The restaurant is in a hotel not far from the pretty Unter den Linden boulevard. The dining room is traditional, with wood panelling, a high ceiling, chandeliers and comfortable classical chairs. The tasting menu can be tried with a varying number of courses, from EUR 95 for four courses to EUR 135 for six courses. Alternatively starters range from EUR 28 – EUR 44, main courses from EUR 44 – EUR 67; the a la carte majors on fish, with just two meat main courses. In charge of the kitchens is Christian Lohse, who trained with some world-class chefs including Guy Savoy and Marc Meneau in France. He was previously head chef of “Windmühle” in Bad Oeynhausen in Rhine-Westphalia, and is noted for his seafood cookery.
The wine list arrives with a thud, a heavy, leather bound volume, with a large German selection but also plenty of choices from around the world. Examples are Vintage Tunina from Jermann 2004 at EUR 105 for a wine that costs about EUR 27 retail, Donhoff trocken Riesling 2006 at EUR 68 for a wine that costs about EUR 22 in the shops, and Bogle Chardonnay 2006 at EUR 58 for a wine costing about EUR 11 or so. A pairing of wines with the tasting menu will set you back EUR 115.
The first nibble was a tartare of salmon with dill and crème fraiche and some little crisps – a refreshing beginning. Bread was an assortment of rolls and sliced bread, served warm and with good texture and taste (18/20). Further nibbles were tuna with a jelly of coriander, warm and intense artichoke espuma, and a clever combination of a little sea bass with a celery and walnut salad (18/20).
The first course proper was a technically impressive dish. A slab of terrine of foie gras was topped with a transparent crisp layer of smoked eel with pepper caramel, which really tasted of eel and added an interesting contrast to the foie gras; in addition there was a jam of aubergine (19/20). Next was a bouillon of Atlantic langoustine with ravioli of lardo and langoustines with Japanese pepper. The bouillon itself was well seasoned, garnished with a little artichoke, enoki mushroom and coriander. For me the langoustine flavour was a little lost in there (17/20).
Next was a baked egg on excellent basil mash, the egg soft inside its crisp outer shell, with tartare of prawn and red mullet and with a saffron sauce. I was a little sceptical about this when it arrived but the flavours actually worked together well (17/20). Next was a gilthead bream, which had excellent taste and was very well timed, served with carrots, mushrooms, carefully cooked leek and a courgette flower stuffed with tartare of the bream (18/20).
A large cheese trolley is supplied from an Alsace affineur Bouton d’Or, and was in generally very good condition. Reblochon was particularly ripe, St Maure just on the good side of chalky, Epoisses at that lovely point where it is runny but has not gone too far, as well as good Beaufort and a slightly under-ripe Munster. This was served with a choice of three marmalades (orange, blood orange and grapefruit), four types of nuts and two breads (18/20). A little pre-dessert of a chutney of tomato and ginger with espuma of hazelnut and pistachio was an unusual mix of flavours which worked together fairly well (17/20).
Dessert proper was a chilled citrus soup with ginger and lime, with a cucumber sponge in the centre of the bowl. This was refreshing and tasted distinctly of ginger. This was served with a superb white chocolate ice cream garnished with juniper on the side. I am not sure how well these things really fit together but I was just happy since the ice cream was so good (17/20 for the soup, 19/20 for the ice cream).
Finally, good petit fours were served with very nice coffee e.g. a fine orange jelly, a chocolate truffle and a blueberry sponge (18/20). Service was extremely good throughout the meal, other than a slightly annoying thing at the end of the meal. Coffee and petit fours was EUR 8.50, which is a little steep but did involve a lot of very good pastry work. However when I asked for a top-up of coffee I was charged a further EUR 8.50, which is really not on as far as I am concerned (it is not as if an extra set of petit fours appeared). You can debate whether petit fours and coffee is worth this price, but EUR 8.50 for a small cup of coffee that costs a few cents is absurd. The bill was EUR 244 for one person, so a top up of coffee would seem to be within their grasp without bankrupting the restaurant. They were very nice about it and adjusted the bill when I moaned about this, but it was a pity as it meant the evening ended on a small but slightly irritating note.
Overall I thought the cooking was very capable and consistent through the meal. There were 45 chefs in all under chef Christian Lohse (the kitchen serves the hotel also) which must come in handy when it comes to the fancier elements. The modern touches were mostly positive, such as the clever eel caramel. I think it thoroughly deserves the second Michelin star it gained in 2008.