L’ Annexe, Luxembourg – 29 October 2010

L’ Annexe is probably the single restaurant I have visited most in my life – despite the fact that it has only been open for 3 years. And an instant success it has been. As I mentioned before it is probably the best price/quality restaurant in Luxembourg, and out of my hundreds of visits here for lunch or dinner, private or business I have only been disappointed once or twice.

On this Friday evening the Restaurant was (once again) fully booked. We had reserved our “Stammtisch” with good friends, a tradition we have developed this year. Its a good way to finish the week, seeing them, enjoying the happy hour, and not the least – good food. Starting off with a Leffe Blonde, my favourite “almost local” beer. Probably the best beer in the world, sorry Carlsberg.

On this night we drank local Pinot Gris from Ahn and a beautiful 2005 Cornas.

Scallops to share and porc chops for the men, and a tomato/goat cheese crumble for the women.

Scalllops (the portion was halfed, this being half a portion !)

Tomato and Goat Cheese Crumble

Porc chop with peas and sauce au morilles

Now to call the above a porc chop would be the understatement of the year. It was more like “Half a porc”. But it was cooked to perfection, tender. The peas and bacon lovely, the morilles sauce very tasty – and almost to powerful for the Cornas.

Mind you this is Brasserie food and service, we never felt left alone in the corner. And as one of the few restaurants in town, the staff is so children friendly, even on busy nights. And we thank you for that guys. That means a lot for stressed out parents. The food tasted just as good as the pictures indicate.

I can only again suggest anybody who has not tried it. Book now. And say hi to Jerome from “Foodwinerocknroll”, who knows – he might let an extra glass flow, either your way or my way. Maybe Im beeing a bit generous with my rating, but please understand – when you have good food, it does not need to be *** michelin. And add the sober presentation and wonderfull staff, this Brasserie is simply unbeatable in Luxembourg.

My rating for this visit: Food 7.5p (10), service 4.5p (5), ambience 4p (5), total score for this visit  16p (20)

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Clairefontaine, Luxembourg – 29 October 2010

One of my longest periods of absence….I think 100 days or so from my favourite local restaurant….too long in my opinion.

But it was great to be back. Arnaud and Edwige used the summer vacation to give the restaurant an “up-date” interiour wise, the first since they took over the restaurant many years ago. The old ambience was classic and a bit old fashioned, I loved it. So a bit frighthened I felt, entering the room. I hate changes.

The new style, is lighter, more red, more modern. However with respect to the history of the room. With one or two minor objections, I think they have generally speaking succeeded in transforming the place into a more contemporary style.

Good to see old friends in the service, having the usual VIP treatment, blind tastings etc….It felt good to be back.

Amuses, food and sweets were brilliant, usual high standard.

Heres a few impressions…

Fois gras brick...brilliant !

Amuse....

Scallops....

The missus finished the plate…..(!) so it must have been very very nice. It sure looked brilliant.

Venison....

My own selection of cheeses, all very very good.

Cheese is nice.

So was the lunch in general. Usual high standard (which is top notch for Luxembourg)….I hope and promise – it will not be 100 days again before Im back. Thanks for having us and congratulations on your “new” restaurant.

My rating for this visit: Food 8.5p (10), service 5p (5), ambience 4,5p (5), total score for this visit  18p (20)

Le Sud, Clausen, Luxembourg – 23 October 2010

I keep coming back to this one. Not because its outstanding in any way. But I like the mediterranean style, and the fact that most dishes I can reproduce in some fashion. They are not heavy on details, but heavy on a nice Provence feeling, olive oil, tomatos, truffles.

The huge room almost gives a ballroom feeling.

The chef Christophe Petra, (still holds on to his one michelin star) greeted us warmly as did the rest of the staff. Even the sommelier came over better than on previous visits. The wine list is still heavily over-priced. But they kept the menu price since they opened a few years ago – 69 eur. And for this price you get  3 rounds of amuses, 3 fixed small starters, a main course where you may choose from 4-5 dishes, a huge cheese trolley and finally a dessert variety served on a tray at your table and completed with sorbets and caramels, complementary sweet wine or champagne. This menu is presented by Christophe Petra himself, he is a very impressive figure, big man, big smile and he seems to really enjoy this presentation. Afterwards, you will see him standing like a director of a choir or like Lord Nelson, directing a battle.

Christophe Petra at work - checking both kitchen and the tables..

I love this style and the open kitchen lifted from floor level, gives one the impression that everyone in the kitchen knows what they are doing. Maybe they are. We asked for a 2007 Vosne Romanee from Michel Gros to join us through the evening. And it did so very nicely. Showtime…..

After the first amuse of 2 glasses (truffle and potato) came this beauty

Roasted baguette with truffles and sea salt, fantastic. Heavy on olive oil, followed by another truffle dish, a truffle mocca.

Very tasty, very good companion to the autumn rain and cold that comes with Mid-October around here. Inside the “mocca” there was small scallops, I do not know the correct term for these, fingernail sized scallops.

