A different take at Restaurant Clairefontaine – Take 3, Luxembourg – 22 September 2012

1 year after our first cooking class at Restaurant Clairefontaine, Arnaud and William again opened their doors and there “Little box of secrets” for us.

This time around we were 7 students and the menu apart from the requested beef was a secret to all of us.

What was on the working and dining menu today was:

Amuse – Tartare of Tuna with a wasabi/soya dressing
Starter – Lobster carpaccio with redish
Main – Filet of Beef with pepper sauce and a potato mash
Dessert – Creme Brullee

So a very classic menu, – again with a lot of focus on our chances of re-producing most of it at home without too much of a fuss.

After a small briefing and a cup of coffee for those in need of that, it was cooking time,

Cutting the tuna, scallots, choriander…

voila…at the end finished of with olive oil with a touch of lemon, salt and pepper

Cherry tomatoes with a twist…

Finishing the dish…

The finished result…

The “wasabi” sauce was made of wasabi paste, soya sauce and a touch of homemade mayonaice to make it smoother in both taste and texture. A great amuse that you can make in 5-10 min.

Next up – the lobster.

A view to a kill….

Anyone up for a 69 ?

Now at this point we close the cameras and have a moment of silence. 9 lobsters were used – and killed in that process. Yes, Susanne – I shall spare you the details.

Busy hands…

Dirty work…

What followed next was the slizing of a monster redish, and explanation about how to do the lobster reduction to enhance the flavour of the dish, crushed dry rosemary as well as the crushed dried orange skin added the “genious” factor to the dish. The cleaned lobster cut into carpaccio style slices, the salad bowl on top done with a thai tempura flour.

Great little extras for an outstanding dish

Mind your fingers…

Put aside to rest for a while…

This ones for you Susanne

Making a salad “bowl”..

So three-4 steps of arranging the dish

Step 1 – arranging the sliced and boiled redish over the lobster…

Gijs adding the classic vinegar/honey/oil dressing

Adding the crunched dried Rosemary and Orange – with a touch of chives…

The salad bowl on top – inside the salad a claw of the lobster….

Now this dish might seem a bit complex for amateurs like us… with the homemade little extra seasonings, the killing of the lobster, the tempura salad bowl, the wonderful lobster reduction etc. etc. But I think that even if one cut some corners here and there -it can be reproduced at home. And it for sure was a dish to die for. Or to kill for. In this case the lobsters left the world for a good reason. Susanne, I am sure they went straight to lobster heaven. I know we did. The blanched cruncy redish mixed with the texture of the lobster and the tempura on top….Arnaud and William. I loved this dish so much.

Next up was the slowly cooked beef. After preparing the whole filet of prime Luxembourgish caddle, it was quickly sealed and put into a vacum to cook at 48 degrees in slightly over and hour. Finished off at high heat. Peppersauce was done with a pre-produced reduction, and man what a sauce it was. The mash consisting of potatoes, butter, butter, butter and chives.

Heres a few shots of that preparation

First cleaned, then strapped up, then cut into 250 gram pieces…

Sealed off and with butter, herbs and garlic into the “solarium”….

Pepper and scallots braised off, cognac added and after a small fire, the pre-produced reduction was added. Man what a sauce….

The mash…

arranged in a genorous way….

and table 1 was ready to go…

To say I love this dish would be the understatement of the year. Perfectly cooked prime beef. The worlds best sauce, and a simple mash. What more do you need ?

To finish of a classic menu, you off course need a creme brulee. I shall not bother you with all the details of that one. Just say that from the two variations we made – one with burned sugar and one where rhum was added and lit to make a more fun presentation – I prepared the classic bunselbrenner version…but the flamy one of course makes a nicer picture

Arnaud showing how to prepare my favourite dessert..

Creme

– Brulee

So – looking back at now 3 sessions and a good 11-12 dishes…which ones stands out. I am actually not sure. I know for sure that the 4 dishes we had today all ranks up there with my overall favourite classic dishes in the world. But then there was off course also those pork cheeks, that fois gras, – that cod – etc. etc. etc. too praise. But most of all, what I appreciate the most in these cooking sessions – and I think I speak for the whole group is the little things we learn. Extra salt, extra butter, the small tricks – that all improve a dish in so many ways. So Arnaud and William – we especially thank you for that. We also again thank you bot for your precious time, what a wonderful way to spend “A day in the life”.

