Until Thomas Bühner was awarded three Michelin stars after years of being the top candidate for the award in Germany, countless bloggers and critics sang his praise, but the Michelin was slower in its reaction. Whilst Bühner was initially feted in Germany, soon after La Vie finally received third star, criticism started appearing. Mainly attacking his admittedly very complex cooking style, it grew ever louder.
Ultimately, this brought about subtle changes in the cuisine of one of Germany’s very finest chefs. Thankfully, we feel that the cuisine has not changed dramatically. Bühner and his brigade still serve some of the more intricate and captivating plates in Europe. Most strikingly a plate of John Dory and octopus stood out for its freshness, intensity, and complexity. The fish itself is of fine quality, with firm, moist flesh, and combined masterfully with contrasting elements that added crunchy, and creamy textures to the plate. Not only is this food that is based on good quality produce, but is clearly very thoughtfully constructed.
This is a dish that could have been served during the time just before and after having received the third star. Change is noticeable in the cooking here though, as a pigeon served with a Thai Style ragout of the legs demonstrates. The breast is cooked sous-vide and served atop a parcel of the shredded leg meat, and glass noodles amongst other things. This is a much simpler composition that feels not quite right coming from this kitchen. There is nothing wrong with it, but it feels very different from the rest of the food.
Much more successful, and truly masterful is a savoury muesli of root vegetables. Made with ice cream, milk, and flakes of various root vegetables, this is one of the most singular and striking dishes we had in a long time. The intensity of flavour that subtly balances sweet and savoury aspects of the parsnips, carrots, and other roots is remarkable. What makes this dish so good is that it clearly bears Bühner’s signature (the judicious composition, and contrast of textures), but is so minimalist in its conception. This is an impressive intermezzo, and shows how complex and singular the food can be here.
Bühner’s cooking is best when it takes a concept, and completely redefines it. He does the same with a caprese salad, served as a dessert. Again Bühner plays with a concept that we are all familiar with, but serves it in his very own fashion. The dish strikes a fine line between sweet and savoury elements, and makes you want to discover what each bite brings even more.
Thomas Bühner doesn’t have an easy job being in a region that is still relatively desolate when it comes to good food. But perhaps that gives him the necessary distance to develop his own style. Whilst some dishes such as the pigeon seem a little forced in their simplicity, others such as the muesli are masterful and unique. With dishes such as these, Bühner’s La Vie deserves its position as one of the very best restaurants in Germany.