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…

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…

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).

Restaurant Vincent Mark II: Same restaurant, new cook

Among Vienna’s fine dining scene, the Restaurant Vincent is one of the silent stars. The place exists for decades now and reflects nicely the evolution from a student’s restaurant to a high-class etablissement. Now patron Frank Gruber has hired a new cook – reason enough to go there again!

I’ve been to Vincent many times now, while young chef Peter Zintner was cooking there (see also this post). Zintner always played with experimental kitchen, audacious combinations and molecular elements. This was really fun – it often worked great but sometimes also not so great. Zintner changed direction, starting to cook at „Motto am Schiff“ and so a new cook was needed. Patron Frank Gruber hired one of Vienna’s enfant terribles, Peter Mayer, a cook who has changed workplaces a lot during the last years. Mayer is known for his temper, but also for his devotion to quality and great products. A cook, who has served his apprenticeship and presents elaborate dishes.

Some things have not changed at Vincent though, namely the friendly and very Viennese service by Frank Gruber and maitre Mario Raaber. Also the slightly chilly blonde waitress is still there 🙂

Inside: Still the same charming/weird/strange/funny interior

Inside: Still the same charming/weird/strange/funny interior

The inside is the same too, though I liked the pictues a bit more this time. And of course, the best-of-musical CD again 🙂 As covert they had some bread (nothing special) and butter (ok).

Cured zander, wasabi mayonnaise, citron

Cured zander, wasabi mayonnaise, citron

The amuse bouche was amazing, very distinct from Zintner’s molecular playground. A clearly arranged plate, with focus on the main ingredient. I liked the cured zander very much, it had the texture of glibbery bacon and a fatty, intense taste. Very clean, slightly fishy with distinct smoke notes and a hint of pepper. Great product! It came with a piece of citron that added a nice freshness. The wasabi mayonnaise was not necessary. For drinks, Mr. Raaber got us come champagne by Gimmonet, dry as a bone and very aromatic.

Ceviche of scottish salmon, turnips, salmon soup

Ceviche of scottish salmon, turnips, salmon soup

First course: This was presented as wild salmon, but given my expertise in fish, this was rather farmed one (due to meat structure and fat). Still – the quality was outstanding. For a ceviche the slices were quite thick, but this was actually nice since the salmon was rather raw. It was at the perfect temperature and literally melted on my tongue, setting free a pure and beautiful salmon aroma supported by a hint of lemon and wasabi. The turnips added a nice vegetal component and with their crunchiness also a good texture contrast. A highlight was the soup though, perfectly thick, mellow and nicely balanced. With this we had a Grüner Veltliner Federspiel by winery Sigl, with nice tobacco and flower notes.

Chestnut soup with black-pudding-ravioli

Chestnut soup with black-pudding-ravioli

Soup again 🙂 A beautiful chestnut soup was presented, with some black-pudding ravioli. Since I don’t eat black pudding (a religious thing), those were taken out. The soup was amazing, I love to cook chestnut soup myself – but this was even better than my own, very soft and creamy texture with nice notes of nutmeg, maybe a little cinnamon or clove. It was paired with a great Riesling Smaragd Kellerberg by the young winery Harm, that was quite massive with a lot of tropical notes – amazing.

Fillet of veal (from Upper Austria), semolina, purple haze carrot, broccoli, salad burnet

Fillet of veal (from Upper Austria), semolina, purple haze carrot, broccoli, salad burnet

The main course was maybe the best piece of veal, I’ve ever eaten. Again, very reduced to some main ingredients, very clear setting on the plate – very convincing. Intense, juicy meat – perfectly medium (low temp/sous vide) but not at all boring. It came with a semolina soufflé (OK) and some vegetables. The meat was paired with a perfect sauce – not this endlessly reduced juicy stuff, but the real deal: light, savory with a lot of taste. It had just the right balance between bitter, salty and sweet notes. The salad burnet was a rather unusual vegetable, with it’s intense green and bitterish taste it gave a nice variation. This course came with a 2008 Commodor red cuvee by Nittnaus, a very elegant and perfectly matured wine.

Curd and kumquat

Curd and kumquat

For pre-dessert, they had a light and fruity creation. Not really complicated, not really astonishing – but a nice intermezzo. The curd was solid, topped with a fruity and sweet gelée. The kumquat with it’s fruity bitterness was excellent though.

