Lorenz Adlon Esszimmer
Hotel Adlon Kempinski
Unter den Linden 77,
10117 Berlin, Germany
Tel. +49 30 2261 1959
Food type: Modern European
Website: Lorenz Adlon Esszimmer
Our third night in Berlin saw us opting to dine at our hotel. Of course being the Adlon Kempinski, the hotel features some excellent dining options. Berlin’s hottest chef, Tim Raue, has an Asian restaurant (Sra Bua) here, but as we were already booked to dine at his flagship restaurant the following day (post to follow), we instead chose to dine at the 2* Lorenz Adlon Esszimer. The executive chef here is Hendrik Otto who was present during dinner service. The dining room (which is what Esszimer means in German) has stunning views of Brandenburg Gate.
The restaurant offers two separate tasting menus – a 6- and 8-course menu consisting of entirely different dishes. As is the trend in Berlin, you can choose how many courses to go for from the tasting menu starting with as little as 4 courses. There is also a limited a la carte menu which offers more classical dishes, no doubt to cater for the many diplomats and politician around the area. We went for the ‘Quintessence II’ menu opting for 7 courses (skipping the cheese course), priced at €190.
We began the meal with a couple of canapés to accompany our glass of Krug. Parma ham on a crisp bread pillow had excellent crisp texture complementing the salty ham. The next bite was rather odd – an apple sorbet surrounded by savoury popcorn. The sweetness from the apple sorbet just made its place at the start of the meal questionable. The last bite was a linseed cracker topped with a German cheese which name escapes me. The cheese reminded me of Davidstow’s cheddar – loose crumbed with a decent amount of acidity. Not sure how excited I would get eating cheese on crackers though. On the side were parmesan ‘grissini’ made from puff pastry which had good cheese flavour.
Before our meal officially began, we were offered another duo of amuse bouche which was a take on a Hawaiian pizza. First, was a cylindrical tuile filled with a foam of ham and pineapple. The second part came in the form of a drink with a pineapple juice topped with a ham flavoured foam. The balance of salty and sweet was excellent although I have to admit I am not the biggest fan of Hawaiian pizzas.
The first official course was a foie gras terrine with smoked eel. A very classical combination of flavours but the presentation was very modern. The terrine itself was extremely well made, the goose liver meticulously deveined and ultra smooth with just enough of the smokey eel coming through. To balance the richness from the liver and eel, was some beetroot gel and jelly. The horseradish element (spherified and in the form of a noodle) in this dish was kept in check with very little actual heat and more of the fruitiness from the horseradish present.
My favourite course of the night was a seafood soup made from crustaceans – likely the shells from the langoustines and lobster featured on the dish. The soup itself (not too dissimilar to a bisque) was intense, packed full of shellfish flavour but not over-reduced, balanced with bursts of freshness coming from the celery and fennel. All the seafood here were perfectly timed, with tender squid, lobster and langoustine but for me the star of the show was the soup itself. As an added bit of theatre, teapots with scented smoke were presented at the table as a reminder of the chef’s home when his mother would make soups over wood fire.
While the first two dishes were classically French with some modern reworking, the next dish was a fusion of different cuisines. Marinated gilt-head bream (ceviche style) dusted with Espelette pepper sat on top a crispy crab bread with Thai flavours of Tom Kha. Each were the size of a bite sized canapé, served on a bed of crispy wild rice. The idea is that you would get a little of the nutty wild rice (probably replacing the role of peanuts in South East Asian cuisine) with each portion to help balance the acidity from the Thai flavours. Loved the background heat that the Espelette pepper brought to the dish as well.
Next was a more familiar combination of oysters and cucumber. Poached oysters was served with cucumber sorbet, ayran (a salty yoghurt drink from Turkey not to dissimilar to lassi) pearls and a soup made from yoghurt. Here the acidity from the yoghurt replaced the role of lemons and there was plenty of freshness coming from the aforementioned cucumber as well as the dill and sea vegetables. There was also a very technical and impressive transparent tuile made from the oyster juice but I’m not sure if it really added much to the dish other than for presentation purpose.
I really enjoyed the next dish which was a nod to Chinese cooking. Pork belly was twice cooked- first braised and then coated with wild rice and spices before being deep fried. The result was pork that was crisp on the outside but meltingly tender within. As a refresher, a cleansing pork broth garnished with soft herbs was served on the side – a smart move given the richness of the pork belly.
Our main course was a saddle of venison served with a classical Grand Veneur sauce and fricassee of button mushrooms. I’m pretty sure the venison had been cooked in a water bath before being finished in the pan with foaming butter. The creative twist with this dish was the addition of blueberries and sea buckthorn to bring acidity to the dish. Thankfully, the sea buckthorn element, a berry which is notoriously astringent, had its tartness kept in check.
There was only one official dessert with the tasting menu, a theme I found consistent with all my meals in Berlin. I wonder if it is because Berliner’s do not enjoy eating puddings. After all the pyrotechnics that had gone on with the savoury courses, our pudding of curd ice cream and sour cherries felt like of an afterthought. Much like many restaurants in England where desserts are left to a junior chef in the kitchen, I wonder if this was also the case here in this kitchen. This dish, bar a few garnishes, is pretty similar to the lemon curd and blueberry compote dish at Medlar. I actually think the curd ice cream at Medlar is a touch better.
As is normal in Berlin, petit fours were included as part of the meal. The pick of the bunch was a yuzu and lemon eclair which had delicate, light pastry and refreshing acidity from the two citrus fruits. There was a lot of pomp and fan-fare with the rum baba which was blowtorched at the table with a spritzer squirting rum and topped with cream from a siphon gun. Ultimately though, it was a far cry from Ducasse’s version – the savarin dense and dry.
To quote the very overused football phrase, this was a meal of two halves. I felt the savoury courses were very strong with dishes based on classics but elevated using modern techniques and contemporary flavours. Although many of the plates may seem busy, the flavours are harmonious Solid 2* territory stuff. However after the crescendo of savoury courses, it was a shame that the meal ended with a bit of a whimper. The desserts, if you also include the petit fours, were technically correct from an execution point of view but failed to excite the palate. It’s like playing the B team in the second leg of a Champion’s League tie, having won the first 5-0. Overall though, the cooking here is worthy of its 2* status.