Restaurant Caves Gourmandes, Luxembourg – 22 February 2012

Thierry Duhr has now been in Luxemburg around 20 years. His top restaurant being litterally on top of this – in more than one fashion. Today I was invited to this business meeting by good friend Richard and new friend Andreas. Caves Gourmandes holds a Bib gourmand as far as I remember.

The entrance to "the dungeons"...

As you walk into the restaurant you pass the open kitchen and the smiling chefs. It must be very disturbing for the chefs at work, but they do not seem to mind. We said hello to Monsier Duhr who was in the kitchen today and his pretty female assistant.

As the name suggest, the restaurant is in fact a cave, with two semi-sized rooms, – as romantic as it gets with stone walls and electric chandeliers. The type of cooking is more “regional”, less gastronomic. You will not find any molecular cooking here. Claustrophobic people might miss a window or living daylight. But in the main season they can book a table on the small out-door terrasse. I missed some huge living candles.

I shall show you three examples of the food they serve at Caves Gourmandes. It´s food thats not pretending to be more than it is.

Salad paysanne - I think - with lovely fois gras

Great salad, I wish I could make the vinegar dressing like that. Note to myself – I will have to ask Thierry next time… Great quality fois gras, and the large butter and olive oil roasted bread pieces, wonderful. I think this dish comes at 18 eur. And for what it was it was perfect. 8p

Tartare de saumon

Again, right on spot. Generous portion. Great taste. Lacked salt and pepper, but we could adjust for that ourselves…and we did. 7p

Porc with potato mash

This cut of the porc was simply stunning. GREAT meat. The mash lacked a bit salt for my taste – again that can be adjusted for. The ratatouille was almost as good as it gets. There was a dash of lime in there to make it fresh, I almost found the lime too dominant. However, my fellow diners found it right on spot. 8p

We all opted for the same dessert – it was called Poire William and as you might know – it is served in small glasses. Great taste of pear. And not too aggresive.

My conclusion:

What amazed me on this visit was the quality of especially the young male waiter from Marrocco who seemed so much in his right element. And the female chef gave us big smiles whenever she passed the room downstairs. I like that. Smiling staff. I despise the opposite as you will know by now.

I will not call it outstanding service – but on this occasion it fitted the rest. And a smile often makes up for other short-comings. The food – with Thierry Duhr in the kitchen – was impeccable. And the concept very clear. The room for improvement lies in the wine list which is VERY limited. The candles issue is my personal suggestion, but then – I´m a sucker for romantic ambience. I cannot wait till summer, where I am sure one or two dinners will be booked on the outside terrasse.

Thank you for a great lunch Thierry, to you and your staff.

Here´s a shot of some of my best-looking friends. I hope they soon gain a few pounds. It does feel a little awkward to be a big fat Dane among you slim guys sometimes. But still, I love your company – thanks for being my friends.

We are talking Vogue material here Gentlemen...

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My rating for this visit:

I shall add a happiness point. Its not high gastronomy, but its regional food as good as it gets. On this occasion my mind wandered back to my last visit to Beaune and the two new restaurants I found there…and Caves Gourmandes was not far from that level on this beautiful day.

Food  7.5p (10) service 4p (5) ambience 4.5 (5), 1 Happiness point -Total Score  17p (20)

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Objectives and Scoring

Objective

Just to make sure everybody knows and understand. Unless stated, I was not invited to these lunches or dinners by the restaurant. My sentiments and conclusions are subjective, which is the idea of my blog. I am, not an expert, but visit restaurants as your average customer – a customer with some extra kilos on his back though. I hope the restaurants can use my experience and sentiments as input in their efforts to achieve what they aim for.

Scoring

I have this system in my head where a perfect gastronomic experience gets 19-20 points. A brasserie type of restaurant normally between 11-15 points. But there is no reason why a “simple” restaurant should not score higher if its justified. Or a gastronomic restaurant can score lower if something is not up to par. Furthermore, I reserve the right to use “happiness points” if something makes the dining experiece exceptional.

I have received many advices of how to improve my scoring system.  But the suggestions from friends and readers goes in many different directions. And until I have found the perfect system, I shall just stick to what my head and heart tells me.

