After a large part of my restaurant visits took place outside the home country in the last weeks and months, November is apparently completely under Hanseatic signs. And despite all the prophecies of doom, these are not necessarily the worst. At least not if you have the opportunity to visit the kitchen workshop.
For more than 120 years, the old city villa on Uhlenhorster Alsterfleet has been telling stories. Stories about its time as a ferry and coachman’s pub, its years as a dignified restaurant and, of course, about its guests, who included such greats as Hans Albers and Willi Brandt, Helmut Kohl and Axel Springer, Jack Nicholson and Jil Sander. Since 2004, under the direction of Gerald Zogbaum and Angela Gnade, these stories have now been continued as a kitchen workshop.
We had the opportunity to get to know the current November menu (8 courses, 109,- EUR) a few days ago. Even at the first, cursory glance at the menu, one recognizes the strong echoes of Japanese cuisine. Of course, this is not without reason. The restaurateur couple took advantage of an extended period of remodeling and renovation in late summer for intensive excursions into the culture and cuisine of Japan. Kyoto, in particular, has taken a liking to the two of them, as we learned in the course of the evening.
Zogbaum is particularly enthusiastic about Japanese cuisine because of its fresh seasonal produce, humility toward the product, and strong focus on preserving its own flavor. This philosophy is so similar to his own that he is still concerned with how dishes are prepared and served in Japan. And although the kitchen workshop does not offer Japanese cuisine, the impressions gathered in Japan appear again and again as elements in the compositions.
The brisk start succeeds excellently. The products are excellent, the individual dishes are fabulous in terms of craftsmanship and taste, and the presentation is also excellent. Some of the plates that are worked with are individually made for the kitchen workshop and underline the claim to also make a mark in the visual effect. However, not to provide effects, but on the contrary to create clarity and focus and to put together the individual elements of an aisle into a coherent, almost natural-looking image.
The companion to the equally delicious char, simply called citrus, deserves special mention. This was a puree of the Cedro lemon. A rather inconspicuous genus of this fruit, which is notable above all for its small proportion of pulp and the disproportionately large proportion of mesocarp or albedo, i.e. the white part between the skin and pulp. And from this very albedo said puree was conjured. Not only a creative combination to the char, due to its intense lemon flavor and lower acidity a fantastic new discovery in my culinary cosmos.
While one highlight followed the next, the duck was also particularly memorable. A fantastic duck breast, which, as Gerald Zogbaum later explained, was prepared according to the principle of Peking duck. The particularly crispy and thin skin is the result of another complex procedure: It is alternately doused with hot fat and then cooled down with cold spray so that the high external heat does not shift the cooking point of the meat. Very similar to what is described in these videos from the Ryugin in Tokyo. It’s worth the effort. The duck’s giblets also found their way onto the table. In the form of a small ragout, served under a creamy hood in a porcelain duck foot. The combination of pureed Brussels sprouts and walnut puree draped in walnut form was a bit too soft for me in conjunction with the ragout under the cream topping; I would have preferred more of a textured play here – but that’s criticism at a high level. Overall, a great course.
Unsurprisingly, the entire ensemble from the patisserie was also convincing; after all, Gerald Zogbaum looks back on several years as head patissier at the Hamburg Tafelhaus under Christian Rach. Thus, the menu closed with another beautiful presentation of the chocolate. Almost like a little trip to the late autumn forest, very round and pleasantly not too sweet. With variants of matcha tea imported from Japan itself, the circle of echoes of Asian products and flavors that had already begun at the start of the menu was completed. The accompanying wines, selected by restaurant manager André Peter, also pleased throughout.
Following the press dinner, we had ample opportunity to chat with Gerald Zogbaum about the new menu, hear interesting culinary stories from the Japan trip, and give some feedback on the individual courses. A wonderful, relaxed evening with many new impressions. I look forward to upcoming visits – perhaps to one of the cooking classes offered.
Phone: 040 – 22 92 75 88