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Endtenfang Restaurant
Fürstenhof Celle
Website: fuerstenhof-celle.com

The word "Endtenfang" literally means "duck trap," and not only do the likenesses of these charming creatures grace the décor in one guise or another, but several beautifully prepared and presented specimens find a prominent place on the menu as well.

Ensconced in a 17th-century manor house that has been converted into a luxurious hotel, the dining space is decidedly elegant without being at all intimidating. Tapestries adorn burnt orange walls, and comfortable chairs and large tables are extremely well-situated, leaving a spacious aisle at the center of the room.

The amuse-bouche is a lovely mousse of sturgeon presented in a miniature martini glass and topped with parsley crème fraîche. Exquisite. . . but then Chef Hans Sobotka presents a second gift, a demitasse of cream of curry soup awash with morsels of shrimp. This is also quite excellent. . . but, after the mousse, a bit of gastronomic overkill.

There are several set menus from which to choose, but you may also mix and match should you wish to order à la carte, which was precisely our strategy on this particular evening.

When ever scallops are in the offing, my wife finds them simply impossible to resist. . . and this occasion was certainly no exception. Three moist and meaty bivalves are poached in lemon olive oil and set around an epicenter of puréed arugula and garnished with cepes. Superb!

My appetizer, on the other hand, was a good deal more decadent: terrine of foie gras. A delicate segment is presented on a large white plate and artistically embellished with four dots of aged balsamic vinegar, a diminutive dollop of fig chutney, and a strip of mixed salt and pepper. A scrumptious brioche popover adds immensely to the enjoyment.

Duck may be a specialty here, but Mr. Sobotka is also a master of matters piscatorial. A perfectly cooked filet of turbot arrives on a circular weave of diminutive tubular pasta, is sprinkled with fennel, and finished with a lovely saffron sauce. An ingenious presentation and a superlative combination of colors, tastes, and textures. A special sea bass is beautifully pan roasted and presented, skin side up, on a delicate vegetable terrine, and consummated in a light but extremely flavorful tomato broth.

In lieu of dessert, my wife opted for a beautiful assortment of cheeses, which were served precisely at room temperature and accompanied by brown bread. The sommelier recommended a gewürztraminer spätlese to accompany the cheese course, and it proved to be an extraordinary combo. I elected the sorbet of rosé Champagne with gelée, a potent espresso, and Hennessy VSOP.

As you would expect, Endtenfang sports a first-class wine list. We choose a 1998 Trimbach Riesling "Cuvée Frederic Emile," an exceptional match with seafood.

Dinner here is perfectly paced, neither too slow nor too fast. You never feel rushed. . . on the other hand, you never entertain thoughts that perhaps the chef has done a disappearing act (as was the case in L'Orchidée. A truly wonderful dining experience.

The Artful Diner
November 2002

The Artful Diner is an independent, freelance food writer.  His latest review and an archive of past reviews for restaurants around the country and the world can be found on this site on the REVIEWS page.

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