L’Arnsbourg

With trepidation, we set off to Baerenthal. We remembered from last time that L’Arnsbourg is in the middle of no where, just trees and more trees and a road that barely allows for 2 cars to pass each other. With luck and cunning we arrived 45 minutes early for our lunch reservation.

L’Arnsbourg [the Klein family] has added Hotel K. The chef’s wife, Nicole is responsible for managing it. We hoped our room would be ready.

The lobby is beautiful with contemporary furnishings, very comfortable sofas and chairs and a separate breakfast area. Unfortunately the room was not ready. Nicole Klein was wonderful. Hospitality is at its best here in Baerenthal. She offered us champagne while we waited for the restaurant to open. [When we checked out the champagne was not on the bill--a treat from the owners. A very nice touch.]

45 minutes flew by. We walked down the hill to lunch.

L’Arnsbourg is an inspirational place in a magical setting. The chef, Jean-Georges Klein takes you on a seductive culinary voyage. Cathy, his sister guarantees superlative service. We were in for quite a ride.

The dining room is stunning with large windows over looking meadows and forest. Huge, 6′ high and 5′ wide white vases are spotted around the two dining rooms with real orchids in bloom. The molded wood ceiling is absolutely beautiful. You are suspended in a natural setting.

Our plan was to have just 2 appetizers for lunch and save ourselves for the big menu at dinner. Chef Klein, however, does something called “petits savoureux aperitifs”. These are many small savory bites, before you even get to what you ordered.

1. In a curved handled spoon–veal “mousse” with bitter orange liqueur [picon]. On the side was a small tarte flambé.

2. A martini glass filled with sunflower seeds–salty and sweet. – not pictured

3. 4 macaroons –2 black/2 white. We are asked to guess what is inside. We weren’t even close in our guesses. The white was a mixture of mustard cream and charcroute. The black was smoked eel with octopussy [just repeating the server's words]. To the left was a pipette filled with mushroom gelee to be sucked out.

4. Croquant of parmesan–think of two crunchy squares perched on each side of a smaller frozen parmesan square.

5. 3 spoons presented on a rectangular plate positioned vertically. Eat North to South, top to bottom.
a. sweet corn bon bon topped with herring roe [salt flavor]
b. sweet corn bon bon sitting in a small pool of olive oil and lemon and topped with tomato [acid flavor]
c. sweet corn bon bon sitting in a small pool of olive oil and vanilla with a light-colored caramel crust [sweet flavor]

Please remember, we haven’t gotten to the menu we have ordered for our “light lunch”.

6. Frozen scrambled egg with truffle oil and small crusty croutons served in an egg shell.

7. Oyster with 3 different kinds of grapefruit–dining instructions–slurp it at once.

The “Light Lunch” Menu:

1st course
Me- langoustine carpaccio with raisins, small cubes of feta cheese and chardonnay vinegar. Light, perfect and delicious.

John–emulsion of pommes de terre et truffes–absolutely decadent, light as air potato emulsion toped with lots of black truffles.

Palate Cleanser – In a martini glass, a bon bon of foie gras is served. Then a hot glacee of tarragon bouillon is poured on top. You wait about 45 seconds and eat the whole thing in one bite.

Back to the “menu”…

2nd course:

John-frog’s legs with tomato and coriander. Superb …

Me -same as John’s first course–the fabulous truffle course.

Wine:
2003 Riesling Grand Cru Spiegel Dirler–great, solid, Alsacian Riesling…right on with the dishes we had.

Summary:

A perfect 3 star start. We liked L’Arnsbourg the first time in September 2002. Cathy Klein, the chef’s sister and manager of the restaurant is delightful, charming and very knowledgeable. She orchestrated everything for us. She was well aware of our plans for “the big menu” at dinner. Of course, it is a take no prisoners environment. If you are a food person, you had better measure up!

We really enjoyed our lunch and figured that dinner would be sensational.

Dinner L’Arnsbourg …

Cathy Klein and yes my caviar purse

As we watched the parade of amuses being served to the other tables we noticed they were exactly the same as we had at lunch. Even though we enjoyed them, we did not want a repeat of all 7 dishes. It would be disheartening, just like at Clos des Sens in Annecy. (more on that experience later)

We should have known better. Chef Klein doesn’t repeat himself with anyone any time, ever!

Petits Savoureux Aperitifs:

1. 4 macaroons–2 pink and 2 beige. Our guesses were still way off. Beige was foie gras and the pink was campari and orange.

