About mel91872

A living conflict, writing about food, foreign politics and anything that comes to mind.

Review: Villa Berulia

28 January 2018

I got back across the Atlantic to be greeted by chaos at JFK. I guess I’ve been lucky, as JFK has been so good the last few years with international arrivals (except the lengthy walk…btw not fun when you’re still in some pain), but this time for some reason pretty much every Delta flight across the Atlantic landed at the same time. Immigration was a mess, and many of the scan machines were broken or in the process of crashing. Then major chaos at the baggage area with multiple flights using the same belts, delays compounded by the massive immigration back-up. Oh Delta, you screwed this one up…

I got the hell out of Dodge and into Midtown, not helped by the Tunnel repairs. Luckily I stayed on the East side, my old hood, as the West Side was a total mess with the Grammy’s. Those folks taking the train from JFK are in for a hell of a surprise…

I chilled out at my hotel for a bit before I headed south by a few block to one of my old haunts, Villa Berulia. This old-school Italian-Croatian restaurant has been around for decades, and has a serious following. I’ve never reviewed it cuz…well, it’s a regular (until now, since I’m so far removed from NYC these days…). I arrived early on a Sunday night and was a little surprised that no one remembers me. Was it the beard?

I sat down and enjoyed a nicely-made martini. Then, not needing a menu, I placed my order. Odd that my server seems to not remember me, despite having served me dozens of times over more than a decade, and the fact I was answering partly in Croatian… It’s the beard…

I’ve not eaten since that absolutely excellent evening last night at Rijks, so I was hungry. I relaxed and soon my starter arrived, and I smiled…

1-oysters_edited

A dozen rather tasty oysters, but like usual they didn’t really shuck it. Thank goodness I’m good at it, but with a butter knife you can only do so much — especially when you’re hungry. I’ve not eaten since that awesome dinner at Rijks last night (I don’t eat on planes anymore). Good stuff, enjoyed these. It’s been awhile since I’ve had raw oysters (tho this brought back memories of those nice wrapped ones at Calla’s in Den Haag).

I finished them and then they brought out a nice Croatian wine…odd, they still didn’t remember me! Then the main course, something I’ve ordered dozens of times here…

2a-veal chop_edited

This is their signature dish, the veal chop. It’s always a monster, and it’s always fantastic. Juicy, cooked perfectly, and gloriously fatty where it needs to be. I spent the next half hour devouring this monster, enjoying a nice Croatian red along side. Mmmm, fabulous.

I finished it and then the dessert trolley was carried down (steps), and I surprisingly went with a cake…

3-cake_edited

Mmm, worked perfectly with a rakija they brought me. Odd, at this point I’m having nearly the same meal I usually do for the last 12 years and they still don’t remember…then I finally reminded them. Sigh…

Anyway, I left happy and slowly walked back to my hotel. So good to not have to limp! But sigh, home tomorrow…

Villa Berulia
107 East 34th Street
New York, New York

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Review: Rijks

27 January 2018

My foot was a bit better, but I’m sure it wasn’t helped by that bloody awful experience at HanTing last night. I headed out of the pretty good hotel and caught a train (despite wholesale cancellations on the network…gee, it’s turning into the UK here…) north to Amsterdam.

I jumped off at Zuid as I was staying near there. I like to stay away from the centre, which is way too touristy. It’s been over a decade since I’ve been here, but I still know the transport network so it’s not much of a challenge. I spent a busy late morning and afternoon strolling through areas in Amstelveen and Oost that I’ve never explored. But I ended up walking many kilometres, which isn’t easy with pain and a slight limp (which started to get worse as the day went along). I may have pushed myself a little too far…

Back to the hotel with a wee sandwich, since I forgot most of Zuid is shut for the weekend as it’s a business district. Oh well. I had a good dinner planned tonight at Rijks, the 1-Michelin restaurant connected to the world-famous Rijksmuseum. I wish I had time to go back, since I’ve not been back since the multi-year renovation, but time’s too short this trip…

