25 March 2013
I arrive back to the northern part of Europe — Hamburg, to be exact — just as the wintry stuff really hit central Europe. Crap, bad timing. I seem to miss the real cold and snow by a step each time this trip! Hamburg was just mild and windy, though it fell to a nice -5c or so in the evening.
Arrival day was not to be busy, so I relaxed with a late booking at one of the city’s best regarded restaurants, the 1-Michelin Se7en Oceans. My stomach had healed well enough from the poisoning 2 days earlier to venture a full meal, so why not, right?
I had a nice walk along the Binnenalster and found the restaurant in the Europassage shopping center. Now I really don’t like the gourmet-in-the-mall concept (including Per Se at the Time-Warner Center), especially ones that have poorly-planned escalators… Oh well…
I was seated in a rather quiet restaurant, perhaps as it was 2030 already on a Monday evening. A nice seat looking out to the Binnenalster’s large water spout, I relaxed for what should be a fantastic seafood feast. When the menu arrived, I was a little disappointed but also found a few interesting bits. The starters and middle courses looked a bit weak, as was the tasting menu, so I decided to improvise something with two main courses. I placed an order for the St Pierre (John Dory) and the salt-marsh lamb. Now that should be good!
At this point some flavoured popcorn was presented as a snack. Nothing special, but good to much on until the bread selection arrived with a salmon herb butter. Some of the bread was so over-salted I couldn’t eat it…bad sign… And the amuse-bouche was next, a selection of fish-based treats.
Not bad, little morsels of fishy goodness (and again over-salted…hmmm…). Then I got the bad news — even though the server heavily recommended the salt-marsh lamb, they had run out. Now when they tried to push the veal (from the tasting menu), I wasn’t biting. And worse, they tried to push the rabbit from the lunch (!!) menu — no way. So I decided to bring in a starter instead…not a good start at all…
A fine white from Baden was served and I was hoping the starter of char and roe will turn out good. Well, it looked very interesting and the presentation was beautiful…
To be honest the char in the crisp thingies were not very tasty, and was not strong enough to support all the weight on it properly. Either this had sat a little too long for the base to wilt/weaken, or this was just planned badly. The roe in the shell was better, and that was a nice touch. I am starting to worry this place is about appearance and not substance…
After a bit more wine — which I have to admit was good, and the pours generous — the main course of St Pierre (John Dory) arrived. I figured a local fish would do well here, and I love John Dory and have never had a bad one in my life.
Now this confused me at first. The dish was listed to be served on “black rice” but it turned out to be purple rice — not with ink as you would have expected by the terminology. And it turned out to be nearly all salt…I’ve *never* tasted something so ridiculously oversalted before. And it has a sour tinge to it. And the breading of the fish had a sickly, honey sweet taste to it. Now this combination is so conflicting and dreadful I can’t imagine who came up with it. They were each competing on which would make me give up eating first. It was the salt. I could strip the fish of the terrible breading, but not the rice of its salinity.
I left it all on the plate and mentioned this to the server. To their credit they took it off the bill and offered me something else, which I declined. I really had just lost interest in the dinner after this disaster. After a nice after-dinner drink and coffee I had enough and headed out.
The staff was, however, fantastic and they tried to make this poor dining experience pleasant, but the kitchen was a complete fail this evening. Running out of dishes, preparing others so awfully, this is utterly inexcusable for a Michelin-starred restaurant. It’s experiences like this that re-affirms my feelings about how much of a joke the Michelin scrutiny is…and my rules about gourmet restaurants in shopping malls…