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Schloss Schauenstein in Furstenau, Switzerland (3 Michelin stars)

Rating: 100.
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Outstanding (93-95)
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Schloss Schauenstein, located in the Domleschg valley in the canton of Graubünden (Grisons) in Switzerland, is the name of the alpine castle which houses Andreas Caminada's eponymous 3-star restaurant. The castle, which was first mentioned in official documents back in 1257, also houses six luxury hotel rooms. Schauenstein is about a 90 minute drive from Zürich Airport and some 15 minutes by car from Chur, the capital of Graubünden.

Andreas Caminada started his career in the late nineties in the Michelin-starred kitchens of some of Switzerland's most renowned hotels, such as Hotel Walserhof in Klosters (a hotel also famous for its frequent royal British visits) and Hotel Deuring Schlössle in Bregenz. Before opening Schloss Schauenstein in 2003, he trained at 2-star Wirtschaft zum Wiesengrund in Uetikon am See (Lake Zürich) and at the (then 2-star) Bareiss restaurant in Baiersbronn, Germany. Schloss Schauenstein was awarded its first Michelin star in 2007, a second star followed in 2008. In 2010 the restaurant was awarded a third star; Andreas Caminada was 33 years old at the time. Schloss Schauenstein currently takes the number 42 spot in The World's 50 Best Restaurants list. Schauenstein has been in the list for four years, the highest ranking being number 23 in 2011.

Schloss Schauenstein is open for lunch and dinner Wednesday till Sunday (no lunch on Wednesday). The restaurant offers an a la carte menu and there's a daily changing tasting menu: 3 courses for £135, 4 courses for £146, 5 courses for £157 and 6 courses for £167, plus an optional two extra 'surprise' courses for £44. I had dinner at Schloss Schauenstein on Sunday 1 September 2013 with my husband and we both ordered the 6-course tasting menu with the additional two surprise courses.

To start there were five amuse bouches: crisp beetroot cornetto with a light and creamy tuna filling - lobster crackers with a spicy curry dip - lettuce gazpacho bonbons - various textures of ham: ham mousse, ham caviar, ham powder - trout (fresh and mousse) with lightly pickled heirloom carrots (no photograph). Five delightful and creative amuse bouches offering a wonderful variety of textures and flavours, that were great to enjoy with our aperitif (2011 Donatsch Pinot Blanc Brut from Malans).


Four, more substantial, amuse bouches were served at the table. First a wonderfully sweet and succulent roasted langoustine and a creamy langoustine tartare, served with a delicate lime sponge (a set foam), confit Almalfi lemon and a lemon cream. An elegant langoustine bouillon, flavoured with lemon, was served on the side. A fantastic dish with a wonderful balance between the delicate sweetness of the langoustine and the bitters and sweetness of the lemon, the latter also delivering a lovely touch of freshness.

This was followed by different tomato varieties and textures. A smooth and pure tomato sorbet, tomato sponge (a set foam) dipped in finely chopped dried tomato, a concentrated tomato créme, marinated tomato and a clear and sharp tomato gazpacho, accompanied by a large, perfectly crisp crouton. Beautiful balance between fresh, sweet and salty tomato flavours and the various flavour intensities were terrific. All the individual elements were great on their own, but the addition of the crouton really worked and brought everything together.

Then there was foie gras, goat's cheese and corn. A delicious, velvety corn ice cream, that had a hint of creaminess, served with a crisp covered with finely grated foie gras, crispy corn, raw marinated ribbons of corn, fresh goat's cheese and a piece of fatty foie gras. A pure and intense corn essence was served on the side. The sharpness of the goat's cheese combined wonderfully with the sweetness of the corn. A brilliant and harmonious combination, especially since geese are fed corn to produce their prized 'foie gras'.

The final amuse bouche was beetroot (pickled, finely chopped, cr´me, cylinder filled with cream), watermelon (grilled and granita) and a dollop of cottage cheese, finished with a vinaigrette. Lovely, sweet, vegetal flavours from the watermelon and beautiful, clean beetroot flavours. There was a nice balance between intense and more refreshing beetroot flavours and the cottage cheese added the perfect touch of creaminess.

Next to arrive was one of the surprise courses. A slice of beef tongue, served with a beef essence and shallot vinaigrette, dots of bone marrow créme, wasabi créme and garnished with some fresh apple. Also on the plate was a very flavoursome beef tartare, a small marinated beef roll and a finely chopped beef tongue and strips of white radish, wrapped in corned beef. A splendid dish with great textures and the vinaigrette added a lovely warmth and subtle acidity.