2. In a spoon with the curved handle, beer mousse…to the side a small pizza tart with pesto and tomato.

3. In a martini glass, pumpkin seeds, sugar and salt.

4. 2 stalks of asparagus coated with crystallized sugar and salt presented in a glass tumbler.

5. 2 cubes of freeze-dried parmesan coated with truffles and hazelnuts.

6. 2 spoons – one with grilled goose foie gras with carob and the other with lobster, white carrot and Asian spices.

7. 3 spoons to eat North to South positioned vertically on the rectangular black plate–
a. corn bon bon in a pool of lemon oil topped with small cubes of sherry brulee
b. cold foie with green apple gelee
c. thin coconut slices encased peanuts. John likened it to a peanut butter sandwich.

8. A spoon containing poached quail egg with ginger

2nd course:
Scallop carpaccio with black sesame seeds, ¼” dice of green apple with eucalyptus cream. It was served with an onion croustillant to be eaten first. Wow!!

3rd course:
Pumpkin gnocchi and truffle oil gnocchi. 2 little white “balls” and 2 bright orange “balls” were presented in a bowl. Then the server poured black rice bouillon into the bowl. The bouillon was very strong and over-powered the gnocchi. We deconstructed the dish by eating the bouillon first and then the gnocchi.

4th course:
Sauteed baby sole topped with chopped hazelnuts served with Jerusalem artichoke puree, parmesan foam and a small dot of balsamic reduction. The sole was absolutely perfect and the Jerusalem artichoke puree marvelous.

5th course:
Spaghetti parmesan “Alfredo”…this was the only complete miss of the night–we are not sure if it was really spaghetti, but whatever it was, it was mushy. The entire dish was bland and watery. The parmesan flakes [freeze dried] to the side were “OK” but nothing special.

6th course:
Blue lobster with “parfums du magrebe”. This was a complicated dish with a number of components. On the bottom, yogurt ice cream, tarragon gelee and bulgar. A generous piece of lobster was placed on top then covered with couscous foam and a bright yellow sauce presumably with perfumes of Magrebe. (No real explanation. We are guessing a Middle Eastern spice.)

7th course:
Grilled duck foie gras covered with Muscat foam. On the left a mushroom and jasmin bouillon and on the right a puree of quince and mustard. Excellent.

Palate cleanser–a red cabbage cornet filled with iced mustard cream.

8th course:
Roasted breast of pigeon with a pigeon jus sauce. At the top of the plate a puree of parsnip plus green cabbage rolled into a cylinder. My notes say something about wakame, parsnip mustard, pumpkin and lemon butter, but by this point I have had quite a bit of wine.

9th course:
Cappuccino of potato and truffles–John loved it and ate every single bite. I was getting very full and Cathy chided me for wasting 25% of an expensive dish. I wonder if I can have my 25% now!

10th course:
“Invitation to Discovery”
The title refers to a succession of desserts.
I admit that the combination of a lot of food and wine left my note taking capability in very poor shape so a complete F for notes.

1. macaroon filled with apricot, coconut mousse and nuts.

2. A jellied something, chocolate filled with something and a tart of something with a cepe thin tuile

3. a spoon filled with passion fruit sorbet [I think] and a green something…

4. pineapple something

After all of this the chef surprised me with a massive birthday cake. It was a masterpiece – a chocolate sculpture with sparklers.

We were so full we begged off eating the cake and told the staff to enjoy.

Wine:
2002 Riesling Grand Cru Vorbourg Saint Landelin Mure–another solid Alsacian Riesling, delicious with all of the “introductory” dishes.

2000 Morey St. Denis “Rue de Verge” Domaine Perrot-Minot–excellent Burgundy. Nice with the later courses. It reminded us why we love to drink Burgundy with almost anything. Perfect bouquet of raspberries and strawberries. Smooth velvet finish.

Claire decanting the Burgundy.

Summary:
We could not have found a more perfect spot for my birthday celebration. Both lunch and dinner were perfect. The over-all food quality, inventiveness, and flavor came through at all times.

Plus the complete different set of amuses at dinner, the total commitment to making the meal a “discovery” in every possible way, the excellent service and the attitude of “we are excited that you are here and that you are excited about us” comes through loud and clear.

This is an exceptional place and a great family. The 3 family members, Jean-George, Cathy in the dining room, and the Nicole at Hotel K set the tone for everyone.

L’Arnsbourg embodies the true meaning of a 3 star restaurant – a destination restaurant, worth a detour.

This was definitely our best dining experience outside of Paris! Wow!!!


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