Tarte of Valrhona chocolate

Tarte of Valrhona chocolate

The actual dessert was a nice piece of Patisserie. A tarte with a semi-solid filling of Valrhona chocolate, topped by some fruits and white chocolate cream. A flawless classic, that tasted finger-licking good. It was paired with a PX sherry, in my view not the perfect match (port would have been better with this). But we also got one glass of 2006 Chardonnay Ruster Ausbruch Essenz by Feiler-Artinger – a flawless Sauternes from my home-province Burgenland.

Petit fours

Petit fours

As a small aftermath, we got some petit fours – especially the white one with white chocolate and orange filling was AMAZING.

All in all, it was another great evening at Restaurant Vincent – we spent a great time there, with great food. The new kitchen line is definetely worth visiting the place, as is the nice service. In total we paid 180€ (2 persons, including covert and wine pairing).

Denmark is a cute country #2: Pølser and Smørebrød

Beside the famous „nordic cuisine“ a lot of Danish classics wait for you in Oslo. Two real to-eats are pølser and smørebrød – and there are amazing places for doing it!

A pølser is basically nothing else than a hot-dog. Though the sausages are prepared in a different way than here in Austria (in Denmark they are firmer and more seasoned), the experience is similar. Specific for pølser is the heavy use of pickled cucumber 🙂 We went to a place called døp – a small caravan, that sells pølser with 100% organic ingredients. It is located right in the center of Copenhagen and definetely worth a visit (or two, or three,….).

døp

døp – J&B (our friends to the right), evidently couldn’t wait to eat…

They offer a variety of different sausages (beef/pork/cheese/goat/chicken/veg), home made dressings and serve them in many styles (as hot dog, seperate with roots and bread). This one is a „ristet hotdog“ – a roasted hot dog:

Most amazing hot dog ever!

Most amazing hot dog ever!

Doesn’t look like much on the picture, but it was incredible. Fantastic quality, full of taste – just a great snack. The bread was crunchy with beautiful crust and texture, the sausage VERY tasty. The real star were the trimmings though: Fresh fried onions (crunchy, explosive onion bits) and home-pickled cucumbers with a great vegetal-sweet-sour taste. Amazing, you get an idea how much you can make of „ordinary“ food, using good ingredients! And all this for 4.5€ (which is relatively cheap for DK…). It was so good, that we even went there after Noma to fill our stomachs 🙂

As a reference, we went to another quite popular shop – Andersen Bakery right next to Tivoli. They serve a rather conventional hot dog, supposedly the kind you will get when you go for hot dogs anywhere in Copenhagen.

Hot dog at Andersen Bakery

Hot dog at Andersen Bakery

You can see, the bread is white and more similar to a conventional fast-food bun. The sausage was good, but not as tasty as the above at døp, same for the trimmings.

Another experience you should make when visiting Copenhagen is eating smørebrød (which basically means bread’n butter). OK…the idea of putting stuff onto a slice of bread with butter is not that innovative. Given that, those Danish do a great job in preparing their breads. A great place to enjoy the art of sandwich is Aamanns:

Smørebrød at Aamanns

Smørebrød at Aamanns

The bread is a thin slice of dark rye bread, with a layer of butter, topped with beautifully arranged ingredients.

Smørebrød at Aamanns

Smørebrød at Aamanns

Those were the my favorites: roastbeef, beef tartar, blue cheese.

Yumm!

Yumm!

Well, to fill your stomach this is a rather expensive way (one bread is about 7.5€). But as a snack it is just perfect – as much for the eye, as for the tongue. They also serve an interesting variety of juices, wine and beer. I went for the Refsvindinge AZ Ale No.16, not the best beer I’ve ever had but surely an interesting variety to the ubiquitous Carlsberg.

All in all: beautiful experiences in a fascinating city! Last but not least thanks to my travel companions Babsi and Jan and of course to my hosts and friends from Copenhagen, Bjørn and Sidsel!

Denmark is a cute country #1: Ants and juice at NOMA

Behold! This will be the hugest post, this site has ever seen. And that’s good – because I was in Denmark and visited René Redzepi’s amazing restaurant Noma. Yes, the one that has been number one of the San Pellegrino list for years.

Denmark is a cute country: Everything is small, colorful and there seems to be a lot of marauding designers, who style every aspect of Danish life from A to Z. A country with style, so to say. As I landed in Copenhagen this time, there was a strike and the whole airport and train station smelled like vomit, which was not so well designed after all, but anyway. The reason for our visit (together with the lady and our great friends B&J) was NOMA !

