellent sommelier, trying to present the wine pairing to every table himself and giving a lot of background detail about the wines. Funny though, that he always poured half a glass while the other waiters poured a full one 🙂

I would say that Doellerer is absolutely worth visiting. Andreas Doellerer has a distinct handwriting in his dishes, concentrating on excellent local products and preparing them in a both unusual and recent way. The wine pairing is highly interesting and presents a lot of aged vintages and international names. We payed for this wonderful experience 410 Euros for 2 pax (12 courses/8 courses + wine pairing).