Enough time for intense anticipation of an evening of superlatives. At Victor’s Fine Dining, the three-star restaurant at Schloss Berg run by Christian Bau, the two Dutch superstars Sergio Herman and Nick Bril cooked alongside the host for the 6-hands dinner that evening.
More than 1,000 reservation requests were received after the event was announced. Within the first three hours! So you have to consider yourself doubly, maybe even triply lucky to be able to take one of the few seats on this evening.
Sergio Herman is one of the most extraordinary chefs of our time. His restaurant, Oud Sluis, was considered one of the most innovative and exciting culinary destinations around until its abrupt demise in the summer of 2013. In addition to three Michelin stars, it carried 20 points in the ranking of Gault Millau. Unique in the world. And the innovations didn’t stop at the kitchen: the entire atmosphere and service clearly broke with traditional notions of fine dining. Sneakers instead of a tie, chill music, a happy and relaxed soundscape. The service very relaxed and always at eye level with the guest, but at the same time highly competent and professional. The 2014 documentary Fucking Perfect impressively traces the final months of Oud Sluis, as well as the motivations that ultimately led Sergio Herman to close the family business. In the future, his focus should be more on his family and his other projects. First and foremost, the beautiful The Jane in Antwerp, which he runs with chef Nick Bril and which carries on many of the basic ideas of Oud Sluis.
This also explains the concept of the evening: Sergio Herman shows some of the classics and signature dishes from the Oud Sluis, Bril brings new impulses and dishes from the now also decorated with two stars house in Antwerp – and between all this, host Christian Bau will also show some classics of his cuisine as well as current courses from the current menu Paris-Tokyo present.
A visit to Christian Bau has been at the top of my culinary wish list for a long time. Victor’s Fine Dining is not only one of the small elite of the ten German three-star restaurants, it has also undergone more than careful modernization in recent years. Today, it bears 100% of the 45-year-old’s signature and displays a style that continually integrates Asian, especially Japanese, flavors, products and cuisine styles. So, a kitchen that perfectly suits me and my preferences.
At least in theory. For the comparison with practice, I take my seat in the hotel’s Caesar’s Bar at an early hour that evening. With bar food, small snacks and one or the other glass of champagne Grand Reserve of Gosset the dinner should be rung in, it was said. Which, of course, is not much less than an understatement of the first order. Because already these first six small courses, which both teams sent one after the other, were a sensational start and already gave a preview of all that was to follow in the course of this long evening.
The small gears were sent in brisk but not hasty succession. Nick Bril and Sergio Herman were responsible for the first three plates. What they all have in common is not only a great lightness, but the delicately applied marine aromas with Asian hints combine the small “snacks” into a constant stream of pleasant freshness and iodiness, which should actually never break off. Christian Bau then continues in his plates appropriately and sensibly with stronger umami notes. In particular, the tuna belly with hearts of palm and truffle was sensational.
A great start – and an ideal time to move the action from the bar to the restaurant in the Renaissance castle. Warm colors, classic woodwork and various Japanese elements dominate, which also directly create a visual connection to Christian Bau’s kitchen.
In the two-part prologue to the menu, the three chefs address the topic of cancer. Herman and Bril in the form of a crispy tempura of soft-shell crab with intense daikon dip and Christian Bau with a combination of crab, watermelon and dashi.
The first official course of the menu then finds its way to our table around 10:00 pm after the preceding round of snacks and amuses. And it comes in the form of a signature dish from Christian Bau. Or rather a variation of his dish Day by the (Japanese) Sea, as it is currently also served in the current Ikarus menu at Hangar 7. The sashimi of Japanese yellowfin mackerel is accompanied with a great abundance of components that allow many combinations on the palate. Different temperatures and textures further emphasize the craftsmanship complexity. Cucumber and buttermilk contribute a lot of freshness, the yuzu-koshu a slight but always present spiciness and light citrus notes.