First dish of the menu

I loved the presentation – perfectly cooked scallop with a small reduction of yellow, red and green peppers on top spring onion and choriander. Lovely. The pure and simple arrangement is what I meant in my opening lines, – this is not more fancy than I can try and reproduce it on a good day, and thus Le Sud is very good for inspiration.

This one was a beauty on the plate but unfortunately the taste was very flat. The mushrooms could have used some kind of pepping up…the red tapenade (?) too bitter, and the quail egg on top overcooked. We did not finish it, and this was noted by the young waiter – who could have justen taken it away. But we explained that it was simply not as interesting as the other dishes and therefore we chose to pass.

This one was sesame coated shrimps on a very firm and creamy risotto. Not my best risotto ever – by far not, but the dish worked somehow, the crispy coating of the shrimps with the tender flesh and creamy risotto.

Again a very “sunny” dish, the Tuna being presented as medi-cuit, was still a bit too cooked for our taste, and therefore this plate was not finished either. I had the rack of lamb, which was average, but a bit spoiled by a fibre that ran through half of the meat. So I left that on the plate, and again this was correctly noted and excused, this time by the Maitre, who afterwards presented the dish to one of the chefs in the kitchen, but nothing further was done. But I like when you get a feeling of being taking seriously even when it is minor flaws.

After this the cheese trolley came, I opted for 3 small pieces, 2 choices by me and 1 suggestion from the maitre. All very nice.

On prior visits a HUGE cake and dessert trolley would now have entered the room, but as mentioned above this has now been replaced by a more simple and more manageable serving on the table.

Conclusion:

The amuses all top, the starters mostly very good, small set-back on the main dishes, nice cheese and sweets. I still like the unpretentious style of the food. For me the highlights were the amuses, the starters and the cheese. The service was better than on previous visits. Still there is room for improvements and correctly cooked tuna, flawless meat would have given a figure more in my judgement. I had to serve myself the wine on one occasion, but hey – I am a big guy and can take care of myself – I will not hold that against the service, but instead be happy that comments and critic were directy delivered to the kitchen and note that the overall quality of the service seems to have improved.

My rating for this visit: Food 7p (10), service 4p (5), ambience 4p (5), total score for this visit  15p (20)

Still worth a visit – I shall be back Mr. Petra, thanks for having us.

http://www.le-sud.lu/

Restaurant Vendome, Schloss Bensberg, Bergisch-Gladbach, Germany – October 2010

 

The impressive 5 star Hotel Schloss Bensberg

 

This is the view that greets you – when you drive up the hill to the beautiful 5 star hotel, Schloss Bensberg. Looking down the hill you can see the skyline of Cologne, a good 20 kilometers away.

The service is as you would expect in a 5 star hotel, the entrance impressive. The hotel holds some 125 rooms, spa facilities – and several bars and restaurants among others the reason for my visit – Restaurant Vendome – 3 star michelin 19,5 point Gault Millau – and is voted top restaurant in Germany by the magazine Feinschmecker and number 22 on the “The worlds best 50 restaurants” by San Pellegrino – you know the one that now holds Noma at number 1.

The rooms are very nice and modern, even the standard rooms a good 35 sqm. I booked via http://www.hrs.de and thus had the breakfast included, which would have come at 28 eur, including all the standard choices of a great breakfast buffet plus individually prepared egg dishes.

 

The fountain in front of the hotel, looking down towards the gate.

 

 

One of the corners of the big square, October showing its pretty face

 

I shall not give each dish a rating this time….there were simply too many and too many details to even try to remember. But the room is quiet and beautiful. Good distance between the tables – maximum capacity around 40 people. The restaurant was only a third full this evening (!). My friend and I opted for the big Discovery Menu (they come in 3 sizes) – which includes some 20 dishes plus amuses and chocolates.

This single rose made out for the deco on the table, with the menu for the evening presented, it put the bar high for a great evening. To drink we chose a German Mosel Riesling, A German Pinot Noir from Franken – Fürst (The best according to the sommelier who changed my choice – nicely)…and a red Vieux Telegraph. All wines being stunning and taken from a HUGE list (book) of possibilities.

 

Beauty simplified

 

 

Greetings from the kitchen

 

These amuses were great, a pure 10p and not too big or many. The eel just exploded in the mouth. The bar was still high and later we both agreed that this was actually one of the highlights of the evening. Bread was offered from a large tray throughout the meal, very good quality.

 

Deciduous Forest - Vegetable brittle, Joghurt - Dips

 

I have used the English translations as offered on the Menu, the german saying “Blätterwald”…A funny starter and not more than that. You could taste the idea, each leave having a different “taste/origen” and the corresponding cheese/joghurt dip all different and all matching.

 

Goose Liver - grilled Amond Milk Cream, Chantarelles

 

Again the number of details on the plate was enormous…beautiful dish, and very very tasteful. My friend noted a little bitterness towards the end in your palette, something I have tried before with Fois Gras, but whether its intentional or not I cannot say. This came with a piece of roasted Brioche (as it should)…10p in my book.

