In this series of articles, Cédric Lizotte visit some of the best restaurants in Europe. From France to Switzerland via the Czech Republic, here are the best places to sample the delights of some of the best chefs on the planet. Follow it with the hashtag #CedricInEurope.
BERLIN, Germany – The so-called “ethnic” restaurants are usually run by people who make traditional recipes from their homelands. More often than not, they are immigrants who miss the flavors of home.
Restaurant Horvath Berlin in the trendy Kreuzberg district of Berlin, is one-such “ethnic” restaurant with a similar inspiration. But this restaurant has nothing else in common with the genre.
Horváth’s chef is 34-year-old Sebastian Frank. He comes from Austria and likes to tell anyone who will listen that he serves Austrian cuisine. His technique is somewhat French, in its elegant presentation, its obvious spotlight for great ingredients and the lightness of its dishes — pillars of the very French “Nouvelle Cuisine” – but the tastes, and many of the ingredients, are inspired, according to Chef Frank, by traditional Austrian dishes.
Germany and Austria have a common border and a common language. There are less than 700 kilometers separating Berlin from Vienna. In some ways, the two cultures could be considered twins separated at birth. Nevertheless, Chef Frank insists with the forcefulness of all ethnic restaurateurs that he serves Austrian dishes. An Austrian restaurant that is unique, ethnic, and award-winning.
Restaurant Horvath Berlin: The meal
What are the flavors of Austria? And how do they differ from those of Germany? Veal instead of pork… Bitter-sweet dishes… Cheese in the sausage… But is that all there is to it? It’s hard to say.
Rolls are served with the apéro, and they are exceptional. The black pudding bread is a surprise — like a savory doughnut stuffed with sausage!
Then an amuse bouche of asparagus. Simple, delicious … the portion is tiny, which is ideal, giving one only a taste.
With the first dish is served a Hungarian wine. Grof Degenfeld Terezia, Tokaj 2012 (Harslevelu). I’d never tasted a wine made with this grape before!
The first course leans heavily on the wine. It consists of broccoli, mustard seed sprouts, garlic and white chocolate cream. This dish is brilliant, nothing less. The leaves of the broccoli are pulled from the vegetable and burned, giving the whole dish a nutty flavor. The calcined side interacts with the wine to create a whole new flavor that is caramelized and sweet, almost creamy. The sauce is so subtle that it is difficult to identify the taste of chocolate. Sprouted mustard seeds are much milder than the fresh or pickled variety. It may be the best vegetarian dish I’ve ever eaten.
Second dish, second wine – Ebner-Ebenauer, Bürsting, 2013 (Grüner Veltliner). It is fruity, peppery and enjoyable.
The dish includes mushrooms, celery, malt, sour cream and poppy oil. The same principle is applied to the second dish as it was to the first: a combination of the cream and calcined/caramelized ingredients gives a wonderful flavor reminiscent of butterscotch. The idea of incorporating malt as an ingredient in a dish is also perfectly executed. And the presentation is so elegant…
Restaurant Horvath Berlin: Pushing Boundaries
For the third wine, we go to something funkier – Pod Stolpom by Conrad Fürst and son, 2012 (mixed grapes). It tastes of green apples and tobacco! Surprising.
The third dish is of trout, eggplant and “pig’s chin.” What?
This is a raw trout fillet served with caramel sauce, tzatziki, and “pig’s chin” – which looks and tastes like (and very well might be) bacon. It’s very smoky, perfuming the entire dish and affecting the interaction with the wine.
Next – Knipser, Pfalz, 2014 (Chardonnay and Weissburgunder). Knipser is a huge name in Austrian wines, and its products are everywhere. It is therefore perhaps a point of national pride to include it.
The accompanying dish combines green apples and marinated and fried asparagus, and served with jellified asparagus water to accompany the dish. The green apple is accompanied by schmaltz. And that’s when a pattern can be noticed. The recipe for the recipes.
Restaurant Horvath Berlin: A Recipe of Recipes
There is a burned element, which brings a smoky taste, that then goes along with the white wine that accompanies it. There, too, is the element of sweetness, like burnt caramel. There is something sour (green apples, here) and an element of umami (usually a reduction of some kind), rounded out with something savory (here, a touch of chamomile).
The meal continues. An avalanche.
There is a wine by Matthias Gaul, paired with a dish of root vegetables, egg white and cabbage. (This is one of the Chef’s signature dishes.) It is imaginative, leveraging several techniques to showcase the same ingredients.
Next, a wine by Fred Loimer – Schellmann In Gumpoldskirchen 2012 (Spätrot and Rotgipfler), served with flat parsley, egg yolk and radishes. Very good, and very light, which is surprising primarily because of its place in the sequence of dishes. But when I take a sip of the white wine, the tastes explode in the mouth, like fireworks. Vegetable, mineral, intense, and the frozen radishes that barely tasted of anything now take much more space… wow.
Restaurant Horvath Berlin: Veal and root vegetables
Another wine, this by Roland Velich, Moric, Burgenland, 2013 (Blau Fränkisch). It is the first red of the sequence and is paired with a veal dish and root vegetables. The meat is roasted, accompanied by egg sauce and chervil. Repeat after me: calcined, fresh, umami, vinegary. The meat is spectacularly tender, the egg sauce seduces.
Next, a wine by Lisa Bunn: Riesling Spätlese Tafelstein 2012 (Riesling). It is my favorite wine of the evening, tasting of peach, apricot, jasmine… very green and very tasty. It is served not with a sweet dessert, but with a dish of salted cucumber, almond milk, lavender, rhubarb juice and dill.
More wine. Tokaji Aszu 3 Puttonyos 2008 (mixed grapes). Another wine that does not attack the food, but supports it. This time, a plate of vegetables and chocolate … which tastes neither of vegetables nor chocolate! Unique, crazy, special, excellent, delicious, delicate, like the whole meal.
Shall we go on? Yes. Huls, Kabinett, 2012 (Riesling). It’s at first quite sweet, but is more complex than at first sight. It is paired with a nutty dish that tastes of molasses and brown butter. Result? Nutella!
Overall, the meal is spectacular, fun, transporting, enjoyable. It is no surprise then that since my visit, Chef Frank and his restaurant, Horváth, has received a second Michelin star.
Paul-Lincke-Ufer 44a, 10999 Berlin, Germany
+49 30 61289992