Field report (Erfahrungsbericht)

Some weeks ago my boyfriend and I went for a little trip to Germany – mostly to see relatives but also to let ourselves indulge in some of Germany’s top restaurants. At first we visited 3-star restaurant Schloss Berg in Perl-Nennig (near the boarder of Luxembourg) which was such a joy. Unfortunately, they have an „iPhone only“ policy so my pictures turned out really bad. Some days later, however, we were in the town of Osnabrück and a visit at Thomas Bühner’s restaurant La Vie seemed mandatory (at least for me, my boyfriend desided to let me enjoy it on my own).

After reading, and drooling, at my good friend Trine Lai’s post from the same restaurant, I knew I was up for a treat. La Vie itself is located in the historic old-town of Osnabrück, just opposite the town hall. The building is majestetic and grand. The interior itself is beautiful, luxurious and modern, and the service is incredibly friendly and attentive – they made me feel like home, were smiling and had a very humorous tone. Just the way I like it.

Thomas Bühner has been leading La Vie since 2006 and it got awarded with three stars in Guide Michelin in 2011. „The two years before reaching the third star was the hardest of my life,“ Mr. Bühner says and „pushing for the very best every day lead to us getting a third star.“ He also underlines the importance of having a team that constantly strives for the best: „We all wanted to gain a third star, we all had the same goal. Without this, it wouldn’t be possible.“

Head chef at La Vie - Thomas Bühner
One of the first appetizers in the lounge
Dining room
Flower decoration at my table
La Vie butter
Bread and butter

Thomas Bühner was standing in the door welcoming me this Thursday in October. I got seated in the lounge and equipped with a glass of champagne in company with a couple of appetizers. I noticed that the restaurant was nearly empty (except from a couple of waiters running around). „You are the only costumer for lunch today,“ Mr. Bühner told me. I had the restaurant all by myself. Not due to lack of reservations but because of a slight misunderstanding when booking the table. They still decided to hold the restaurant open for me only. I felt very humble and honoured for that gesture.

At first some of the house-made breads and butter came to the table; rye bread and sourdough bread. It  was deliciously warm and had a very crispy crust that I found very pleasing. I had problems (as always when it comes to the obligatory bread serving) controlling myself as it is all so well-tasting!

Lobster, beets, seaweeds and caviar
Loup de Mer

The first serving consisted of lobster, beets in different textures, seaweeds and roe. The lobster was cooked to perfection as it was juicy and tender. The purée of beet was also deliciously creamy with a distinct flavor that was not too overwhelming. I liked this a lot as it was complex but at the same harmonious, and let the different components play together in a nice way – also texture-vise. The caviar was outstanding.

European seabass, common razor clams, limequat and avocado and couscous are some of the ingredients in the next serving. Again, Bühner shows how complex a dish can be at La Vie: the sea bass was of excellent quality. The limequat provided acidity and was here presented in several textures (as a gel, sauce, sorbet, yoghurt and macaroons if I remember correctly).
In addition were some pickled Shimenji mushrooms, fresh greens, couscous and super-fresh razor clams that accompanied the seabass well. On the side was a freshly baked and warm brioche that was lighter than air. Wonderful.

As I first was a bit afraid the complexity would be too overwhelming (because, yes, there’s a lot going on here), I was surprised that this was a very light and refreshing dish. A feast in different textures! Complex yet harmonious. The ingredients were superbly made and none of them seemed redundant. All-in-all one of my favorite dishes of the meal. In my glass I had a light mineral Riesling trocken (2012), from Franken, which had a lovely acidity and fruitiness that suited the dish well.

The next serving consisted of grilled eel and oyster, fennel in different textures, pineapple and smoked whey. The grilled eel had a deep, smokey flavour that I enjoyed a lot. The combination of fennel was also satisfying: in the form of an ice-cream with a stunningly beautiful texture that, combined with the eel, tasted marvelous. I like how the oyster was super-fresh and had flavors of sea and minerality. In one way the pineapple (also in different textures) added some acidity but also a slight sweet and exotic component that was a nice contrast to the eel and powder of smoked whey. Elegantly executed: I was stunned over the beauty of Bühner’s dishes.

Grilled eel and oyster
Turbot, broccoli x 2, dumpling and caviar
Close-up of the dumpling

Also the next dish consisted of seafood – to my pleasure! Here, a piece of turbot was served with broccoli in different textures – both as a purée and fresh ones in company with aïoli. In addition some was some delicious Tobiko caviar (roe of flying fish), a broth of Iberico ham and chick peas in different textures. On the side a little dumpling filled with crab meat. The texture of the turbot was fantastic: smooth as silk, almost a bit juicy. The purée of broccoli was deeper in flavour than expected. I did find the aïoli a tad too overwhelming, and I’m not sure it worked as well with the other components as I was hoping for.

However, I think the yeast dumpling filled with crab meat was tasty and had a deep flavour (give me a plate filled with those ones, please!). Honestly, I am not the biggest fan of chick peas as I think it’s of no good use (other than when making hummus), but I think it worked very well. It created some sort of balance. This dish was served with a 2011 „Timotheus“ from one of my newly discovered wine makers Gut Oggau from Burgenland which I enjoyed a lot.

