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Autostadt - “car city”, is a unique place where Volkswagen combines its headquarter with state-of-the-art car-theme pavilions attracting more than 2-million visitors each year.
Image 2: One of the many fascinating aspects of this place is when you buy a car here, your car will get displayed in one of the two car towers for 24 hours prior to pick-up. SEE VIDEO HERE
Image 3: It is a spectacular view when the towers get illuminated at night!
I know you are wondering -- What do cars have anything to do with fine dining?! Hang on...
It is not easy to find a more odd location for a hotel than inside a "car city". And here, not just an ordinary hotel, it’s Ritz-Carlton!
Image 5: And what’s more peculiar is the existence of a Michelin 3-star restaurant inside this hotel! Opened in 2000, it quickly got its first Michelin star the following year. The second star came in 2005 and it finally achieved the ultimate 3-star status in 2008.
Image 6: Aqua serves only dinner which allowed us to explore some of the creative exhibitions in the "auto park" during the day.
But you really need a full weekend to fully enjoy the park.
Image 8: While we were there, we also got a chance to taste what Wolfsburg is known for -- Currywurst, sliced pork sausage served with curry-flavoured ketchup.
Image 9: Did you know that Volkswagen actually produces and sells more of their sausages and ketchup than cars?
Other than the two “car towers” and VW ketchup, what struck me the most is their Premium Clubhouse with an exclusive liquid silver Bugatti. Stunning!
Image 11: This odd location with smoke blowing out from the factory, together with the parks and lakes that are surrounded by modern architecture, turned out to be the ideal location for Chef Elverfeld to express his modern interpretation of traditional German cuisine. This is what we are here for!
Image 12: If Aqua is open, that means you can definitely find Chef Elverfeld and sous chef Jan Hartwig in the kitchen!
Image 13: www.restaurant-aqua.com Chef: Sven Elverfeld
Vision (7-course): €175 Impression (9-course): €205
Dinner Only. Closed on Sunday and Monday, 3 weeks in January and July.
Image 14: A spacious dining room with top-notch service. Not only was every cutlery placed by white gloved staff, Maitre d' Jimmy came to chat with us at least three times, and Chef Elverfeld came out twice to greet each diner!
Okay, the meal started with a nice selection of warm bread - olive, tomato, multi-grain...
Image 17: Followed by a selection of amuse bouche, beginning with three delicate snack rolls:
a miniature version of currywurst with a pastry wrapping which mimics the crispy skin of the sausage! It definitely reminded us of our sausage lunch.
Image 18: A shrimp cocktail which resembled Japanese hand roll, and Chef Elverfeld’s interpretation of Toast Hawaii, a traditional German open sandwich consisting of ham, pineapple and cheese.
Image 19: Then a spoon tasting - Königsberg meatball with caper sauce and baked camembert with cranberry!
Image 20: And finally, two shots of soup! A local popular Goulash soup and a powerful smoky fish soup with a strong hint of horseradish. An extensive amuse bouche foreshadowing an elaborate meal!
Image 21: Our first course was a regional speciality “Handkäs mit Musik” but Chef Elverfeld made an iced version and labelled it “homage to my home region” in the menu!
Image 22: A chilled cheese balloon finished off with hot vinaigrette!
Image 23: I loved the temperature contrast!
Image 24: Then, cubes of foie gras with tiny bites of smoky Iberico ham! My first impression of this foie and smoked ham combination was overwhelmingly strong, but I was wrong!
Image 25: I soon realised the acidity of the fruity apple gel along with onion flavoured tapioca magically balanced out the richness of the foie and the powerful smoked ham making this dish one of the highlights of the meal!
Image 26: Next, a raw version of surf 'n' turf - veal tartar with prawn. Resting on a bed of veal tartar was a fresh prawn dusted with crunchy balls. Not only did this dish allow us to focus on the high quality of meat and seafood, even the flavour of olive and bean sprout stood out. A very elegant course!
Image 27: Red mullet covered in its scale with citric sauce, accompanied by cuttlefish, fennel and cured sausage. The whole fish was edible as the scales and the tail were all deep fried! Another successful dish – the flavours, the texture, everything perfectly came together in my mouth!
