A short trip for work took me to Hamburg and looking around the internet i stumbled upon Haerlin a 2 star Michelin Restaurant which was widely applauded for the smart and creative use of local ingredients which are in season and the interesting fuse with other exotic ingredients. The price was 185 euros for a tasting menu which was roughly my allowance for this trip but eating alone & early got me a small table in the corner.
The restaurant had a nice ambiance, a quiet elegance and decor. It reeks of luxury but in an understated not in your face way. The staff was friendly and seemed to have a genuine attitude to want to serve. There is no snobbery here which ranks high in my book.
While perusing the tasting menu choices i ordered a pre drink as a refreshing drink to wake me up. The 14 hr flight left me quite jet lagged and sleepy.
I already decided to choose the 11 courses but i was surprised that the smaller tasting menu wasn’t like the usual same menus with some items missing. The dishes were completely different aside from the 3 amuse buche that is compliments of the chef and the complimentary “Forest Dessert” I was tempted but i held my ground i wanted to taste the most of this awesome chance!
The Guinea Fowl green ball was a sharp and sour hit of a tangy and sweetness that came from the cranberry cream. It was a very great mouthful and a extraordinary delicate balance of savory, spicy herby feel with a contrasting sweet sour. The “cracker” was actually a thin extremely light, flaky if I can describe it like that was actually the skin. It was a great combination of textures which will follow consistently throughout the meal.
One of the cuter looking waiters wheeled over a chest of drawers which revealed rows and rows of delicious looking bread. I can’t remember all of them but i chose the cumin and the bacon. It came with 2 spreads a creamy greeny herby butter and a sourkraut cream cheese sort of dip. Both were rich, creamy, salty and the cream cheese one was a bit sour. Nice contrast.
This smoked eel pannacotta was a creamy cold and smokey taste it was a soft smooth soft tofu mouthfeel. Delicious. The watercress vinaigrette was a greeny veggie sour contrast. My second spoon was the jerusalem artichoke ice cream with a woody earthy tasting jerusalem artichoke chips which was a cold creamy with a crunchy texture. A strong kick of the capers came through a sharp salty lighty sour cut through the creamy woody earthy flavours. The smoked eel was a firm texture not the usual mushy ones we eat on a sushi. The red thing on top was crispy yet sour and sweet at the same time like an unripe raw cherry. It was such an interesting play on flavours. Really. Heaven!
My third compliments of the chef amuse bouche was seemingly a lightly grilled hamachi with seaweed and mini mushrooms scattered around the dish. A note: Hamachi is a fish from the family of the sting mackerel and usually eaten raw in Sashimi or as Sushi. With the first bite the bergamot hits you with with light refreshing fragrance with a creamy ricy crispy texture. The dashi broth was quite strong with a mushroom flavour, not salty but you feel this intense unami feeling. The hamachi was very fresh, seared on thebottom and still raw on top, it was a sweet and clean tasting. I think the pickled cabbage didn’t belong because the dish was already so strong in taste and I thought the spring onion was quite strong. But it was still a 9.5 over 10 kind of dish. Thoughtful and carefully prepared. I’m loving this Chef already!
I love Goose liver. It’s one of my favorite things. Foie Gras. Fat. Heart Attack in a mouthful. At first glance i was overjoyed with so may components on the dish. More Goose Liver for me! It was like some adorable abstract painting with a variety of shapes and colors and textures to the naked eye. I went first for the lolly like one and swirled it around in the ground hazelnuts and in one slow mouthful i savored the gamey rich flavour. The crunch of the hazelnuts and the apple jamy taste help bring out the flavour in each other. The terrine gave me a surprise. I expected the same tasting liver served 3 – 4 ways but it tasted different. The terrine was a softer delicate tasting liver with this time a sharp apple and nutty combination. Apple cabbage apparently is a regional product here. Yum. Yum. Yum. Died and Gone to Liver heaven! The thing was it all tasted different. I really was. A M A Z I N G!
The meringue like foam just melted in my mouth and there was an apple balsamic in the center like a surprise when you chewed on the tartlet it felt like this rich soft alcoholic goodness in one bite. . The Cox orange was a cold sharp refreshment to all the richness which cleansed the palate with it’s smokey flavor and i scooped up the hazelnut cream with the rolled up apple slice. It was great showcase of techniques, texture and flavours. Soooo Good.