Restaurant Becker´s, Trier, Germany – 18 February 2012

Objective:

Just to make sure everyone knows and understand. I was not invited to this dinner by the restaurant. My sentiments and conclusions are subjective, which is the idea of my blog. I am not an expert, but visit restaurants as your average customer – a customer with some extra kilos on the back though. I hope the restaurant can use my experience and sentiments as input in their efforts to achive what they aim for.

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Wolgang Becker is holding on to his 2 star Michelin rating. In compare to my last visit the prices has gone up a bit, but thats three years ago so I guess time does not stand still. Not even in this part of the world.

At Becker´s you have the choice between a 5 course and a 8 course menu. The last one having one extra main dish, cheese and 1 extra dessert. They come at 105 and 125 eur respectively. And with the amount of amuses and tasters, and later chocolates and sweets you are spoiled with thats actually still around the best price/value in the area.

The wine list is medium sized, with a heavy overweight on German and Bordeaux wines, – there is very few Bourgogne and even less Rhone wines. The price policy are amazing for local standards. Top Bordeaux wines from 1999 at a bargain…super Toscany´s the same. So the wine choice is not easy….We could have chosen at least 5 different reds to go for. But it did seem a little short on Rhone wine, which chance will have it – is among the favourite wines of best friend Jerome.

We let the young nice female waiter choose the first Riesling, great choice by the way –  Mrs. Becker chose the second white and dear friend Jerome and I opted for the 1999 Cos d´Estournel.

Nuts and crackers greeted us in the beautiful room. Great large table, unfortunately a little in the dark. So photos were a challenge. But I will share my experience anyway.

3 Amuses started the evening…

Small yellowfin tuna “fastfood” – 5 different tastings of Tuna, 3 of them being good 2 rather boring. 3 would have done the trick I think.

Warm goose liver flan coffee & cinnamon cherry – Great

Tartare of beef  – VERY GOOD

The best one the tartare of beef, which was simply stunning. Delicate. Amuses – 7 p.

Menu

3 kinds of salmon, hazelnut, pork breast, caviar

I think the weakest dish of the day, so it was nice to have it up in the front. The pork seemed a little out of place, but I know Wolfgang Becker has used this combination before so I am sure he knows what he is doing and that there is and idea behind it. I would have liked it be be a bit more crispy to make a contrast to the soft salmon. 6p

Grilled scallop, lime leafs & couscous

Great dish, I can still smell the couscous. I love couscous. This one was done with more curry aromas than I normally do it myself. It worked great with the scallops that were cooked perfect, if not grilled as described. But that was a great comeback after the first dish. 9p

Steamed Skrei with pickled vegetables, bacon and pommery mustard

We did not quite agree on this one. I thought the dish was ok, if not overwhelming, my friend did not like it. He did not like the mustard sauce at all. The fish was cooked perfectly, and of great quality. Stunning fish the Skrei – and the pickled vegetables was a daring match. I do not think the baby sweet corn belongs any way near a gastronomic dish. But this was the last downs of the evening. 6p

Braised waguy short rib, perigord truffle and jerusalem artichoke

One complain here would be that the perfect meat was too small. You never wanted this dish to end. That was really fab, both in taste but also a step up in presentation in compare to the starters. 9.5p

Variation of mineral pigeon

The kitchen kindly swapped this dish for me. I am not a big fan of pigeon, but I did try the dish of my friend. And he was one big smile. Great taste, great presentation. Best dish of the day.9.5p I was treated to two different kind of cuttings from again the waguy – and one can off course complain that I just had a different cut. But no one would complain about this dish or the repeated waguy. It was to die for. 9.5p

Selection of raw milk cheese

We skipped – we had to. Food was beginning to fill our bellies. I did not see the cheeses presented, so I cannot give you an idea about the selection, but it was presented from a waggon, to choose from.

