vendredi 17 août 2007

Acquarello, Munich

I was drawn to this place by the excellent review in Gastroville. Either the place has changed since then (spring 2005), or the author was in a very good mood that day. And I can think of plenty of reasons why one would be in a very good in Munich, but I have to say that, in my experience, fine dining is not one of them, and this Aquarello lunch did not convince me otherwise.

My best fine dining experience in this city to date remains the quite good Königshof, an absolutely classic French cuisine with hints at Bavarian tradition. But fine dining here seems a forced exercise: what people like, and what is superbly done, is beer and the bier gardens and beer halls, and associated food of sausage, roasted meat and sauerkraut. Downtown, Augustiner is one of the best and my favourite. Out of town, Zum Wild Park in Straßlach is a place owned by the organisers of the Okoberfest (you can see the “Wiesnbüro” indicated in the courtyard) and is a textbook Bavarian place. There are simple Italian places as well, some quite good (e.g. La Famiglia or La Pizzeteria at Isartor and Il Ruscello in Perlach).

Now Acquarello is not all bad. On pictures, it looks like your average pizzeria with a “fresque” of the Gulf of Napoli as original as the landscapes with animated waterfalls in Chinese restaurants. But, the painting and art there is actually more in the surrealistic, Dali, style, making it, I suppose, less plain. There are big fake emeralds on the tables, and a black screen with moving light dots on the wall. The transition to food happens when they bring the choice of three salts on the table, and three olive oils, on the table, with the homemade bread.

The bread is quite good by Munich standards, its main appeal being to be freshly baked. Too bad yet that the second serving of bread had been so recently put in the oven that it was not cooked. Anyway, the choice of salt and olive oil here is clearly for degustation by itself, with that very neutral bread, which provide as a support to taste them. They proved unnecessary for seasoning purpose.

The pasta dish in the 29€ lunch menu was cashew nuts pancerotti (little round ravioli), with a white pepper foam. It was remarkably balanced and pleasant, striking first and foremost by the thinness and lightness of the dough. The cashew taste was discreet, in nice harmony with the sweetness of the dough and the subtility of the white pepper foam, and of course those three levels of texture offered an ideal progression – the nut, the tender dough, the foam.

The main dish was positively unsurprising, but very good: slices of veal (Not a milk calf, but a very nice animal that already tasted like some sort of light beef, and was red) on mashed potatoes (sorry – a mousseline) with some carrots, cauliflower and green peas, cooked al dente and wonderfully fresh. I actually used one of the salts there, and then the whole dish became an excellent vehicle for the excellent salt.

Those two were the best parts. There was an amuse made of a good wild mushroom cream, a very sensible choice at this time of the year in Munich, and a slice of cucumber with a sweet Japanese style seasoning (with some wasabi, sesame, and red bean), which offered maybe an excessive contrast: what is more different from warm, sweet, forest-y mushroom soup than raw, sushi-style cucumber?

There was also a first course which I found funny and my wife called an “affront”: a Tatin of tomatoes. No dough, but some tomatoes cooked in a caramel indeed, with dices of raw tomatoe inside – also a sundried tomato that had obviously been marinated in something very sweet. On top of it, a barely cooked meringue brought a light texture. And as you can see, a sophisticated presentation. The whole thing tasted like good ketchup to be honest, and clearly the quality of the tomatoes was remarkable, though the excessive sweetness was not optimal. In fact, I think this should be seen as the real “amuse”, because it surely was exciting the taste buds.

Because I was rather favourably impressed by the pasta but wanted to know whether being on the lunch menu gave us diminished impression of the talent of the chef, and also because the reviews I read said paste at Aquarello were the best part, I ordered an extra portion of capellini vongole – some thin spaghettis with clams. Clams were chewy from having been overcooked too long ago, and you may even see on the picture I took with my cell phone how non-shiny they were, though there really was not much light. There were tiny dices of tomatoes and carrots that seemed to be there only to pretend that the dish was more sophisticated, or to divert attention from the clams, I don’t know.

Desserts look messy, and they are. A pre-dessert of cherry cake was the best part, with a clear, long cherry taste in mouth. The apple tart on a calvados and vanilla cream, some caramel ice-cream on the side was like you would make it at home, without the love. The chocolate “soufflé”, caramel sauce, with a peer poached in wine, was also like you would make it at home, when you buy those “chocolate cake” powders in a box at the supermarket. Or maybe you don’t do that?

In any case, desserts certainly did not add to the meal, and I wish I had been told more clearly that they were not included in the menu. I also wish that I had not been charged one more glass of wine (a very pleasant grey Pinot at 6€ a glass) for the partial and un-requested refill they served me. The whole meal ended up costing 129€ for two persons, and that was too much for good pasta and three thin slices of veal, especially fro Germany (where food is cheaper than in France).

My impression of Aquarello is that it does not deliver on its promise of fine dining, and offers an honest trattoria cooking with good products and pretentious presentation, at a price that does not choose either between simple food and haute cuisine.

Déjeuner du 16 Août 2007
Acquarello, Mühlbauer Str. 36, 81677 Munich-Bogenhausen, +49 89 470 48 48

2 commentaires:

Anonyme a dit…

The head chef left at the beginning of 2007. It is now the troubled padrone himself who is in charge of the kitchen.

Julot-les-pinceaux a dit…

Thanks for the info, anonymous -- that would explain my disappointment compared to other, less recent, reviewers.