Victor’s Gourmet-restaurant Schloss Berg
Telephone: +49 6866 79 118
Overall rating: 8.5/10
Date of visit: September 2013
Victor’s Gourmet-Restaurant is part of a hotel/casino area very close to the border to Luxembourg (Luxembourg City is merely 25 kilometres away). The chef is Christian Bau who previously worked at Schwarzwaldstube, which is the German three-star restaurant that has held its stars the longest, and he has held three stars in the Michelin guide since 2005.
There’s also a small renaissance garden behind the building.
I’m sorry about the pictures this time. There’s an explanation for this in the segment about the service.
The restaurant offered two different menus, one a long tasting menu priced at €205, and one called carte blanche where you could choose either three, four or five courses. This is the one we chose (five courses for €163), and it was presented as a surprise menu. The waiter said that he didn’t even know what would be served. There was a list of main ingredients, and then we could say which ones we didn’t like, and then we also asked for some main ingredients to be included. On the restaurant’s website, there’s an a la carte menu, which we weren’t presented with in the restaurant, and some of the dishes we had seemed very similar to those on either the a la carte menu or the long tasting menu. So, it probably wasn’t much of a surprise after all. The other tables around us mostly had the same dishes we did.
Anyway, shortly after we had been seated the first appetisers arrived: A beetroot macaroon with a filling of smoked eel and foie gras (avocado for my then-wife as she doesn’t like foie gras), and a crispy cracker with crab meat and apple. On the side was a small cornet with smoked fish and beef tartar on top. I think the cornet is a stable of the appetisers here as I had seen it described in a book from 2009, although that one was served with caviar on top (overall 7.5-8/10).
Vegetable strips were served with sesame oil, small gold prawns, and frozen coriander balls (7/10).
Bread was served at this time. I don’t pay so much attention to bread in restaurants, but how could I not notice this bread? One regular bread was very fresh and had a lovely crust. The other one was spelt and was very similar to the rye bread you see in Denmark. That bread was nothing short of spectacular. Extremely fresh and juicy and full of flavour.
The next appetiser was mackerel prepared various ways and came with crisps, quinoa, mushrooms and Asian limes (7.5/10).
A pea soup with mint foam on top, boiled and halved peas, and small raviolis stuffed with spinach was simple but incredibly lovely (9/10).
The first course in the actual menu was raw hamachi, algae crumble, radishes, and yoghurt and bergamot ice cream. As I’ve said before, I practically never choose raw fish/meat a la carte, and therefore I would also have preferred another dish than this. Nevertheless, I could tell that the fish was of terrific quality and incredibly tender. But I preferred some of the accompaniments to the main ingredient. Someone who loves dishes like this would probably score this much higher (6.5/10).
Blue lobster was served with macadamia nuts, carrot cream with ginger, carrot slices with a carrot and cumin cream inside, a few slices of beetroot, soy beans, a small parcel with lobster meat (probably from the claws), and two sauces – one a passion fruit and miso sauce, the other a langoustine and crayfish sauce. This was a study in perfection. The lobsters I’ve had before have either had flavour but been a bit chewy, or they have been tender but had no flavour. It was as if Poseidon had asked us: “Which one do you want? You can only choose one, not both at the same time”. Victor’s Gourmet-restaurant must have bribed him with a particularly beautiful mermaid this night, because this was both incredibly tender and still full of flavour. This was easily the best lobster I’ve ever had. Not to speak of the combinations! Even the soy beans were full of flavour. A slice of heaven and Poseidon’s biggest treasure at the same time (10/10).
This was followed by the weakest dish all night: Overcooked halibut that luckily wasn’t as dry as the one we had at Hof van Cleve a few days later, with a thin slice of cauliflower on top, quinoa with grilled cauliflower on top, and a sauce of white wine and chives. The sauce was pleasant, as was the quinoa, but far from spectacular. There was nothing wrong with the cauliflower but it was simply bland. This dish could simply have been a lot more creative (5-6/10).
Beef was cooked two ways – the back and the short rib. The back was cooked medium rare, whereas the small pieces of short rib had been cooked for a very long time. It was served with burnt pearl onions, crispy potato spheres, artichokes, a few rocket leaves, an aubergine purée with red peppers and tomato, and a braising sauce. Aubergine is something I have often found underwhelming, and I can honestly say that this might have been the best aubergine I’ve ever had. The onions were lovely, and the meat spectacular. Honestly, beef is something I’ve had so often that it doesn’t easily amaze me anymore. So this dish was truly spectacular in both its depth of flavour, it’s composition and its products. My then-wife had asked for hers to be well-done, which it was (this actually doesn’t happen as often in top restaurants as you might think) (9/10 or 10/10).
Then we had a pre-dessert, which was chopped peach covered in a foamy soup of elderflower with a peach sorbet on top and a peach crisp. As such, this was pretty harmless. Both types of peach was a bit watery (6/10).
The dessert was a bar of Valrhona chocolate mousse with a few peanuts on top, mango, caramel, a few pop corn, and a pop corn ice cream. This dish was pleasant and beautifully presented but not spectacular. I suppose it was more creative than the “Nutella” dessert I had at Sangonereta but it lacked the intensity of that dessert, or the intensity of the chocolate donut at Ca ‘Sento. Maybe that’s just a personal preference, but when you make a chocolate dessert I feel it should be a jackhammer hitting you in the face/taste buds with chocolate flavour (7/10).
