Could somebody know what a chef stands for just by tasting his food? Would that be enough? Should we take into account how much the diner knows? The effort it took to get to said restaurant? I once heard someone say: Eat with your mind open and your mouth shut. Never had this been more true than in this occasion, for my travel companion had no idea of what he was getting himself into, he just tagged along.
My case? I flew from Chile the day before, landed in Paris, took a train to Bruges, hired a car and drove to Sluis just in time to make it to my 19:30 reservation.
Having said all this, I arrived at 19:25, where I was greeted by name and welcomed back. I sat down at table 12, overlooking the sleek, yet modern black-and-white dining room. Now I was ready to taste, feel and understand what Sergio Herman and Oud Sluis stand for.
And it wouldn’t take long.
For those of you who don’t know: Oud Sluis is Sergio Herman’s flagship restaurant. Holding three Michelin stars and 20/20 points in the Gault Millau guide, it’s one of the best restaurants in the Netherlands (and probably in the world).
Nevertheless, It will close its doors this winter, not for financial reasons, but because Mr. Herman has decided his food has reached its peak here, and due to space limitations, they cannot take this place any further than it has already gone. So, instead of staying in cruise control forever, they decided to end things on a high note and move on to other projects.
Luckily, I managed to land a table way before they announced the closing of the restaurant on December 22nd, (tables here tend to be booked a year in advance, and after the announcement, a table here was somewhat of a hot property).
So, Moving on to the meal.
The snacks came as soon as I sat down, and with them a glass of Sergio Herman Brut from Domaine Dehours, really light, really fresh, almost had an exotic fruit feel to it.
Great start to go with these fellas:
-First: Basil, Parmesan, fennel, olive and anchovy (to be eaten from the rock without using your hands)
-Second: Squid Rosemary and elderflower
-Third: Avocado, brioche, mushrooms.
Now, few places have given me sake as my first beverage when choosing the wine pairing with a tasting menu. However, as Lotte (head sommelier) described it: It’s pretty much like liquid umami, goes well with the rest of the snacks. This AFS, made by Kidoizumishuzu in Nansou, will be on my wanted list forever.
-Fourth: Sardines, Romesco, Rocket, fennel
-Fifth: Snails, Japanese citrus, radish and seaweed
-Sixth: Brioche and Sorrel -Seventh: Mussels and “not a mussel” (Pictured Together)
Now, after all this, you can’t help but notice the complexity of Sergio’s food, and all the thought that goes into it. I mean, even the snacks had more components than most chefs dishes!
Some of you might think that this might be too much, a cluster of flavours where you can’t figure anything out, however, here you can. Everything is there for a reason, no flavours are there to mask or counter other components, all the contrary, without some of them, the food could still be good, but it wouldn’t be great. And that is what happened here, all those components made it mind-blowingly great, not to mention cool.
Then, finally came the rest of the courses, the first one: Hamachi with north sea crab, dashi, buttermilk and unripe strawberries. Paired with a sparkling Raumland Cuvée Brut.
Up next, was a dish I couldn’t really figure out at first: Gillardeau oyster, potato, north-sea shrimps, meadowsweet and young leek. Why didn’t I understand it? Well, first of all, it felt heavy, due to the potato. But if you took a small chunk of each, it almost felt like having a very peculiar sea-vichysoisse-like flavor. The nasturtium leaves gave it a nice spiciness, which went amazingly well with the South African Intellego 2012 Chenin Blanc. Really crisp, light and with a mild acidity.
The only full vegetarian dish in this menu was the “Glimpse of our gardens and biological farmers” Maybe a bit overly complicated, but everything went amazingly well when mixed together!
Wine: Timorasso, Vigneti Massa, Derthona, Piemonte.
2010 Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey Bourgogne Chardonnay. This wine just took the next dish onto another level.
Brill, smoked eel, Fennel, celery, germ seeds, peanuts and Indonesian jus. Best dish of the meal, PERIOD.
Morgadio Calçada tinto 2009, Douro, Touriga Franca. Filled with Red fruits, light tanines, and fresh finish. This was served alongside a beautiful piece of Holstein beef, with the marrow, a tartare, and its jus. This is what beef dishes should aspire to taste like.
St bernardus tripel Was served with an assortment of French and Flemish Cheeses.
Mii no umeshu yoigokochi. This, a Japanese prune liqueur, took care of the first two desserts.
1st: Chocolate, cherries, rhubarb and basil
2nd: Kiss of an angel
Last dessert was Passion-fruit, coconut, avocado. Nice fattiness to end the meal with a bang.
Paired with Rabl, Grune Veltliner, 2011, Austria
Petit fours ensued, and then came the time to leave.
Did I want to leave?
Not just no. HELL NO. Knowing this was the last time I’d ever be able to be there in that format? Who would want to leave? Sergio Herman conveyed his message, his passion, his life, his vision, all throughout his food.
As he wrote in the book he gave me: “A litlle bit of passion, feeling and taste”
And that is what he stands for.