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Landhaus Scherrer

Landhaus Scherrer is the acknowledged grande dame of Hamburg restaurants. Well-heeled locals head to this prestigious address among the mansions in Hamburgs wealthiest suburb to celebrate special occasions and entertain important guests. The question is, should food-loving travelers do the same?

Why, long they have the time and inclination to take the five-mile taxi ride from the city center and cost is no object. The bad news is that Landhaus Scherrer is not conveniently located except to those lucky enough to be staying at the Jacob Hotel or heading back from a day in Blankenese. Also, a meal from the regular menu runs from 90-170 DM ($50-$95) per person, not counting wine. A sumptuous prix fixe menu is available for 198 DM ($111).

These serious drawbacks aside, Landhaus Scherrer does have a highly imaginative and talented chef and a well-stocked wine cellar to complement his innovative interpretations of traditional regional cuisine.

A snowstorm blasted us through the front door, but we were immediately thawed out by the warm welcome and gracious surroundings. We sipped a Kir Royale and took in the muted peaches-and-cream tones of the spacious, contemporary dining room with its Art Nouveau touches, particularly noting the barely clad female figures prancing across the plates.

The first course was the work of a culinary artist at play: a potato-skin "nest" cradling a potato-encrusted scallop "egg" in a curried lentil sauce, topped with fanciful curls of crisply fried salsify. This sophisticated dish announced its peasant roots by arriving on a rustic bed of straw, surrounded by a ring of newly-dug potatoes.

After such an opening, the mixed salad with lobster seemed downright ordinary. The dressing even tasted a little like a thinned-down Thousand Island.

Next came an impossibly tender morsel of grain-fed poussin (young chicken) married to a thick slice of fresh black truffle, a single baked spinach-cheese raviolo, and a few tablespoons of truffled barley risotto. This intricate medley was followed by a moist and flavorful Steinbuttfilet (turbot) dressed in a deceptively simple beurre blanc.

We opted for dessert rather than the suggested cheese platter surely this was no time to hold back. Exotic tropical fruits came scattered like jewels around a strudel pouch of stewed plums and a scoop of red wine-mascarpone sorbet.

Throughout dinner, we enjoyed service that managed to hit that delicate balance of being attentive but unobtrusive. There is a quiet camaraderie among the staff that gives Landhaus Scherrer the air of a family establishment for all its elegance.

Feast for two that would have fed four, not counting wine: 396 DM ($221).

A less expensive, and not so elaborate, Landhaus Scherrer option is its bistro which serves fish and pasta dishes for 32-38 DM ($18-$21) as well as a three-course "business lunch" for 65 DM ($36) in a casual, wood-paneled room.

Contact: Landhaus Scherrer, Elbchausse 130, D-22763 Hamburg, tel. +49/040/8 80 13 25, fax 880 6260.
Rating: Quality 17/20 Value 12/20