There are two things that are difficult with steady regularity, and at worst, potentiated in the process: Four-hands dinners and guest menus from chefs in other people’s restaurants. In some cases, huge teams are flown in for this purpose – because this is the only way to map the many, often complex processes away from the kitchen at home. Often, double-digit quantities of refrigerated boxes travel in the belly of the plane to import many prepared components all over the world.
None of that took place that evening. On the contrary. Johannes King was only accompanied by his charming co-worker Monica Torres Bolaños on site and the number of imported products was manageable. Most of the elements were freshly bought on site, only typical products from Sylt or from the garden of Johannes King were in the luggage. Cooked was together with the team of the reef – and also no mixed menu, but seven courses from the pen of Johannes King and his Sylt chef Jan-Philipp Berner. That’s brave – “Tienen Cojones,” the Spaniards would probably say. But more importantly, it worked perfectly.
So, for the second time in 24 hours, we stop at the Riff restaurant. After Bernd Knöller showed us his interpretation of Mediterranean cuisine the day before(report here), today Johannes King sends a menu in front of a completely sold-out house. Which, unfortunately, was not the case for all events during the Valencia Culinary Meeting.
And the, with the exception of Stevan Paul and me, completely Spanish audience gets its money’s worth. Quite deliberately, the first courses quote the traditions of German cuisine with a slight wink. Pumpernickel and herring, a tapioca bread with a sensationally aromatic mushroom ragout and a smoked potato with vinegar powder and whitefish caviar.
The magnificence of Valencian oysters, discovered only yesterday, is also evident in the next course: baked oyster, sauerkraut and mint. Just enough to eat with a spoon in one bite. Crisp, but also intensely iodine-y, and together with the slightly creamy cabbage, a great start.
Also great: the pace. Both on this evening, as well as at numerous other stops on this journey, is sent really fast. The Spanish love that – and I think it’s pretty good, too. Small gears, few components. Zack.
The essence of the German North Sea is then brought to the plate by the Sylt beach salad: mussels, sea snails, seaweed, fennel, apple and horseradish. Actually, salt marsh herbs are additionally processed, but tonight spinach and watercress are frozen instead and mixed with oyster water. Accompanied by a sea water jelly and Spanish seaweed from the market. The steaming water from the snails and mussels, combined with watercress oil, serves as an additional vinaigrette.
A great plate full of green flavors and maritime iodine. And at the same time a fitting bridge to the host’s cuisine. Because here, too, no herbs, no lemon and no salt are used. It is the pure product that speaks – and that indeed has a lot to tell…
A dish, which I have tried quite often in the Söl’ring Hof, is the tartar of Norwegian farmed fjord trout with pickled kohlrabi, North Sea prawns, Sylt ham and seaweed powder, served with a sauce of fish carcasses and ham stock.
The marinated turnips are lightly roasted or deep fried and served on a Jerusalem artichoke mash with some gold of pleasure oil and a vinaigrette made from the vegetable juices. A very light and nice creamy vegetable dish.
The only meat course is then hardly to be surpassed in opulence: On top sits a roast bread with black truffles, best eaten by hand first. Below then a saddle of venison with truffle jus on duck liver, celery cream and shallot compote. This is, of course, pure luxury and quite intentionally reminiscent of the classic Tournedos Rossini.
The dessert is refined and multilayered. Iced buckling fruit and pickled Sylt rose as well as the sea buckthorn sorbet are slightly sour and a bit bitter. Gradually you then penetrate to a sweet cream of white chocolate. Thus, the dessert gradually combines from a fresh Palate Cleanser to the full sweetness of the chocolate, the roasted hazelnuts and the hazelnut parfait.
Together with the lunch of the previous day, it was a four-hands event. But with the focus on the respective protagonist by means of a menu spread over two days. That almost screams for a new format. Why hasn’t anyone thought of that yet? In addition, the particularly impressive story of the friendship of the two chefs and the same roots in Henry Levy, which are always recognizable on the plates, even after thirty years and with such different lives.
Many thanks to the Valencia Turism Board for the invitation to this press trip and the great organization on site.