This is followed by two plates from Sergio Herman around the oyster, classics from the Oud Sluis. One is the 2005 version, from the year when the restaurant was first awarded 3-Michelin stars. Fresh and green aromas are in the foreground here in combination with the oyster. Cucumber, citrus bean seeds and a touch of dill blend beautifully into the flavor context of the oyster.
The second oyster, the 6° Deluxe, is combined with kale, bergamot, Buddha’s finger and beurre blanc, leading to a slightly more intense and higher-tempered flavor world. Also sensational – and amazing how well cabbage, of all things, harmonizes with the delicate oyster.
With scallop, sea urchin and umami bouillon, Nick Bril serves an elegant maritime combination. The slices of mussel combine excellently with the sea urchin, the light dashi broth further supports this combination and the pearls of sour cream contribute a cool undertone.
To a sensational sake from Kyoto, Christian Bau showed an elegant lobster with dashi butter, smoked beet and caviar. These are not only excellent products, but also a wonderful combination and real pleasure on the plate. Fortunately, various small jars of Dashibutter also found their way to our table.
Bar de Ligne, or fished sea bass, is also currently on the menu at Icarus. A very good insight into the story behind the dishes and the philosophy of Christian Bau can be found in the corresponding report “The best chefs in the world – A guest at Ikarus” on Servus TV. The fish, of course, is cooked to perfection and served with bold flavors of Japanese eggplant and smoked grilled eel lacquered with BBQ sauce. The kojyu vinaigrette that perfectly balances the course is also one of Christian Bau’s signature styles. A heavy, buttery sauce would take away much of the freshness and lightness of the dish, which was fortunately preserved this way. A signature dish from last year.
The protagonist of Christian Bau’s next course is also clearly of Japanese provenance: shoulder shank of Japanese beef, corn, black garlic, ponzu. In addition to the piece from the shoulder, there is also a braised high rib of Wagyue on the plate, along with variations of corn, an intense and full jus and a cream of black garlic.
Venison is the name of the dish that follows from Nick Bril and Sergio Herman. A thoroughly purist description for the fireworks of elements and flavors on this plate. In addition to berries, Jerusalem artichokes and blood from deer turned into a cream, a thick layer of shaved truffles adds up the sensory connections to the forest and autumn. The saddle of venison is seared only briefly and blends delicately with the sweet, woodsy flavors. The crispy chips from Jerusalem artichoke add a light and welcome crunch.
Chocolate then the first dessert of Herman/Brill. Almost classic combined with rum, coconut and, fortunately, citrus for a deceptive feeling of lightness.
With a souvenir from Asia, the menu closes at a considerably late hour; a good seven hours have passed since the first glass of champagne. Like flying, by the way.
Building style and building block are the names of the terms that appear again and again to describe individual elements and the philosophy of the host’s cuisine. Of course, the name lends itself to this. But no matter in which form the still slightly frozen and previously discreetly lacquered creation made of pandan finds its way onto my plate – it is fantastic. So the building block. Just like the ginger ice cream.
It was a memorable evening at Schloss Berg. Yildiz and Christian Bau proved to be a perfect host team and the more than 25 chefs did a great job in the Victor’s Fine Dining kitchen. The result was a perfect insight into the culinary world of Sergio Herman and Nick Bril, but above all into the work of Christian Bau. Of course, a menu with so many active protagonists is subject to a different rhythm than a classic menu in one of the restaurants. Reason enough to make the trip to Nennig again soon to concentrate fully on Paris-Tokyo or another menu by Christian Bau…
The evening was accompanied by colleagues from the agents group with Chefs’ Stories, an elaborately staged live documentary via Facebook. Four iPhones “broadcast” from the kitchen, interconnected in the mobile control center via iPad and directed by TV reporter and director of the evening Björn Staschen. The same tools and comparable effort were recently used by NDR to cover the presidential election in Washington. In the guest room, nothing could be seen of the hustle and bustle, but on Facebook Live, the streams reached over 30,000 users.
Castle Street 27-29
Tel.: +49 6866 79-118
In addition to my own pictures, I was thankfully able to draw on great photos from Austrian photographer Lukas Kirchgasser for this article. Thank you very much for this!