Tuesday, December 31, 2013


Vendome 10/28/12

It is located in a castle “Schloss Bensberg” in the suburb of Cologne, Germany. I arrived there about 8 pm on a Sunday night. The place was full. The restaurant is spacious allowing plenty of rooms among tables. Staffs were very polite and professional. Since I was very hungry and would like to try out as many dishes as possible, I chose the medium menu offering 13 courses.

Although the restaurant is located in a castle, inside is with modern setting and tables are arranged with proper space in between, providing customers with a relaxed mode.

The meal started with Amuse Bouche which was a plate with four petit-four looking items. They were not desert, but the appearance was so elaborate. It was rather unusual that chef devoted so much effort to the appearance, taste and quality for Amuse Bouche. Each of the four Amuse Bouche was a bite size, but each required substantial work to make it so presentable as well as pleasantly tasty. Chef Joachim Wissler is a true master of Amuse Bouche, expressing his big ideas in small bites.

Vendome served good variety of breads. Their focaccio was excellent, light, fluffy, tasty with crunchy top.

After Amuse Bouche, the 1st course was served. It was “Silence – a walk through the Forest." It was a plate of varieties of mushroom, mashed chestnut and some cooked or pickled vegetables.
The 2nd course was “Crayfish – Tonda di Chioggia: lemon-coriander." This course included two dishes. One is the poached crayfish which was tender and tasty. The other one is crayfish bisque, it tasted almost like lobster bisque.

The 3rd course listed on the men was “Raviolo – Calf’s Head: sweetbreads: meat-bouillon." Since I did not like sweetbreads, the manager offered “Mascarpone Ravioli mottled- Perigord Truffles: white tomato-Veloute” as the replacement. The ravioli filled with melt in your mouth mascarpone was fully covered with truffles. You can imagine the taste of truffles permeated my palate with great pleasure.
The 4th course was “Sweet Water – Trout: almond butter: Char Caviar." I am ultra picky on how fish was served. It has to be medium, there were numerous times that fish dishes returned to the kitchen because fish was considered overcooked. Vendome’s kitchen did it right. The dish was served with caviar, broccoli rabe and form providing with visually contracting colors in the plate.
The 5th course was “Sea Urchine – Pudding: Lobster." It was Sea Urchine flavored pudding served with some sea urchine and lobster broth. Sea Urchine dish requires ultra fresh ingredient, otherwise it tastes very fishy. This dish had a rare combination of lobster and sea urchine offering a lasting taste in your taste bud.
The 6th course was “Sole: Palourde Clams: lemon-Hollandaise.” to replace mackerel which I did not like and was originally on the menu. Sole offers tastier but less fishy flesh than mackerel even though both are salt water fish. Clams are from the North Sea. Sole filet was properly brown with crispy to and medium in the center. The clams and lemon Hollandaise sauce served on the side further enhanced the taste of seafood.
The 7th course was “Buffalo Mozzarella: Coconut: sugar peas." Buffalo mozzarella was wrapped in a translucent layer of dough to keep its’ flavor. It almost looks like a dumpling except the texture is lighter. It was served in a slightly flavored coconut sauce with sugar peas and some cute yellow flowers for decoration. This dish was also used as a palate cleanser after seafood courses were served and before the meat courses were about to begin.
The 8th course was “Bone Marrow – A la Quique: d’Aquitaine Caviar." The roasted bone marrow was filled in the center of the bone topped with caviar. Bone marrow was almost like flavored bone marrow mousse. It melted in your mouth with flavor of bone marrow and caviar.
The 9th course was “Saddle of Lamb from the Muritz region – green olives in lambtea: ricotta gnocchi." I did not like Lamb Neck in the original menu and requested for lamb chop instead. This is the 1st time that I had lamb served with kumquat jelly. Lamb actually went very well with kumquat which offers a very distinctive taste.
The 10th course was “Venison-pine needle jerry: celery cream." Autumn is the season for game animal meat. I had venison at the Dorchester a few days ago before I dined at Vendome. Although the venison dish served at the Dorchester was good, what served at Vendom was even more refined. In addition, at Vendome the venison dish was also served with my favorite white asparagus and other root vegetables.
The 11th course was “Apple – Quince – Goat yogurt snow: tarrageon – olive oil ice." I have never tasted prepared quince even though I have tasted the raw quince before. This dish of combination of apple and quince is unbelievably tasty and refreshing, a perfect palate cleanser. I have requested for a substitute for this dish and ordered Brin D’Amour instead. However, I tasted what was in my friend’s plate and found out how wonderful this Apple-Quince dish was.

The substitute for the 11th course was “Brin D’Amour- lavender: sabayon." A cheese course with floral accent. It was very difficult to extract fragrance and incorporated into food and still remained the pungent flavor. This is also the 1st time that I tasted a floral accented cheese dish.

There was another dish, not indicated in the menu, was served as a palate cleanser. It was raspberry flavored frozen foam. It was frozen, with a fluffy and light texture probably made with some high-tech equipment. I had similar thing at Noma in May 2012.
The 12th course was “Chocolate Soufflé – with coffee panna cotta and blackberry foam." I have found out it has an extra taste besides chocolate. Upon inquiring, I found out the creative pastry chef has mixed in some crunchy tobacco leaves in the soufflé. What surprised me was how the crunchiness lasted so long in the soufflé.
The 13th course was miniature pastries and Vendome’s house made chocolate. They were so good that I could only manage to taste no more than a few with the greatest efforts to stretch my overburdened stomach.
I really love Vendome. Among all other fine dining places where I have visited in Germany, Trantris in Munich, Fischer Fritz in Berline, Vendome is the best. Its chef was apparently a perfectionist. Among the Michelin 3-star restaurants that I have visited internationally so far, I would consider it one of the best. I wouldn’t mind going back anytime when I travel in the region again.

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