Germany’s Modern Restaurants are Coming up Green

In many German Michelin Star restaurants these days it’s all about clean, pure and natural flavors on the menu. Photo: Rita Cook

Dallas, October 4, 2011—In Germany, as in most European countries, the thought of green living is a must.  Of possible surprise might be the number of Michelin star chefs who are getting in on the action in the one to the three star kitchens.

Germany is only second to France in Michelin starred restaurants.  This year there are 11 three star Michelin restaurants in the country out of the 97 three-starred worldwide.

On a recent culinary trip to Germany I had the chance to explore a number of Michelin star restaurants from the three Michelin star Aqua in Wolfsburg to the two-starred La Vie in Osnabruck to Lerbach near Cologne to the one Michelin star Zierbelstube in Stuttgart.

The writer with the Chef of La Vie Thomas Buhner.

The writer with the Chef of La Vie Thomas Buhner.

To top off a round of succulent dishes each night with good company and courses ranging from six to 16 and three to six hour lunches and dinners, I also had the good fortune to attend the 2011 Chef Sache. 

At the event were the six chefs who made it with their restaurants on the list of the “World’s 50 Best Restaurants” seen live onstage talking about their passion and how they bring it to life.

By the time one reaches, at least the three-star Michelin designation, it seems that cooking is just a part of the overall package the restaurant offers coming out of the kitchen.  Add to that art, each little morsel being a cacophony of what is to come and how it fits together in the whole.

In Wolfsburg at Aqua, which is located in the Ritz Carlton, we found Chef Sven Elverfled. Offering a modern European cuisine the interior of Aqua was designed by Andree Putman with a low-key, but stunning décor ala still life flower photographs and art deco armchairs, fit for any Michelin experience. 

Add to that the fresh cuisine of the likes of char and caviar from Tainach with just the right touch of dill and sorrel or the skewed topside of Muritz Lamb with Frankfurter green sauce, potato and egg.  Wine at Aqua did not disappoint with the standout the 1995 Chateau Couhins Lurton Double magnum from Pessac-Leognan/Bordeaux. 

In notes on Elverfled’s cooking it says “wishing to categorize his cooking, would be like trying to put his creativity and his creative drive into a rigid framework.”

From the town of Wolfsburg where Volkswagen also reigns, I then rumbled on to Osnabruck where Chef Thomas Buhner and the two Michelin star La Vie lay in wait.  Located in the historic old town, Buhner is as down to earth and fresh as the meals he dictates.  More modern German avant-garde, his culinary style can also be described as technically astute, refined and multifaceted. 

In notes of Buhner’s prowess it says “Ultimately, he is less concerned with demonstrating technical abilities, but rather more in the presentation of the precise, sophisticated and surprising drum rolls of taste, which vary according to their position on the menu and can sometimes appear to be loud, sometimes quiet, sometimes heavy and sometimes spaced out transparently.”

The drum roll for my lunch at La Vie included Langoustine with smoke including green tomato, and ricotta with Iberico bacon and bulgur.  Or the Ailersons of guinea fowl with artichoke, beans seeds and petals, my favorite for the day. Tanariva Lactee a sort of puree and solid at the same time was a testament to Buhner’s enjoyment of playing with hot and cold simultaneously. 

Buhner believes there is no more authentic and intense taste than the original, pure taste of a product, thus with preparing his dishes, with his penchant for low-temperature cooking and the extensive range of choices it is no wonder one finds themselves taking away a unique set of flavors.

At the gourmet restaurant Lerbach located in the Schlosshotel Lerbach, the kitchen is normally commanded by Chef Nils Henkel.  On this night when I dined he and the aforementioned Buhner and Elverfled as well as Chef Christian Bau renowned for his three star Michelin kitchen in Perl at Schloss berg took over the menu jointly. 

First a few words on Bau, whose affinity for Asian cuisine creates the perfect blends of aroma, herb and produce.  With French Asian, Bau sets himself apart and the idea at his restaurant is for people to sit, relax and enjoy.  It’s a Japanese accent, a wedding of east and west brought to the plate as well as a journey through a seasoning landscape. 

Each chef serving their options at Lerbach came up with two plates to be served, Bau came through with a turbot with sweet, sour, salty and spiced tasting notes.  Using products and techniques from the Japanese and French kitchens, Bau’s leanings are also on the use of fresh products and techniques with an offer of modern and unique cuisine.

His idea “Further development demands courage, tenacity, differentiation and a clear commitment to bend over backwards in order to please guests and critics but then again, it doesn’t do to ‘cook past them’ either.”

As for Lerbach’s kitchen owner it’s Henkel who offered up summer tomatoes with buffalo mozzarella and basil and the much appreciated lightly smoked arctic char with vinaigrettes of elder-capers, cress mash and char caviar.

Henkel’s idea of pure for his kitchen takes in the concept of pure nature. Translating nature into dishes with herbs, veggies and asking “do we really need meat or fish every day?”  Then proving that he can offer natural dishes using only different temperatures, textures with vegetables no longer being just a side dish. 

With pure nature, Henkel’s culinary style is a near-to-nature cuisine emphasizing the intelligent use of herbs and vegetables.  His style has two facets from the cold appetizers in which he mainly works avant-garde with a touch for the aromatic as well as the texturally subtle and complex tastes to the simpler options on the menu in which there is a basic product in the focus along with unusual flavors allowing for the pureness to come out.

At my final meal in Stuttgart at hotel AM Schlossgarten at Zierbelstube with chef Bernhard Diers a final one star Michelin experience proved a good end to the trip with goose liver in grape sauce, Tuna pulpo with red onion and mango vinaigrette or the pepper crust celery puree with red wine ravioli.

Indeed, while the Michelin stars pile up on the German landscape the nucleus of the emerging food movement and the chefs making it possible are taking the French haute cuisine and the nouvelle cuisine Francaise and putting it to good use.  From the preparation, to the clean foods being procured to the exploration of the German product portfolios being discovered in a signature dish here or there the movement is ahead of the curve promising regional products, food and cooking as art, and personalities just as big and ready to share the vision.  

Rita Cook is a writer/editor with has over 1000 articles to her credit in the past 13-plus years. She is a frequent auto and travel contributor on a radio show in Los Angeles called Insider Mag Radio at KPRO 1570 am on from midnight to 12:30 a.m. Monday mornings.  Cook is a member of the Texas Auto Writer’s Association, writes for the Dallas Morning News Green Living Section as well as artist profiles and spends much of her time on the road traveling or working on books. Her latest book release in May was “A Brief History of Fort Worth’ published by The History Press.


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Rita Cook

Rita Cook is a writer/editor with over 1000 articles to her credit in the past 10-plus years. She is the co-host of a radio show in Los Angeles; Insider Mag Radio at KPRO 1570 am and is on from midnight to 12:30 a.m. Monday mornings.  Cook is a member of the Texas Auto Writer’s Association and also writes an eco-friendly column for the Dallas Morning News.


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