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La Vie

La Vie

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Contact info

Krahnstr. 1--249074 Osnabruck
T+49 541331150


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Chef's personal info

Name: Thomas  Buhner
Date of birth: 13-04-1962
Origin: Germany
1979 - 1982: Schweizer Haus, Kurt Pfeiffer, Paderborn> 3 years1983 - 1984: Hilton, Günter Scherrer, Düsseldorf 1984 - 1985: Landhaus Scherrer, Heinz Wehmann, Hamburg 1985: Grand Cru, Johannes Meyer, Lippstadt 1986: Ramada Hotel, Hamburg 1987: Il Ristorante, Uwe Witzke, Hamburg 1988: Restaurant Jörg Müller, Westerland/Sylt 1989: Schwarzwaldstube, Harald Wohlfahrt, Baiersbronn 1991 - 2006: Restaurant La Table, Dortmund-Hohensyburg since April 2006: La Vie, Osnabrück 
Chef of the Year - Gault MillauRestaurant of the Year - Der Feinschmecker

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Articles - Trine
The essence of beauty and taste II

The essence of beauty and taste II

After enjoying a fabulous lunch at La Vie as well as a wonderful trip to Schloß Ibbenburg’s lovely garden we returned to Osnabrück just in time to explore the beautiful old town centre – and to gain a little more appetite for the La Vie dinner that was waiting for us.

I knew from the superb quality of the lunch that something extraordinary was in stall for me, still I was to be surprised by what was put before me that evening. The intensity, the level of detail and the absolute uncompromising perfection of Chef Bühner’s kitchen would overwhelm me.

Oyster leaves

Since it was a warm and sunny summer evening we started out at the upstairs and outside terrace with snacks and appetizers and a glass of 2002 Moet & Chandon Rosé.

Coated olives

Then some beautiful small appetizers arrived. On the left it’s foie gras with orange leaf on top combined with some fruit which tasted like blackcurrant – a bit too dominant, however. The sea bass at the top of the picture was delicious as was the eel macaron with its very intense flavour. We also got a shot of a very good beetroot gazpacho in the grey cup. All in all the nibbles were like small, beautiful mini courses on their own, and I really liked that.

Marinated mackerel and sesame ice cream

The first course downstairs in the restaurant resumed the complexity we had experienced at the lunch – and oh my, what masterpieces.

Here the dish comprised a marinated mackerel with black sesame with notes of chocolate, tobacco, and coffee and with leaves from the flowers that we’ve witnessed being picked just a couple of hours beforehand. There was so much power in this dish that it felt almost like a small blow to my stomach. Sweet, sour, salt, bitter and strong, strong umami taste. What a fabulous start!

Skrei as tartare, flavoured with fume, litchi as gelee & iced foam from almond

The second dish was an amazing thing, unlike anything I’ve ever had before. I loved how the textures and temperatures played here. The soft  almost jelly-like skrei tartare and the creamy-flavoured, frozen almond foam. Again the level of detail was incredible and every single taste made sense and played its part in the composition.

Langoustine grilled, green tomato & ricotta, Iberico bacon, bulgur

The sweet langoustine and the tiny cucumbers are amongst the most delicious and full of taste ones I’ve had in my life. The million little things just supported it and broadened the perspective of the flavours.

Britain red mullet confit with fennel, olive, milk skin & jus 

Then all of a sudden this red mullet came in, seemingly so simple, but still beautiful. This was a nice and refreshing break of the strain of complexity. Top quality, pure flavours, clean and balanced. It was an interesting match combining the mullet with the nordic inspired milk skin and quite strong Taggiasce olives giving character to the delicate mullet and giving me a sudden flash back to sea side dinners at the Mediterranean sea. I feel this dish is a good example of the non-dogmatic approach to produce that really sets the German cuisine apart form the Nordic one.

Ailerons from guinea fowl, artichoke, beans & floral, mangold

Notice the fava beans that we picked up in the garden earlier in the afternoon at the Ibbenburg garden. Of all the courses the ailerons dish was the one that impressed me least. But, that fact I think was probably also because my tummy and my mind had been stimulated with so many wonderful impressions and sentiments that I was close to being overloaded.

As a warm up for the venison we had soft, velvet-like mashed potatoes with a core of an ice cream based on something I just can’t remember.

Saddle of venison softly cooked served with 5 times cauliflowers and cherries

Anyways, on to the fabulous venison. There’s no doubt that it’s in Germany that I’ve got the best venison I have ever had in my life. First Sven Elverfelds’ at Aqua, and then here again by Thomas Bühner. I think even the picture shows the superb quality of the venison meat, perfectly cooked sous vide and incredible intense, I didn’t know such quality exists.