We also thank Julien, who always amazes with his choice of wines. Today it was absolutely on top. Each wine a perfect match enhancing our FANTASTIC dishes…

Session 4 already seem to far away.

Smiling faces all around…yours truly smiling only behind the camera.

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Restaurant Dubrovnik, Dubrovnik – April 2012

Halfway through our stay in Dubrovnik I stumbled over this one. I had seen the sign promoting it, and walked down the alley to check it out. Outside was a very friendly man – who I would later get to know as our waiter Mario. He was busy opening for the day, but nevertheless jumped up the stairs to get me the menu, and happily explained about the dishes etc. I told him I might be back for the evening, – as it turned out – my family and I were back for the following 3 evenings.

Restaurant Dubrovnik has the most elegant and inviting al fresco dining I saw in Dubrovnik. Beautiful set tables, warm red colours, a (working) fountain in the middle and a great – and not overpriced – menu to choose from.

We loved this terrasse....

If the weather is nasty – which it got during the last part of our stay, they also offer a small room downstairs, next to the entrance, that fits 12 people or so. Nothing wrong with that room, but its not as elegant as upstairs, it is cosy though – but and interiour designer would go to one of the local artist, and order some great paintings  – or just exhibit them, in exchange for some of the ones that were hanging there. I know I would change that on my first day of management if I owned the place.

The second thing I would invest in would be electri heaters for upstairs. Its the first time in my adult life I have had dinner more or less outside at 14 degrees celcius, with my coat on and everything. That would be such a small investment and the extra amount of people choosing to dine here would increase for sure in those months that does not offer evening temperatures at a human level. Just to repeat if the management read this. Please consider NOW – next low season is coming again.

We were treated with the same amuse on all three nights. It was nice, but a top kitchen would have changed-  knowing we were returning clients. The dishes we got on all three nights were among the best we had in Dubrovnik. The service of Mario and the smile of the pretty female “hostess” were outstanding – and even the maitre seemed happy to see us again on the last two nights.

Here is some of the dishes we had.

Amuse - Creamy goat cheese with a cracker.

Octopussy terrine, Smoked tuna, Sardelles/Anchovis...

A local “classic” – done to perfection here. Loved it. Nothing to improve – you can say that it is not really innovative or nouvelle cuisine – but this was Dubrovnik kitchen at its best. 7p

Grilled vegetables with crumbled goat cheese

Perfectly grilled vegs – and an uncomplicated dish. 6.5p

Fillet of Beef with vegetables and a potato "tarte"

Beef cooked to perfection, lovey potato “thing” and good vegetables. It totally lacked salt and pepper, but I could adjust for that myself – and I did. 7.5p

Local wines on the menu, we chose this pinot noir – which I found nice, especially when chilled, it did lack a bit of acidity in the end. But we had it on all 3 nights – so I guess we were happy 😉

Great design on the bottle I think...Nice wine too.

My conclusion:

On the first night of our stay, we met a lovely couple from London. We salute you – thanks for the fun. Hope to see you further on up the road. They told Mario after the main dish on the first evening. This was our best meal in Dubrovnik so far. The second best meal was the starter they continued. That said it all. They too were back for the following night.

They had a point. We were also happy to at last find very good food at a decent price in Dubrovnik. In the end – on all three nights the bill was around 100 eur for a family, with good wine, starters and main. The plates for the kids were done – children friendly – our requests in that respect was met without a fuss.

Mario was a perfect waiter. Ever concerned about our well-being, always around. I hope the management appreciate his job and that he gets whatever he truly deserves. He would be an “added value” in most restaurants I know of. Thanks Mario.

I do think that the food at Restaurant Nautica was more innovative and more sharp in presentation – but it comes at at least double the price. This was honest and decent food, food that in the end just lacked a bit of extra seasoning – sometimes only salt and pepper – to make it perfect comfort food.