"Timotheus" from Gut Oggau, Burgenland (2011)
Breton red mullet, artichoke x 3 and snow peas
A little cup on the side: crème royale and shrimps

Breton red mullet was next: served with artichoke „three ways“ (sautéed, as a purée and fresh). Fresh snow peas were delightly crispy. In addition some radishes that were nice and fresh. A cup on the side of crème royale, Spanish shrimps and seaweed was stunning – the shrimps deliciously crispy and packed with flavor. The Breton red mullet was cooked to perfection and tasted wonderful. The purée of artichoke was creamy and deliciously refined.

King crab, coconut and curcuma

The tempo inbetween the dishes was pleasing – neither too slow nor too fast. My next serving showed the restaurant’s influence from the east: King crab served with coconut in different textures and curcuma (also known as turmeric). This dish almost gave me tears in my eyes as it brought back so many memories from a trip I had in India some years ago; all the spices and flavours came running back!

The king crab was of exquisite quality. A creamy and sweet purée of carrots suited the crab well and the underlaying flavour of coconut bound it all together. I liked the use of turmeric here and a saffron purée gave it all the little extra. Also, this dish, as most of Bühner’s dishes, was quite complex with plenty of things going on at the same time. It was still harmonious and pleasing – it is a masterpiece.

The next course was a little intermezzo before heading over to the meat dishes: a müsli of different root vegetables in company with dried corn and peas. Underneath was a parsnip foam and an ice-cream of the same. The parsnip was so mild and well-tasting, and highlighted the dried vegetables; some of them quite chewy but they were so packed with flavours it didn’t really matter.

Müsli and parsnip
"Espirit des Pierres", Grenache, Corbiéres (2011)
Pigeon breast

Pigeon breast, romanesco, turnip and cabbage „four ways“ was next. In addition was a „mushroom earth“ made on cep mushrooms (if I remember correctly) that suited the bird perfectly, and a foam of kohlrabi. A sauce made on Amontillado sherry was poured on top. It was outstanding as the breast was superbly cooked and tasted wonderful in company with the other components of the dish.

Saddle of venison with "exotic flavors"
Talleggio cheese and water melon

The main-dish consisted of saddle of venison with „exotic flavours“ such as avocado, grapefruit, radishes, and cep mushrooms. On the side was a light and airy sauce of foie gras. The saddle of venison was probably the best I have had: perfectly tender and with a lovely taste that I have almost never encountered before. I was surprised over how light the foie gras sauce was. Together with the „exotic“ components it created a beautiful harmony – both in terms of textures and flavours.

I was starting to get rather full but there’s no meal without a propper cheese serving, right..? Bühner’s take on a cheese course was rather interesting: talleggio cheese with water melon in different textures. In addition was some black olives and a salicorne cream. A „spaghetti“ was made out of potato starch and water melons.

Of all the dishes this was probably the one I liked the least: I am no big fan of water melon, nor talleggio, so I found it quite challenging. In my opinion the spaghetti of water melon was a tad to chewy so texture-vise it was a bit too weird for me. Also, I found the watermelon too overwhelming. I do, however, find the dish interesting. Had I liked watermelon and talleggio, it might have been  easier for me to enjoy as a whole.

Mouth cleanser of the day – presented as „greetings from the pastry section“. What a treat this was! Cashew nuts, mascarpone cream, basil, crisps of red tomatoes, tomatoes in different textures, pineapple and pinenuts dipped in white chocolate. Beautiful and harmonious – quite a refreshing cleanser which was a joy to eat!

The first dessert consisted of a beautifully looking „parsley root“ made by sugars – painted in red. It was filled with a parsley root ice-cream. Underneath was a cream made on fermented black garlic that I absolutely loved: in a way it tastes like a mixture of coffee and liquorice. In addition was some pistachio nuts covered in white chocolate, pieces of pistachio sponge cake and dots of lime.

A dessert of another dimension! The cream of black garlic bound it all together and created something unique that I have never tasted before. In company with the mild and round parsley root and pistachios this was very clever.I also liked the different textures here. Superb, nothing else.

Yet another aesthetic beauty arrived in Bühner’s hands – his take on a banana milkshake. As I am a bit skeptical to the use of banana in desserts I got quite surprised over this one. A ball of crispy chocolate was filled with what was actually a very well-tasting banana milkshake. Ice-cream of kaffir lime and coriander was nice and the caramelized chocolate just as so. I liked that the banana wasn’t too overwhelming but rather quite light as the kaffir lime lifted it up a notch. Om-nom-nom!

"Greetings from the pastry section"
Parsley root and pistachio
Banana milkshake
Thomas Bühner joined me for petit fours
Petit fours
Coffee and petit fours

As this beautiful meal came to an end I was even up for another treat: Mr. Bühner wanted to show me the restaurant’s gardens which were situated a 30 minute drive out of the city at the castle named Schloss Ippenburg. The gardens are taken care of by Viktoria Freifrau von dem Bussche who was kind enough to show us around. We picked some quince to bring back to the restaurant and had a nice walk around the castle. What an amazing memory!

I really recommend a visit to La Vie in Osnabrück. It is really one of the most beautiful eating experiences I have ever had. Even though Osnabrück is a bit far away from everything it is a good thing that you have all you need in the middle of it – restaurant La Vie. I will make sure to go back to the restaurant in near future as I have fallen in love with it.

Picking quince!
In the gardens!
... to bring home!

Thanks to Thomas and his team!

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