Juan Amador, the Spanish-German 3 star chef who recently gave up his restaurant nearby Frankfurt and now took over the reins in what used to be his second outlet in the city of Mannheim, was next to feature in Kofler‘s pop-up restaurant Prêt à Dîner within a just completed office building. We decided to return for the occasion, just a week after having indulged Matthias Schmidt’s creations within the same venue.
This time, we were less under the spell of the venue’s magic aura and thus there was a little more room for critical observation. Or differently said: the difficult logistics of a high frequented pop-up restaurant within an improvised location became much more apparent, sometimes clearly showing its limits.
For example, what I didn’t notice that much last time, but what started to become a bit bothering with this second meal, is the fact that none of the meats or ingredients are pan-fried or seared, but rather braised or poached. This is happening for fire-security reasons within this soon-to-be office skyscraper as we found out. Quite a restriciton for a 3 star chef, right?
But before we could even start to find out about Amador‘s food, we still had to be seated. A genuine logistics problem. As previous diners - and they’re totally right to do so- apparently took their time with eating, there wasn’t any free table available at our reservation time at 9:15 pm and we were asked to wait a little in the bar. But it wasn’t before 11 pm and after a few drinks (one of them graciously on the house) that we finally got our first spoonfull of Amuse Bouche. Talking about building-up some appetite! Naturally, at that time, the young service crew was visibly starting to get tired, which is quite understandable with this schedule and I have to acknowledge that they made a big effort in trying to serve us well and with a smile. So, just saying, there are obviously boundaries in paradise.
Now here’s the Amador menu which comes at 68 Euro:
Amuse-bouche. Duck Foie Paté within raw red beet and micro chard as well as “Strammer Max” with quail egg and ham emulsion/jelly in a straw. The Foie and beet is a charming bite, although the beet appeared to be a bit too cold. Strammer Max is a classic out of Amador’s repertoire, an interpretation of a popular German snack being a fried egg and ham on a slice of bread. Here the ingredients are much more luxurious and the game with emulsions in a straw that produce an instant flavour propulsion are typical tricks out of Amadors kitchen. It also worked well here, even though I presume that in Amador’s own restaurant the quail egg would be poached, resulting in a more luscious taste.
THE KAISER AND EVE WELCOME A STARTLING VISITOR. A tartare of langoustine on apple jelly with apple juice and an apple mouse on the side, topped with Foie Gras dices, goat cheese and toasted crackers. A superb combination of flavors and textures with acidity, Umami and Saltiness within crunch and creaminess. The green apple flavors appear very bright. A composition worthy of a starred chef.
SHY SCALLOP AND VERY HANDSOME HOG ON THEIR FIRST DATE. Scallops topped with ham and black olive powder in a Parmesan cream with hazelnut oil. Dollops of onion mayonnaise and salad leaves. Again, lovely combinations of flavors. I loved the black olive powder on top as well as the rich Parmesan and hazelnut cream on the bottom. The onion mayonnaise and pig belly bits added even more layers of flavors and rounded things up. It’s a bit sad the scallops were poached because of fire protection rules. They were translucent as they should be in the inside, but just a tad chewy on the outside.Honestly, who doesn’t prefer his scallops with a nice caramelized crust?
MRS. BARBARIE SUDDENLY HAS A PURPLE CURRY EPIPHANY. Duck filet with hibiscus curry crust on a mango sauce, dollops of mango-mayonnaise and coconut-mayonnaise. A truly beautiful piece of duck breast with a cooking that hit the spot. Unfortunately the crust on top was rather a soggy smear, but a tasty one. The Sauce was very good and together with the coconut and mango the dish represented a harmonious and exotic ensemble with a mysterious complexity (secret spice mix I presume).
Dessert: A SWEET LULLABY OF WOW -Catalana “legere”, Ananas, Safran was “sold out”. Well, well, damn logistics!
Even though I really liked the compositions and flavors created by Mr. Amador , this time, disappointment prevails, but it is rather due to the limited possibilities of a mobile catering kitchen (and fire-prevention rules) that are becoming more and more apparent (or I am becoming more and more conscious of them). I think the big Frankfurt newspaper FAZ put it right when they described the food as being on a “high-end catering level”. Ingredients are of good quality, but one can sense they don’t undergo the usual treatments, are probably being stored all day, maybe pre-cooked and only finished in the kitchen, having to convince palates without seeing a pan.
I was planning to return for a meal with the last visiting chef at the restaurant, Nuno Mendes, but I think I’ll rather pass. What I really crave now, is a genuine Juan Amador-meal at his newly opened restaurant in Mannheim. Time to start saving money for that one…
Of course, for those who haven’t yet been there, I’d still recommend dropping by as the scenery alone is definitely worth a visit and having one meal there is certainly a good enough experience rendering a fair impression of a great chef’s work, but definitely not replacing the real deal. Go for the show!
Prêt à Diner at Nextower Frankfurt
Matthias Schmidt, Sept 8 – Sept 18
Ollysan, Sept 8 – Sept 25
Juan Amador, Sept 19 – Oct 5
Nuno Mendes, Oct 10 – Oct 15
Menus at 68€ (Amador) and 59 €, Vegetarian at 46 €. Cheese course 10 €, dessert 9 €. Wines from 20 ish € on upwards.
Reservations are only possible via Prêt à Dîner website (registration required)