Refreshing mandarines

I love mandarines, I loved this dish. Good pre-dessert. 7.5p

Pina colada dessert

It was my lucky day. Pina colada being my favourite cocktail – not very masculine, I know.. Small complaint, The big piece of cake – was too big in compare to the rest of the dish. But the general idea and the molecular efforts and ingredients worked well. 7.5p

Chocolates and friandises

Good selection, great taste. 2 rounds of different kinds were served. 9p

My conclusion:

2 stars michelin restaurants can be difficult choices. Not as good as 3 stars, but normally almost as expensive. Well in this part of Germany, we have the best price level available in the Western World for gastronomic dining I think. So a dinner here will not set you much further back than your average Sunday dinner in Luxembourg.

On this evening we got an ecxellent menu, with some ups and downs. When the dishes was good they were almost as good as it gets. Two or 3 dishes were really up to 3 star level. But then some where not. But when u have a big menu like we had all dishes do not have to make you sing and shout, not in my book. You get the feeling that the kitchen knows what they are doing and the quality of the used produce are impeccable. We had wonderful service throughout the evening. Engaged in small talk with the young female waiter from Leipzig as well as Mrs Becker who was shining and charming. That was good to experience and made you feel at home and welcome. The redwine we choose was met with the inquiry if we wanted it decanted, and we let that up to her to choose, she chose not to – and we both agreed and understood why.

The main dishes out-shone the starters…but thats better than the other way around.

The bread was better than on my last visit, but I still think there is room for improvement here. As I claimed above and told Mrs. Becker the menu was a bit more “shaky” than last time.  But man, the tops were really way up there among the best food possible. The wine list might be heavy on Bordeaux, but let me just repeat – the price level is amazing. So food quality wise, you are in good place here. I am looking forward to being back next year for sure with you Jerome. Thanks for joining me – and for your friendship. I love you – always. I apologise to my readers. Our table was really a bit dark, and the photos I shot was not up to par. I have chosen to include a few though. If you really want to see the dishes – well check Becker´s out…..

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My rating for this visit:

Food  8p (10) service 5p (5) ambience 5 (5), Total Score  18p (20)

Restaurant Chiggeri, Luxembourg – 12 February 2012

Chiggeri consists of both a bar, a brasserie and a “real” Restaurant. I especially like the small room right off the entrance where all kind of candle lamps are lit and hanging from the ceiling. I have been there a good 5 times over the years and the same in the “gourmet” part of the establishment on the top floor. It had been a good 10 years though since last time, but having a far-away friend visiting the town, we needed something central that was open on a Sunday, which in Luxembourg is not as easy to find as one should think. At least all the good places I know are closed.

So having heard scary bad things about the restaurant just up to this visit – my personal expectations were rather limited.

Chiggeri is known to have the largest wine list in town, but recently people have often complained that one or the other bottle was not availalable any more – but still on the list. Anyway, we did not have that problem with the  white Morey-Saint-Denis we ordered  in the bar for aperitive –  or with the reds that followed. Just a note – the kind waitress in the bar would later also tend our table upstairs.

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But here it goes – at 19.30 we entered the room and was ever so nonchanantly – with a hand move showed our table at the other end of the restaurant. Good style is simply to folllow the guests to the table I think.

My fellow diners both agreed that they DID NOT like the waiter or his style. I agreed he did seem a bit fresh – and not in a funny way. An irritating way. But I held on to my horses. We ordered a great wine – a recommendation of my friend – and for me a seldom opportunity to try out an American wine.

Greatness, smooth, deep -100% Merlot

Apparently – and also according to the irritating waiter this is an outstanding producer. I shall try to remember that, because I really liked it. It was not cheap though.

The amuse...

It was not “Here we go again” – in respect to being offered a greeting from the kitchen that were out of place – but it looked better than it tasted. The terrine of rabbit nice, the fennel creme on top, tasteless, at least I could not find the fennel taste anywhere. 2p

I have forgotten why – but at this point I had to admit to the others that the waiter was getting on my nerves too. A younger waiter had emerged and served other tables, he was poorly dressed for a waiter I noticed. Also the waitress from the bar was now in the room and she was by far the only one acting like she belonged in the restaurant. However, neither of them prevented me from serving our wine ourselves a few times. No problem. I am grown-up – I can handle that.

Gravad Salmon with dark bread and Heering eggs....

Best dish of the evening. A very rustic tatste with plenty of dark bread. Especially the creme on both sides with the false caviar was great. And added just what the very crunchy bread needed. The salmon I have had a lot better, but the dish worked, there seemed to be an idea behind it. 4.5p

Zucchini with goat cheese and tomatoes...

Nice simple pesentation, the taste lacked a bit, both salt and pepper wise – and although the dish contained all the favourite ingredients of the missus, it failed to impress her. 3.5p

Scallops on a mash of carrots

Again the choice of the missus. The scallops cooked almost perfect…a bit too much but they were still tender. She knows how they must be and that how she likes them. The mash with good taste. 4.5p

Filet of beef from a buffalo - Caribbean style...

When I look at the picture I remember two things. That funny smell that came with the dish. From the meat. I was almost afraid to eat it. But I have no great experience with Buffalo meat, and maybe it does smell more strong. Funny thing when answering the irritating waiter how I wanted it cooked, I answered – as always – I would liked it cooked just the way the chef wants to present it to me. That will be rare, he informed me. OK, I said, rare it is. I am lucky to be able to eat and enjoy beef from raw to well done. But it is seldom that the chef proposes rare – or bleu as it is called around here. And bleu it was. However, I do think that it fitted the dish and the caribbean mango salsa on top. But I had that smell throughout the dish, and could not quite obstruct from it. The second thing I “remember”…is that I have no idea what kinda mash it was. It cannot have been that interesting I guess. I think I would have loved some fresh choriander here…but maybe thats not Caribbean, I just think it would have fitted the dish. The meat was not as tender as I had hoped, despite being bleu, – but again – maybe that is that certain breed and not the quality. I honestly do not know. 3p

I have no picture of the main dish of my friend, but I shall duly note, that it looked like a mess, not as neatly arranged as our plates. I do believe it was sea-bass. But apparently he liked the dish.

My conclusion:

Several disturbing factors here, but not nearly as bad as I had feared. But the waiter did not make up for the short-comings of the kitchen, on the contrary. He was waltzing around like a street boy in the ghetto, no offence to those, looking like he owned the place. Maybe he did. My advice. Get your act together and your nose down. The wine list is amazing, especially if you like older wines. They have a vast amount of old bottles of any wine region you can think of. The food is really not that interesting, but it is eatable. The room is nice – old fashioned, rustic. I would add a lot more candles if it was my restaurant. Will I be back any time soon. I think not.

My rating for this visit:

Food  4p (10) service 3p (5) ambience 3.5 (5), Total Score  10.5p (20)

Restaurant La Mirabelle, Luxembourg – 9 February 2012

Restaurant La Mirabelle is the top brand of the group of restaurants in Luxembourg that call themselves – Espaces Saveurs. These days they celebrate the 20th anniversary of La Mirabelle – but actually the collaboration between Olivier Fellmann and Dominique Colaianni started already in 1987 in Cave Gourmandes. So actually the two of them celebrate their “Silver Wedding” this year. Together with some investors they have build up a small imperium of restaurants that includes Come Prima, Goethe Stuff and Sapori among others.

Today I was invited as a “member of the press” -the new press so to speak. Newspapers are slowly but surely dying at this age in time. Unfortunately. I wonder what our kids, or grandchildren will thin kwhen we tell them about the time when you went to the shop every morning to pay for “old” news. The fastness of our world is not always a good thing I reckon.

Nevertheless, here I was, proud to be invited – and happy that La Mirabelle has recognized this change of the tide – by the way as the first restaurant in Luxembourg I know of.

So it was a big table – 13 people – fixed menu – in one of the small rooms upstairs – which I most certainly prefer to the semi-modern styling of the the main restaurant.

And here it was the table – om the table to greet us the usual sundried tomato “mash” – and the rilette with freshly roasted ciabatta. Great stuff. All you need. No need for any other amuses in such a restaurant in my opinion

Sundried tomatoes with bread

Terrine of fois gras

Lovely presentation, the gelantine to the right was done of – I think pomegranate – anyway, I think it was a great mix- the pomegranate with  the added orange balancing out the fatness of the dish. Served with a glass of sweet Chenin Blanc from Loire, but still with enough acidity to make the wine lighter and thus not as irritating sweet as many Sauternes. 8p

The wine for the dish to follow

My kinda wine...