I headed to dinner though forced to walk the last lengths due to a tram failure…damn this place is looking more like the UK everyday! I got to Rijks and it immediately reminded me of Lincoln in NYC — a large, but celebrated restaurant connected to a cultural institution. Let’s hope the food is as good as Lincoln’s…

I was seated and I chilled out with a cocktail. Nice…already liking this place. It’s a small-plates menu, so as I sipped my cocktail I looked over the stuff and made a decision. I ordered and then the amuse arrived, a morsel of avocado with mushroom powder…

AB-mushroom

Not bad. My server did the usual “don’t eat the other stuff” line and I asked him how often do people do, and he admitted that every day several servings ended up with many or all the decorative mushrooms consumed…lol… But not a bad snack. I relaxed and the sommelier asked me about wines, and I chose all Dutch wines for the night. Then we start with the first item, the local grey shrimp.

01-shrimp

Mmm, this was delicious, the flavours just excellent with the shallots a great add. Surprisingly good potato. The white they poured was a white from Maastricht and it was surpisingly crisp and delicious, so I stayed on it for the whites segment. Good start! Next up, razor clams…

02-razors

The chopped clams were stuffed inthe onions, which overwhelmed everything a little too much. The young garlic sprouts were fabulous though. Weakest dish of the night for sure. But the wine worked with this well also. But with the change in direction I asked for a red, and they poured me a red from Thorn, also in Limburg (like Maastricht), then brought out the babi guling.

03-babi guling

A recall on the colonial history of the Netherlands, this was a wonderful slice of roast pig for sure. The meat was very juicy and cooked just perfectly, and the crackling was dreamy. A perfect piece, excellent! Wine worked very well too. I’m very surprised how nice Dutch wines are! I stayed with it for the next course, duck hearts.

04-duck hearts

Mmm, another winner here! Lovely flavours, the kitchen really let the flavour of the offal come out but without it being too overwhelming. Cooked perfectly, with lots of good veggies too. I’m really enjoying this evening! Excellent food, fabulous service, great wines, comfortable space. What more can you add? It’s even better than Lincoln (because you can actually see your food).

I had ordered four dishes, but when they asked about dessert, I decided on something a little more. I ordered, and my server smiled. Poured me another glass of the fine red from Thorn, a very generous pour this time, and after a little while the fifth dish arrived — the duck.

05-duck

Oh I’m so glad I added this dish; the hearts were so good so tried the rest of the beast. Excellent quality meat, cooked perfectly with a delicious rub. The veg worked very well with the wee buttery sauce. What a lovely dish to close out the savouries! Then we move to dessert to close the night, this one was centered around the humble celeriac.

06-celeriac

Delicious stuff, which I paired with a single malt from Friesland. Nice and peaty, this worked well with the earthy dessert. Lovely! Great recommendation from the sommelier.

As I was settling up, I thanked them for the excellent and efficient service. The place was rammed and energetic, but they did not miss one single step in service. The entire team was fantastic. For a larger restaurant that is a challenge, and they did it very, very well. Far more worthy of Michelin acclaim than most other places.

Lo and behold the best meal of the entire trip was the last one before heading back across the Atlantic. But what a great one to end things with…

Totally recommended!

Rijks
Museumstraat 2
Amsterdam, Nederland

Review: HanTing

26 January 2018

I had a pretty productive day in Den Haag, despite the limp. It’s better, but still a bit trying. But still fuelled on by last night’s nice dinner at Calla’s, and definitely not by the bad lunch I had…

I chilled out in my room a little, doing some late travel logistical stuff before I headed out to dinner. Now I usually avoid non-indigenous ethnic cuisine when I travel, but for some reason I decided to make a booking at HanTing. Reading all the descriptions online I figured it was more fusion than Chinese, so went with it.

