German Foodie Field Trip
Day Three: Restaurant Uberfahrt Christian Jurgens
"Augustus, save some room for later..."
After two days of doing little outside of eating, it's hard to believe that there was room for any more.
- Beer and Pretzels - check
- Wiener Schnitzel - check
- Goulash - check
- Salzburger Nockerl - double check!
But even after having spent the previous two days focused on traditional regional cuisine in Munich and Salzburg, the final day in this gastro-tour seemed the perfect time to take in one of Germany's fine-dining options.
Germany boasts more Michelin Star winning restaurants than any country in Europe outside of France. This is not terribly surprising when you consider that the country is physically situated at the center of numerous culinary traditions. Having a strong economy with a relatively affluent population doesn't hurt either.
Restaurant Überfahrt by Chef Christian Jurgens is Germany's latest 3-star award winner. Located on the Tegernsee 50 kilometers south of Munich and a stone's throw from the Austrian border, the restaurant offers two completely unique tasting menus (5 course and 7 course). Any item from the tasting menu can also be ordered a la carte.
The dining room is a warm, modern space. Plush upholstered chairs circle just a handful of tables, which stand noticeably without tablecloths. The walls are decorated with a collection of black and white photographs featuring local sites - stark church steeples and blurry mountain views. And unobscured floor to ceiling windows looking out onto the cold grey December landscape make you all the more glad for the warmth inside.
A surprising number of opening bites do as much to whet the appetite as they do to set the stage for the courses to come: intricate yet playful plating and an obvious effort to craft perfectly composed bites with balanced flavor and textural contrast. It was going to be a good meal.
First Course: "Heaven and Earth 2014"
- Duck Liver
- Jerusalem Artichoke
We could have alternatively enjoyed a dish called "Harald's Garden" with vegetables, yoghurt (yes, that is the preferred English spelling in Germany) and herbs. Our server openly stated that we'd be fools if we didn't have the duck liver. I appreciated the candor, for while I've never been particularly fond of liver preparations, the richness of the meat with the tart apples did not disappoint.
Second Course: "Hong Kong Crayfish Tea"
Dinner as theatre has become increasingly derided. While a few parlor tricks at the table can be fun, one cannot be deaf to the increasing cries to simply focus on the food. I will admit, I enjoyed the "Magic Tricks" at Eleven Madison Park, but they certainly didn't have any bearing on the food.
Watching a course cook is a different story. The Hong Kong Crayfish Tea is set to boil and steep at your table - a rich, soy broth transformed into a vibrant red infusion right before your eyes.
Third Course: "Egg from Miesbach"
- Calf's Head
- Egg from Young Free Range Chicken
- White Alba Truffle
The perfectly cooked egg. It feels like a culinary insider joke at this point - an overly chefie way to explain the power of simple, well-executed food.
But when you have a perfectly cooked egg... not to mention an egg that is covered in layers of shaved White Alba Truffle, you have to admit - they may be on to something.
Fourth Course: "Deep Purple"
- Purple Stock
Dominque Ansel has said that food can be so attractive that customers will exclaim, "It's too pretty to eat!" With the turbot dish, I may have paused a little longer than usual to take in the visual splendor, but I certainly was going to eat it.
Fifth Course: "Fire"
- Sweetheart Cabbage
It's impressive when your main course is prepared, not simply table side, but on your table. Wrapped in a protective layer of cabbage, the venison is cooked buried in a pile of embers. Demonstrating an impressive level of trust between front and back of house, our server extinguished the flames and removed a perfectly medium rare piece of venison from the ashes.
Sixth Course: "Golden Mountain"
- Sweet and Sour Chutney
I've never before encountered a composed cheese course, but I certainly hope to in the future. Let it be a lesson to every restaurant in New York City charging $30 for a few ounces of camembert exhumed from a low-boy. This vacherin custard was precisely the bridge you would hope for between savory entrees to sweet desserts.
Seventh Course: "Plum Branch"
- Cinnamon Crumble
- Almond Ice Cream
Another opportunity for presentation to shine: plum enrobed cream with warm cinnamon crumble and amazingly constructed, edible branches. Delicious!
The pastry chef in me loves nothing more than a seemingly endless parade of post dessert offerings. Keep the party going. Play just one more encore!
A Cinnamon Ice Cream Pop was served over a smoking bowl of dry ice - a little Christmas Wand whimsy.
Christmas Ornaments with Fruit Mousse filling made for a not-so-standard petits fours plate.
And when it seemed like we had reached the end, a Frozen Lebskuchen (German gingerbread) for the table.
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