Christian Bau

Culinary Wizardry in a Medieval Setting

Few chefs in Germany use Japanese products as much as Christian Bau does at the Victor's Gourmet Restaurant. His food is defined by ponzu, dashi, black garlic and other oriental ingredients, making him one of Germany's most interesting chefs

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The restaurant Schloss Berg is run by Christian Bau and his wife. Bau was not only among Germany’s youngest chefs to receive three stars, but still continues to push his cuisine forward. After cooking fairly classical French food at the beginning of his time at Schloss Berg, he has developed an ever-growing interest in Japan and its cuisine.

Whilst serving modern Franco-Asian cooking, Bau uses very few gimmicks. Only very few pieces of meat are cooked sous-vide and he started using liquid nitrogen only a few years ago. Everything else is cooked either on a grill, the plancha or roasted. In Germany, where technique can at times seem more important than flavour, this is fairly unique among the more modern chefs. This makes it stand out in Germany. Best classified as a blend between Japanese products and French techniques, Bau’s cooking is often excellent. Even throughout a menu that can contain 10 odd courses, you will encounter very few that will not be memorable.

That is one of his biggest strengths. He for instance was one of the first in the country, who managed to introduce a single surprise menu, despite the conservative German clientele. What that allows him to do, is of course cut costs, but also to serve the diner fresher products.

Among the remarkable dishes is a hare. Bau roasts the fillet and serves it topped with a thin slice of foie gras, some cabbage, pumpkin and a jus with olives. What is so special here is the flavour, texture and combination of the hare with the other elements. It is meat of such delicacy and of a texture that is so tender and juicy that it quite remarkable. The jus and cabbage accompany it perfectly and turn it into a truly divine dish.

An example of the numerous dishes that feature Japanese products would be a beef dish with a “Japanese Mayonnaise”, a jus and a confit shallot with citrus. The beef is very good, if it could be more marbled or aged. The confit shallot is the perfect pairing, as the citrus zest cuts the richness of the meat, and the sweetness brings depth to the flavour. The Japanese Mayonnaise adds yet more umami to the dish, but leaves one wondering why a very classical dish has to have such a Japanese touch.

More successful is a dish of hamachi with curry, lime, quinoa and a “Thai Vinaigrette”. This dish is first and foremost delicious. The hamachi is beautifully marinated, and works very well with the vinaigrette and other elements on the plate. Various elements of the dish add texture and make it more complex, but the overall remains a delicious plate of food. This is very good indeed.

What is missing however in this restaurant is life. Somehow, the dining room, even when fully booked is so quiet that you really have to have such great food to enjoy your experience. That is a shame, as Bau has clearly got the talent to run one of the world’s better restaurants, but with such a joyless atmosphere in the dining room, this will be difficult to realise.

You are not often faced with such a situation: Some of the very finest food in Europe, combined with one of the dullest eating experiences in that region. It is a real pity that not more can be done here, as the potential clearly is there. All one can hope for is that the latter will be less of a problem in the future. Then you truly can have a mind-blowing meal here.

Christian Bau

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