I was wondering why the restaurant lost its Michelin star from the time I booked it, but that’s never a good sign. Possibly because of a format change announced on the website? In any case, I arrived a bit early on a cool evening and was promptly seated at a table with two rather voluminous ladies that reeked of tobacco…great…

Then before I could do anything, including take a sip of water, the amuse tray was brought — and placed right on the fork so the handle popped right up. No care at all…hmmm… Anyway…

AB1a-tray

The wee pumpkin soup was not bad, the cherry macaron too sweet for before dinner (would be good later), the beet was mushy, and the weird cream again best saved for dessert. A bit inconsistent, things are all over the place so far… And of course they brought me my menu as I was working on this, in mid bite. What is the rush? Sigh…

I put the menu away and finished the amuse. Then looked over it and placed the order. And also got a half bottle of white to go along with it. I have a weird feeling about this place that’s preventing me from ordering more… Then after quite a long time a second amuse arrived — pork belly.

AB2-belly

Well, this must have sat around for awhile… It was chewy, mushy and awful frankly. Seriously this should have been brought out maybe 10 minutes earlier. This is just rubbish… And of course the first dish came out in about 2 minutes…wtf…

01-hamachi morel

This was supposed to be hamachi and morels, but was a very weak dish. The horseradish saved it a little, but the dish was pretty boring. Fish was okay, but the morels were pretty poor as were some of the other elements. Beautiful plating is not an excuse for mediocrity in taste…

Of course the wine came AFTER the dish…a half bottle of pinot gris. The sommelier kept trying to upsell stuff but I went with this one. The whole things had a weird odour…then I realised, it’s chlorine. After the first glass I asked to switch glasses, and it was exactly the same. It must be how they wash the glasses…this is AWFUL! Destroys nearly anything you want to taste in wine!

My goodness now I can see how they lost their Michelin star! How did they get one in the first place? Ugh… Then dish two arrived…

02a-urchin marrow

Not bad, so that’s a good change. The langostine worked in this also, but there seems to be contrasting flavours here and there, and a rather tasteless chawanmushi… Why do people try to make it without learning that it’s NOT THAT SIMPLE when you have it in Japan? Like the boring one at Konstantin Filippou the other night… And this wasn’t helped by the chrorinated wine…

I was pretty much deflated by now, but at least the odour of heavy tobacco from next to me have departed. I’m sorry, but fancy clothes does not make you classy… Then the third dish, the duck…

03a-duck

Again, lots of odd, clashing flavours here. The duck was not very good, but the offal on the side was a pleasant surprise; the heart not bad, the tongue was the best. The jellyfish thing on the side was hacked into bits and hard to eat, which kind of defeats the purpose of it.

And by now I’ve finished the white and had ordered a glass of grenache, which came in YET ANOTHER CHLORINATED GLASS. Ugh…I felt ill… Why did they clean their wine glasses like this? It DESTROYS THE WINE! I was totally deflated and wasn’t even looking forward to the final dish, the lamb, when it appeared…

04a-lamb

Meh, meh, meh… The lamb was just boring, which ever way they chose to cook it. I really had lost all hope in this meal I barely ate this. I just needed a strong drink to fuel my way home after this disaster…and of course I forgot until after I ordered about the horrible chlorinated glass problem…and of course that wrecked the tipple…

And just to make things worse, it took me EIGHT tries to get my bill. After rushing me at the start now this? This is a total shitshow. One of the worst dining experiences in many years. Avoid at all cost. No doubt how they lost their Michelin star, but how did they get one in the first place?

Just awful…a total shitshow…

HanTing
Prinsestraat 33
Den Haag, Nederland

Review: Calla’s

25 January 2018

Ugh…after the utterly disappointing evening at the previously amazing Konstantin Filippou, I really did not need my alarm going off before 4am… My foot was a little better but didn’t want to risk it so used the equally-disappointing Taxify to get me to the airport. Of course it had to give me major problems…

And, as if Vienna couldn’t get rid of me quickly enough, some total dumbass rolls his heavy luggage over my foot at the check-in area…

After a good kip I got to Amsterdam, and thank goodness my foot was good enough to walk the long, long corridors at Schiphol to the train station, where I hopped on the Sprinter to get to Den Haag. Thank goodness my hotel was next to the train station and happily checked me in early…

I explored a part of town, albeit slowly and with the same annoying limp, but I’m sick of letting pain stop me…though I know I’ll pay for it later (like I said to myself in Cairo). A good little exploration but I skipped lunch, so everything is riding on dinner tonight at Calla’s.

