Ernst is one of those restaurants that whenever somebody I know goes they can’t stop talking about it. Yet the restaurant lives a quiete life where the headchef never appears at conferences and I think May was the first time they ever did a 4 hands dinner. Still they made it to number 55 on W50 Best. An impressive achievement without “playing the game” and doing all the stuff that chefs usually do . Berlin isn’t a city I usually go to which is why I havn’t been before, but now was the time.
Being my first time at Ernst I struggled to find the place. You don’t see any signs outside, there is nothing to indicate that there is a restaurant hidden behind some curtains. I found my self looking at google maps to see which street number it was actually on. Even after finding that I was uncertain until I found a bell that said Ernst. That should have been a signal as to what kind of meal it would be, but I hadn’t caught on yet.
For once my review of the restaurant will be different than normal. It just feels wrong to go through the 35 dishes one by one. It’s simply not about the individual dish but it’s about how the experience made me feel as it was such an emotional experience.
You are seated a long a counter with space for 9 people who arrive at the same time and all dishes would be served for each guest within a minute of each other with the dinner lasting less than 3 hours. So the pace is high as you can imagine.
I enjoy speaking to chefs to understand a bit about who they are, their background and basically just to get a feel for who they are as a person. Ernst as a restaurant is all about who head chef and owner Dylan is a person. The first thing you notice is the humble appearance and even when he speaks he doesn’t really, he whispers. He also doesn’t direct the staff, they know what they need to do so only on the exceptional occasion he gives them a direction or two. A direction being whispered into their ear.
In case I have been to indirect to say it already he is humble so the restaurant is not about him even though the restaurant is all about him. I mean this in the best possible way. We are not talking about a big ego chef but a humble person seaking to connect with you as a guest through his food. This is his form of communication. As he is a humble person so is his food. This means that every dish would have a main ingredient, maybe a supporting one and a sauce/marinade and NOTHING else. Putting the ingredients first also means that the menu can change extremely frequent and as he has put his ego aside he wants to cook with the best most fresh ingredients meaning he won’t spend months perfecting a dish all while the ingredient goes out of seasonin the process. It’s naturally heavy inspired by the Japanese kaiseki kitchen but without being bounded by their restrictions. Inspiration but with freedom to change. The flavors are naturally super delicate but in contrary to the kaiseki kitchen they source their ingredients from a wider area as German ingredients are simply not always up to the standard they want. This naturally without ever serving dishes that feels “international”.
Without going through all of the dishes I do want to highlight a few to better be able to present the idea of the food.
The first exceptional dish was guisantes (tear drop peas) with caviar and just a bit of 60 days aged srenki. The combination of guisantes and caviar is common but this was just a bit more intense than ever. A simple dish but it simply felt better than I have tried it before.
A yellow zucchini wrapped around a Japanese apricot in the form of a flower was served with a paste where the apricot was treated like umeboshi. Delicate and with such a nice balance between umami, sweet and refreshing.
Langostino from Brittany where they would get a lot of their shellfish was served in the most light tempura batter and served with a rhubarb where you wore to press its over the langostino. This dish was all about execution for me.
Grilled tomato stuffed with grilled raspberries. I do love when sweet elements finds it way into the savory dishes so this dish was right up my alley. Again it’s hard to explain but the simple combination simply just worked better than I have seen it done before.
Tuna tasting. Usually at sushi restaurants when you get tuna it is from one fish and you will get different cuts. Here we would also get different cuts of the tuna but also from different types of tuna from blue fin to big eye tuna in 4 different preparations. The different pieces had uncharacteristic such as smoked tomato, shizo and even horse radish. Each worked in their own way and provided and as expected uncharacteristic experience of tuna that is impossible for experience in Japan.
Chicken is almost never served in fine dining restaurants and never the breast. Here both breast and leg was served in two different preparations. Common for them was that it was the best piece of chicken I have ever had and it was cut different than normal. The breast was served length wise with the fibers and not across as you usually do. The most juicy and delicious pieces of chicken and being all about the product no sides and just a bit of marinade. This was chefs skills at the highest level.
First dessert. A dish that for reasons that I don’t understand almost brought me to tears. It reminded me of a classic Danish Christmas dessert but it wasn’t like it brought me back to a specific Christmas. It was simply such a surprise. It was even so simple that I didn’t photograph it. The dish was grilled and macerated currants, wild rose and topped with crème.
The remaining desserts were amazing as well but without reaching the same level. For me desserts are often the week point of a meal but this was not the case here. Pictured above are the desserts but not the first one.
After a little less than 3 hours my experience was over. It left me in a state of mind where it was impossible simply just to go home and sleep. I needed time to digest my experience that left me in awe of the skillset and dedication of the team, but most of all of headchef Dylan. His vision, humility and ability to perfectly translate his personality not only on to the plate but into the entire dining room was impressive. The dinner left a huge impression and the impression was emotional and personal which marks a true exceptional experience. I will for sure be back and immerse myself even more in his universe.
Head chef: Dylan Watson
Menu: Tasting menu with about 35 small dishes 250€