Dining in Germany: Vendôme***

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Vendôme is the restaurant of chef Joachim Wissler, with 3 Michelin stars, awarded best restaurant in Germany and #10 on the list of the 50 best restaurants in the world. The restaurant is located in Schloss Bensberg, a very stylish hotel that is close to Cologne and less than three hours from Amsterdam. For us it is the closest restaurant in the top 10, and so about time we went to check it out 🙂

We went all out and ordered the “Spring 2014” edition of the “Big Expedition” menu, 11 courses (+ 5 amuses bouche + 6 after-dinner sweets) for 248 euros plus matching wines for 108 euros. There are also smaller options, 5 courses for 170 euros or 7 courses for 200 euros, or à la carte. (On Wednesday and Thursday there is a 200 euros special, 5 courses including wine and coffee.) We had a glass of weissburgunder (pinot blanc) sekt from Rheinessen as an aperitif.

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The first amuse bouche is a ‘white borscht’ and is served with this nice cover.

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Under the cover is the ‘white borscht’ on top of smoking wood chips that provide a very nice smell.

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With the borscht also come these very crunchy crackers stuffed with tender and tasty beef tartare.

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The 2nd amuse bouche is called “Himmel & Ääd” (Heaven & Earth) and includes black pudding, potato, and apple. The black pudding (blood sausage) is very delicate, delicious, and melts in your mouth.

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The 3rd amuse bouche is foie grass praline with chocolate and hazelnut. They taste as amazing as they look.

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The white coconut with Indonesian pepper  and yuzu was nice too.

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The yuzu was actually inside this egg.

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The lightly smoked salmon…

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…was served with brittle seaweed and soy sauce ‘caviar’. It actually has the texture of caviar, but is made with (and tastes like) soy sauce and a touch of wasabi. The combination is of course inspired by sushi, with only the rice missing. Very nice indeed.

We were truly impressed by the amuses bouche. Although everything looks amazing, the flavor (and texture) is more important than just visual gimmicks, which is the way we like it. 10/10 for these amuses!

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The first course is scallops marinated with miso with fermented jerusalem artichoke puree and lovage vinaigrette. There were also some dried slices of scallop on the side. This dish was absolutely delicious and had amazing depth of flavor. It is hard to describe but definitely 10/10. Paired adequately with a sauvignon blanc from Alto Adige.

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Seared foie gras with chicory (witlof), smoked eel, and a curry-nut emulsion. The sweetness of the 2005 late-harvest pinot gris from Alsace really brought out the foie gras. Again a wonderful combination of flavors that was both interesting and delicious. 9/10

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A ‘Spanish’ stew of langoustine and octopus with sobrassado (chorizo) and beans. The melted fat of the sobrassado was served on the side to stir into the soup, along with some crispy octopus. The beans provided texture but didn’t taste of much. The combination of sobrassado with octopus is of course a classic and it was delicious, also thanks to the langoustine and octopus that were tender and juicy. 9/10 The wine pairing was OK with a white from local graps (gros and petit manseng, among others) from Fresh Basque country. This wine seemed to have been picked for the next course, and the sommelier explained that they also used it for this course to prevent confusing the guests too much with too many wines. (I would personally to risk being confused and get a better wine pairing by pairing each course individually.)

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Cod confit with horseradish butter, asparagus, douglas fir oil, and more of the ‘caviar’. The texture of the cod was amazing, and now the wine pairing did work very well. 9/10

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Tuna toro: the fatty belly piece of tuna. Very nice and paired nicely with a white from Languedoc. 8/10

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The wagyu short rib with smoked potato and vegetables was cooked to perfection (probably sous-vide). Very nice but I wasn’t impressed, probably because I can do my own wagyu sous-vide at home. 8/10 A 2006 Chambolle Musigny 1er cru is of course nice, but a bit dry for the buttery wagyu. Again this wine was used twice and apparently picked to go with the pigeon.