Calla’s was not too far from my hotel, a quick tram ride away, and I walked into the 1-Michelin restaurant and sighed…a long flight of stairs. I made it up slowly and parked myself at my table. Quiet night, but that usually means good service. I accepted their house apertif, a vermouth spritzer, and they soon began the amuse selection…

AB1-cheese

First was some cheesy bits, which wasn’t bad. Worked well with the spritzer. Next up some morsels based on mushroom and tapioca, which was wee salty. Then the last were mussels, which was quite good. A satisfactory start, and then the menu was presented. I happily went with the full tasting and pairing, sensing a good night. Frankly it can’t collapse as bad as last night…

I relaxed before a nice pinot gris from Alsace was poured, and the first dish is presented — mackerel.

01-mackerel

Not bad, beautifully plated, but the mackerel was decidedly mild…okay, flavourless. Really not strong like mackerel should be. But the roe helped this dish along so it wasn’t a bad one. A generous pour of a chablis and dish two appears…

02-oysters

Oh this is excellent. These oysters are wrapped by a wonderful slice of beef, all with a touch of mild horseradish. Fabulous stuff, especially for those of us who love to taste our oysters. Really excellent stuff here. That cheered me up very quickly.

I was still the only diner; in fact, only 1 other party came in the time I was there. They did say this is the slow season, explaining this while pouring a nice chenin blanc before bringing my third dish, the cod.

03-cod

Again, fish on the bland side. But overall not bad, the brandade that included eel and duck liver was quite a nice addition that gave this dish some life. Then with another generous pour of a pinot noir I sensed the direction is shifting. And certainly, as next up was sweetbread.

04b-sweetbread

Good dish, worked nice overall with excellent quality sweetbread (though not easy to see on this photo). Lots of other elements here, the onions being a good part of it. Not bad at all. Then a very nice pour of a cab franc we have roasted pigeon.

05-pigeon

A really excellent pigeon, the best of this trip. Far better than the one at Opus the other night in Vienna for sure. Top quality meat, cooked perfect, with the cheese and chicory adding an extra dimension to the wonderful bird. Nice end to the savouries!

I relaxed and they gave me a little time to relax too, which is wonderful. I love it when they adjust by actually watching their customers — this is a sign of truly good service. Then my server came and poured a crispy sweet anjou that was utterly drinkable before he presented the first dessert…

06-cheese

Mmm, he brought a plate that featured white chocolate and mango, then my nose alerted me to more — as the Vacherin Mont d’Or is scooped…oh my… This was lovely, the awesome combination that highlighted the fabulous cheese… So nice!

At this point I had halted the wine pairing and asked for a calvados to accompany my last dessert, which is based on prunes…

07-prune

I’ve never been a fan of prunes, even if they’re pruneaux d’Agen, so this was probably wasted on me. Was too, well, pruny for me… The calvados worked well here tho, so I had another with the last treats…

end

A pretty good night, I’m pleasantly surprised. Some of the dishes were on the mild side, but there were some fabulous items like the beef-wrapped oysters and the lovely Vacherin, as well as the pigeon. It’s too bad so few diners were here tonight, but this place is a winner. Good food, excellent service, comfortable surroundings, it should attract far more diners — especially in an international place like The Hague.

But a good night has to come to an end, so fuelled by the calvados I managed to limp down the stairs, head back to the tram, avoid a bunch of drunks and get back to my hotel. A pretty good evening I must say. Very much recommended.

Calla’s
Laan van Roos en Doorn 51a
Den Haag, Nederland

Review #2: Konstantin Filippou

24 January 2018

Despite ongoing foot issues, I had to move around. I’m getting stir-crazy sitting in hotel rooms. Fuelled by that pretty good dinner last night at Opus, I headed out — again no thanks to a Taxify driver who can’t figure out basic directions… I spent a good hour alone walking through the Kaisergruft — the final resting places of the Habsburgs. Oddly empty this morning, I got to really enjoy examining the intricate design details this time.

