La Vie in Osnabrück attracts me regularly and sometimes almost magically. This may be due to the fact that I am often on the road in the old home of Westphalia anyway. The path to the three stars is then short. But it is much more the ever-changing cuisine under the direction of Thomas Bühner that attracts me to Osnabrück.
On my last recent visit, I opted for the large, eleven-course, Grand Chef menu (228€, 280€ including wine tasting). Innovation and avant-garde are the two attributes that should already point the way on the menu. It’s a Tuesday evening in early summer. The restaurant well filled and the mood pleasantly casual and relaxed. Over a glass of champagne, I begin to forget the journey of a good 900km that lies behind me (and for once quite far). There are more important things: the first amuses, for example. And the question of the appropriate drinks for this evening. Together with sommelier Christian Scholz, I decide on the accompanying wines, but with one or two non-alcoholic interludes – after all, there are eleven courses ahead of me.
The prelude is a light and fruity combination around the salmon belly. A beautiful product that unfortunately is found far too rarely on menus (and plates). The significantly higher fat content makes the salmon melt delicately on the palate. Asparagus and pomelo contribute a light and very appropriate bitter note.
Wonderfully reduced the next course: tender slices of strongly marbled and only mimally cooked Wagyue envelop a perfect piece of cod. The consommé of fish is worked with a touch of saffron. Quasi a luxury variant of the Shabu Shabu. The broth cooks the meat very slightly after and underlines the inherent flavor filigree. It is accompanied by a delicious foccacia that allows you to soak up even the last drop of consommé.
The red gamba (rather hidden in the photo) is perfectly cooked, it has firm, juicy and mildly aromatic flesh. But the real highlight on this plate is the tangerine dashi butter. A real sensation full of light fruit and sweetness and a great depth. Quite great.
The next course would also not be expected in this form at La Vie: again a strong reduction to four components. These also play fantastically together to create a whole new flavor picture of octopus, wild boar emulsion, kimchi and apple. What is particularly striking, however, is how much clearer the plates are at La Vie at the moment. And that in a positive sense. From my visits in previous years, I still have in mind complex plates with numerous elements in different textures and finishes.
We continue with another representative of the cuttlefish. The octopus swims in a hearty broth of smoked bacon (carbonara style) and is accompanied by artfully wrapped and perfectly portioned asparagus rolls. This form of preparation gives the asparagus a completely different and surprising texture.
Caviar and melon are not quite a typical combination. Both products are the noblest representatives of their genre. The plump and large-grained roe of the Imperial caviar melts on the tongue, unfolding its mild fine-nutty aroma, while the Charentais melon contributes a slight sweetness and fruitiness. Indulge in luxury.
In between, another of the many changes at La Vie, Thomas Bühner invites his guests into the kitchen for a whiskey sour shot. He explains to me: “This is much more relaxed than making a big round through the restaurant. There is more time to speak briefly with the guests at each table. And a look into the kitchen is very appealing to many anyway.” I’m not excluding myself, although I did have the opportunity some time ago to take a close look at the sacred rooms, which are not as large and spacious as one might think. A nice new mode that could definitely find more distribution.
This excursion is followed by an oyster combined with sweetbreads and an oyster sauce. A good bridge to the main course, although I was not fully comfortable with the warm temperature of the raw oyster.
The reduction of components already shown in the previous courses culminates in this pigeon. It is a great course, the noble pigeon is cooked to perfection (the desired cooking point was asked beforehand, not everyone likes their poultry pink), the skin crisp and surrounded by strong smoke aromas. The highly reduced pumpkin juice is an intense and fitting companion. It is certainly the best pigeon I have eaten to date. And this reduced presentation gives it exactly the stage it deserves.
Still under the impression of the Étoufée pigeon, the next course reaches me. Rouquefort and eggplant are designated as the main components. Eggplant, of all things, I think to myself. After all, one of the very few products that I basically can not gain much. Quite different with this plate. This one is actually wonderful. The strong cheese pairs famously with the eggplant (even as ice cream), and the soba noodles add not only another exciting texture, but a hint of buckwheat. Small fruity accents provide a balanced freshness.
My plan to skip a wine or two in favor of an anti-alcoholic drink turned into more of a parallel combining and tasting over the course of the evening. Particularly exciting is a drink that Christian Scholz pours on the basis of a brew of cardamom, star anise, cinnamon, chili, pineapple and orange with a little bitter lemon.
For pre-dessert, the kitchen sends a fresh combination of soy sauce, white sesame seeds and watermelon.
Chef-pâtissier Roman Aster’s sweet finale is visually more reminiscent of plates I remember from La Vie. Small-scale and very beautifully crafted, pleasantly light and with many green and fresh elements.
This is followed by a round of small sweet snacks and the obligatory gumball machine.
It is exciting to see how the cuisine at La Vie is always changing and not resting on its laurels. But that’s the only way innovation works. Thomas Bühner denied it a bit in the dialogue, but the very frequent appeal to Asian elements, products or preparations in this menu also pleased me extremely well and fits perfectly with the (visually) now somewhat less complex and small plates. From a business perspective, this path is certainly not disadvantageous either. Around Thomas Bühner and Timo Fritsche, the new sommelier Christian Scholz, patissier Roman Aster and Nadja Siebert as the new service manager have settled in very well, it seems.
I look forward to the next visit to Osnabrück and am curious to see how and where the culinary journey will continue.
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