Dining with Diners Club: La Table d’Olivier Nasti – our first Michelin experience, Kaysersberg, France

La table d’Olivier Nasti and Chef Olivier Nasti have two Michelin stars and are a part of the Relais & Châteaux collection of luxury hotels and restaurants around the world. They are also recommended by The World’s 50 Best Restaurants. Olivier Nasti is one of the top 100 chefs of the world and a member of the association Les Grandes Tables du Monde. Since 1924, once in 4 years, in France is awarded the title Best Craftsman of France (Meilleur Ouvrier de France). Olivier Nasti won this prestigious award in 2007.

Autumn in Alsace

Autumn can already be felt in the air of Alsace, France. The cool weather and the smells from the restaurants contribute to this warm autumn feeling. It is still the end of the summer, in the midst of grape harvesting, but on Saturday and Sunday no one is working. Today it is Saturday and the town centre of Kaysersberg is full of people, all French (except us).

Kaysersberg, Alsace, France
Kaysersberg, Alsace, France

It is not a coincidence to be in the cozy town of Kaysersberg, surrounded by the hills of the Vosges mountains and crossed by river Weiss. It is one of those beautiful towns in Alsace, full of colourful houses with steep roofs, overlooking the paved main street along the river. On the nearby hill, just behind the town hall, among the vineyards rises a medieval castle with a tower.

The town centre of Kaysersberg, France
The town centre of Kaysersberg

Kaysersberg is surrounded by vineyards with the typical local grape varieries for Alsace. And we are strolling by the main promenade, Charles de Gaulle, which took us to the doors of hotel Le Chambard. We have a reservation for dinner at La Table d’Olivier Nasti – a two-starred Michelin restaurant owned by chef Olivier Nasti.

Le Chambard Relais & Chateaux, Kaysersberg, France
Le Chambard Relais & Chateaux, Kaysersberg, France

You know, we really like telling the story of the places we visit. Olivier Nasti and his brother Emmanuel bought hotel Le Chambard in 2000 and the Nasti family still manages the hotel. Olivier Nasti became a chef of the restaurant and Emmanuel was the sommelier until 2016, when he turned to wine trade. The wife of Olivier Nasti, Patricia, is managing the hotel and the local Winstub – a traditional wine bar-restaurant. Their daughter is also working in the hotel and is responsible for the quality service of the customers – la Responsable de la Qualité Clients.

How do you choose a Michelin restaurant?

Having a wide choice is not always a good thing. The recommended options are more than 10 and you know that all of them are worth. For people in France it is normal to be surrounded by high-quality restaurants. But for us it was another universe. Moreover, Alsace was far from us not only in terms of physical distance. Reaching a French hotel, restaurant or other business by email or social media was a mission impossible. And we had only 2-3 weeks to organise the visit, which is not much at all, especially if you need a Saturday evening reservation.

One or two restaurants in the area had online booking system, but we had no idea whether we will be allowed to take photos on site. A part of the restaurants were on annual holiday, planning to open a day or two before our arrival. The emails were quiet, the phones, too. The attempts of our partners from the local tourist offices to help us arrange permission to take photos were not successful either. But we still could not imagine going to such place and not telling about it in the blog.

Fun moments on the tower of the Kaysersberg castle, before the dinner
Fun moments on the tower of the Kaysersberg castle, before the dinner

How to book a table at Michelin restaurant at the last minute?

Two days before the trip the right thought came to our mind. We could ask the concierge, which we have previously used with our Evolve credit cards from Diners Club Bulgaria, to help us. We have previously used this service and were really happy with the result. So, 2 hours later we had a booking and were looking forward for our dream to come true. This might sound as an advertisement but actually the concierge service is free to use and is also available with some other credit cards.

The entrance to Le Chambard
The entrance to Le Chambard

Tip: Actually, I don’t know what to advice you when you choose which restaurant to visit. If there are only one or two in the area, it is easy. But if they are more, it becomes hard. The Michelin star restaurants are attractions of their own. You cannot put them in a chart or divide by some usual criteria. They all work with high-quality products, usually seasonable, and represent the personal style of the chef, who is usually the owner and face of the restaurant as well.

Le Chambard, Kaysersberg, France - a hotel with a Michelin star restaurant in Alsace
Le Chambard, Kaysersberg, France – a hotel with two Michelin star restaurant in Alsace

By chance or not, our final choice was La Table d’Olivier Nasti – a restaurant with two Michelin stars, located in the 5-star Relais&Chateax hotel Le Chambard in the town of Kaysersberg, France, some 10 km from Colmar. It was also our first Relais&Chateaux experience. More useful tips you will find further in the article.