Although still limping, I made it to a nice little place nearby called Gasthaus Reinthaler, a traditional eatery that was full of locals. I’m still thanking Woden that my German is still good enough to be functional, and I had a nice lunch indeed. Oh that juicy crispty duck

Hopped out and after some more Taxify issues I got back to my hotel. I may be getting stir-crazy in my room, but I can’t push this too hard as I have 3 long days in the Netherlands coming up before heading back across the Atlantic. So I just rested the foot until dinner time.

As mentioned last time, I was heading back to Konstantin Filippou this evening. Last time I was here I had such a spectacular meal, with some of the finest seafood I’ve had in ages. I’m hoping for a similarly good experience tonight. I’ve not had good luck recently with revisiting restaurants where I have had spectacular evenings, most recently Funky Gourmet in Athens. But let’s see…

I limped to my seat and relaxed. I ordered a cocktail and they presented the day’s menu and I happily went with it and chose the wine pairing (they have two). Then even before my cocktail arrived the amuse started…

AB1-duck

First up was a duck croquet, which was really poor. It’s like a ball of starch, rather undercooked. And where’s the duck — aside from the cute decor? Then the second one arrived…

AB2-liver

The liver was rather tasteless. What’s going on? Then the very strong martini arrives. Not a second to relax. I asked them to hold off on the food until I finish my cocktail. Why do restaurant not want their customers to relax, and then later on take forever to bring the dishes? It’s so opposite to what our needs are… Then a third amuse…

AB3-yolk tart

A yolk and onion tart, but the pastry was just awful…floury, and barely stayed together. What is going on here? Sigh… Anyway, I finished my cocktail and the dinner was about to begin. A nice rosé was poured and the first dish arrived — a chawanmushi?

01-chawanmushi

Huh? This was a mess, with bits of sepia and other things. It tasted nice, but it really was odd… Then a pour of a Grüner Veltliner (into the same glass?) then we have brandade

zzzzz

Hmmm…this carp emulsion was okay, but it was helped along by the roe. Nice, though again odd. Then a white from Styria is poured — again into the same glass — and we have mussels.

03-mussels

Broth a touch acidic, but a good tasty dish. More roe…what’s with all the roe today? And everything seems to be hidden in some broth so far… It’s an odd dinner so far, with disastrous amuse and odd dishes. At least it’s not repetitive from last time (too bad, it was so damn good!). A pour of a nice Roter Veltliner, the lesser-known cousin of the well-known Austrian grape and we have the langostine.

04-langostine

Nowhere as good as the langostine last time, but still about as good as last night’s excellent one. However, the broth, which includes veal tongue of all things, was also quite nice. Good switch of pace, I’m hoping we’re on that road to a series of great dishes like how blown away I was last time!

Well, I won’t find out for awhile, because all of a sudden things got really, really slow. Now then why did you rush me so much at the start? Ugh… But then the next item was the salmon-trout…

05-salmon trout

Paired with a white burgundy, this was a weak dish. The fish seemed of questionable quality, rather tasteless. The only thing that saved it was the cooking, the carrot sauce helped quite a bit. This was one of the “extra” dishes as I requested a longer tasting menu with “surprise” items, and it’s not exactly a good surprise… Oh well, we move on, even as the deceleration was getting more evident…

After a while the next dish appeared, and I was shaking my head with this one…

06-dumpling

This was filled with shrimp but it was just horrendous. Please do not try to cook Hong Kong cuisine if you don’t know how to get the fundamentals right, like the wrap. Another of the “surprise” dishes…should not have bothered if they are of such poor quality.

