Not alone in our beliefs, as the folks from a nearby country, Michelin, recognize the kitchen of Douce Steiner with two of its stars, the only female chef with that recognition in Germany.
My wife and I "saved up" our celebratory 36th wedding anniversary celebration to treat our 3 young adult children to a dinner here at Hotel Hirschen, the first stop on a two a half week family vacation trip. We stayed for one night in two of the charming but simple rooms at the inn, taking a nap after arrival from Frankfurt Airport. As a guest of the hotel, you have a nice room and will enjoy a lovely breakfast, particularly if you order some scrambled eggs with delicate chives and the best, thin and crispy bacon prepared by a two starred chef. But, you are here to dine and possibly visit the historic synagogue (only found about this after our visit). Some of my wife's ancestors are buried in abby graveyard at neighboring Munstertal which we visited.
Dinner takes place in a small and quaint dining room with Mrs Stein, the chef's mother watching over the proceedings. We were served by a very professional team led by a charming young captain. He guided us through the menu options; we chose the large 120 Euro menu which include two additional and exciting courses (a shellfish dish with a crisply fried prawn, the tiniest and most delicate poached scallops, clams and mussels in a saffron flavored sauce/foam and a beef tartar with caviar bathed in a glistening geleed veal stock), other items prepared by the chef for the menu include a perfect goose liver pate touched with port that gives the pate a very cool marbled look with elderberry aspic, a fantastically prepared fish dish that was cooked to perfection, the most amazing venison loin (rare and perfectly rosy) with a dark rich sauce that was touched with orange, my son couldn't stop eating the extra sauce, which was brought in a little pot to the table...there was more, but a reader will have to trust this kitchen with its choices as it has been two weeks since our meal and the chef's menu has changed.
After dinner, I thought about this food; what made it so outstanding. I shared my view with my wife, who was equally impressed and I will share this with readers of my post. Ms Steiner offers a sophisticated cuisine that highlights the main ingredient with light and intense sauces and painstakingly balanced and perfect accompaniments that support the main actor. Importantly, she doesn't use cliche, nor "trendy or gimmicky" things that have turned me off in starred Michelin restaurants elsewhere, like "pan asian flavors" nor "molecular gastronomy" nor "over worked" presentations like the "--- three ways". Hers is an honest, precise and lovingly prepared approach that also offers amazing depth of flavor and nuance without the butter, fat and over saltiness that many chefs use to boost their dishes' impact. Hers was a multi-course culinary adventure that offered excitement with each courses introduction, with each dish a balanced painting of a best way to present the main ingredient in a "modern" way that relied upon freshness and intensity of flavor versus heavy and salty enhancements.
Our best meal in years.
To offer some balance to my review, the wine list could use some updating. The venison course could have benefited from one of the new and upcoming Rhone wines, the hotel is a few miles from Alsace and a few nice, fresh bottles of those would have been welcome, the few Burgundies were very expensive and not particularly exciting. I am of the opinion that there are great bottles that can be available at reasonable prices (35-60 Euros) if one looks for them amongst the up and coming producers that offer wines with the freshness and honesty that would match this cuisine. Perhaps, someone with an understanding of German wines (not me) would have found what I was looking for on the list.
On our way to breakfast, I saw another reason why this food is so good. The kitchen, which is viewable through windows in the hotel, was very busy with prep work. A young woman chef was busy butchering duck and venison. Another chef was pureeing what looked to be fresh peas, a third was minding stock pots...all focused on the show that would be that days culinary performances.
Thank you family Steiner for a wonderful experience and memory for our family.