A Michelin experience – what and why?

For some people eating is just something that happens between the sightseeing and visiting other attractions, and sometimes it even does not happen. For is it is an emotion, an experience, almost a religion. A whole new journey. From researching the options and picking the place, going through the history if the chef, seeing the menu in advance. For us this journey started maybe two years ago, when we were first caught by the thought that we should start visiting Michelin restaurants. Since then we have read tons of information, watched hours of TV documentaries and shows, browsed through hundreds of menus. We have almost lived the experience before making it real.

A part of the journey was also our arrival in Alsace, picking convenient location to stay, speaking to local people about the restaurants in the area. And even before we entered Le Chamard, we were convinced that we have picked the best place to start.

Smiles and emotions during our first Michelin experience - Le Chambard,, France
Smiles and emotions during our first Michelin experience – Le Chambard, Kaysersberg, France

We have many times said that the organisation of a trip is no less exciting than the trip itself. And we know that we are not simply going to a restaurant. We are giving ourselves a several-hour experience, a whole journey. From booking the table, observing the dress code, finding the location, entering and everything that follows. Here the question is not only what you will eat. It is also about the show. The show of the senses, feelings, human relations, mixed with impeccable professionalism.

Entering the bar of Le Chambard
Entering the bar of Le Chambard

The start – crémant and amuse bouche

We cross the threshold of Le Chambard with excitement, impatience and most of all, curiousity. Our names are in the guest list and they offer us to sit in the lobby bar for a drink before dinner. A great opportunity to get in the mood for what is following. The sommelier (oh, how much we love sommeliers!) welcomes us and we all agree that is is a perfect occation to try the Alsace crémant sparkling wines, made by the same technology as Champagne wines. They sip us a glass of Cremant d’Alsace Clos Liebenberg – Domaine Valentin Zusslin – a winery located some 25 km south of Kaysersberg. Local wines are a must for us.

Early evening at Le Chambard
Early evening at Le Chambard

The dimmed light, the quiet music, the soft armchairs and the cozy atmosphere almost make us forget that we have come for dinner. The staff might have guesses about this and started serving us a set of amuse bouches. Nothing that we had not ordered food yet.

Mini ice cream, full of tastes and aromas
Mini ice cream, full of tastes and aromas

La Table d’Olivier Nasti

We are joking that French chefs with Michelin stars are not very creative in terms of giving names of their restaurants. A very large part of these restaurants are named La Table (The table) of… (the name of the chef). The truth is that they really do not need more – the chef is the base figure in the whole experience. For us in the beginning this was quite confusing but then we laughed at our own stupidity.

We have to admit that coming to this very restaurant and chef Olivier Nasti was partly by chance. Two days before our trip the opportunities for booking a Michelin restaurant were very limited. But maybe it was our best chance to make our first Micheling experience really extraordinary. We discovered that Olivier Nasti is not just an excellent chef, but also one of the most awarded chefs of France and across the world. He was given the title Best Craftsman of France, which is awarded only once in every 4 years. In the beginning of his career he wanted to become a baker but the opportunity to work in a renowned restaurant changes the direction, as he admits (see what else he shares about himself and his career). He received his first Michelin star in 2005 and the second one in 2014.

At La Table d'Olivier Nasti
At La Table d’Olivier Nasti

La Table is one of the three restaurants at Le Chambard and the fanciest one (the whole complex is owned and managed by Olivier Nasti and his wife). Simple and elegant in decor, to leave the attention to what is served on the table. Its mission is to show the contemporary cuisine of Alsace in original and interesting version. Olivier Nasti himself has a passion for game, which is recognisable in the menu.

Tip: All restaurants with Michelin stars in Alsace have very strict working times. They are open for a couple of hours for lunch and for dinner you could book a table from 19 to 21 h. They also have one to three days off during the week. So if you are willing to visit such a restaurant, check in advance whether it is open on the day you wish and then book well in advance.

L’Histoire – the signature menu of Olivier Nasti

We knew that we would order this even before we arrived. The menus of most of the Michelin star restaurants are visible on their websites. This is very helpful because usually the dishes are quite nontraditional and interesting and you should better be prepared. Of course, on site we would always ask what they would recommend, in case we are missing something.

Andrey looking through the menu of La Table d'Olivier Nasti, because it is time to order
Andrey looking through the menu of La Table d’Olivier Nasti, because it is time to order

We are big fans of menus, especially if they are paired with proper wines, selected by a professional. We think that the complete menus are the best way for a chef to present himself, his visions and the best he is capable of. And because we do not have any food restrictions, we are always happy to trust the professionals for our menu.

