WARSAW (Reuters) - You will find it in an inconspicuous little red-brick building hidden in a small park in the heart of Warsaw - between the prime minister’s office and the museum of modern art.
Poland’s first restaurant to receive Michelin’s Rising Star award guides its guests through a modern and modest version of Poland’s culinary traditions.
Its top chef and owner, Wojciech Amaro, created his auteur restaurant after 20 years of searching for tastes, ideas and exquisite products all over Europe.
His work for top restaurants in the world, such as Le Meurice in France or El Bulli in Spain, both of which have 3 Michelin stars, have made him believe that good quality and local ingredients are key.
He says the chef’s talent and vision lie lower down on the priority list.
“I’ve travelled around Poland for a year and half, preparing myself for the creation of my Atelier and searching for the best foods possible,” Wojciech Amaro told Reuters.
“Did you know that Poland is famous for its edible flowers, herbs, wild game and mushrooms and most Poles don’t even know it?”
Amaro said his adventure with cooking began when, as a student, he went to London to learn better English and got a job in a restaurant.
“Soon afterwards I called my mother to announce that I decided to be a chef.”
His mother, who worked at the University of Silesia almost “dropped dead” thinking this was embarrassing for the whole family. “But I got hooked. There was nothing I could do about it,” Amaro said.
The first Rising Star chef in the European Union’s largest eastern member aimed to create Polish cuisine from scratch. He studied original Polish recipes from the 16th and 17th centuries and took the dishes apart into single ingredients on his table.
“I deconstruct. I take original ingredients and just add modern techniques of cooking, of creating sauces.”
Atelier Amaro will not tell you what it plans for your meal.
All you will find on the menu is information that you get to order meals in sets of 3, 5 or 8 courses. And you will be given a list of some of the ingredients, such as sweetbreads, wild rose or gingerbread.
Amaro recommends that a selection of Polish vodkas should be ordered to accompany his 3-4 hour long culinary experience.
Some of Amaro’s vodkas are made just for him and can be ordered depending on the year. For example, at the moment you will probably be able to taste single-distilled 2010 vodka brewed from young potatoes.
“It’s like fruit in a shot glass. You can’t find it anywhere else in the world,” he says. “We are definitely trying to recreate the definition of Polish cuisine.”
Two Michelin brothers introduced in the 1930s the first countrywide restaurant listings and created the star system for ranking food, now globally celebrated as Michelin star ranking.
Michelin offers one star to “very good cuisine in its category”, two stars for “excellent cuisine, worth a detour,” and three stars are awarded to restaurants that offer “exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey”.
A three-star Michelin ranking is rare. There are only 105 such restaurants in the world.
Michelin reviewers are known for their anonymity and independence. They do not accept free food.
Amaro said that a Michelin inspector paid him a visit just 7 days after opening.
“He even apologized for visiting so fast. He told us who he was after the meal, went into the kitchen, looked around, asked me many questions,” Amaro said.
“And we had several visits afterwards as well but those were completely anonymous. How do I know there were from Michelin? I’ve worked in restaurants in Europe with stars and my instincts told me.”
Amaro said the reviewers come alone, take the food apart, always seem to be on alert analyzing every detail and never pay with a credit card.
“We got the Rising Star 3.5 months after opening. If it’s not the record, then one of the fastest ever.”
“I am hoping for the official one-star status for 2012.”
Reporting By Karolina Slowikowska, editing by Paul Casciato