Elverfeld is not someone who's looking for media attention. He seems to have stayed a little under the radar for much of his career. Only when he got the third star a few years ago did his international reputation start to be built. He definitely isn't a chef who has visible influences when you look at his style.
This is genuinely unique food. It is a kind of cuisine that draws inspiration from his youth and tries to emulate German cuisine, or at least culinary memories of Germans. At the same time, Elverfeld's food constantly appears to be at the edge. A bit too much of this or that and a dish would be ruined. This has to be lauded as not many chefs keep cooking such "risky" food when they make it to a third star. In this respect, he is someone who keeps on developing and doesn't just stand still.
If this leads to a cuisine that is exciting and constantly moving, it also has one danger: Things going too far. Whilst not many dishes in a menu at Aqua will seem over the top, or disappointing, there is the odd one among them. One such dish would be a pigeon with peach, parsley and chicoree. The combination alone sounds daring, but the problem is that on the plate, the pigeon gets lost in a set of flavours that doesn't enhance its characteristics. It simply doesn't appear to work. It's a kind of dish that seems to have not been tasted as a whole, before sending it out (not that that is probable here).
Much better, showing how Elverfeld can master such combinations is the first course in many meals here: A combination of foie gras, streusel and plums. What looks just like a dessert is in fact a masterful act of balance between sweet, salty and acidic flavours. It's a dish that shows how brilliant his food can be when the daring combinations are exactly measured out. Such food is exciting, and when paired beautifully by sommelier Juergen Giesel, truly stunning.
Another such example, albeit a more classical one, is a langoustine with pork belly and tomatoes. The langoustine, a sizeable beast, is simply served with a slice of slow-cooked pork belly, a tomato compote and balsamic emulsion. The combination of tomatoes and balsamic might sound overdone and boring, but here it is elevated to a whole new level. A very subtle smokeyness gives something to it. It adds another dimension that works beautifully with the langoustine and the pork. It's a dish that is simply delicious, presenting the diner with a set of flavours that we all know, but rarely see presented like this.
The more daring compositions continue to appear throughout the menu, and do not stop with the mains. The desserts follow along the same line. A citrus, avocado, basil and chocolate dish for instance walks that fine line between being bitter, sour and sweet. The result is spectacular, and absolutely remarkable. It is not that avocado is unusual as a sweet (in Latin America it is commonly eaten as such), but more the combination with bitter elements from the citrus. This is then balanced by the latter's acidity and the richness of the chocolate. As a whole, you are once again presented with a totally unique set of flavours. Something you simply haven't tasted anywhere else.
The experience at Aqua, just as in the entire Ritz Carlton in Wolfsburg, is a bizarre one. It's a restaurant that somehow doesn't fit into any categories. It does not fit any label, making it a fascinating place. Whilst most of Elverfeld's food is quite spectacular, there are moments where one thinks that this kind of cooking is not easy to grasp for everyone. That being said, chefs like him push cooking forward and deserve a lot of support, for creating their very own culinary language.