I noticed that Chef is doing a lot of TV now…and that’s never a good sign. Attention is taken away from the kitchen, and usually I avoid places that have the chefs spend too much time in front of a camera. I worry this is the case here… Then after another lengthy wait we have the pike-perch…

07-pike-perch_edited

Nothing special. Not even the marrow and truffles really helped this dish along… Really boring, despite the strong ingredients listed. Sigh… Starting to feel that curse hitting now… Another 25+ minute wait and the next item, the eel…

08-eel

Hmmm…again, it’s just not striking. The eel is smoked, with veal. Just does absolutely nothing, a totally boring dish. What is going on here? Just disappointingly mediocre, with poor ingredients — which is exactly opposite from my previous visit. Sigh…

I was just losing enthusiasm by this point. A Blaufränkisch is poured (finally into a new glass), we have the main dish — Iberico…

09-Iberico

Oh my was this bad! This was even worse than that horrific one I had from Dinner by Heston Blumenthal… Just awful, poor quality meat (is this even Iberico or a cheap knock-off?), poorly cooked. I actually abandoned this dish… If this was from an Iberico pig, this kitchen really needs to apologise to the poor animal who died for this. A total waste. They asked if I wanted a replacement, but my heart was already out of this meal, so I declined…

After a little bit they poured an apple wine and then brought out the trio of desserts…

10a-dessert

I really don’t recall much of these three by this point, I was so disappointed with this evening I barely recall eating these three items. I think they can see my disappointment as they brought out an extra glass of wine for me with the closing chocolates…

I had enough. I headed out after settling the bill, disappointed by everything. Seems the curse of the repeat continues. This was by far the worst of the three repeats (EquiTable in Zürich & Funky Gourmet in Athens). Some of the dishes were just awful and I can’t believe this is the same place as that amazing dinner last time… Does Chef even care or is it all about TV now? A shocking 180-degree turn here…

This just deflated me. And of course, the coup de grâceTaxify ripped me off with a ride that never came (but app said completed and I was charged), and having to immediately re-order a second car and after dropping me off the quick consecutive charge caused a fraud alert and freeze on my card.

I don’t care if you’re Estonian, but Taxify, YOU SUCK.

What a shitty end to this part of the trip…

Konstantin Filippou
Dominikanerbastei 17
Wien, Österreich

Review: Opus

23 January 2018

I made my way out of Berlin to Vienna, which had an added bit of entertainment with the musicians of the Estonian Festival Orchestra also making their way between concerts. Some of them were puzzled why a fellow traveller trying to help them with fitting instruments into the overhead bins was speaking to them in Estonian…

Anyway, made it to Vienna in one piece, and limped my way through the airport to the train station. Hopped on the S-Bahn and got to town. Although on a normal day the walk from Renneweg to my hotel would be 2-3 minutes, this turned into a ever-slowing limp. Damn, I may have pushed things too far…

Thank goodness the senior reception clerk there took pity on me after her junior colleague told me to wait until 3pm to check in…apparently she understands foot issues. So I happily got to my room and rested this accursed foot… I didn’t have to move until dinner time, so that’s what I did.

Later on I headed out by Taxify (which, btw, works pretty poorly in Vienna…), and got to my dinner destination at the posh Hotel Imperial. Opus is one of the 1-Michelin restaurants in the old imperial capital, and I’m hoping for a good dinner. I’ve had rather mixed experiences in Vienna, from the excellent at 1-star Konstantin Filippou (which I’m revisiting tomorrow evening) to the extremely inconsistent 2-star Steiereck.

I got there just as they opened and it seemed a bit confused at first, but it quickly fell into a good working mode once the martini got into my hand and I relaxed… Good cocktail, and I happily went with the 7-course tasting with wine pairing. Soon the procession of amuse began, first with an oxtail croquette.

AB1-oxtail

Nice and tasty, excellent flavour. Then we get a prawn avocado snack…

AB2-avocado

Hmmm, actually hard to eat with this odd-shaped spade, and it didn’t really have much flavour. At this point they put the bread service out…

bread

A rather nice one, with several butters to choose from, including the candle on the left which slowly melted into a salted butter dip. Good bread too. Then the last snack appears, a very aromatic broth.

AB3-broth

Mmm, this was good, a truffle broth with a cheese nibble on top. The cheese was boring but the broth is something you just want to keep smelling. Very nice.