Right now the jet lag was hitting me quite hard and i was sleepy sleepy but it was so good i couldn’t stop and i willed myself to stay awake and record all the beautiful yummy goodness. The bread was so good and I had to stop or I would have been too full! I dove instantly into the tartare which was fresh and firm chunks of meat which came with the crispy veggies for crunch and texture. The onion cream and pickled onion was the sourness which is a good change from usual lime or lemon in a tartare. The foamy thing was a concentrated lobster bisque in a bubbly airy mouthful. The lobster tail was fresh and a great texture firm chunks of meat not at all salty and water logged. The weird tamarind blobs helped give an asian feel to the dish i’m not a fan and the veggies were good but the lobster already stole the show. I’m a fan of those dried chippy things if you see in the picture this one was a green horseradish chip. I once read that some people made a puree and dehydrated them in sheets. Too much trouble for me but it was crispy thin and really biting in a mouthful.
The cheese cart looked really decadent with such an array of interesting and wide variety of different cheeses. I think it makes a cheese lover like a kid in a candy store, it didn’t look like your usual boring normal cheeses i liked the many types of mold i see on the cheese etc. Sounds eeky doesn’t it?
In a room rightnext to the dining room was a nice sitting room which doubled as a private smoking lounge probably for cigars and after dinner brandies. So luxurious!
They take their drinks seriously! Cognacs and other strange drinks i’m not very aware off.
This lovely looking dish is Skrei with chestnut cream, celery and peppered quince compote. According to the description is skrei roasted in brown butter, chestnut cream seasoned with hazelnut oil. A celery foam with green celery vegetable with a quince compote with Tasmanian pepper. Garnished with a small chestnut salad and chives oil with black winter truffle strips. OMG. I was full just reading the description.
The fish was firm with a crispy sear on top, the chestnut cream was very rich almost smokey taste. It’s a nice balalnce with the crunchy fish, smokey chestnut and the fresh sour and sweet from the quince and celery. The foamy extra was just an extra interesting component which rounded out the dish. Perfect. Really.
The crispy pork belly was so delicious and perfectly cooked, the light and thin crispy belly paired very well with the burnt pear and after the initial top you can squich the pork belly with your tong, that was how soft it was. My absolute favorite was the ridge part, i think it’s a thicker part of the skin which made it soo soo hard and crispy and with the gridlines scoring made it very delicious. You can hear it smash between your teeth. I liked the wine sauce which wasn’t so evident but it provided a background for all the flavours to mesh together, the button mushroom foam and chip was just som eof the playful elements i see in the dish. I was actually too full and sleepy to finish my lentils which had a good taste and texture.
A very pretty dish to look at, perfectly cooked lamb ridge with a crispy fat strip. Soft not chewy or any lamby gamey smell at all. The red shallots and wime compote added a sharp flavour to the dish. The braised lamb belly was so so soft which the light cumin background with the indian cous cous helped with both the texture and flavours. It was a perfect balalnce of europe and indian flavours. The argan oil buttery hollandaise had a soft flowery depth to it with strangely meshed well with everything in the dish.
Finally to reach dessert was almost a relief. Although this is one of the best meals of my life i was too sleepy now to want to stay much longer. And when the dessert was called Forest I had strange pictures in my mind.
Honestly the description sounded gross to me, buckwheat cream with carmelised buckwheat and apple jelly. Douglas fir cream and spruces oil forest caramel chip and yarrow with apple granite. First it looked like a mini terrarium which was very impresive but should taste good from any angle. It smelt green like a swamp or forest or fresh rain on grass but somehow the buckwheat cream has a light chocolatey flavour meshed with a nutty taste. The apple granita was shape and sour and cold but it went so well together. It’s so so strange. The root like thing on top was crispy and chewy at the same time. There were little crispy pearls of something not sure what it was, and again perfectly demonstrated was the balance of cold, creamy, nutty, sour soft and light.
Again weird weird combination, the candied shiso leaves which was a licoricey taste and white chocolate worked extremely well. It somehow complemented each other, the weird rocks or stones elements which is a sesame nutty flavour and the rich creamy sweet white chocolate was a beautiful balance of textures and flavours.It was just so surprising that all the elements balanced each other so perfectly and so well. Not to mention it’s such a beautiful dish.
This two small piping hot churro lookalike arrived before my bill. It’s got like a lime rind and sugar coating. It was light, fluffy delicate hot and crispy. It was the best churro if you can call it that in my life!!!
I’m not surprised Executive Chef Christoph Rüffe got his stars plus a whole bunch of other awards and one of the best chefs and best restaurants in Hamburg. He combined ingredients that other people did not do, executed a balance of texture and mouthfeel made you gasp with wonder with the mix of flavours perfectly.
He really is one of the best chefs of this generation. PERIOD. A total of 230 Euros including tip is the best money i spent on a meal. Seriously.