Really a crowd pleaser, not even too sunny or too much wood. Just a good balanced Chardonnay. Not the depth or minerality of a lets say Chassagne Montrachet – but it does not need to have that in my opinion. I would order this wine – or buy a box given the chance.

Second dish…

Scallops with vegetables julienne, and a small coconut inspired sauce on the side.

Scallops has to be cooked perfectly to be interesting. It is very weasy to cook them to much, and too little I find them too fishy for my taste. These were cooked just as they should be. The plate with the running green stripe from side to side a beauty. I love Asian cooking. But I adore French cooking with Asian touches. The coconut would probably offend most French gastronomes…but I thought it was just right. Not to dominant, just a good companion to the still crisp vegetables. 8p

Filet of veal

Great looking dish, great jus, great creme of the root of persille, stunning millefeuille of vegetables, celaric, carrots…I think was in 10 or 12 different vegetables – slowly cooked, but wauw…what a result. With a touch of sea-salt on the top. That part of the dish was the highlight of the day for me and deserves an extra 0.5 point. Meat perfectly cooked. Great dish – really. 8.5p

With the veal we has a light female style of Bourgogne

Your average good Chambolle Musigny 2006

This wine did not blow me away as such, but off course Pinot Noir is a perfect companion to veal – and I think the raspberry in the wine goes well with fois gras, and as you can see from the picture the filet was done Rossini Style. Maybe a touch of raspberry within the dish would have brough that more out in the wine. But then again it might  have taken away the focus away from the lovely “millefeiuille”. Guess you can´t have it all.

Most appropriate - dessert based on mirabelle

Especially the caramel stribe behind the “cake” and the nutty ice cream made this dish work in my book. It had softness, crispness, sweetnes…and was actually a very light and nice finish to a great menu. 6.5p What followed was some sweets and coffee.

Here is two shots of the hosts of the day…

Dominique Colaianni

Olivier Fellmann

My conclusion:

As I said, being recognized as a member of the press, was something else for me. I know it is the ways of the world and there is nothing that can stop that. Still somebody need to be the first and Luxembourg is normally not that innovative to say the least. So I thank you Mr. Fellmann and Mr. Colaianni for that. The menu today was a step up in compare to the menu I had last month here. But then – it was a set menu for a set number of people. But it was good. It was not perfectly matched with the cold weather outside, I mean this menu I could repeat in the summer without a problem. But it was dishes that all looked and tasted nice, all were justified and all had great ingredients or good produce treated correctly and with a great result.

I much prefer the rooms on this floor to the large modern room down-stairs – but that is off course a matter of taste.

On another note I got to talk to Olivier Fellmann about Come Prima. And I was so happy to learn that they offer gluten-free pasta dishes. Come Prima we actually gave up when the gluten allergy of the missus was diagnozed. So – Come Prima – see you very soon….. Great news. Actually it always a pleasure to talk to professionals – about their experiences with the business, with wines, with ratings etc. etc. That makes it all worthwhile.

As for my rating today -service – well we had great service – but it was a closed table in a closed room. But I have judged it as I would have done it in the restaurant.

Thanks for having us.

My rating for this visit:

Food  8p (10) service 4.5p (5) ambience 4p (5), Total Score  16.5p (20)

The FWRR Wine Shop – Take 1

Prepare yourselves for the spring and summer…its coming you know.

We have been lucky to get this recommendation from Le Caviste. It is an easygoing Chenin Blanc, smooth not to heavy, not to light  a perfect companion for your roasted chicken or pork chops.

Limited stock so do not wait too long.

Château Gaudrelle Sec 2009, Vouvray (Loire) – price EUR 10,75 (incl. VAT) – per bottle – min orders 12 bottles. Please look below the picture for tasting notes.

Tasting Notes:

The Château Gaudrelle Sec 2009 from ‘Argilo-Calcaires’ soil offers up a very vibrant, fresh wine packed with minerality.

On the nose, ripe peach and pear. On the palate, fresh fruit. The small quantity of residual sugar, is well balanced out by the crisp acidity of the wine. Enjoy over the next two years

Please call me on +352 661187904 with your order or your questions, or write us at foodwinerr@gmail.com