By now I was relaxed, the martini drained, and was happily nibbling at the bread (especially now the candle has burned down). Then with a pour of a local muscat we start with the first dish, sea bass ceviche.

01-sea bass ceviche

Surprisingly good, the fish was crisp and clean, working very well with that wine. A good start! Then a good pour of a local chardonnay and they bring out a nice prawn and a hot stone for me to cook with…

02a-prawn

And they also bring out the plate, which had a shellfish broth with an amazing aroma… I cooked the prawn lightly and then finished plating the number…

02c-prawn_edited

This was delicious, but that shellfish broth was just awesome… So rich and deep, and it worked so well with the really nice prawn. This easily beat the mess at Sea Grill in Brussels a few weeks earlier… Really happy so far with this meal, as things moved in a relatively good pace as well. Then a pour of a local pinot gris and we have an odd one…

03-artichoke

Supposedly this is artichoke, but on my notes all I wrote about this dish was “WTF” and I still can’t figure much of it out. Supposedly with vaudovan and sorrel, but this tasted like a total mess… About 4-5 other ingredients I couldn’t put my finger on, but it was a mesh of oddly sweet, fried to death, horribly creamy and tasteless elements onto one plate. May be one of the worst things I’ve seen in awhile, even worse than that dreadful “rock crab” dish last night in Berlin at Bandol sur Mer

Anyway, I didn’t really finish that…I needed a huge drink of water and once the next wine, a pinot noir was poured, I needed a good sip of it to clear that off. Then the next dish, pigeon breast…

04-pigeon

To be honest this wasn’t that good. The meat was dry and rather boring, but the sauce was utterly fantastic. Whoever the saucier is in this kitchen is bloody fabulous. Rarely do I praise sauce, but this is so unusually good… It made the pigeon palatable.

And at this point, though the place was about half full, the service has slowed dramatically. This is what I noticed at Steiereck too, the lack of consistency in service. Worse, I noticed there are only 2 people working the entire dining room… Understaffed?

After a bit of a long wait, which wasn’t too bad because of the generally good wine pours, my server returns with a nice merlot and the next dish, veal fillet.

05-veal

Really good dish actually, the veal was tender and flavourful. But once again the sauce was fantastic, and turned a good veal into an excellent dish. How rarely do I say that?! The selection of beans was also quite interesting and nice, as you rarely see them anymore. Good stuff!

Well, I just remembered that this marked the end of the savouries and I see my server bring a bubbly Grüner Veltliner, which was followed by the cheese plate.

06-cheese

A nice selection of local items, the soft ones starring more this evening than usual. One comment — that having bread now instead of crackers or crispbread is a bit too filling… But a good selection of nice cheeses. I enjoyed that. Then with the pour of a local port, we have our dessert…

07-dessert_edited

Well, supposedly made with Valrhona 68% but the chocolate was decidedly weak in this case… The other bits are just tasteless decorations. Well, at least there’s no edible gold, right? A weak end to a relatively good night.

I ordered a final tipple and enjoyed it as they brought out the last treats…

close

A pretty good night overall. A few hiccups, especially with that “artichoke” dish. Service was good despite only having 2 servers for an entire restaurant (short-staffed?), which really shouldn’t happen at a Michelin-starred eatery. But that was compensated by good pours of wine. And some of the dishes were quite nice, and the saucier should really be commended for making some amazing sauces — something I rarely, rarely ever say as an I-prefer-no-sauce person…

I headed out satisfied, but brought back to reality when that was in the form of a limp — and dealing with a confused Taxify driver… I’d recommend this place, but they really need to figure out that “artichoke” dish…

Opus
Hotel Imperial
Kärntner Ring 16
Wien, Österreich

Crazy, Complex Cuisine Loses — the Berlin Edition (Review: Bandol sur Mer)

22 January 2018

I felt a bit better in the afternoon, but still miffed my previously planned day in Berlin is wrecked. The ibuprofen was working well enough I was limping far better this afternoon. By dinner time I risked getting across town on my own and with this limp.

