When Tantris first opened in Munich in the 1970s it revolutionised German cooking just like Le Gavroche did in the UK. Made possible through the generous support of the Eichbauer family, the restaurant has not only thrived after an initial period of uncertainty, but also served as a “school” for German top chefs ever since.
The first chef to make a name for himself here, however, was not German. He was Austrian. Eckart Witzigmann was the first chef here, and later became the first ever in Germany ever to gain the coveted three Michelin-stars at his own restaurant Aubergine. Tantris itself gained this honour after fellow Austrian Heinz Winkler joined as chef de cuisine in 1980. Currently, yet another Austrian, Hans Haas, is running the kitchen here. His cooking is delightfully hedonistic, and does not take any modern trends into account. All Haas does is serve dishes that are purely delicious, never too complicated, and based on high quality produce.
Instead of bombarding guests with a panoply of amuse-bouches, Haas serves one substantial one. That might be a beef tartar with quails eggs, or smoked salmon for ladies. Whatever it is, it is bound to be extremely flavoursome, and true to its name: make you salivate as you await your first course.
Haas’ food is open to influences from around the world. What he likes doing is combining a perfectly timed piece of protein with a rich, creamy sauce and a simple garnish. This model works wonders in the case of a blue lobster from Brittany served with an exotic, curry infused sauce. The meat is perfectly cooked, tender, crunchy, and sweet. The sauce is a masterpiece of balance, and bursts with flavour, without being overly rich. The spices are also carefully judged, and accentuate the lobster’s flavour, rather than mask it.
A proponent of the motto that less is more, Haas serves masterful salads. A langoustine salad with citrus, and herbs is one of these. A sizeable langoustine is timed just as beautifully as the aforementioned lobster. Its’ quality is evidenced by the texture of the firm meat that is not as mushy as langoustines of lesser quality can often be; the combination of the citrus fruits, and the bitter, spicy notes from the herbs work wonders with the dressing, and the sweet crustacean. This is assured cooking that does not try to interfere too much with the main product.
Whilst Haas’ cooking is very different to that of most other German chefs nowadays, and clearly on par with the very best, Tantris is more than just the food. The dining room, and building are among the most idiosyncratic you will see in the world. Almost unchanged ever since the early days of the restaurant, eating here brings you back to the ‘70s in no time. The intense colours, odd shapes, and proportions all make this one odd place to be. Whilst it might not conform to contemporary ideas of aesthetics, this is a place worth seeing.
Tantris is a restaurant that has shaped German gastronomy more than any other. It has formed some of the country’s finest chefs, and allowed them to shine as they moved on. Instead of resting on its laurels, however, it continues to serve food that is at the very top of its game.