Ray's Picks NYC - La Vie ***

Osnabruck, a town in the North West of Germany, is home to one of only eleven three Michelin starred restaurants in the country, La Vie. Chef and co-owner Thomas Buhner and his wife Maitre’D Thayarni Kanagaratnam assumed control of the restaurant when it had a star then in 2006. After a year under their ownership the second one came, then finally in 2012 the coveted third star. Before La Vie, Chef Buhner was already an established chef as he held two Michelins stars at La Table Restaurant in Dortmund and he was named the Gault Millau chef of the year in 2006. He trained under one of Germany’s top chefs, Harald Wohlfahrt at Schwarzwaldstube before striking on his own.

La Vie, a Relais & Chateaux member property, is located in the old part of Osnabruck where the cobble stone road is still in use and architectures are well preserved. The restaurant itself is housed in a beautiful neo classical townhouse. Built with a modern and luxurious interior, the dining room and its dark oak wood flooring have tables that are distanced out from each other while drum ceiling lights light up each table. Contemporary paintings adorned the walls of the room while maroon curtains covered its windows. There is additional dining space on the floor above as well as a terrace and a lounge in the front for pre and post dinner drinks.

There isn’t an a la carte selection at La Vie, only a tasting menu and a special set menu for lunch on Friday and Saturday (the days the restaurant is open for lunch). I requested the seven-course “Le Grande Chef” menu for EUR 228, but unfortunately during my visit the cheese course was unavailable, which was not big deal since I was there for Chef Buhner’s cooking.

“Le Grande Chef” tasting started with colorful and flowery potato chips that was then followed by beet root carpaccio with salmon caviar and salmon on a stick. Although familiar, the taste was slightly elevated. This amuse was a terrific prelude to the first course of marinated Hamachi with puree of cauliflower and quinoa. The Hamachi had a very clean taste with a lemony twist. Completing the dish was a cauliflower puree that provided additional texture and taste. Served with this course was freshly baked sea weed focaccia bread that was still warm when brought to my table.

Lobster was next, made with beetroot, hazelnut and radicchio for a slight bitterness. The lobster tail was tender but firm. On the plate there was also cannelloni stuffed with lobster meat and beets. A third course of eel was served, both smoked and grilled, the flavors commingling excellently with one another. On the other hand the almond crème on the plate complemented the eel. A cup of egg yolk as a supplement was to be taken after finishing the dish. Its gelatinous yolky texture and taste served as a palate transition to what was next.

“Le Grande Chef”:

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The proceeding courses were red meat starting with the breast of pigeon that was sous vide then plated with sauce made from its own juice. The sliced pieces of breast meat were portioned properly and sous vide to perfection. The texture was delicate and juicy with amass of flavors. Served separately was a shot glass of green Thai chili to sip after every bite for a nice spicy after taste. In between courses I was served a large piece of ravioli with liquid stuffing and swimming in a light creamy sauce with generously shaved truffles on top. It was an earthy sensation that was meant to enjoy in one bite. Filet from Canadian bison with ox cheeks was the last of the savory course. Each of the lean delicious chunks of bison meat had beautiful pink coloring that were moist and scrumptious. Prepared with the ox cheeks meat was a topinambur (aka Jerusalem artichoke) puree, giving the dish a touch of richness, sweetness, and nuttiness.

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Dessert was fascinating in a sense that there were a lot of vegetable ingredients. It was made with parsley root, pistachio, black garlic cream, and lime. Noodle shaped like parsley root had an herbal taste with a tiny bit of sweetness. There was also a little acidity with a hint of richness and a distinct pistachio flavor. Over all, this dessert was very good. Petite fours that include a shot of refreshing pina colada ended the meal.

This was a fantastic meal that was skillfully prepared by Chef Buhner and his kitchen staff. The “Le Grand Chef” tasting menu showcased the brilliance of the chef, successfully mixing different elements in one plate while keeping the flavor profile interesting at the same time. He also displayed his affinity with root vegetables as they appear in the majority of the plates of the tasting. In addition, sommelier Sven Oetzel recommended wine pairing of European wines were predominantly German. The wines were wonderfully chosen and gave an extra symphonizing taste with each dish.

Wine Pairing:

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My arrival was welcomed with a warm attitude, which set the tone for a great experience. La Vie’s staff was pleasant, well-trained, and formal while executing a faultless service. At times Matri’D Thayarni made an appearance at the dining room bringing her friendly smile to each table. She and her dining room staff along with Chef Buhner and his kitchen brigade delivered a one two punch to make La Vie one of the finest restaurants in Germany.

Refined is seldom associated with the heartier and heavier German cuisine. Their haute cuisine on the other hand may come to a shock as it is comparable, if not better, than that of any of its European neighbors like Spain and Italy. Evident from the eleven three Michelin starred establishments that calls Germany home (which has more than any other country in Europe outside of France to have this distinction). By reinterpreting German cuisine while applying precised techniques that the Germans are known for and taking it to the next level, chef’s like Thomas Buhner are continuously putting the country on the global stage.

Taken from: www.rayspicksnyc.com