Food served on river stones and tree bark – 3 Michelin star restaurant!

Last night I went through a culinary experience that I believe I’ll think of a great deal in the following months. For anyone who appreciates Michelin restaurants, an incursion in a three star restaurant is “The Big Event”.

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In Munich there aren’t any restaurants rated three Michelin stars. The closest one is 63 kilometers away, at Rottach-Ergen, on the coast of the lake Tergernsee. Just to clarify the context, I’d like to point out that in the whole of Germany there’s only eleven 3 star restaurants (this text is written on October, 2014), and getting on fine: Italy only has eight, and in the UK – 4.

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Compliments – sour and cress creams, served on a river stone, together with homemade crackers affixed to tree bark

So, last night we arrived at the Überfahrt Restaurant, 63 kilometers from our home, where Chef Christian Jürgens is already a legend (damn it! You’re not allowed to be a legend when you’re 46 years old! And to have married two weeks before!).

We made the reservation a month before. We didn’t find places any earlier. We expected that. The 20 something tables of the restaurant can’t handle the amount of amateur gourmands that come here to admire the way in which Chef Jürgens is inspired by everything that he sees around the Tergernsee lake – stones, tree bark, grass, flowers – elements that he transposes into his dishes.

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Compliments – carrots, radish, filled with cheese mousse served on river stones

The experience was something truly novel. Each dish surprised us with it’s boldness. It demanded our senses to the extreme. It made us ask questions.

HEAVEN AND EARTH – duck liver, Joselito, turnips and apple

HEAVEN AND EARTH – duck liver, Joselito, turnips and apple

Many times, the main piece of a dish was often overcome by the intense aroma of a sauce or garnish. That was unexpected. But one couldn’t say he didn’t like it. It intrigued us, especially because so far we’ve mostly encountered a more classic style of cooking, based on the harmony of the tastes, which your taste buds instantly validate.

This time we had to use our cognitive capabilities, to debate, to exchange a plethora of impressions in order to try to understand this dish.

Twice the dishes were prepared right in front of our faces. As in the case of this lobser.

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The preparation of HONG KONG CRAYFISH TEA was done in the recipient below, similar to the technique used to prepare coffee.

For 10 minutes, the liquid boiled and invaded the upper recipient, from which it took the necessary aromas.

After, we looked with yearning at the lobster which disappeared into the kitchen, to the trash bin. This dish used the strong aroma of lobster exclusively. As spectacular as the prep work looked, the result was quite down-to-earth, namely:

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HONG CONG CRAYFISH TEA

HONG CONG CRAYFISH TEA

HONG CONG CRAYFISH TEA

Maybe we should’ve expected this, however. After all, the dish was called HONG KONG CRAYFISH TEA.

What’s sure is that we didn’t have any rest. We went from experience to experience.

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DEEP PURPLE – flat-fish, beef, cauliflower, and cyclamen

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DEEP PURPLE – flat-fish, beef, cauliflower, and cyclamen

And one of the most interesting was this:

POTATO CUBE – potato, soft egg yellow and truffles

POTATO CUBE – potato, soft egg yellow and truffles

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A cube made out of potato, in which we discovered an egg yolk, above which a rich assemblage of truffles presided over. It was a truly remarkable taste, and the waiters told us it was the signature dish of the Chef, among the other 6 dishes on the menu.

A spectacular dish was the one based on venison. It was called FIRE, and it should be apparent why.

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FIRE – venison, red beets and cabbage puree; the venison was put in the middle of the flames, wrapped up in cabbage leaves

This fire dominated our table for several minutes. I, personally, assumed that the waiter would eventually put something on it. Well, no! I was greatly surprised when the waiter started to work with his tools inside the flames, and when he finally retrieved a piece of precious venison right from the heart of the flames. He unwrapped it delicately from the cabbage leaf in which it was packed in, cut it and put it on the plate alongside our garnish of red beet and cabbage puree.

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FIRE – venison, red beets and cabbage puree; the waiter ousts the flames and the cabbage from the venison

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FIRE – venison, red beets and cabbage puree; the venison is cut

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FIRE – venison, red beets and cabbage puree

The venison was tender, remarkably raffinated, and the garnish, with a slightly sour taste, contributed to a very intelligent contrast. I don’t think I was sufficiently prepared to savor something like this. Regularly, venison is eaten with much weaker garnish, or at least, more classic. While I ate this dish I kept exchanging impressions with Mr. Double Espresso. I had the sensation that the strong taste of the garnish overwhelmed the venison, so at one point we decided to eat a couple pieces of venison without the garnish, to see how it affected the dish.

The fact is that we understood this new-fangled bold joining of taste only post factum, reading more about the style and personality of Chef Christian Jürgens.

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SHEEP RUN – sheep and goat cheese, apricot and onion (pearl onion)

 

IMG_0338As I said, it was a night in which everything was served to us “on the tray”, we couldn’t laze around in our chairs, or delight our senses in a gradual, easy way. We always had to be attentive, to think, to use our intuition and to struggle in order to overcome prejudices, classic paradigms, to get out of our comfort zone.

Compliments – venison stew served in red onion peel

Compliments – venison stew served in red onion peel

As I, following several rather unpleasant experiences, decided not to change my wine during my meal anymore (usually, each dish is accompanied by a wine, which puts it’s assets into the spotlight), I drank a white wine produced by the Chef himself, recommended by the sommelier, which rose to my expecations. It was complex enough for a wine which had to accompany 7 dishes. It had a pleasent smell, perfumed.

PLUM BRANCH – plums, sour cream, cinnamon and almond ice cream

PLUM BRANCH – plums, sour cream, cinnamon and almond ice cream

IMG_0345Behind this menu is the talent of marvelous Chef, Christian Jürgens, the son of a German butcher, which took his first cooking lessons at 16. At 29, just a year after he became head Chef of Am Marstall, a restaurant in Munich, he earns it it’s first Michelin star. In 2001 he joins the chef team at «Kastel», in Burg Wernberg, and a year later the restaurant is awarded two Michelin stars. Maybe his luck is following him? Maybe his talent is paving the way before him, and makes everything seem so natural?

In 2013 Jürgens was named ‘Chef of the Year” by Gault Millau Germany, and Überfahrt, the restaurant which he leads, was awarded 19 Gault Millau points, a prestige bestowed on only 9 other restaurants.

In 2014, for the first time in it’s history,  Überfahrt receives three Michelin stars.

On the restaurant’s site I’ve read that, besides the five books of which he’s the author of, his weekly cooking shows and the meals and dinners he prepares daily for people who had been looking for a spot at a table in his restaurant for weeks, Chef Christian Jürgens also has time to give cooking lessons bi-monthly.

Maybe he’d be the right person to give life lessons too.

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