February 1, 2011
Sergio Herman is a leader of the young chefs in the low countries. His maternal grandparents ran a café/barber shop in the town of Sluis, which was once the port of Bruges, now just over the border in the Netherlands. His father turned it into a seafood restaurant.
Sergio joined it in 1990 after training in several prestigious spots, including at the end, significantly, El Bulli. He has turned Oud Sluis into an influential destination earning its first Michelin star in 1995 and its third in 2005. Sergio’s use of great local ingredients, combined in a fairly complicated way with foreign garnishes and techniques, particularly Asian and modern Spanish, seems to pervade the new Flemish style.
Linda and I were expecting a lot when we went for dinner on January 13, 2011, and we were not disappointed. We had planned to be dining with our friend Laurent; he had to cancel, but he put in a good word for us with Sergio. Our young captain, Benjamin, explained that Sergio had put together a menu for us. It was shown in a little notebook given to diners with a pencil so they can follow the meal and take notes, if they want. This is an excellent idea.
We had glasses of the house Domaine Dehoutd Champagne Confidentielle. We ordered a bottle of 2006 « Poncins » Condrieu from François Villard. It was powerful with clear Condrieu character and went well with the seafood. Eventually we would have a glass of 2008 Gauby Côtes de Roussillon red wine with the one meat course.
The first amuse-gueule was bits of razor clam with puffed rice.
I didn’t take notes on the rest of them. They were complex, fascinating and mostly of seafood, with varying textures and temperatures.
The right side of this was a delicious seaweed salad.
Hamachi with frozen gin and cucumber.
Sergio likes the idea of temperature contrasts within a dish.
He came out of the kitchen early in the meal. He chatted with us and with quite a few other tables. He seemed to know many of the diners who I would guess were regulars, despite the difficulty for the general public to get a reservation. You can see him in the white coat towards the back.
The dining room and kitchen were modernized in 2009 in the building that had been in Sergio’s family for three generations. The dining room was already three-fourths full when we arrived at 7:30. It didn’t start to empty until 11:30.
Next came a mussel soup with yuzu.
The first menu course was two presentations
– gelée de crabe de la mer du nord, carpaccio de langoustine, émulsion de citron vert/verveine
– ganache de miso, tofu et bergamotte fraiche.
In the first presentation a rich crab jelly is topped with raw langoustine. It is surrounded with a green gel and topped with a dab of crème fraiche and caviar. The flavors of the sea are strong and delicious. In the second dish a whole langoustine has Japanese garnishes and bergamot grated over the dish at the table. This was more subtle than the first plate.
crevette en haute mer
gelée de dashi, comcombre marinée, yaort bio, granité de mikan
Dashi gel had been thinned with a sorrel/Granny Smith vinegar. On it were shrimp, marinated cucumber, yoghurt with caviar dabs and a sorbet of satsuma, a Japanese tangerine.
coquille saint jacques
kamut-graine de lin, truffe noire, herbes acidulées et cardamome.
A bowl of fragrant black truffles from the Italian Piemonte was presented. A truffle was then grated on the scallop after it was served to us. The kamut is an Egyptian wafer made from linseed. Fresh delicious flavors.
huitre de zélande –
carpaccio de huitre, concombre, échalote et céleri, vinaigrette d’agrumes. – huitre cuite et fumé aux foin, topinambour et foie gras de canard tendre.
Underneath all the garnishes in the first oyster dish is a large, very fresh oyster, which was enhanced by the complexity.
The second oyster was presented in a tureen lined with hay in which the oyster had been lightly smoked in its shell, topped with a bit of duck foie gras. It was served on more of the same hay. The two oysters were of the meaty type which was well suited to cooking.
légumes ‘white-orange’, jus de gousses de soya fermentées, cannelloni de homard, curcuma frais.
The two pieces of sole and the little lobster roll were lightly spiced.
lièvre du polder de damme
cake de carotte persillée, cherry-foie, chou d’hiver frais et sexy, civet à manger a la cuillère.
Four rare slices of filet of local hare were dressed with the rich sauce of a “Lièvre à la Royale” and garnished with winter vegetables. The bowl had tender braised hare topped with a foam. The cube was its liver prepared with cherry. Rich and very good.
There were three desserts:
– white snow.
It included, among other white things: yoghurt, yoghurt sorbet, ricotta, coconut, meringue, and custard. It was not too sweet. Very good.
– pomme, agrume et noisette.
Apple, citrus and hazelnut flavors. The desserts were good, but didn’t have the panache of the rest of the meal.
We had an excellent time enjoying the inventiveness and surprises of the meal combined with superb ingredients. The various combinations had been well planned and tested. Sergio may be copied, but he isn’t copying anyone. This is a restaurant which should be tried by anyone interested in today’s best creative food. We were not even half way through January and had already enjoyed what we think will be one of our top meals in 2011.
The restaurant’s website
To see another very informative, recent blogpost on Oud Sluis click here.