After a thrilling reservation morning somewhere in June, we got a table for the beginning of September. We were very thrilled to see, if and how the concept of Nordic cuisine works out. And – even more – if it is tasty, of course 🙂

Noma is situated in Copenhagen’s harbor, in an area similar to the Speicherstadt in Hamburg. The area is still a building site, but I think it will be quite cool when it’s finished.

Outside

Outside

We were warmly welcomed (in perfect english), our coats and bags were taken. First impression: Very professional, very friendly – they even greeted out of the open kitchen. The interior is very open and light, the wooden ceiling and the fur on the seats (to warm the ladie’s back) give a nice „viking“ touch.

Inside

Inside

There is only one fixed menue, so it is not very hard to decide 🙂 They also asked for any food restrictions or dietary laws and are able to adapt to that. They offer wine pairings, which are due to import and taxes VERY expansive (and include a lot of well-known Austrian wines). We went for the juice pairing, which turned out to be extraordinary.

The waiters were very friendly and casual, they also had a girl from Austria 🙂 The food is sometimes served and explained by the cooks themselves, sometimes by the waiters. Sometimes these explanations were a bit too quick, sometimes their english was „interesting“ or it was too loud in the room to understand properly. But you can ask again, which was no problem at all. The menue has approx. 20 servings.

Many of them (11 in our case) are served as appetizers or snacks in the beginning. They serve them very quickly, so that you have sometimes 3 or 4 dishes on the table. As it seems, they do it on purpose – still it was a bit stressy in my view.

Here are the starters:

Nordic Olive (iced gooseberry, elderberryoil and lavender)

Nordic Olive (iced gooseberry, elderberryoil and lavender)

Nordic coconut (kohlrabi, inside kohlrabi juice, fennel straw, fresh herbs)

Nordic coconut (kohlrabi, inside kohlrabi juice, fennel straw, fresh herbs)

Both amazing – the gooseberry was cold, intense and fruity. Just perfect to open the senses for the things to come. In combination with the oil inside and the lavender it was very full on the tongue. the kohlrabi was for sure the best kohlrabi I will ever eat. With a thick, beautiful kohlrabi juice inside and the smell of the fennel straw it was very refreshing. The fresh herbs gave a green kick and added some spicyness to the dish.

The starters were paired with a juice of green apple, lemon thyme, lemon verbeine and clove. Sour and herbal, quite intense – but not so to my taste to be honest.

Peas, camomille, pine

Peas, camomille, pine

Pea flower, fresh hazelnuts and berries

Pea flower, fresh hazelnuts and berries

Two variations of peas: The fresh peas had on the bottom a cream of camomille. Together with the pine they tasted amazing – like a distant memory of a wood at the beginning of fall. It doesn’t look like it but there is a lot of work in this dish: The peas are taken out by hand, then the inner layer of the pod is removed and cleaned – that’s A LOT of work (we saw two poor guys doing it in the kitchen later…). The berries fitted great with the fresh almonds (wow!) and the pea flowers (so great, a tender idea of pea). Simple but great!

Spheres of black currant juice, inside pollen cream, outside pickled rose leaves

Spheres of black currant juice, inside pollen cream, outside pickled rose leaves

Moss (not Kate, the thing from the woods...), mushroom powder, crème fraiche

Moss (not Kate, the thing from the woods…), mushroom powder, crème fraiche

The spheres were a lot like pralinés and literally exploded in my mouth. Great taste, very flowerish – beautifully balanced between sweet and sour. The moss on the other hand was crunchy and fluffy, with an earthy note.

Pickled and smoked quail eggs

Pickled and smoked quail eggs

Savory cookie with goat cheese, stems of crocus and coriander

Savory cookie with goat cheese, stems of crocus and coriander

Grilled rye bread, lemon thyme and brown butter, grilled roses

Grilled rye bread, lemon thyme and brown butter, grilled roses

The quail eggs were just amazing – one of my favorites among the starters. Beside they beautiful color they had a great consistency, easy to hold in your hand but you felt they were about to burst every second. On the tongue they first felt firm and the exploded like a great chocolate praliné. Amazing egg taste with nice smoky notes. The cookie looked like a pimped host..actually the only starter I didn’t like since the crocus and coriander stems tasted very green and bitter. The grilled bread was a surprise, very pleasant taste – the burnt notes of the bread went great with the rose aroma.

