When you discover just how passionate Swiss chef Andreas Caminada is about his vegetable garden, you won’t be that surprised to learn that his newest restaurant, Oz, is purely vegetarian. Opened in June, Oz, is located across the road from his renowned three-Michelin-star Schloss Schauenstein restaurant, which is housed in a castle. Both are located in the pocket-sized town of Fürstenau in the heart of the picture-perfect Swiss Alpine canton of Grisons.
Like Schloss Schauenstein, which has garnered multiple awards for its sustainable ethos including a Michelin Green Star, the new restaurant’s menu will be determined by what is in season. However, Oz, which translates to “today” in Caminada’s mother tongue of Romansh, will take this one step further. “On the table will be what we harvest during the day in our garden and greenhouse,” explains Caminada.
The garden in question is Caminada’s own Eden within the castle grounds.“It’s not a garden like any other,” promises Caminada.“ For us it is both a source of inspiration and a laboratory.”
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Though the garden has been supplying Schloss Schauenstein for years, the chef has also sourced produce from organic farmers in the region to cater for its 50 covers. For Oz, a smaller venture, a purer approach has been taken, explains the acclaimed chef: “What we do should be authentic and sustainable. Just buying vegetables for my own vegetarian restaurant – that wouldn’t be my thing.” Therefore, before Andreas Caminada could realize his next restaurant, the castle’s vegetable and herb beds, permaculture greenhouses and orchards had to grow in size. “And we had to learn to garden properly. Each of my cooks has garden duty once a week,” he adds.
Oz offers guests the chance to enjoy the fruits of the Caminada’s labor; with over 700 different varieties of vegetables, herbs and fruits grown in the castle gardens. It is these that provide the inspiration as well as the substance to the dishes at Caminada’s new eatery.
One of the youngest chefs to ever helm a three Michelin star restaurant (he was just 33 when the third Michelin star was awarded to Schloss Schauensteni in 2010), Caminada’s rise up the gastronomic ranks has been swift. He is now considered one of Switzerland’s greatest culinary talents.
Caminada has placed Oz’s cuisine in the capable hands of head chef Timo Fritsche. A veteran of the Caminada brigade, the 37-year-old head chef is every bit the perfectionist and just as passionate about horticulture, making him the perfect choice to lead.
Like Caminada, Fritsche has a unique talent for extracting exciting flavors out of just a few ingredients, something he employs at Oz as an ever-changing line-up of produce makes its way from the earth to the kitchen. Fresh and raw, cooked or grilled, pickled and fermented; vegetables, fruits and herbs are creatively contorted and cajoled into colorful and inviting plates.
The debut nine- and 12-course tasting menus feature an abundance of natural ingredients from eggplants, kohlrabi and rhubarb to saffron, spruce needles and blossom honey from bee colonies on the castle grounds. “[We] purchase very little from outside,” says Caminada. “Some vegetables, but also dairy products, for example, which I cannot miss due to their deep roots in our Graubünden food culture.”
Dishes that sound simple are anything but, such as Basil, celery and green strawberry. Inspired by the copious amounts of green strawberries in the garden in June, Fritsche decided to harvest them before they ripened: “We find the texture and the taste exciting because it reminds us of green apples,” said the chef. “The combination with basil was obvious, as our gardener Thomas [Monn] cultivated wonderful varieties for us. The interplay between acidity, spiciness and the essential oils of basil go together perfectly,” he explained.
The result is a textured and lively dish that marries an Infusion of basil and celery with lime juice and baby leek, accompanied by a salad of celery and green strawberry, a basil ice cream, and basil oil, topped off with a smattering of basil in varieties most people never knew existed.
Humble ingredients like the pea become the star of the show in dishes like Pea and watercress, which utilizes leftover pea shells from neighboring Schloss Schauenstein. These are then juiced and fermented before being transformed into a cream that accompanies a vibrant grilled pea gazpacho, fresh watercress and watercress oil, freshly grilled peas as well as a pea hummus.
Located in a historic coach house, prior to Oz, the building was used by Schloss Schauenstein as a private dining room for small parties but Caminada has always been keen to carve out a unique identity for the space.
The restaurant is warm and welcoming, just like the small team that greets diners. Designed to feel more like a sumptuous living room with an open kitchen, the substantial sycamore counter surrounded by 10 leather armchairs serves as a centerpiece, with each seat allowing for unrestricted views of the kitchen. A truly unique dining experience.
Oz is open from Thursday to Saturday for dinner and on Sundays for lunch, oz-restaurant.com