April 19, 2019

10 days in 3 cities day 7: no sauers lüngerl in Bangkok

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When we started planning the Bangkok leg of the trip, The Dining Austrian listed Sühring as one of the places he wanted to hit.  This wasn't surprising, since the restaurant had moved up to the No. 4 spot on Asia's 50 Best Restaurants last year, and also got promoted to two macarons by the Rubberman a few months ago.  There seems to be a lot of buzz about the twins doing "modern German cuisine" in a Southeast Asian city, and numerous friends - including chefs whose palates I trust - had raved about the place.  So I got on the restaurant's website and booked us a table.

Somewhere along the line, my friend invited the birthday girl to join our trip, and instead of having him contact the restaurant to make the change, I told him I would take care of it... then got lazy and decided to ask my friend Gaggan for help.  Then yesterday I had to ask Vladi to help confirm the change, as the email I received from the restaurant still showed that we were a table of 4 instead of 5.

The other reason for contacting Gaggan was a special request.  The Dining Austrian and I were really trying to get someone in Asia to make saures lüngerl for us - as a joke - and who better than a pair of German chefs?  Of course, we knew that the southern German specialty may be a little foreign to the two Berliners, but what the hell...

We took the second seating in the kitchen, which meant dinner started at 8:45 p.m.  While I wasn't too happy about having a second late night in a row, it turned out to be a blessing in disguise... as The Dining Austrian was delayed by more than two hours trying to get out of Hong Kong and arrived just in time for this seating.

We took our seats at a table facing the kitchen, and eagerly waited for the meal to start.  As the Compatriot made the decision not to drink today, we relied on my friend's extensive knowledge of German and Austrian wines to pick out a few bottles from the restaurant's list.

Sitting inside the kitchen meant we were being served the restaurant's Erlebnis menu. It also meant that the aircon wasn't strong enough, and a few of us were kinda sweating a little.

Leberkäse - seared meatloaf and spinach on a small bun, topped with a fried quail egg.

I've seen pictures of these tiny little mugs countless times, and they actually hold a mixture of beer and lemonade.

The coaster underneath said "Ich bin eine Berliner" - which just happens to be my favorite German phrase (and the only one I know).  So once again I brought up the subject of JFK, and whether he did or did not announce to the world that he was a doughnut...

Arctic char, crispy potato nest, horseradish, and arctic char roe -   to be honest, they put too much cured roe on top so the whole thing was just much too salty.  Maybe that was my own fault, because I took the whole thing in one bite, as suggested by our server.

2015 Melsheimer Reiler Mullay-Hofberg Riesling Sekt Zéro Dosage - a little pungent on the nose, showing minerals.

Aal grün - smoked eel with Spreewaldsauce inside on wholegrain bread.  Nice smoky flavors, and the bread was nice, too.

Cucumber juice - to accompany the aal grün and takes the place of the cucumber salad which is traditionally served alongside.  Actually this reminds me of the sweet and sour pickled gerkins of my childhood, which I used to eat tons of at 中心餐廳 in Taipei some 40 years ago as it was run by our family friends.

Crispy roll with shrimp and roast beef - a thin slice of roast beef is wrapped around the crispy tube, which was filled with shrimp mayonnaise.  Topped with beef gel, dried shrimp, and dill coulis.

One end is stuffed with what seemed to be shredded chives, and makes the whole thing looks like a cigarette...  Not bad.

Hühnchensalat - the chicken salad in a tartlet came with chicken marinated with onions and mushrooms, with a green blob on top made from butterhead lettuce.  This was very savory, and the chicken itself was very tasty.

2015 Tement Sauvignon Blanc Steirische Klassik - dry and rather mild on the palate.  Aromatic nose with a little green apple.

"Enleta" - short for entenleber tafel, and apparently a play on the Hanuta hazelnut and chocolate waffles.

In this version, the chocolate has been replaced with duck liver mousse, along with some apricot jam.  This was pretty salty, rich, and fatty.

I keep wondering, though, whether they took inspiration from DEN (傳)'s now-famous foie gras monaka (最中)...

Vinegar from Pfalz - a bit sweeter than expected, but also came with sharp acidity.

Currywurst - apparently they come from Curry 36, which is supposed to be a famous shop in Berlin.  Having never been to Berlin and never eaten a proper currywurst, I have no idea...

Opening up the box revealed three tiny sections of the sausage that had been steamed then fried.  There was a little bit of curry ketchup on top - as opposed to being smothered in it at the original shop - along with a sprinkle of curry powder.

Instead of the traditional accompaniment of French fries, the twins have gone all fancy schmancy with paper-thin potato wafers sprinkled with - you guess it - curry/paprika powder.

Tafelspitz - slow-cooked beef made into a "jelly" (as in aspic?) with fruits and vegetables.  Served with a ring of fine herbs, horseradish, and dried apple.  A little apple/horseradish sauce was poured on top.  Oh, and they removed beetroot gel for Hello Kitty and I.

This was actually pretty salty, but thankfully there was some acidity to go along.  There was almost a hint of earthiness from the collection of herbs and flowers.

The waitstaff started laying down these tweezers for each of us, and I was wondering who among us would be Mathias and who would get to be Thomas.  But apparently we were all Mathias...

No, this is most certainly not a "tweezer-free kitchen"...