Grilled leeks with crazy inside stuff

Grilled leeks with crazy inside stuff

Eble skiewer (no apples, but greens, parsley on top and inside)

Eble skiewer (no apples, but greens, parsley on top and inside)

The last two starters were also my favorites: The grilled leeks were SIMPLY AMAZING. The inside was very tender, with a savory cream at the bottom that gave the leek a lot of body. The balls were just great, I could have eaten a whole pan of them – crunchy on the outside, tender and fluffy on the inside with beautiful greens, that tasted soooo fresh. An amazing beginning!

Then we started with the main courses. First we were served bread and butter:

Bread, virgin butter (butter milk inside) and lard with onion and pig skin on top

Bread, virgin butter (butter milk inside) and lard with onion and pig skin on top

There is only one choice of bread, which is very nice though and freshly made two times a day with flour from Sweden. It is served still warm from the oven and went perfectly with the very light butter. The lard was great, but maybe a bit too heavy for the dishes served (all vegetables). They brought new bread whenever we were finished (and we ate a lot of bread…). So off we go with the first main course:

Everything that's in season (butter milk and parsley-oil-soup, berries, fennel, camomile)

Everything that’s in season (butter milk and parsley-oil-soup, berries, fennel, camomile)

This was the only dish I actually didn’t like, because for me it lacked composition: The concept was to serve basically everything that’s in season. The outcome was a thin soup with sweet, sour and vegetal elements in it. The ingredients were first class, but they didn’t play together. It was paired with a celeriac-seaweed juice, which was not so my thing too.

Raviolo of raw sweet water shrimps, soup of rhubarb and yeast

Raviolo of raw sweet water shrimps, soup of rhubarb and yeast

The second main was great again. These „raviolos“ were made of a bitterish leave, that had some raw Skagen shrimps inside. The shrimps were AMAZING – very fresh and clean taste, perfect temperature, with a consistency of glassy gelee. The soup was intense with a vegetal-sour touch from the rhubarb and a nice contrast to the heavenly light shrimps. Here the seaweed juice fitted much better.

Grilled onions, danish (!) ants, fermented pear

Grilled onions, danish (!) ants, fermented pear

„Ants are the lemon of the north“ – so we were told later on. Here we were presented lightly charred onions that were seasoned with ants (you actually could see only their legs). The ants gave the onions a very sour accent, the fermented pear a distant fruity note. It was paired with a apple and pine juice that tasted like a liquid honey from the woods. This bosky sweetness was a great addition to the vegetal and rather sour notes of the dish.

Dried and grilled beetroot, salted plum, gooseberry, fennel brew

Dried and grilled beetroot, salted plum, gooseberry, fennel brew

A very sophisticated dish: The beetroots were grilled for 3 hours and turned every 10 minutes until they were leathery on the outside and immensely juicy on the inside. It was amazing – biting into them was like getting the idea of all beetroots in this world on your tongue. Amazing! Toghether with the fennel brew and the fruits it was even better, having salty and green notes in the dish too. This one was paired with a rhubarb juice that added a certain freshness to the dish.

Cauliflower fried with pine in butter, whey with pine oil, cream with horseraddish

Cauliflower fried with pine in butter, whey with pine oil, cream with horseraddish

One of my absolute favorites: The cauliflower was perfectly fried and had an intense taste, having a distant memory to a day in the woods. The cream added some freshness. But the real star here was the juice pairing: Butter milk with toasted almond brought out the best in the cauliflower. It intensified and completed the taste so much – just amazing.

Bleak roe, oil of roasted seaweed, egg yolk potatoes glaced with a paste of fermented barley

Bleak roe, oil of roasted seaweed, egg yolk potatos glaced with a paste of fermented barley

That one was not so my thing: The potatoes were really (!!) hard and placed in a lot of oil. The roe was good and harmonized nicely with the seaweed oil – but together they were extremely fat. The combination made sense but the texture contrast between oil-roe-potato was too extreme for my taste. Also the pairing with cucumber and yoghurt whey was not so my thing.

Turbot, chicken of the wood mushrooms, turnip, grilled leek, herbs

Turbot, chicken of the wood mushrooms, turnip, grilled leek, herbs

The last main course was nice: Like a turbot who got lost in a wood… The fish was perfectly prepared, the subtle and green aromas of the greens was a beautiful addition to the clean taste of the meat. The mushrooms gave some earthy and intense notes. Altogether a great dish. It came with a juice of herbs from the woods and anise, that intensified the green notes nicely.