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Breast of ‘Bresse’ pigeon, with a pigeon giblets sandwich and morels. The pigeon was cooked to perfection and the ‘sandwich’ nicely crunchy. The pairing with the Chambolle was very nice, too. 9/10

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The cheese dish was cooked and served in a very nice and original way: steamed with hay! You could actually smell the hay and the cheese served lukewarm had just the right balance in flavor. It was served with cranberries and paired nicely with some kind of fruity cider that worked well with it.

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The first dessert was raspberry and rhubarb, paired nicely with bracchetto d’aqui. The rhubarb tasted of rhubarb without being too strong, very nice. 9/10

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The second dessert tasted as amazing as it looks. Wow. The grey ‘stone’ is actually a tangerine sorbet, covered with some kind of powder to make it look like a stone. The shiso leaves and all the other thingies on the plate worked very well with the tangerine sorbet. The wine pairing with a chenin blanc from South Africa also worked very well. This is one of the best desserts I’ve ever had. 10/10!

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The deconstructed tarte tatin with tonka bean ice cream (called “Apple 2014”) was the third and final dessert and came with an apple ‘ice wine’ that had such a strong taste that it overpowered the dessert just a bit. The dessert itself was nice but not as nice as the apple dessert at Bord’eau. 8/10

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The collection of sweets was very nice: lemon and pistacchio macaron, apple and cinnamon cupcake, chocolate croissant, grapefruit cream puff, coconut and passion fruit magnum, raspberry & lychee pâte de fruit.

Joachim Wissler is a great chef. We didn’t see him during the dinner. Perhaps he wasn’t even there, or he is just shy. The food was great, beautifully presented, technically perfect, and delicious. If I have to come up with some criticism, it would have to be that I didn’t notice anything particularly ‘German’ about the menu. Most chefs use the best local produce to ‘anchor’ the restaurant in the region. Germany is not known as a culinary paradise, but this seems almost like a statement. Even none of the wines were from Germany. This makes it more difficult to identify the chef’s style. Having said that, this is certainly in the top 10 of restaurants where I’ve eaten and I’m scoring 9.5/10 for the food, close to 10/10 but not quite.

The wine pairings were adequate, although I would have preferred to have a different wine with each dish as the two wines that were used twice weren’t as great a match for one of the dishes they were paired with. 8.5/10

The service was very attentive, although perhaps a bit formal. We like to have some more interaction. What adds to that is that there are a lot of different servers. But at the same time it also shows how well they work together, as everything was efficient, fast, and accurate. 8.5/10

I’m already looking forward to our next visit. It is good to know that such a great restaurant is so close to where we live.

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21 thoughts on “Dining in Germany: Vendôme***

    1. I have actually bestowed 10/10 for food at a few restaurants, but that is indeed rare. I’m still waiting for a restaurant to score 10/10 for wine pairings, that would be amazing.

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  1. Hugely ‘better’ than yesterday on the Mosel – hugely expensive too if one has a slim pocket book, but well worth saving up for!! The ‘Spanish stew’ and the ‘cheese dish’ especially appeal . . . and this time I like the almost Japanese style of plating 🙂 !

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      1. You were there to judge and I bow to that! Had I not been told the site of the restaurant tho’, I would have picked modern Kyoto [and in my book you cannot have higher praise 🙂 !].

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  2. Hello, I have nominated you to the Dragon’s Loyalty Award. Please check out my latest blog post (15 April) for more info and rules if you wish to accept it. Thanks for a good blog!! 🙂

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  3. Very sad that he did not use German wines. No reason he couldn’t have made that local touch. Thanks for the fully informative post. Now I don’t feel like I need to go there.

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  4. So nice to be served a meal for which such care was obviously taken. Each plate was beautifully presented and I very much preferred them over those your shared from Schanz. It’s good to hear, too, that you both enjoyed your meal so. Very good to hear. 🙂

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