Only today, already a few weeks after the dinner actually took place, I finally have the time to report about our meal at Restaurant La Vie in Osnabrück. In this small-sized German city in the Northern part of the country, Chef Thomas Bühner and his wife and Maîtr D’, Thayarni Kanagaratnam, have built up a gem of a restaurant, both regarding food and atmosphere. The premises are comprised within a listed Classisistic building in the heart of the town and the modern interior, also composed of warm tones with wood elements, is in perfect contrast and harmony with the architecture. When you enter the premises, you are warmly welcomed and instantly feel at home.
As for the food. I was particularly keen on dining at this restaurant, as I only heard good things about Bühner’s non-classical approach to cooking with many influences regarding ingredients and also cooking techniques. I was to find out that most of the dishes are marked both by a wild creativity, but also by great purity of ingredients. I can already say before the actual start of the meal description that it is no surprise that La Vie recently received its third Michelin star and that it is absolutely worth the detour.
Aperitif with nibbles. These are served in an elegant and comfortable lounge just after the entrance of the restaurant. Together with a glass of Champagne (Gosset, if I remember well), they are the perfect appetizer to the meal that was about to start. Chef Thomas Bühner – such a calm and likeable person - already welcomed us here and asked us if it was OK that the team would prepare us a surprise menu. All 4 nibbles are delicate and intense. I particularly liked the macaron with sepia ink, but also the Foie Gras and Coke jelly is an original bite.
A delicious marinated oyster is also part of the aperitif.
We then changed to our dining table, where delicous bread as well as butter awaited us. For the start of our meal we ordered a 1999 Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Kabinett by J.J. Prüm, a great wine, still fresh as a daisy and mineral as we love it. While we’re at it: the wine-list offers some incredible bargains, which you probably wouldn’t find at any other 3 star restaurant.
Sardine, Grape and Almond – A first dish that instantly shows us what Thomas Bühner’s cooking is all about: pure flavors, great ingredients, many contrasts but still harmony. Almond, sardine and grapes on one plate? Who would have thought that this works? But it does work. And besides the flavor, Bühner doesn’t forget textures and temperatures: soft and cracking, warm and cold: everything’s there.
Loup de Mer, marinated – Another highlight. The fish, as usual of perfect quality and served raw on this plate is elevated by many other ingredients that make this dish a genuine culinary journey on its own. Each fork brings its own original flavor combination. I can’t describe each ingredient out of memory, but this plate was a flavor firework.
Turbot, Crab & North Sea shrimps. 2x Broccoli, yeast dumpling – Look at this piece of Turbot! It looks so perfect that you want to admire it long enough before you take the first bite. Many contrast are again brought by a creative an wild mix of ingredients. A tiny yeast dumpling (reminded me of Momofuku’s pork belly bun) is stuffed with fresh North Sea shrimps. The Broccoli cream adds onctuosity.
Langoustine with Smoke. green tomato & ricotta bulgur – Again, great produce on the plate, starting with a delicious and well-cooked Langoustine (from New Zealand). The green tomato and the pips of red tomatoes add contrast through acidity. The tiny Zucchini-package on the upper left is a delicacy on its own.
Our second wine is poured: 1990 Abtsberg Riesling Auslese, Schubertsche Gutsverwaltung, Ruwer. A timeless Riesling with no age!
Saint Pierre, also as lasagna. Water cress, peas, peas caviar – A little less wild, a little more purity, this time. The small cup contains warm and creamy pieces of Saint-Pierre – on purpose not a genuine Lasagna, but with precisely the comforting purpose of it. The peas caviar are phenomenal little cold pearls that taste like peas, but are actually made of fish roe. A dish of great harmony. Needless to say, the solitaire piece of Saint-Pierre is again cooked to perfection!
Fricassee from Bresse chicken facon de la Vie. 4x pea, rice (cross & creme) – Another favorite dish of the night. Bühner brings us the best of an entire Bresse chicken on one tiny plate. What great flavor intensity. I also enjoyed very much the depth added by a rice cream, somehow tasting like liquid puffed-rice. Rice is an ingredient that one rarely encounters in fine dining, but as chicken fricassee is often served with rice in German homes, we somehow have an excellent de- and re-construction of a classic dish.
As for the wine-match. Starting with this dish, an excellent bottle of 1995 Volnay Clos des Ducs by Domaine Marquis D’Angerville is being poured. A wine that still seems very young and shows bright fruit aroma and earthy notes. A treat.
kohlrabi Noodles. Stem cabbage & hazelnut – An extra-dish that Thomas Bühner slips in between two courses for us. Kohlrabi, again an ingredient rarely encountered in fine dining, is presented here in a way that you perceive all possible flavor dimensions of it. The earthy taste of it is accentuated by the addition of hazelnuts and the slightly toasted cauliflower also works very well with it. With this small dish Thomas Bühner succeedes in ennobling the sweetness of Kohlrabi which normally seems a bit coarse and unsuitable for fine-dining.
Saddle of Venison. Smoked beef marrow. Boudin Noir & Beetroot – Wow! What great cooking of venison. This super-tender piece of meat has actually been poached 14 min in a broth of light and dark soy sauce, which explains the unusual look of it. A very subtle taste of cinnamon is included, but really very subtle: the pure taste of venison prevails and finds great other flavors on the plate to play with. A small piece of bone marrow adds a nice richness, Boudin Noir is present in various forms and also accounts for additional depth. Beetroot of course adds some welcome acidity and fruitiness. What a great modern version of a very old-fashioned German Classic! This dish alone is worth the drive to Osnabrück.
Saint-Maure de Touraine & kefir. eggplant, macadamia nut – The cheese-dish. In more and more restaurants you see these kind of dishes replacing the traditional cheese-cart. This one is a success. The original part of this dish is probably the Kefir in the middle which is wrapped in some kind of milk-skin. Luscious, comforting and full of contrast!
Smoked plum & caramelized pork - Another extra. Smell of smoke comes out of the cup when the lid is lifted. Pork cracklings are hidden under sorbet of plum. An interesting combination.
Elder Berry, white chocolate & olive – Matching olive with chocolate is not a new thing in modern gastronomy, but it is always a good thing.
Gravensteiner Apple. Warm – cold – ice cold hazelnut cookie – A signature dessert at Restaurant La Vie. The sugar apple is filled with pure and intense apple sorbet and sits on hazelnut cream. The whole flavor profile somehow reminded me of Christmas during my childhood. A good sign if a dish has the power to bring back good memories!
What a satisfying and inspiring meal! I somewhat had high expectations for our dinner at La Vie, but they all have been more than fulfilled. One can only fall in love with those playful dishes, which also work so well because the basics – great ingredients and perfect cooking – are all being mastered.
But one can also be sure to being taken care of by warm-hearted persons, in particular by Thomas Bühner and his wife. But also the very friendly sommelier Sven Ötzel made a great job and somehow exactly understood what we were expecting from our wine choices.
To sum it up: I can only recommend to take the detour through Osnabrück for a meal that you won’t forget so quickly.
Restaurant La Vie
Phone: +49(0) 541 – 33 11 50
Wednesday through Saturday, 12:00 pm – 13:30 pm
Tuesday through Saturday, 19:00 pm – 21:00 pm