Martin Klein meets Christian Bau

Pleasure is more than the sum of all the ingredients

“Fish and seafood inspire me the most,” says Christian Bau. And he’s not just talking about the diversity of these ingredients in his cuisine. Christian means it very specifically: he fillets all the fish for his restaurant himself. And that’s when he comes up with his best ideas. I can understand why: the steady rhythm of the hand movements make the work both meditative and sensuous. But even when he isn’t filleting fish, Christian Bau is very focused. The German chef, born in Offenburg, stayed in the Black Forest after competing his apprenticeship, before Harald Wohlfahrt made him his sous-chef. He has held three Michelin stars at his Victor’s Fine Dining restaurant inside the Schloss Berg hotel by the Moselle river since 2005. The scenery is spectacular, Luxembourg is visible in the distance, on the other side of the river. When the chef leaves the kitchen of his restaurant, Victor’s Fine Dining remains closed – which is the case when we meet for our outside recording for ServusTV. He’s already prepared a dossier for me, containing all the intricate details of his menu. Wonderful, the new Guest Chef season couldn’t have got off to a better start for me! But perfect preparation will also be called for, as Christian’s kitchen is even more elaborate than I imagined. When studying the recipes later on, I realise immediately that we’ll have to work very hard in November. Holidays are out of the question.

First off, we visit Nik Weis. His winery, St. Urbanshof, is situated a few river bends downstream. The winemaker, a good friend of Christian’s, mainly presses Rieslings – but more than two dozen different ones: “Riesling is the only authentic wine of the Moselle region!”. Just like a top chef, the winemaker tries to tease out the finest flavours from each vine. The soil is his spice. Most Rieslings have one thing in common: they contain little alcohol, like the ones that prevailed in the Moselle valley in the past. The wines complement Christian’s cuisine perfectly – in almost all of his dishes, he experiments with Asian elements. The chef is fascinated by the culinary culture of Japan in particular.

We therefore start our preparations in the kitchen with a “Day by the Japanese sea”. Part of the dish is prepared with Gillardeau oysters. Christian transforms them into shiny, silver pearls of ice, in a cream containing a hint of dashi and coriander. He poaches some of them very carefully in oyster juice at 46 degrees – in any other top restaurant, this alone would be enough to make a truly exquisite dish. The fine oysters also appear in Christian’s starter, but they only play a bit part. The cucumbers have a bigger role, in the form of a cucumber kimchi, marinated cucumbers, cucumber spirals, cucumber gel, and a cucumber sorbet, the secret ingredient of which is a shot of maracuja juice. All of the other sub-recipes for our day by the sea are prepared with just as much love. If I count all the different parts, it comes to 24 recipes just for this first starter alone. Yet one ingredient is more important than all the others: the hamachi, a yellowtail mackerel used for the marinated sashimi.

Only hamachi from Japan is considered here – it has a nice marbled texture, and the fillet melts in the mouth. The choice of supplier leads us back to Christian’s time working under Harald Wohlfahrt. Although he has long since emancipated himself from his mentor’s cuisine, Wohlfahrt’s fishmonger is still the best in the whole of southern Germany. He also delivers to Christian in the Moselle region – and, luckily, to us here in Salzburg as well.

Most top chefs would follow such a complex dish with one or two courses that are easier to prepare and serve – but not Christian Bau. Each amouse-bouche, each course of the menu consists of countless individual components. Together, they form a harmonious whole, the taste of which fully justifies the incredible amount of work that goes into each bite. It isn’t until the very end that Christian serves up a seemingly simple dish: a building block! Christian’s “Bau-Stein” is the final component in his epic menu. But this precisely formed culinary cube with its smooth-as-glass surface is anything but simple. It is made from a crispy cocoa & nut praline base and a pandan crème and is subsequently frozen, removed from the mould and sprayed with chocolate. But what makes this designer cake a true work of art in my eyes is the cream. I can usually figure out very quickly how a dish has been prepared. Christian’s pandan cream tastes of the fragrant Vietnamese leaf, vanilla, cream and egg yolk – just like a fine crème pâtissière. But it has a different consistency: buttery, yet light and fluffy at the same time. Christian tells me his trick: He first cooks a conventional vanilla cream with the pandan leaves. He then heats the cream in a water bath in the oven. By the way: the combination of vanilla cream and water bath is also the best way to prepare crème caramel or crème brulée at home. After the cream has cooled down, Christian whisks it into a very fine consistency again and freezes it into its building block shape. Before being served, the small cake is tempered, so that the cream is not runny but no longer hard either.

As we come to the end of our long day, Christian carefully checks each individual stone at the counter of his patisserie. Only once the building block has reached exactly the right temperature does the chef give the green light to serve it.

Recorded by Hans Gerlach

"Victor’s Fine Dining by Christian Bau"

Schloßstraße 27-29
66706 Perl-Nennig/Mosel
Germany

Tel.: +49-6866-79118

Email: info@victors-fine-dining.de
Web: www.victors-gourmet.de

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