Petit fours were better: Raspberry cheese cake, chocolate and black sesame macaroon, a lemon tart, apricot jelly/wine gum with great depth of flavour, two chocolate ganaches, and a piece of chocolate with strawberry and Tonka beans (7.5-8/10).
As you can see, there were a couple of stunning highlights here, but also a few dips. This is what can be expected, but my enthusiasm for this restaurant really fluctuated a lot throughout the meal. After the lobster course I was considering asking for another table a few days later and then trying the long tasting menu. After the fish course I was considering ending the meal right there. Nevertheless, for the food itself all in all it was a very positive meal. When we had had just a few appetisers we already felt the food here was better and more flavourful than at Vendome the night before.
The pace of the meal was not as good as it could have been. The appetisers, which had most likely been prepared in advance, came quickly and in a steady flow, but there was too much waiting between the five actual courses, except for the dessert. I can see from when the pictures were taken that the lobster was served 37 minutes after the previous course, the fish was served 32 minutes after the previous course, the beef was served 41 minutes after the previous course, and the pre-dessert was served 18 minutes after the previous course. When I looked at my pictures from Sant Pau, the dishes were all served 8-10 minutes after each other. It’s a bit sad and paradoxical that in one of the best restaurants in a country that is widely known for its efficiency there was more waiting than in all the top restaurants in a country that is known for its lack of efficiency (Spain). This was not a major issue though, but it was still big enough to notice.
The fish course was served while my then-wife was in the toilet. Fish of course has to be served right when it’s done, but I would nevertheless think that this could have been timed better. This also happened with the lobster course at one of our neighbouring tables.
The service was polite, attentive and professional. One small thing I for instance noticed was that one waiter put cutlery on the table, and then shortly afterwards another waiter came up and swapped knife and fork around for me, as he had noticed that I’m left-handed (and from then on they set the table for me as a left-handed).
Nevertheless, we never really felt comfortable or welcome here. My companions at Daniel in New York were a bit nervous (first time in a posh restaurant), so the waiter said that the staff was there to us, not the other way around. At Victor’s at times it did seem like the other way around and like we were intruding. The two waiters and the waitress were polite and friendly but not warm nor humorous, and there were no attempts at making small talk or anything. I suppose this is how we are in Northern Europe, so we can’t ask the impossible of them, but at for instance Noma and AOC, to give just two examples from Northern Europe, the service was a lot more warm and personal.
We both felt that the sommelier, who also seemed to be in charge of the dining room, was too strict. We asked the waitress if we could take pictures of the food, so she had to ask him. He came over and said that we were only allowed to use a smartphone and not a proper camera. As he said: “If one person sits with a small pocket camera, then another person with a big SLR camera would feel he should be allowed to use his camera as well with flashes going off all over the restaurant. There are food bloggers coming here every other night, and some people spend 10-15 minutes on taking one picture. When is it going to be the end of this?”.
I of course understand if they don’t want dinner to turn into the circus it is in some restaurants, but the point is always to make the guests feel welcome – we are after all the reason why this restaurant is in business. In certain other restaurants I’ve been to they have simply asked me not to use flash. That was fair enough. And honestly, the clientele this evening seemed younger and less formal than in certain other places that I’ve been to, and nobody else took any pictures, so this attitude surprised me a bit. We prefer red wines that are smooth and round and not dry. They only had dry ones. The one he served us was quite powerful and dry. So instead of saying something like “this is unfortunately the least dry wine we serve per glass”, the sommelier said something along the lines of: “I can’t open a bottle of wine and just serve you one glass, because then the rest of the wine is going to be bad tomorrow”. This could have been handled more elegantly without making it seem like the customer’s fault. Nevertheless, we were very happy with the white wine he served us.
With a different sommelier we would have been happier here, although there was also an incident with one of the other waiters, where he seemed a bit condescending, although that might simply have been a figment of our imagination.
If the service had been like the day before at Vendome, or even just like the one we had a few days later at Hof Van Cleve, I would have given this restaurant 9/10. Honestly, I actually did feel like marking it down even further, but I thought I would be fair.
Then there’s the price. €163 for this menu + appetisers and petit fours seemed perfectly fair. We didn’t know the wines we were served so it’s difficult to say if they were reasonably priced, although they were definitely more expensive than in certain other three-star restaurants I’ve been to. A glass of white wine (this was from 1995) was €18, and a glass of red wine was €16. Water was €10 for 0,75 litres, and €8-€10 for either 0,75 or 1 litre seems to be the standard in Europe’s three star places. A glass of coke was €3.50, and tea was €7.50, which might not have been cheap, but it was nevertheless half of what we paid in Hof van Cleve a few days later. So, in total this meal came to €212.50 per person.
This restaurant has been the one that has fully made me realise how important the service is for me. Rather neutral than arrogant service. If you compare the food in this meal to for instance the one at Sant Pau, Noma or Quique Dacosta, it’s more or less the same level, or maybe even better. But because we didn’t fully feel comfortable or welcome here I might be less likely to go back here than to those three places.