Brebis de Pyrénées, date solid, liquid, pear & tamarind

It’s only rare that I come across a prepared cheese course and I always welcome (sort of) cooked cheese. It enhances the flavours of the cheese, I believe. This was quite a rich course with the fantastic dates and that  provided a nice bridge to the sweet servings.

Refreshing pre-dessert of very delicious, vacuum prepared and thus very intense-flavoured strawberries and elderflower…

Tanariva Lactée, airy – liquid – solid, marinated cherries, caramelized quinoa

The “donut” was filled with delicate soft, liquid milk chocolate inside and it was a nice match with the cherries. I appreciated the focus on milk chocolate here instead of the more typical rich dark chocolate. An outstanding end to the dinner.

I haven’t said anything about the wines and naturally I enjoyed both them and the way they were paired with the food. Somehow, though, the food completely stole the focus and had a bigger impact on me than the wines. I particularly liked the Von Bassermann Jordan Forster Jesuitengarten Grosses Gewächs Riesling and the Josmeyer Pinot Gris.

It was a warm summer night so after the last dessert we finished with coffee, petit four and yet another glass of 2002 Moet & Chandon Rosé (or more correctly: A few of them) on the roof terrace – just like we began this fantastic journey of the essence of beauty and taste. Besides Chef Bühner being a certified genius in his kitchen, both he and his beautiful wife, Thayarni Kanagaratnam, are splendid hosts and it got late before we left for our hotel.

So, what made the Ösnabruck experience so special to me? Well, it’s the stimulation of all my senses all at once; the sight of the harmoniously colorful beauties, tantalizing scents, flavourful creations of superb – well, perfect – quality, playful with textures and temperatures and, above all, the way that Bühner masters all of this with an incredible degree of complexity.

Bühner’s cuisine is beyond high tech. Vacuum is used in several ways to enhance the natural flavours of the produce without spoiling the protein structures and taste with heat, and La Vie’s experimental kitchen upstairs is more like a lab than a kitchen. But the great thing is: Tasting the food you wouldn’t know this. This is not about molecular smoke and mirrors – there are no test tubes on the table. The techniques and technologies are used delicately and always with the purpose of refining, amplifying and purifying what’s already there, inside the produce. They’re just tools in their master’s hands – not for show off.

The day at La Vie, accentuated  by the Ibbenburg intermezzo and my naïve imagination of being part of the creating process, really affected me. La Vie was my number one restaurant experience in 2011 and in the top-5 meals of my life. It was that good – that surprising.

Thomas, Thayarni and your entire crew: Thank you! - Trine - Trine
The Essence of Beauty and Taste I

The Essence of Beauty and Taste I

The second stop on my summer trip to a couple of the best German restaurants was at restaurant La Vie, run by head chef Thomas Bühner and his charming wife and hostess Thayarni Kanagaratnam. The restaurant is based in the beautiful medieval town of Osnabrück. Bühner opened here in 2006 by moving the entire team from his previous 2 stars place La Table in Dortmund, which he had run for 14 years prior.

Working experience from Jörg Müller on Sylt, Harald Wohlfart at the Schwarzwaldstube and numerous awards like e.g. Chef Of The Year in the German Gault Millau in Nov 2005 and Meal Of The Year in Germany in 2008 warrant Thomas Bühner’s talent, but it wasn’t until a few days ago that he was finally awarded the maximum 3 stars in the German Michelin Guide 2012. I’m glad that the guide’s cadeau to La Vie coincides with this blog post, for the experiences we had that day at La Vie absolutely call for three stars.

This post is part one of the description of my trip to Osnabrück. For full disclosure I must state that I was invited to Osnabrück by La Vie.

We arrived in Osnabrück at lunch time on July 7th and checked in at the rustic but nice Romantik Hotel Walhalla very close to the restaurant. I had an appointment to meet Mr. Bühner for a chat and then the plan was to have dinner in the restaurant in the evening. However, the hotel staff informed us that surprisingly Mr. Bühner had (also) prepared lunch for us!

Mr. Thomas Bühner

I met Thomas Bühner in the lounge of the restaurant and over a glass of champagne we chatted about the history of the restaurant and the fact that it was by chance that Bühner became a chef in the first place. For a detailed description of Mr. Bühner’s curriculum vitae I recommend reading highend FOOD’s post here.

Bühner also informed me that he just two years ago got an opportunity to grow vegetables, fruits and herb nearby. He kindly invited us to join them in the garden for the harvest after lunch. Naturally I accepted that. In my mind’s eye I was seeing a small garden within the city, only a few minutes walk away. I was in for a surprise, though…

We then moved to the downstairs dining room. I liked the ambience of the room which was pleasant and elegantly designed and quite modern. Maybe not a interior style that I would prefer – having a preference for the more simplistic Scandinavian style – but it grew on me during lunch.