Very important tip: Go there hungry and relaxed. Officially, the Histoire menu consists of 4 courses plus a dessert. The other option is a tasting menu of 7 courses plus 2 desserts. In reality, within the L’Histoire menu we were served about 11 different dishes with more than 15 different meals in them. So make sure you are hungry enough before your Michelin dinner. Almost all of the dishes from the L’Histoire menu were also present to order a la carte. Out of curiousity, we asked whether the size is the same. The expected answer was that the a la carte dishes are larger. In addition to the menu we ordered a selection of 3 local wines, picked by the sommelier. We finished our cremant and headed to our table in the restaurant.

Alsace in a few bites – L’Alsace en quelques bouchées

This is the official name of the set of amuse bouches we were served with the sparkling wine. A whole universe of tastes, textures and flavours in different forms within a few grams. Years of studying and experience, genuine creativity, hours of work and surgical precision arrived on the table, dressed in the colours of Alsace – the greenery of the vineyards, the amber colour of the ripening grapes, the brownish nuances of the woods in the slices of mushrooms.

Alsace in a few bites - La Table d'Olivier Nasti, a Michelin star restaurant at Le Chambard, Kaysersberg, France
Alsace in a few bites – La Table d’Olivier Nasti, a Michelin star restaurant at Le Chambard, Kaysersberg, France
Greenery of Alsace

We were not able to remember all the details about each one of the 5 different bites, but the feeling is something we will remember for a long time.

More from the amuse bouche - Le Chambard, Michelin restaurant in Alsace
More from the amuse bouche

Tarte flambee, Michelin-style

Tarte flambée is one of the simplest and most traditional dishes from Alsace. The traditional tarte consists of a very thin dough layer, covered with cream, bacon and sometimes cheese or anything else. But the basic version is quite popular. However, we are in a Michelin restaurant and the tarte flambée of Olivier Nasti was anything but the pizza-like dish. Instead, we were served a bowl of tender cream with bacon and cheese and another bowl, looking like a hedgehog.

Tarte flambee in a Michelin restaurant - La Table d'Olivier Nasti, Alsace, France
Tarte flambee in a Michelin restaurant – La Table d’Olivier Nasti, Alsace, France

Actually, these were very thin bread sticks which you could dip in the cream. Andrey did not hesitate to ask the waiter how should we eat this meal and the polite answer was that it was our choice and there was no wrong way.

Tarte Flambee by Olivier Nasti
Tarte Flambee by Olivier Nasti

Goose Foie gras of Alsace «like a snow», berawecka cream and tomme des montagnes cheese

The original name of this dish in the French menu is Le foie gras d’oie d’Alsace en neige, crème de berawecka et tomme des montagnes.

Foie gras is one of the favourite dishes of French people and its presence in the menu was highly expected and impatiently awaited. In this case, it was the finely grated, creamy, snow-like goose foie gras. Berawecka itself is a traditional pastry with dried fruits in Alsace, quite popular around Christmas. And Tomme des montagnes is a local cheese. The snow-like texture made the dish really extraordinary. It is a memorable moment how it melted on the palate, creating the feeling of endless tenderness, lightness and and timelessness.

Foie gras like a snow - an impressive idea of Olivier Nasti
Foie gras like a snow – an impressive idea of Olivier Nasti

Another notable thing was the combination with the first wine from the selection – Pinot Gris Crand Cru from the Furstentum vineyard, by Marc Tempe wine cellar. A few hours earlier we were standing on this very vineyard, tasting the ripening pinot gris grapes of another local producer.

A gourmet omelette – L’œuf onctueux au fil de la saison

The creamy egg following the season – this is the modest name of this dish that is everything but modest. This is actually one of the signature dishes of chef Olivier Nasti, also know as 64 degree eggs. A colourful fairy tale in a dish, consisting of a low-temp cooked yolk, green puree (of spinach or parsley), fresh mushrooms of the season and semi-transparent veil from the egg white. We could say that this was one of the dishes in the menu that took us closest to the nature of Alsace.

Colourful fairy tale with eggs from Olivier Nasti
Colourful fairy tale with eggs from Olivier Nasti

Fish, snails, crayfish in one dish – L’omble chevalier de nos montagnes, écrevisses, escargots et jus de persil

After the extraordinary omelette arrived the warm Alsatian bread, together with three types of butter – fresh and creamy, traditional, smoked.

Traditional bread from Alsace with three types of butter
Traditional bread from Alsace with three types of butter

Then arrived another signature dish – a local mountain fish, together with snails, crayfish and parsley juice. Maybe it would never come to our mind to put all of these together in one plate but the result was impressive, colourful and tender.