Berlin’s U-Bahn system is easy to use albeit some of the stations are shockingly bad compared to just a few years ago. I mae it across town and walked the few blocks to my dinner destination, the 1-Michelin restaurant Bandol sur Mer. Most comments are that it doesn’t look like a Michelin place, as it’s a small, non-descript place that seems to be popular with local hipsters.

I got there and was seated and I chilled out. I looked over the menu and they offered 2 different tasting menus, of which you can expand — and incorporate from the other. So I did just that, and asked for pairings. Then I just chilled out before the amuse started arriving. Nice and quick, but not too quick, which is a good sign…

AB1b-caviar

Caviar on a kohlrabi chip, a delicious start to be sure. Then a French toast with cured yolk…

AB2-french toast_edited

This was rather acidic at the onset, but it evolved into something really nice taste-wise, helped on by the chestnut and turnip. Not bad. I relaxed with some wine and bread when the first dish appeared — rock crab.

01-rock crab

This was just too crazy, way too many things on this plate. I really wasn’t sure what I was eating with the white from Hesse. Frankly I tasted all sorts of things, and pretty much no crab. This is why so many kitchens have a mantra about the number of ingredients per plate. This is just overkill…

I finished my wine and was still puzzled at this dish when the second appeared, cod.

02-cod

Not bad here, but again the philosophy here is just to pile it on. Liver sauce was interesting on the fish, but again I retreated to the Spanish verdejo just to get my sensibilities back. This is a bit too nuts for me…

They poured the third wine, a nice sangiovese blend from Tuscany and we have the pike.

03a-pike

Now this was excellent, the creature was of fabulous quality, lightly seared. The natural flavours came out great here. The dashi wasn’t bad, and some good veggies.

zzz

You can see the flesh of the pike here, it was excellent. Excellent dish. Then with a sauvignon blanc from Pfalz we have salsify.

04-salsify_edited

Again, too much going on. The fermentation and pickling is too extreme here, trying out-Dane the Danes. This was just a plate that’ll make you pucker…ridiculously sour everywhere. No balance whatsoever except from the wine, which was quickly drained… The goat milk cheese dumpling was the only saving grace here, and helped to quell the extremely sour items.

I’m not very enamoured by the cooking philosophy here to be honest. It’s pushing things to such limits that you lose the balance and the natural flavours that good ingredients should boast. It’s like they are trying so hard to masque natural flavours, except for that pike, by overwhelming you either with extremes or massive conflicts. Sigh…

05-pike-perch

Next up was pike-perch, which was not as good as the pike. The skin was lovely, the fish itself good. It didn’t need all the additional bells and whistles, at least I didn’t. Too much on it again. Then with a syrah from Pfalz poured we get to the lamb.

06-lamb

Hmmm…this salt lamb was on the boring side, especially compared to dinner 2 nights ago at Spondi in Athens. A rather tasteless piece of meat, and the sunchokes I needed to push aside considering I didn’t need a bloat this evening… Another weak dish…

Well, that was the end of the savouries. I’m not impressed by this evening, as you can see. What was also disconcerning was that the table across from me one of the diners was in the loo twice for 20+ minutes at a time…didn’t even want to think what was going on…

Anyway, I also failed to mention that it took quite a long time for the lamb to come out, as the speed of the meal went from Autobahn to massive traffic jam in all of a sudden… The crowd has thinned, yet the pace slowed dramatically. I was losing patience as the dessert took ages to come out…

07-dessert

Again, way too sour, most of the elements (again, too many) were from too sour to way too sour. No balance whatsoever. It’s like the chefs are taste-blind to it. This is the modern salt disease… I was done…

I asked them to call a taxi for me, as to not risk walking back again (with more airport issues tomorrow). I headed out disappointed. The usual issue in Berlin — the traditional places excellent, the modern places too crazy. When you try to out Dane the Danes, it don’t work well — especially when you have a diner who isn’t fond of modern Danish cooking. People seem to like this place, but not me. Sorry.

A disappointing end to Berlin, but of course I’ll be back…the city, not this place…

Bandol sur Mer
Torstraße 167
Berlin, Deutschland