 

Sweet Water - Bodensee Cisco, Chicken Broth

 

This dish as many of the following dishes was served with two sauces poured on the dish at the table, one being the “chicken broth” and the other olive oil (I Think)..Now this might be a good idea for one dish, but when you have seen it 5-6 times in the same menu, you wonder why this is not done in the kitchen….but maybe the sauces stays warmer like this, I mean apart from the show effect there must be a reason….coming to think of it, it could also be to give the guest a glimpse of the dish in two ways. If you read this Mr. Joachim Wissler feel free to come with your input.

 

Wild Salmon - smoked votive

 

Again, my memory and poor English does not make it possible for me to remember all the details on the plate, but the savage salmon was cooked perfectly. This is the way all Salmon should be cooked and taste.

 

Mackerel - Calfs Head, Green Tomato Gazpacho

 

A beautiful dish, the mackerel being such an overlooked fish. One of my favourite dishes of the evening.

 

Crabs . Sweetheart Cabbage, Bouchot Mussels Jus

 

And this was in fact my favourite dish. The jus being just perfect with a slight note of Safran which I love….I could eat this dish every day for the rest of my life and not grow tired of it. After this dish we got a glass of “Country Egg”, matched with browned butter and white truffles from Alba. A heavy autumm dish, very tasty, perhaps too powerful with the egg yolk, but I liked it. Unfortunately no picture of that dish.

 

Frog Legs - Coriander Peas, Black Garlic

 

First time I have eaten frog legs in a long time. It will never be a favourite, but mainly thats a thing in my head. The details on the dish…outstanding. It would take me a month or two to prepare a single plate like that.

 

Sour cucumber - Pumpernickel

 

The ice being outstanding, the cucumber slices topped with a bitter foam. Meant as a refreshment, it was not the strongest dish of the evening.

 

Suckling Pig - Lentils, Lovage, Black Pudding

 

This dish was another highlight for me personally, my friend found it a bit “too easy”, but having most of the dishes somehow influenced by the moleculary kitchen, I particularly  enjoyed this bit more basic serving. Basic….well look at the details on the small “tower” in the upper left corner ! The meat melted on your tongue. But our stomachs were starting to fill up……

 

Back of Deer - Olive Cracknel, Pistacio Cream

 

Perfectly cooked, back of deer was actually accompanied by the filet and a small piece of the shoulder(?) All tasteful in their way, all perfectly cooked.

 

Goat Cheese - Mountain Hay, Summer Truffle

 

A funny combo, Goat cheese and truffle, I think it worked. An explosion in your mouth. But my dinner partner found the goat cheese a bit too dominant.

 

Buttermilk Cloud - Verveine, Floral sweet sour

 

The best of the desserts, small beautiful taste….and also…at this point we were full full full.

 

Cereal - Field

 

Look at the the details on that plate.  Stunning. The taste…..I do not recall…my full stomach using the energy I needed in my brains. The following forest walk worked better for me…

 

A Walk Through The Forest - In late summer

 

 

White Peach - Champagne Lemonade, Marcipan, Ice Mountain

 

 

Herbage - Garden Frozen

 

And this one I gave up on after having tried a bit of it. My body could simply not cope with more food (well except for the couple of sweets that followed…).

 

Some sweets to finish a great meal....

 

 

followed by a "small" selection of chocolates...

 

Conclusion

Throughout the meal we were greatly entertained by the young staff who were all down too earth, which I love. Miguel Angel was a perfect Maitre and very talkative towards the end of the meal. We had a good discussion about good restaurants around the world. He had among others visited El Bulli a good 14 times..or was it 15 (!). The young sommelier came with good advice and I thank him for that.

You cannot really compare the restaurants at this level – nor say that one is better than the other. You can only say, that the details on the plates, the numbers of tastes on just one plate is out of this world and maybe even some times too much for your brains to understand and digest. I raise my glass to any chef/team who can do this night after night at such a high level, and I salute Joachim Wissler for having such a high level and such a great team, both in the back but also in the service. It does not get any better. I have been disappointed in 2 or 3 star restaurants before, but after this meal there was no such sign of that. Only complaint is that two big guys, did not manage to complete the menu before giving up mentally. It was simply too much. And therefore my comments and the last desserts is also so sparse.

My rating for the this restaurant visit:

Ambience 5p (5) Service 5p (5) Food/Wine 9,5p (10) : Score 19,5 p out of 20.

But my above almost top rating is influenced by the fact that I did not understand all the dishes and that maybe sometimes there was too many directions for an amateur like me on the plate to fully comprehend or fully appreciate. But it is also positively effected by the details and pure beauty off nearly all the dishes. I do not think I have ever seen more details in “one single” menu. Thanks for having us Joachim Wissler. We had a great evening, and hope to be back some other time.