The attractive serving of the fish dish at La Table d'Olivier Nasti, a two Michelin star restaurant in Kaysersberg, France
The attractive serving of the fish dish at La Table d’Olivier Nasti, a two Michelin star restaurant in Kaysersberg, France

However, at the same time one very serious problem started to arise. We were in the middle of the dinner but our senses were already overloaded with all of there flavours, colours, textured and emotion arriving one after another on the table. We even decided to take a break and go our on fresh air for a while, to recharge.

With the fish came the secon wine – Riesling Kastelbari 2013 Grand Cru Kastelberg from Domaine Durrmann.

Seas, rivers and mountains in a single dish - La Table d'Olivier Nasti, Le Chambard, France
Seas, rivers and mountains in a single dish – La Table d’Olivier Nasti, Le Chambard, France

Here we could mention the only disadvantage we found at this restaurant – the lack of enough fresh air in the dining hall. It was located in the basement and was very cozy and warm, but during the 5-hour dinner we would really appreciate more fresh air.

The summer roe, fermented black cherry, Kassknepfle with white cheese from our mountains

Original name in French: Le Chevreuil d’été, griottes fermentées, kassknepfle comme nos grands-mères

Some feelings coming from one person may come to you effortlessly, overwhelmingly, even if you never knew they existed. The summer roe dish with fermented black cherry and local cheese paste was like the carrier rocket of the whole passion and creativity of the chef. Olivier Nasti is known for his passion to game and that he likes hunting. And despite we did not have the opportunity to meet the chef, we could somehow feel through the dish his personal passion and attitude to this dish. We cannot even recall the particular flavours and taste of this dish but we could not forget the feeling of thoroughness and passion that came with it.

Summer roe with fermented black cherries, seasonable vegetables and cheese
Summer roe with fermented black cherries, seasonable vegetables and cheese
The cheese itself, served as a side dish
The creamy cheese itself, served as a side dish

With this dish arrived the last wine for the evening – Un air du Sud – Pinot noir 2017, Christophe Lindenlaub.

Un air du Sud - Pinot noir 2017, Christophe Lindenlaub
Un air du Sud – Pinot noir 2017, Christophe Lindenlaub

Let’s count the desserts!

When in the menu you read 4-course meal with one dessert, you do not expect 5 desserts. Probably the waiters had a lot of fun on our naivety and our persistent complaining that the food was too much and we could not eat more.

The cheese cart at Le Chambard
The cheese cart at Le Chambard

Before the dessert they offered us a selection of cheeses but we could not take anything more. However, before the main dessert they brought us a bowl of ice cream which we had to cope with.

Ice cream before the dessert
Ice cream before the dessert

After it came the official dessert – the Vosgian’s blueberry meringue hull with raw cream foam. We understood that these were the last blueberries for the season. So next time it may be a slightly different dessert. The dessert chef is Chef Pâtissier Jordan Gasco.

the Vosgian’s blueberry meringue hull with raw cream foam - La Table d'Olivier Nasti, Michelin restaurant in Alsace
The Vosgian’s blueberry meringue hull with raw cream foam

While preparing to leave, on the table arrived a set of chocolate candies. And after them a small tarte with something like creme brulee.

The (almost) last part of the dessert
The (almost) last part of the dessert
Or maybe this was the last dessert - tarte with creme crulee
Or maybe this was the last dessert

At the end arrived the digestives in the shapes of sugar candies with liquid heart of local gin.

The digestives at La Table d'Olivier Nasti Michelin restaurant in France
The digestives

Michelin restaurant – an experience for special occations

That day was like we both had birthdays, name days, wedding, honeymoon and wedding anniversary, joked Andrey during the dinner. The truth is that this was one of our most special, interesting and fulfilling days in our lives, in which the great things has started from the morning. The 5-hour dinner was the finish of this amazing day. And we mutually agreed that we might have overloaded a little bit. Definitely, our next visit to a Michelin restaurant will be a sole activity for the day. And that this is an emotion that we could not live every day because it is too strong and rich. But we would happily do this 2 or 3 times a year.

In our series Dining with Diners Club Bulgaria we tell you about unique culinary and wine experiences, inspired by the story of the first credit cart in the world that started in a restaurant. It every day reminds us that the culinary experience is a part of every trip. Read the other articles from the series here.

A dream came true - a Michelin restaurant in France
A dream came true – a Michelin restaurant in France

We would love to return to La Table d’Olivier Nasti and stay at Le Chambard hotel next time. During our visit is was still going through a renovation, reopening in September 2020.

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