First course of the tasting menu was mackerel, served under a smoke-filled cloche, which, when lifted, revealed a wonderful dish of roasted and cured mackerel, accompanied by pickled cucumber rolls, a set pickled cucumber foam/sponge, marinated avocado discs and some relish puree. A mackerel tartare and a avocado espuma, topped with a clear dill jelly disc, was served on the side. The roasted mackerel was moist and peppery. Lovely sharpness from the pickled cucumber and a little bit of warmth (from the pickling spices) right at the end. A delicately balanced dish with clean and pure flavours, the avocado delivering the just the right amount of buttery richness.

Second course were gorgeous veal tortellini, served with pan-fried girolles and a girolle foam, a small piece of sweetbread and thin shavings of Parmesan cheese. Masterfully made tortellini that had the perfect amount of smooth and moist veal filling and the pasta was nice and thin. The veal used for the tortellini was seared on a very high heat; the ensuing caramelisation process resulted in wonderfully rich veal flavours. A sublime dish with a beautiful balance between richness and intensity and an elegant touch of sweetness.

Halibut followed. An excellent piece of moist halibut covered with a thin strip of buttery bread crumbs, mixed with very finely chopped artichokes and served with a smooth artichoke puree, broad beans, a lovely creamy pea puree, a delicious mayo-like spring onion créme and a pea and potato mousse that had a wonderful, velvety finish. The beurre blanc-tarragon sauce was superb and even better were the pickled artichokes. An outstanding dish with brilliant textures and utterly sublime earthy-sweet flavours from both the artichokes and the peas, the pickled artichoke enhancing the sweetness of the peas perfectly. Well-judged use of tarragon too.

Fourth and main course, "Sommerreh" - Summer roe deer. Spectacular top-quality roe deer, pink, succulent, gamey, wrapped in a thin layer of ham, served with a lovely light jus, pear confit, pear 'molasses', a crisp celeriac cylinder with a creamy and velvety celeriac puree filling, celeriac 'ravioli' and braised celeriac topped with a cranberry compôte. Best of all were the perfectly cut, caramelised mini-sandwiches with a sweet and sticky pear filling. A truly distinctive and intricate dish with exquisite flavours. The sprinkling of salt on the deer and the saltiness of the ham really elevated the flavour of the deer and the brilliantly chosen pear accompaniments had just the right amount of acidity to balance this dish perfectly.

On to the fifth course, cheese. First a piece of Swiss Andeerer Traum cheese, served with a light and tart apple espuma, a concentrated red wine puree and 'Maluns'. Maluns is traditionally made with potatoes and flour; this was one was made with cheese. I guess the best way to describe it is as a cheese crumble. A stunning flavour combination. This was followed by a cheese board with local cheeses, each with its own accompaniment.

Pre-dessert (second surprise course) was an elegant and refreshing dish of pink grapefruit segments, fresh raspberries, rose water, lychee sorbet, and frozen grapefruit vesicles. A raspberry-rose sorbet was served on the side.

Dessert was a veritable apricot fest: apricot puree, iced apricot pearls, marinated apricot and a fantastic apricot sorbet with a caramel centre hidden in a spectacular thin-as-glass blown sugar sphere. A sweet and aromatic saffron and vanilla sauce was poured over the sphere. Alongside came a flawless quark souffle. A complex dessert with powerful flavours, the tanginess of the apricot balancing the rich and sweet saffron and vanilla sauce perfectly. Great length too.

With this meal, Andreas Caminada showed his unparalleled mastery of an incredibly broad range of ingredients, flavours, flavour combinations and techniques - without ever missing a beat. His extraordinarily high level of skill results in complex dishes with a brilliant interplay of flavour intensities and textures in particular, and he turns every plate of food into a journey of discovery. The dishes are visually stunning, the vibrant flavour combinations are creative but never contrived or over-the-top and never have I encountered such a masterful use of (non-citrus) acidity. Three-star chefs and restaurants come in many forms and guises but only few are chosen to be the poets laureate of European gastronomy. One could expend a thousand words to try and express the essence of Andreas Caminada's cuisine. Let it suffice to say that his food reflects the breadth of his repertoire and the depth of his knowledge and that the balance and harmony which he attains on the plate are unsurpassed.

Posted 01-12-2013


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