TrendSafari – transformation through experience


FRANKFURT — When young lovers dream of a romantic European dinner in a back-street hideaway packed with locals, those back streets tend to be in Paris or Florence, not Düsseldorf or Nuremberg. When thrill-seeking diners book long-distance travel to taste some pathbreaking chef’s strange new inventions, their planes land in places like Barcelona or Copenhagen, not Leipzig or Dresden.

Although the 2013 Michelin Guide paid lavish attention to Germany, awarding 3 stars to 10 restaurants there, neither those restaurants nor their chefs are household names in any country but their own. When Germany flexes its economic muscle, other countries jump to attention. When it shows off its gastronomic power, they shrug.

Anytime the world seems to have made a secret pact to ignore a subject, curious minds grow even more curious. So off I went last month on a brief but industrious eating tour of Germany. I traveled to three of the cities foreigners are most likely to visit, Munich, Frankfurt and Berlin, making reservations in relatively new restaurants. None of them were especially luxurious or expensive compared with the rarefied dining rooms that are catnip to the Michelin Guide.

German chefs tend to play a long game, honing their craft in the same kitchen for decades. Coming from New York, where chefs will put a restaurant on their résumés after working there free for a few weeks, I was deeply impressed by the German dedication to putting down roots. But I was especially interested in seeing where the country’s restaurant scene may be going next, so I restricted myself to places that had opened since the start of this decade.

Around the same time, my colleague Frank Bruni was pursuing a similar assignment in China, following similar rules. Unlike me, he stuck to the rules. I bent them to write about a very good meal I had in Frankfurt at Weinsinn, which opened at the end of 2009. My rationale: In its first months, Weinsinn was a wine bar, and didn’t begin to evolve into a restaurant until it hired its current chef, André Rickert, the following year.

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