Carpaccio from (smoked) watermelon, creme from parmesan, pine nuts, balsamic (- inspired by Andoni Aduritz, Mugaritz)

The first course was formed by a squared piece of dehydrated, owen-baked and smoked watermelon that almost resembled meat in texture and in look. In fact it felt a bit like meat too, in the mouth. There were sweet tones to the taste and the pine nuts were quite dominant but not overdosing. The herbs were refreshingly balancing it all and provided different nuances in the taste like licorice or perfume. Absolutely stunning and from that moment I knew that I was in for something quite extraordinary. The refinement, the elegance and the degree of perfection put into this, and following, courses were astounding.

We were offered wine to accompany the food but with the the garden walk and dinner ahead of us I preferred to simply have another glass of champagne. Sorry no notes on that.

Summer salad  liquid, saffron, white & green asparagus, coquille Saint Jacques

Sommer salad liquid - close-up

Sommer salad liquid –  close-up

Then second course was super-complex, so beautiful and outstanding. Just look at the incredible degree of detail in each of the three mini-courses on this plate. Just the look of this plate tells you the story of a kitchen with absolute control, but also harnessing a creative spark that adds freshness, life and spontaneity.

The eel had an acid note – probably vinegar –  to it and so it wasn’t fatty as eel sometimes is, but fresh and delicate in taste. A kind of a funny combination with the fresh scallops but it worked. The basil flavour was strong but still restrained and so not too dominant. There were delicious chantarelles and the mushroom powder was to die for.

Loup de Mer & pulpo, marinated and boiled cabbage and verbena

In contrast to the perfectly arranged entries, the fish was like an expressionist painting in subdued colour. The motion of the plate when being served made the sauce and the balsamico mix in a mesmerizing way. Not that there was anything random about the presentation of this dish, of course. Bühner doesn’t do random.

I love sea bass and here the quality of it, as well as the octopus, was superb. Asian notes characterized the flavour but in a subtle way and paired with slightly crisp kholrabi and the intense octopus that gave some structure and power to it. Masterly Chef Bühner had used the balsamico to control the acidity of the dish. Quite simply an outstanding dish.

So far the menu had offered a showcase crescendo and I wondered what would follow next.

Lamb from beginning to end: Sweetbread, neck, shoulder, tail, rack with misocreme

When the waiter announced the nose-to-tail (literally) lamb plate I was a little reluctant to start eating, as lamb is not my favourite thing. But I always want to taste it, because I really hate to be picky about food. So, I started with a little bite of each lamb piece. Thank God I did because this turned out to be a wonderful dish. First of all, there was no “wool-iness” to it, neither was the sweetbread too fatty, but just perfect. The rack was so tender and the taste was of each part of the lamb was pure and delicate.

The orange ginger and carrot purée was quite strong and added some sweetness and spice to balance the meat. You know, the delectableness of it actually came as such a big surprise to me that it completely overwhelmed me and even wetted my eyes! Never in my life had I imagined that I would be crying over a lamb dish. But this was amazingly good.

Iced strawberry, cucumber & tapioca of woodruff

So, the next course was dessert, and just as I thought that it just couldn’t get any better, I simply got the most perfect delicacy of strawberry, woodruff and cucumber. I love woodruff and cucumber with desserts. The freshnes of the woodruff combines so beautifully with the sweetness of the strawberries. Again, a complex dish, but also again, Bühner show immense restrained and a  proven ability to control the flavours.

Wow! I was astonished at the delightness of this lunch. Most of the dishes were of a complexity of highest degree, but mastered brilliantly in order not to loose focus or confuse the diner.

An important factor to me was also the immense beauty at each serving. It intrigued my eyes and made me want to throw myself into the dish.

After a short but strong espresso to pull me back to reality, Mr. Bühner asked us to get ready for a trip to the garden and 15 minutes later we were in his Mercedes together with two chefs on our way out of town to what proved to be the kind of garden that shouldn’t really exist outside movies.

Now, the kitchen garden of Ibbenburg isn’t your average vegetable garden. It is huge, perfectly groomed and boasts a mix of flowers and vegetables. It truly is a wonderful place to be.

It was a beautiful  sunny day, hot and a bit humid. We met briefly with the host and owner of the castle and then the chefs started to collect produce and herbs for the kitchen.

In the meanwhile I strolled around, captivated by the beautiful colours and the scents, enjoyed the calmness and quietness, feeling almost like a kid again. It’s the most beautiful vegetable garden I’ve ever been to.

Mr. Bühner also walked us through a guided tour around the castle and surroundings. When we returned to our starting point he served chilled sodas that he had brought with him from the restaurant.

Mr Bühner and yours truly

The car was packed with vegetables, herbs and flowers for the evening’s service, and it was soon time to go back to city to prepare for dinner. - Trine


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