Christian Khalaf, the head chef at Luchs, may not be from Italy but he sure knows his stuff – and this nine-year veteran of the famous Schwarzenraben proves it with an abundant weekly menu of Italian-inspired fare.
For starters, the home-made marinated scallops (€13) served with a salad of al dente beluga lentils are a perfect choice for light eaters; for those in a fancy mood, there’s the cold, sliced roast veal with truffles and quails’ eggs (€18). The parmigiana casserole, an excellent entrée, demonstrates perfectly why rich mozzarella, spongy eggplant, sharp basil and the sourness of tomatoes fit so well together. The rabbit saltimbocca on creamy polenta (€15.50) is another Italian classic with a modern twist. From the sea comes a complexly flavoured and highly satisfying main: a delicately fried zander fillet on caper butter with mashed parsley-potatoes and a vegetable julienne (€23.50).
The home-made pasta is equally skilful: the ravioli with deer, plums and morel in red wine sauce (€14) are delicious. The desserts follow the general theme of sophisticated simplicity. The quark mousse in honeycomb (€6.50), which comes adorned with lukewarm cherries, and the parfait of plumes with apricot biscuits (€7.50) are tasty but neither of these more adventurous creations thrill the old sweet tooth as much as the traditional tiramisu (€6).
Barring the tiny portions, Khalaf and his colleagues have managed to bring together all the ingredients for a perfect evening – from a friendly greeting when you arrive and attentive, informed service to an efficient kitchen that produces delightful, innovative culinary creations for fussy light eaters. His execution of the main courses and desserts, not to mention an even more extensive range of starters, pasta dishes and entrées, definitely lives up to the promise of the restaurant’s casually chic, urban, airy décor.