Well, well, well – after 7 main courses and 1 whole bread per person we were still hungry and craved for the desserts. That’s a bit the downside in this minimalistic and product-oriented, seasonal kitchen: It’s VERY low carb. If you don’t go for bread, you will leave hungry. On the other hand it’s nice not to roll out of the restaurant after such an extensive meal. However – tataaaa, here come the sweets:

Ice cream sandwich (black currant iced/fermented/cooked/compote, pine, green juniper ice cream

Ice cream sandwich (black currant iced/fermented/cooked/compote, pine, green juniper ice cream

Sorrel leaves with ant paste in between

Sorrel leaves with ant paste in between

This was served by the patissière who made it and gave us a tour afterwards. Amazing presentation, very sophisticated production and really fun to eat. The „sandwich“ was soooo cold and very tasty, fresh berries in many forms. And there again: ANTS. Between the sorrel leaves was a cream of ants, the bitter/sour sidekick was a nice addition to the sandwich. This dessert was paired with an amazing broth of quince which tasted like diving right into a qunice. As they explained to us later, it takes one cook 35 minutes to make a batch of this broth for 1 day, since it has to be cooked very light and then blended with a huge number of ingredients – a lot of work, but the outcome is really worth it. It’s just amazing how you wouldn’t guess, how much work goes into every single detail of the menue.

Mashed potatoes (sweetend with their skins), mousse of plum pip, plum puree

Mashed potatoes (sweetend with their skins), mousse of plum pip, plum puree

REAL ART: This doesn’t look like much, but was shere perfection. I still remember the taste and texture on my tongue, when I close my eyes. You went with your spoon right through it, picking up from all of the three purees. Perfect. The potatoe mash was sweet and thick, the mousse of plum pips tasted a lot like marzipan and the plum puree was intense and mellow. Did I say it was perfect ? Yes. Later in the kitchen we saw the poor guy who extracted the small seeds from the plum pips. He has to crush the pips gently with a hammer and to pick out the little white seeds then. 100g of them is just enough for 1 day. Crazy effort…

Iced malt caramel, yoghurt with jam, salt with elderflower

Iced malt caramel, yoghurt with jam, salt with elderflower

Danish (seaweed, barley glace)

Danish (seaweed, barley glace)

This was tasty AND fun! The iced caramel bread was like frozen toffee and with the jam/yoghurt on top and some salt – just perfect. And quite refreshing. Then a classic danish pastry with a certain twist was served: It had seaweed inside (didn’t come through much) and a barley glace…nice.

Fried pig skin with chocolate and fruits

Fried pig skin with chocolate and fruits

And there it is, the light conclusion of an extensive meal: Fried pig skin 🙂 In this case with chocolate and fruits. Tasted funny, salty and sweet and fruity – a bit too much for me though.

It is very likeable that they try to give everybody a tour of the kitchen. We didn’t expect much of it to be honest – but we were really surprised. The patissière Andrea who made the ice-cream sandwiches gave us a tour of 40 minutes (!), explaining a lot about the ingredients, the preparation and showing us EVERY single kitchen they got. This was amazing and looking back it makes up a great deal of my Noma-experience to have had this tour. It also helps to understand what’s behind meals, that look simple – how much effort and thinking.

Service kitchen

Service kitchen

Above is the service kitchen, where 15-20 people work. Upstairs they got another kitchen, which also prepares the food for the private dining room with 25 people working there. They got people from 22 nations, among the staff are also 8 gardeners cultivating and collecting plants. They also got a seperate kitchen for experimenting, where they try new recipies and ideas. Before a dish comes actually into the restaurant’s menue, they try it approx. 70 times to refine it and to check the logistics. The staff also does projects on Saturdays, where every cook and employee brings his/her ideas for recipies and presents it to the team. So they always look for new ideas. In the experimental kitchen we also met Mr. Redzepi, who was so nice to take a photo with us:

Mr. Redzepi and us

Mr. Redzepi and us

Wow…what shall I say: NOMA is AN EXPERIENCE. If you have the possibility to visit the place, go for it. It’s absolutely amazing. The dishes are very sophisticated, most of them are rather silent and work with complex combinations of aromas. Some may not work out for you/me. They take regional and seasonal extremely serious: That meant no meat for us, a lot of green vegetables – and of course ants instead of lemons. We left full of enthousiasm, but still with a little room for some pølse (stay tuned for this one). We spent 5 hours at noma, enjoying every single minute. For a visit you should calculate 200€ for the food, 50€ for the juice pairing (once again: this was better than any wine pairing, I’ve ever had) and an optional 10-15€ for water, coffee or tea per person.