Northern Germany made a strong showing in the 2012 Michelin Guide to German restaurants, with La Vie in Osnabrück earning the guide's coveted three-star rating. Ten additional restaurants achieved a two-star rating.
Greens and reds abound as veggies come into greater favor in German cooking
The 2012 Michelin Guide lavishes new stars on German restaurants, adding a three-star restaurant and 10 two-star locations to the list.
Highest honors went to La Vie in the city of Osnabrück, located in north-western Germany, which earned the coveted three-star rating. Head chef Thomas Bühner incorporates international approaches and flavors into bright menus that start at 148 euros ($203) for dinner and 49 euros for a three-course lunch.
La Vie is among nine German restaurants to hold the guide's highest award, putting Germany in second place behind long-time leader France for top European eateries. However, Japan overtook France as the world's culinary capital with the October publication of the 2012 Michelin Guide to the island nation. The restaurant bible lists a record 29 three-star Japanese restaurants in comparison to France's 25.
La Vie in Osnabrück combines a subdued setting with inventive dishes
A light touch
Though popularly associated with heavy and hearty traditional dishes, German cuisine is going in new directions under what Michelin editor Ralf Flinkenflügel called a golden generation of young chefs with top training.
"Vegetables are coming into favor more and more and are being used in more inventive ways," Flinkenflügel told the dpa press agency.
That analysis is true of Bühner in La Vie, whose dishes often include high numbers of ingredients in careful combinations. The chef lays particular emphasis on scent in his creations, preferring to let aromas unfold by stewing meat or fish for a few minutes rather than quickly sautéing filets at higher temperatures.
A highlight of Bühner's approach is his "Venison pure," prepared with a jus distilled from the meat itself rather than a traditional sauce and served with what the menu describes as hay, chanterelles and celery.
Chef Nils Henkel was downgraded by one star but remains a top chef
But earning top Michelin marks can prove nearly as fleeting as a tasty meal, as the case of chef Nils Henkel of the luxury hotel restaurant Schlosshotel Lerbach proves. After earning a three-star rating in 2009, he was downgraded to two stars in the latest edition.
"A number of inspectors both from Germany and abroad and each with at least 10-15 years of experience re-evaluate the starred restaurants each year," Prisca Petry of Michelin told Deutsche Welle. The inspectors' evaluation takes freshness, taste, cost and comfort into account, she added.
Nonetheless, earning a two-star rating is an impressive feat for which many chefs strive, including the Berlin-based culinary master Tim Raue, whom Michelin editors designated as likely to earn a second star in coming years.
Michelin editors have eyed Berliner Tim Raue for a second star for some time
"I'm inspired by the Chinese philosophy of cooking - everything that you give to the body has to give it energy, warm it in the winter, cool it in the summer," Raue said of his cooking philosophy in an earlier interview with DW-TV.
Previously the culinary director at Lorenz Adlon in Berlin, one of two restaurants in the capital to move up to a two-star rating in 2012, Raue currently runs Restaurant Tim Raue along with his wife in Berlin's trendy Kreuzberg district.
The 1,440-page hotel and restaurant guide lists a total of 32 two-star and 208 one-star restaurants and will be published on November 11 in German with an iPhone app to follow in March 2012.
Author: Greg Wiser
Editor: Kate Bowen