Less than an hour outside of Strasbourg in the town of Wingen-sur-Moder, the original home of legendary glass designer René Lalique was transformed into a 5 star hotel and restaurant in 2015.
The exclusive villa with 6 unique suites was redesigned to pay tribute to Lalique’s work, by incorporating his furniture designs, decorative pieces, and dining collection. Next to the villa lies the restaurant designed by internationally renowned Swiss architect Mario Botta. This beautiful, modern restaurant is run by an all-star team: head chef Jean-Georges Klein, who gained 3 Michelin stars in his previous restaurant, Paul Stradner, a 2 Michelin star chef, pastry chef Nicolas Multon, and sommelier Romain Iltis, named ‘Meilleur Sommelier de France’ in 2012.
The designers wanted to keep the feel of the original home of Lalique, thus, the first floor has a cozy living room area with a bar for guests to relax in. Under the villa is their impressive wine cellar, which holds over 60,000 bottles! I begin my evening with the sommelier Romain in the cellar, where he introduces me to two fantastic regional wines: A 2016 Albert Mann Muscadet and 2010 Gewurztraminer from Domaines Schlumberger. I learn about the 7-14 different grape varieties in this region, and that muscadets are tempermental grapes. The way Romain speaks about wine is very approachable, he finds ways to make things easily understable and relatable. This is seen in their wine list, where Romain classifies the wines into 2 tasting profiles: ‘vertical’ tasting, wines that are more clean, mineral, and ‘horizontal’ tasting, wines that are broader, more full-bodied.I wanted to spend the evening picking his brain to learn all about wine but it was time to head upstairs to the dining room.
The elegant the dining room features a crystal chandelier by Lalique as the centerpiece. The tableware includes napkin ring with the motif ‘masque de femme’, crystal salt and pepper shakers, and crystal wine and water glasses. Les amuse-bouches included an oeuf a la coque with the Villa René Lalique logo. Throughout dinner, chef Klein presents dishes that pay homage to Lalique’s work, and collaboration with other artists.
Each plate is an art piece itself. A foie gras sculpted and brushed gold to represent the Rockstone sculpture by Arik Levy, accompanied with truffles, blackberries, and nuts. Vegetables with elderberries in the style of a Damien Hirst painting.
Romain surprised us by pairing a pinot noir with blue lobster chartreuse with raspberry and coco-ginger foam. The unexpected pairing worked so beautifully.
We concluded our dinner with several desserts by pastry chef Nicolas Multon. An opera cake revisited with the ‘masque de femme’ motif, a cubism of quince and passion fruit, mascarpone cream with vanilla, inspired by Piet Mondrian.
The entire experience has been incredible: from the connection to Lalique, the presentation, to the perfection of flavor combinations and textures in every dish, including the service in the dining room of the Restaurant Director, Patrick Meyer and his team.. This all-star team definitely did not disappoint! Like an orchestra, each of their talents shined individually but came together exquisitely.
After this epic dinner, I sat down with chef Klein for a chat. He began his career in the kitchen at the age of 40, after years of working in front of house at his family’s restaurant Arnsbourg. He said the late start made him more curious, ambitious, yet humbled. He was awarded 3 Michelin stars in 2002 and held it until his departure in 2014. I asked him what was the biggest draw to move from his family restaurant to start something new at the age of 65, he explained that the owner of Villa René Lalique, Silvio Denz, approached him about the project and it was an opportunity he didn’t want to miss. The connection to the history of Lalique, and being given ‘carte blanche’ in this new kitchen. He did keep a few of his well-known dishes from Arnsbourg, like the potato and truffle cappuccino, but creates new menus seasonally, with Lalique’s work in mind.
Lastly, I asked him what he hopes his guests would take away from this dining experience. Chef Klein said if his guests remember just one or two dishes a few months down the road, that would make him very happy. A month later, I can assure him that not only do I still remember each course, I dream of returning again soon.