I first learned about the restaurant Sonnora through my 2013 Les Grandes Tables Du Monde that I acquired after a pleasant dinner at Klaus Erfort’s GasteHaus. For those unfamiliar with this book, it’s a collection of renowned restaurants from around the world that are worthy of recognition for each establishment’s exemplary cuisine. It is an excellent guide with wonderful photography, and is offered to guests who dine in any of the featured restaurants. While browsing through the German section of the book, I found Sonnora. This restaurant wasn’t an instant love affair for me but it did have its appeal for three reasons: one being the recipient of three Michelin Stars, the other for holding a place in the Les Grandes Du Monde publication, but most importantly, for being relatively close and easily accessible from Saarbrucken, Germany. As a food/restaurant enthusiast and amateur photographer, managing costs is essential when spending hundreds of Euros on dinner (which is completely worth the price for those who object to spending this much).
After a short train ride from Saarbrucken, I arrived at my destination in Dreis. The Waldhotel is located on a beautiful patch of land surrounded by lush forest a few kilometers outside of Salmtal. Upon arrival, I was shown the aperitif room and offered my choice of handcrafted cocktails. This may have been the determinant for my decision to start photographing here – which, incidentally, happened to be my favorite place to shoot (the drinks possibly being a factor). The next location was the main dining area. The lighting and decor in the main room are drastically different with white and gold adorning each subsection, as opposed to the dramatic burgundy found in the aperitif room.
After two hours of shooting, it is time to eat. I prefer to start by ordering my signature drink, a glass of Champagne. An entire bottle at this type of establishment will surely double or triple your total bill; therefore, one or two glasses is all I need.
The meal begins with a tasty amuse-bouche: involtini from raw tuna on cucumber-sour-cream. This is immediately followed by a plate accompanied with baked praline of seafood on mango-chutney, an oyster marinated with elderflower-vinegar and fresh menthe, and cream of saffron soup with mussels. With each sample being superb, the saffron soup with mussels was the primus inter pares. It was too delicious to waste even one drop – which shamelessly led to cleaning the bowl with a piece of bread.
The next dish acted as lead-off for the 7-course tasting menu: galantine from goose liver in jelly from old port with iced-figs confit served with toasted bread. I’m at a loss of words to describe the combination of textures between the rich and delicate goose liver on perfectly toasted bread (there is debate as to whether foie gras should be served on bread or eaten as is. I opine to always break the rules, and do what is right for you). The second course contained three, thick lobster medallions over white asparagus and drizzled with a yogurt-marinade.
Monkfish on spring vegetables with veal-jus and sauce bearnaise commanded the third position in the tasting menu. Cooked fish is not my ideal choice when I eat at gourmet restaurants; I find it scarcely exciting. However, I was quite satisfied with the texture and how well it paired with the fresh spring vegetables. The fourth course was my absolute favorite (yes, even better than the goose liver). Sweetbread with spaghetti-chartreuse in truffle sauce. The combination of sweetbread smothered in a rich truffle sauce is culinary par excellence, and a tough act to follow. For the fifth course I had the choice between lamb or local venison, and sticking to my roots as a true Oregonian, I opted to eat local. Delicious venison with macadamia-nut-crust and cranberry-sauce arrived, soon dispelling any regrets I might have had for choosing venison over lamb.
From here the tasting menu takes a dramatic shift from meat and vegetable courses, to cheeses and desserts. This is a crucial moment for me because I have the utmost affinity for cheese; however, the introduction of the cheese selection halfway through the tasting menu is typically where my appetite is reaching its tipping point. Nevertheless, I continue on by choosing five different types of cheeses from the trolley, each with distinct aromas and piquant flavors. Ancillary with the cheese plate were fresh grapes served on ice. This complimentary, and necessary, side is meant to cleanse and cool the palate in between the more zesty cheeses.
The tasting menu has now reached its final chapter with the desserts. Yes, plural. The first dessert focused on tart pineapple ingredients within the ice cream, pastry, and foam accompanying it, and in the center, a piece of dehydrated pineapple. The next plate to arrive, being more visually stimulating than the first, focused the attention on rhubarb, with three different types of pastries and rhubarb gelato. Other sweet surprises acted as both decoration and delectable accompaniments for each pastry.
At this point in the night I was ready to retreat back to my room. Brimming from plate after plate of savory bliss. Satisfied but not satiated. I couldn’t dare to look at another morsel of food. As I started to fold my white napkin as a sign of truce, another tray was making its way to my table. Placed before me were two stories of plates filled with various, bite-sized desserts. I wanted to admit defeat but somehow I persevered, eventually eating every piece. I must have looked vanquished by the end of the tasting menu as the restaurant manager passed by. She stopped and solemnly asked, “your work is difficult, isn’t it?”
To view my pictures of this incredible experience, click here or scroll over the restaurant tap and click on Sonnora in the drop down menu. Enjoy!