Image 28: Chef Elverfeld’s modern take on the classic dish Plaice Finkenwerder but using Brittany Sole. It composed of fish, bacon, mushroom, and potato.
Image 29: Then came the best dish of the evening - Potato pot-au-feu. A creamy potato soup layered with spinach and yolk at the bottom…
Image 30: … and topped with a generous ball of hair-thick shredded Périgord truffles!
SEE VIDEO HERE
Image 31: By mixing them all up and WOW!
Potato, egg, spinach, and truffles… How could things that simple be so delicious! I still couldn't get my mind over this amazing dish! A truly outstanding course!
Here was a genuine local dish -- every ingredient is local, including the beer pairing.
Image 33: According to our server, this delicate course composed of Brussels sprout, game salami, carawaybread, and goat cheese. What’s surprising was I didn’t notice any cheese on the plate…
Image 34: … until this Brussels sprout burst in my mouth with a creamy goat cheese! Cool stuff!
Image 35: Served with a historical medieval style German ale called Mumme beer. Our server said this special beer had a strong influence to the northern German beer style nowadays.
Image 36: Our series of meat courses began with pork belly and kaiserschmarrn, a sweet pancake with plum compote and foie gras.
Image 37: Then another top-notch masterpiece here – three pieces of Wagyu surrounded by a colourful selection of winter vegetables crowned with caviar!
Image 38: Chef Elverfeld was very thoughtful here -- instead of serving the meat with a heavy sauce, he served it in a light broth making it a very appetising course even after something like six amuse-bouche and seven courses that we had!
Haven't had such a good quality beef for a long time!
Image 40: Needless to say, this well-marbled meat had a strong flavour! It was brilliant that the broth was subtle enough without distracting any of the ingredients!
Image 41: Before the main course, a palate cleanser was served on a block of ice! I was about to skip this sorbet as I didn’t want it to cleanse away the wonderful flavour from all the food that I just had (I was actually a bit too full), but then our server said, “We are now serving a Champagne cream sorbet with 'Grand Vintage Rosé 2000' Moët & Chandon"!!!
Image 42: Regardless of what was left on my palate, foie gras, Wagyu, truffle, or caviar, it was a sorbet using vintage champagne! I've got to have it, man! SEE VIDEO HERE
Image 43: Even a sorbet here was extraordinary! The reaction between champagne and sorbet created a layer of aromatic foam resulting in one of the best sorbets ever! This was Aqua’s classic dish since its opening for 11 years!
Image 44: Our final main course, Spice pigeon with sesame cream, yogurt, pomegranate and couscous. The meat had a remarkably soft texture that the Chef later explained -- it was sous vide in stock at low temperature to give a more velvet texture!
Image 45: Dessert time! Wow, a futuristic looking orange! It is a contemporary version of the classic Campari orange cocktail in dessert form!
SEE VIDEO HERE
Image 46: This brittle orange actually contained Campari foam with orange cream. It really did remind me of the cocktail but with an extra texture dimension. Incredible stuff!
Image 47: From amuse bouche to soup to fish to meat to dessert, it was gastronomy at its best! Even if I want to be picky, I couldn’t think of anything to criticise. It was a flawless meal. And there is more - a sweet finale to conclude a wonderful meal!
A sensational frozen basil lime soda!
Image 49: A pair of ice cream on mini-spoons: chestnut with caramel on the right, and chocolate carefully topped with a cute olive oil enclosed with sugar casting on the left. Meticulous attention to detail!
Image 50: A frozen Snickers on a stick. Interesting, just like the chocolate bar with peanut nougat and caramel but a frozen version.
Image 51: And our last item of the meal - Bircher muesli. A German breakfast cereal dish with oats, fruits and nuts. Well, it was after midnight, so I guess it was our early breakfast. I like the fact that most courses here had a strong German root to them!
Regrettably, we had to skip the Christofle petit-four trolley as we were full to the limit.
Image 53: Fortunately, Jimmy prepared us a mini-box which we finished the following day! Whoa, each truffle and praline had an intense but distinct flavour – passion fruit, raspberry, coconut, lavender, hazelnut, coffee, etc. We almost missed such a high quality treat!
Image 54: Fascinating auto park, posh hotel, authentic cuisine - what else do you want?! All in all, this is an experience "worth a special journey". In Michelin language, it's a well deserved 3-star!