Fine Dining at the Lorenz Adlon - In
the Shadow of the Brandenburg Gate
Night was beginning to fall when we entered Lorenz
Adlon, and the lights illuminating the Brandenburg Gate, visible from
the dining room's windows, had just come on. Lit from below, the
neo-classical columns and famed quadriga grounded the setting. We could
be nowhere but Berlin. At the same time, the restaurant bespoke a moment
-- the first decade of the twentieth century before the cataclysmic
events that would wreak havoc in decades to come. Time and place merged
this June evening in the gastronomic restaurant of the Hotel Adlon which
is celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2007.
This is the legendary property that had survived the
bombing of the Second World War only to be destroyed by fire begun in
the straw-filled wine cellar at the war's end. It was not until 1997
that it re-opened, a total recreation of the original hotel albeit
enhanced by the benefits of modern technology and in a united Berlin at
a time of peace and new beginnings.
The restaurant repeats the original luxurious touches
of its former self with rich mahogany panels on the walls, thick
patterned carpets on the floors, plumed pillars reaching up to a ceiling
painted like the sky, and fine linens on the tables. Each table is set
with Rosenthal china, elaborate sterling flatware, four scarlet roses
plunged in a rectangular vase up to their blossoms, a silver ornamental
fowl of some sort, a silver bell that there was no need to use, and a
single candle in a silver candlestick. Sideboards are lined with
long-stemmed roses in tall vases, and melodies from the "Great American
Songbook" waft up from the piano lobby one floor below.
Such serene and elegant environs form an ideal
background for this Michelin-starred classic French restaurant whose
menu is enhanced by seasonal items in an array of combinations created
by the talented Thomas Nesser. Since it was late spring, asparagus
appeared in its own special section on the menu with the note that Chef
Nesser can provide "additional traditional asparagus dishes upon
There was also a Mediterranean menu featuring
yellow-fin tuna, Provencal-style vegetables, Iberian pork with avocado
and olives. And a five to seven Degustation Menu. All this, in addition
to a healthy selection of starters, soups and six traditional entrees.
Such an abundance of riches required some guidance
which was expertly provided by Headwaiter Sebastian Schwietzer, a true
new-Berliner who was born in the former East Berlin, was six years old
when the Wall came down, and grew up watching the city change. "I
remember when this area was all rubble, and then, a few years later, the
hotel was standing again," he told us.
Instead of passively waiting for us to make our
selections, Sebastian familiarized himself with our preferences and
suggested dishes, some of which were made specifically to order, every
one of which was excellent. They were also aptly paired with wines
selected by Norman Schmidt who comes from the north of Germany near the
Baltic Sea. Norman began his professional life working in fine dining
until he relocated to a newly united Berlin where he took up the study
of viticulture. Judging from the wines the young sommelier matched to
our dishes, Norman has learned his lessons well.
We began with a sparkling Riesling 2006 from Trocken,
a winery in Rheingau which is south of Frankfurt. "Germany is the
perfect region for Riesling, and 2006 year was an excellent vintage,"
Norman said as he poured the effervescent, perfumed wine created
specially for the hotel's centennial. "We told the winemaker what we
wanted, how we wanted it to be made, and how we wanted it to taste. We
were there from the beginning, watching the grapes grow, age, and be
made into wine. "
Headwaiter Sebastian Schweitzer
Sommelier Norman Schmidt
As we sipped the Riesling, an amuse bouche as light as
the Riesling, arrived: a tiny piece of sole in mustard sauce with
praline of mushrooms. It was followed by a pair of sublime starters: a
croquet of miniature shrimp topped with a creamy sauce and dollops of
caviar, and the anticipated asparagus, both white and green, cooked with
wild garlic, surrounding a mini breast of quail covered with a puree of
watercress (a gorgeous shade of lime green) and accompanied by a tiny
dumpling made of strudel dough and stuffed with squab -- "An anniversary
dish; it was served when the hotel re-opened," Sebastian said. "The soil
in this region is soft, perfect for asparagus," he added. "Wherever it
is possible, we rely on products from the region."
A vibrant duck broth prepared with fresh green peas
and ravioli filled with flavorful spring chicken, mushrooms and green
beans that suffused us with pleasure came next. Now Norman poured an
Austrian Chardonnay-type wine that comes from a small wine-producing
area south of Vienna. The Rotgiefler grape is darker and more golden
than the typical Chardonnay; the taste was almost like a white Burgundy,
a little fruity and long on the tongue.
After a raspberry and strawberry sherbet to cleanse
the palate, the main courses were presented: pan-seared Norway lobster,
which is like langoustine, done to perfection, resting on a bed of
sautéed white asparagus and accompanied by tiny ravioli containing a
puree of green beans. And amazing Atlantic turbot sautéed in white
tomato tarragon butter served with barely sautéed Provencal vegetables.
At this point, Norman opened a Montrachet, our favorite white Burgundy,
and also a spicy and fruity Portuguese Tempranillo.
For dessert there were young and small strawberries
with raspberries and cream, and an apple mélange: sorbet, parfait poached, and
rings with crystalline sugar. And just a sip of a sweet and fresh wine
from the southern part of Bordeaux that tasted like a light Sauterne.
one say of such a dinner, of such an evening? A leisurely repast of
superb preparations in a beautiful dining room directed by two informed
and enthusiastic young Berliners. Nothing trendy; everything a
reflection of quality, care, and no small amount of talent. Would it be
possible to pay our compliments to the chef?
Chef Thomas Nesser
|Thomas Nesser took us by surprise. He looks
so young, too young to be handling so complex a kitchen. Yet
this classically trained chef came to the Lorenz Adlon with a
wealth of experience garnered at other renowned restaurants
including the Martinez in Cannes (where, coincidentally, he was
assisting Chef Christian Willer during our visit the summer of
"The cuisine in the hotel is basically French
but we add to it German food," he told us, "international
touches, organic foods and regional products, a little bit from
Italy, a little bit from Asia. In the cold weather, we have more
of the cream dishes, the meats, the mushrooms. In the warm
weather, the fresh vegetables."
Thomas Nesser, Norman Schmidt, and Sebastian
Schweitzer -- a trio enhanced by other unseen but nevertheless important
members of a company who together choreographed an evening not easily
forgotten. Beyond extraordinary dishes, each so delicious, each so
attractively prepared and elegantly presented, there was a rhythm to the
entire process: the arrival and presentation of dishes, the clearing of
plates, the refills of water and wine at just the appropriate moment --
all performed with grace and unobtrusiveness.
To dine at the Lorenz Adlon is to partake of the
rarity of classical cuisine in the shadow of the Brandenburg Gate, which
after so tortured a history, has become emblematic of the new united
Berlin in a democratic Germany. Truly an experience of fine dining.
Lorenz Adlon at the Hotel Adolon Kempinski
Unter den Linden 77
Phone: 030 2261 1016
Photos by Harvey Frommer
# # #
About the Authors: Myrna Katz Frommer and Harvey Frommer are a wife and husband
team who successfully bridge the worlds of popular culture and traditional
scholarship. Co-authors of the critically acclaimed interactive oral histories
It Happened in the Catskills, It Happened in Brooklyn, Growing Up Jewish in
America, It Happened on Broadway, It Happened in Manhattan, It Happened in
Miami. They teach what they practice as professors at Dartmouth College.
They are also travel writers who specialize in luxury properties and fine dining
as well as cultural history and Jewish history and heritage in the United
States, Europe, and the Caribbean.
about these authors.
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This Article is Copyright © 1995 - 2012 by Harvey and Myrna Frommer. All rights