Brotzeit - the traditional bread and butter service.  We've got the homemade country bread made with sourdough yeast, and the staff brought around a little jar of the starter which dates back to the year before the restaurant opened.  I wasn't that interested in smelling it the way others seemed to be...

This came with homemade butter made with cream imported from Oldenburg, which was then smoked with apple wood.  This was really, really smoky... and actually a little too much for my liking.

Griebenschmalz - a spread made of pork lard, crackling, and apple.  How is it possible not to love this?!

Gewürzgerken - this is why we all got tweezers... so that we could fish out the pickles from the jar.

The caviar came with egg cream with sturgeon and smoked sturgeon.  I didn't ask where the caviar came from, like I usually do.

It was suggested that we pair the smoked butter with the caviar, and the pickled cucumber with the lard.

2017 Ökonomierat Rebholz Im Sonnenschein Weißer Burgunder Großes Gewächs - really fruity and tropical with stone fruits.  Soooo flinty.  Reminds me of a Pouilly-Fuissé.

We were finally done with all the finger/street food, and could now move on to more serious business...

Sea bream with dill pesto - on top of the fish we had some small cubes of crispy potato, speck, mustard seeds, and a huge mound of crispy dill.  Served with speck bouillon.  The fish was pretty tasty, and the dill oil was certainly very fragrant.

Crayfish, butternut squash, and pumpkin - so we've got charcoal-grilled crayfish from northern Thailand, a thin layer of butternut squash wrapped around poached crayfish, and a "variation of pumpkin".  Dressed in crayfish butter and pumpkin seed oil.

The grilled crayfish was certainly smoky, and the sauce was a little spicy.  I could pick out the ginger with the poached crayfish.  The combination of dehydrated veg on the right wasn't bad.

We had been shown this Hungarian duck smoked with hay a little earlier, and gotten a download of why the twins prefer using ducks from Hungary.  This was brined and aged for 7 days.

Hungarian duck, first serving - can't remember the German name of the dish, but essentially similar to a duck leg parmentier with a duck leg ragout, celeriac, and some cheese foam on top, and a piece of toast soldier garnished with lemon gel.

For some reason the twins decided to make their own Worcestershire sauce to go with the dish, AND OF COURSE THEY PUT THEIR NAME ON IT.  Just like 10 other dishes before this one.

Before the next plate arrived, we were shown a box of knives and asked to choose our weapons.  These days so many restaurants are now doing this show (which, if memory serves, started with Alain Ducasse New York back in the late '90s, along with a choice of pens with which to sign your credit card bill) that it feels really passé to me...  Unless you've got one made of fossilized walrus penis bone, or you've gone out of your way to customized it by etching my name on it, I really couldn't care less.

Hungarian duck, second serving - the skin was brushed with some coffee and caramelized.  Accompanied by celeriac purée, roasted celeriac, black truffle, and truffled duck jus.  The duck breast was soft and silky.  Fantastic texture.

2016 Jean Stodden Recher Herrenberg Frühburgunder Großes Gewächs - nice fruit, with honeydew melon, beautiful notes of leather and grilled meats, and bacon fat.

Next came the first dessert, which meant that there would be no sauers lüngerl for us tonight.  That was disappointing.  Maybe Gaggan forgot to tell the twins.  Or maybe the twins got the request and laughed.  I guess it just wasn't meant to be for The Dining Austrian and I.

Lemon tart - deconstructed version, with lemon curd and basil oil.  I thought the acidity was a little high in some bites.  The basil oil was pretty damn strong.

Berries (?) variation - as a crumble, ice cream, raspberry cream, with meringue on top.

Chocolate petits fours

This was apparently eggnog made from the twins' grandma's recipe, and the staff even brought out what was purported to be the old recipe book for us to flip through, but I was too busy rolling my eyes.  And you know what?  If you served it to me blind, I would have sworn I was sipping on Bailey's Irish Cream.

It was interesting that when it was all done, at least 4 out of our group of 5 felt a little underwhelmed.  Did any dishes fail?  Not really.  Pretty much everything tasted fine, and the duck at the end was fantastic.  But at the same time, I just didn't feel any magic tonight... and it was clear I wasn't the only one.  There's a lot of playfulness; a lot of effort put in to turn simple bites into something more refined; a lot of storytelling... and seemingly everything came with the word "Sühring" slapped on it.  But not a whole lot of it made me think "OHMYGAWD I need to come back for this!"

This was a loooooong dinner, and to think that we started close to 9pm!  We've got a few tired people at the table by the end of the meal who were dying to hit the sack.  I saw that The Dining Austrian had gone to chat with the twins, so I asked for the bill... only to be told that the bill had been "taken care of".

OK, so this wasn't the first time that I had been comped at a restaurant where Gaggan is involved.  In fact, I've succeeded in paying for my meal only once - when we didn't tell anyone that we were dining at Gaa.  But I was really hoping that with the 5 of us this time, we wouldn't have to worry about being comped...  It didn't work out that way.  I was very, very grateful for the kind treat tonight, and we made sure we left a reasonable tip to thank the staff.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the review, honestly speaking, iI didn't feel any magic too. Even more, a lot of things sound like a little bit "old school". Not modern any more, in Europe, anyway, and definitely not in Berlin.


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