And just to repeat  – PLEASE DO INVEST IN SOME ELECTRIC HEATERS – that investment will be paid back by the month of November – at the latest.

I give Restaurant Dubrovnik my highest recommendation – should you ever be in town, say hi from Food Wine and Rocknroll

*

My rating for this visit:

Food  7p (10) service 4.5p (5) ambience 4p (5), Total Score  15.5p (20)

Restaurant Nautika, Dubrovnik – 5 April 2012

Restaurant Nautika is owned by a the same people who runs Proto. Amra – the female waiter at Proto – had kindly given us a card with a 10% (low season) discount in case we wanted to go here. And in our search of the best meal in town we sure wanted to.

The restaurant is situated just outside the old city walls – sharing a small plateau and stunning views with another restaurant. We were given the choice of eating outside, in the formal dining room or upstairs on a covered terrasse with electric heaters – with

stunning views of the ciy...

- and waterside - with a monkey grinning at us...

but before that, the bottle of Chardonnay was ordered and the family shot…

My beautiful family. Looking at the picture makes me happy and proud.

This one made me happy too. Probably the best bottle we had throughout our stay in Dubrovnik

Amuse - a fish creme in a sesame cornet

Funny thing here…this amuse is mentioned on the menu as part of the table setting and is charged per person – it does not matter whether you want it or not. Something I have never seen before. And I am happy my favourite restaurant Schloss Berg does not charge for their amuses – with the amount they serve, that would ruin any guest for sure. The boys didnt want theirs, which made this un-avoidable amuse an expensive taster – I think they should recoinsider that part of their concept – especially when dealing with family tables. However, back to the cornet – it was nice – nothing more.

Salad with cheese, capers and - well - a wonderful dressing.

This was my choice, one of the cheapest on the menu. The table next to us shared this one and another starter, which would probably be a better choice – but I liked it in its simplicity and the dressing was indeed very good. 6.5p

Scampi with goat cheese...

Looked very innovative in compare to what we had seen until now in Dubrovnik. A beautiful dish which taste did not quite live up to its presentation…

Great fillet of beef with 3 sauces...

Nothing to complain about here. 2 of the three sauces were great, 1 a bit boring. beef and mash perfect 8.5p

and to go with that….

A beautiful fruity and light Pinot Noir

Most main dishes are around 40-50 eur so it is clear that the expectations are naturally higher, but indeed so was the quality. If not perfect, if maybe just a bit overpriced. Astrid opted for

Sea bass on a bed of leek

Fish cooked perfectly, the bed of leek – lacked the final touch – the rocknroll part – maybe fennel seeds would have done the trick – that extra spice was missing. But beautilful presentation. 7p

The kitchen understood our request to serve a shared plate for the boys, same sea bass but with a different arrangement – and hats off for that – because we have seen other examples – Seven Seas in Hamburg comes to mind where it was clear they were not used to the other eating preferences children have.

Sea bass with French Fries, ketchuo and all, what more do you need at the age of 6?

I think Oscar and Emil would give this one a 10.

At the the end of the meal we were offered a dessert on the house – and I let the great great female waiter choose one for me. The creamy chocolate thing was so good that the boys after having tried a spoon had to ask for one as well.

Yummi...

and all I need for dessert on most days….8p

My conclusion:

Restaurant Nautika is close to the standards we know from Luxembourg and Western Europe. The service was impecable throughout the evening, all the staff smiling helpful, the bread great, most of the dishes wonderful. A huge wine list, both local but also more familiar names can be found here. The wine you most of the time still had to pour yourself, but hey – we had gotten used to that at this point.

We spend a wonderful evening with great views, warmed by the electric heaters – and the two American girls from Boston at the table next to us. It was a pleasure meeting you both, I hope you read this and have also good thoughts about the evening at Restaurant Nautika.

There is no doubt in my mind that this is the best restaurant in town. But it comes at a price. Amuse, starter, main dish for the adults, amuse and shared main for the boys, 2 bottles of wine, water etc. clocked in at just around the 280 eur mark – incl. the 10% discount. But if money it not an option – and add the stunning views from this heated terrasse – this is where you wanna eat on most nights in Dubrovnik.

Restaurant Nautika, – I salute you and your staff, and would be happy to be back tomorrow. Thanks for having us.

My rating for this visit:

Food 7.5p (10) service 4.5p (5) ambience 4.5p (5), Total Score  16.5p (20)

Caveau des Arches, Beaune – 26 January 2012

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“Morning has broken, like the first morning, blackbird has spoken like the first bird”

Cat Stevens

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What a morning it was. Foggy. The (missing) colours amazing. Like taken from a French Noir movie. The second day in Beaune was ahead of us. An early walk around the impressing Chateau Gilly was to be followed by a wine tasting in Gevrey-Chambertin in the cellars of Dupont-Tisserandot followed by lunch in the Caveau de Arches, a favourite of Gijs. Here´s some shots to get you in the mood.

Like taken from a fairytale, or a movie – the gardens of Chateau Gilly

Monsier Dupont-Tisserandot with my friend.

Hush….Mr. Akkerman at work.

So warming uo to the lunch.. – let me just add, that watching Gijs doing his job, taken notes, writing tasting comments, recording with his brain all the impressions of the wines and cellars we tasted and saw. Learning about the style, working methods, placement of their parcels…etc. etc. etc. Well there is only one word for that. Magic. It was pure magic to be able to follow you around Gijs. Thanks for inviting me and being part of this experience with you.

Well back to the food. “After a hard morning´s work….” – we arrived at Caveau des Arches around 12.00 and were shown to our table in the beautiful cellar. Actually the restaurant consists of two long tubes of cellars. Beautiful. The wine list is amazing. Simply amazing.

We opted for starters and mains…with a bottle of ordinary white followed by a top red.

An old friend of mine…

Having visited the cellars of Remoissenet last year, where I enjoyed their whole range of wines – courtesy of Bernard Repolt – I managed to surprice Gijs with this one. What a taste. For an ordinary Bourgogne this was certainly very very nice and at 24 eur overwhelming. It was also a great companion to the classic starter

Oeufs en meurette

Having had this on many of my visits to Bourgogne it remains one of my favourite of the local cuisine. And this presentation was this kitchen´s version of the classic one. Often you find the roasted bread in the rich sauce, but here it remained on top, letting it keep its crispness. The sauce, the bacon, the poached egg – wonderful. Again not be compared with a 3 star restaurant dish – but in fact all you could wish for. 7.5p

We both stumbled over this one. Funny when a wine-list have hundreds of numbers and you both let your eyes rest on the one.

Thank you Mr. Rousseau for this one,

220g Fillet of beef with sauce epoisse

Gijs had the same dish but with a 400g entrecote replacing the fillet. Both pieces of meat cooked to perfection and with great quality Charolais, Both dishes served with no vegetables but with roasted potatos as a side dish. I simply LOVED the sauce. I spoke with the chef after and were lucky to get the receipe. This one I have to learn to make. I found the potatos a bit too soft and not crisp or tasteful enough. 7.5p

No more room for dessert  – this was just a small lunch. Afternoon programme meant that more tastings were ahead of us. No loosing weight on this trip, but I guess I knew that up front.

My conclusion:

I loved the two dishes we had so much that my upcoming trip to Bourgogne HAS to include this restaurant. And I am going to order the excact same two dishes. May seem a long time away. But I cant wait to be back. Good service, good bread, smiling staff, great wine list, great food. Thanks for introducing me to this one Gijs. I loved it and shall be back. Again, if you are a tourist in Beaune, dont fall for one of the many toruist traps. Book here – and then book Cave Madeleine and you have booked a trip to paradise. You dont even need to spend hundreds on the wine. Take the white we had and the food we had – you will for sure feel that you got value for each and every single penny you spend. Did we have an amuse – Gijs ? Actually I have no idea, but I did not miss one if we didn´t.

My rating for this visit:

Food 7.5p (10) service 4.5p (5) ambience 5p (5), Total Score  17p (20)