Monday, June 26, 2017

Aqua Sven Elverfeld

The city of Wolfsburg in Germany is almost identical with Volkswagen; after all more than half of its residents working for the company. There are VW factory and a theme park featuring museums, various pavilions of VW car brands such as Audi, Porsche etc. as well as car towers. However, what brought me to this Autostadt (car city) was a 3-star Michelin restaurant named Aqua, located on the ground floor of the Ritz Carlton hotel. Aqua has always been the 'product' of is current executive chef, the talented Sven Elverfeld. He came and opened the restaurant in 2000 and within 8 years, Chef Elverfeld managed to achieve Michelin highest accolade and Aqua became the first 3-star dining place in the Northern Germany region. Prior to Aqua, Sven Elverfeld has been working in numerous countries abroad. With such vast experience and curious approach, Sven developed his distinctive cooking style, that later with a few other chefs, known as the New German school / cuisine. He successfully integrated French + German technique and used mainly local ingredients to re-interpret traditional food and create contemporary dishes with cutting edge flavors. What were they like? I ordered the following degustation menu consisted of 8 courses. In addition to these, there were a few snacks at the beginning and extra sweets after the dessert (not written here; please refer to the photos link below)

Grand Journey menu

Gänseleber & Trauben Ziegenfrischkäse, Walnuss & Eis "Müller-Thurgau Hasennest" (Foie gras & grapes served with Goat cream cheese, walnut and ice cream) - The chilled duck liver was very velvety and luscious without being cloying. The tartness of the grapes offset the richness of the foie gras while the ice cream and cheese also balanced the creamy liver. The crunchy walnut provided some texture contrast to the soft foie gras. Hands down, the best foie gras I ate during this Euro trip and arguably one of the finest duck liver dish I've ever had

Forelle aus der Lüneburger Heide Neubokeler Spargel, Schinken-Velouté, Erbsen and Rhabarber (Trout from Luneburg Heath served with Asparagus from Neubokel, ham veloute, peas and rhubarb) - This freshwater fish was carefully cooked, resulting in a delicate texture and mild taste (somewhat nearly bland). The "stronger" flavors were derived from the salty ham & Trout 'caviar', sweet & starchy peas, and earthy asparagus - the vegetables reminded us that we're in the Spring season. A creative dish to elevate the Trout ..

Atlantik Rochen & Calamaretti Sauce Rouille, Puntarelle (Atlantic Ray and Calamaretti served with Sauce Rouille and puntarelle) - This fish was crisp and firm; the squids were chewy. The squid ink was a bit salty but not overpowering and worked relatively well with the garlicky Rouille sauce having saffron flavor and color which I liked a lot. The green puntarelle generated slight bitter flavor. A dish with interesting color and flavor variations 

Bretonische Seezunge  Pistazien-Haselnussbutter, Schwarzwurzel & schwarzer Sesam (Brittany Sole served with Pistachio-hazelnut butter, salsify and black sesame) - The Sole, whose texture was in between delicate and firm here, was of high quality and delicious due to the rather intense "green butter" sauce. The salsify, having faintly 'oystery flavor' nicely supported the fish flavor in this dish. Black sesame's role to the overall taste was minimal - my favorite fish for this dinner

Gesottene Lammzunge & Lammbries "Bolognese" Fregola, Pancetta & Radicchio (Boiled Lamb tongue and lamb Sweetbread "Bolognese" served with Fregola, pancetta and radicchio) - The presentation was gorgeous, wasn't it? The tongue was boiled to soften its texture and rich taste. Hidden inside the tongue was the tasty lamb ragu, pasta and Italian bacon. There wasn't any foul lamb odor, even the swetbread was tender and moist inside. Again, the kitchen did a magnificent job in interpreting the 'bolognese' flavor - better than I initially expected 

Rehrücken aus der Altmark Spitzkohl, Wildsalami, Senf, Holunder-Kapern & Beeren (Saddle of Venison from Altmark region served with Cabbage, game salami, mustard, elderberry-capers and berries) - Germany apparently has 'longer' hunting season than France and people could still savor wild Venison in May. The venison, slowly cooked at low temperature, was awesome: succulent, delicious and smooth with hardly any hint of musky / pungent flavor. The cabbage, berries and other side dishes worked reasonably well in enhancing the meat though for me, this red deer with its jus was sufficient to make me happy 

Rohmilchkäse vom Wagen (Cheese selection from our trolley with bread on the side) - The cheese at Aqua was solid though the variety not as impressive as the one I usually see in France. The comte was 'only' 24 months nevertheless I was pleased with what I chose - good quality. I picked (forgot the exact name) cheese from Swiss and Spain, goat cheese from Pyrenees and French cheese with herbs

Johannisbeeren mit Fenchelpollen & Burrata Sud vom Johannisbeerholz & Kartoffel (Currants with fennel pollen and Burrata served with Stock from currants wood and potato) - There were plenty of things here without any particular dominant ingredients. Yet, the pastry team work their magic to create a dessert that combined different flavors: sour currant, licorice + buttery sweet fennel pollen, and soft and delicate burrata. Additionally, it had a hint of woody and earthy taste. While it might not be mind blowing, it's still a good dessert - pleasant in my mouth 

Aqua only serves 5 dinner per week for the fortunate approximately 30 people each night. Hence, no wonder, Sven Elverfeld and his team were more than capable of regularly providing an array of high quality, beautiful and detailed dishes; Sven would optimize his ingredients to produce maximum flavors and texture variations. I am very pleased with dinner meal. The only feedback would probably be: there were too many fish dishes albeit from different water and kinds. I declined the full 10-course tasting menu because the additional items would be Mackerel (another fish) & 'merely' sorbet as a palate cleanser.

The dining room was quite huge and with minimalist design. Nearly every table has each own small cupboard nearby containing cutleries; this definitely made the staffs' work more efficiently. The table was big and widely spaced with each other; diners had to speak loud enough to be heard by guests at the other tables. I was seated at the far end of the entrance with pretty landscape can be seen from the full windows featuring outdated factory spaces, water from the artificial lake and the green lawn. The "simple" dining room design allowed diners to focus on the Chef Elverfeld's avant-garde cuisine.    

The hospitality was warmed, fluid and professional led by Jimmy Ledemazel whereas the specific waiting staff for my table was a friendly young German gentleman who spoke fluent English. Despite his youth, he was confident, never late to top up my glass and always around whenever I needed something. The kitchen ensured the dishes, prepared with care and attention, to arrive at steady pace. There's hardly any dull moment waiting. Delicious food and modern cuisine, relaxing and prompt service, spacious and immaculate dining room - Aqua possesses all the important factors to be among the best restaurant in Germany, or even in Europe. The special journey I took to Wolfsburg was indeed worth it. Picture of the dishes: Aqua May '17

Food: 96 pts

Service: 95 pts

Overall: 96/100
    

No comments: