Kerala is an indian place, near Bucheggplatz, just next to the Radiostudio tramstation. I’ve yet to meet a really modern and upscale indian restaurant and Kerala is in dire need of a renovation. We sat down, asked for some Papadams (boring) and studied the menu over a couple of Cobra beers. My appetizer were some Erachi Churul which were described as an omelette filled with spicy meat. It was more of a spring roll and the filling was a bit bland and certainly not spicy. The main courses was Kerala Duck Fry, Sambar and Aadu Masala. We were asked wether we’d like the food not spicy, medium, spicy or very spicy. We opted for spicy. My colleague is into very spicy foods, I like it spicy but try to avoid the mouth scorching feeling. For me it was just okay, for him it wasn’t spicy enough. Still I was happy for the beer and Naan to lessen the heat. The Duck with onions wasn’t very special but the Sambar and the Aadu Masala were very nice. What really stood out was the Naan. It was crispy on the bottom and soft on the top, with some spicy paste on top, really a delightful indian bread. We had some Arrack to finish our meal, something I’ll skip the next time.
La Cote used to be located at the Lagerstrasse but has moved on to Kalkbreite- strasse. Interior is rather classic old eatery, with white tablecloths. Again not a place for vegans but for meat connaisseurs. Not much action happening on Monday a night, save for a guy walking in to the place and sitting at “his” table, getting an already opened bottle of “his” red wine and two dogs lying under the table. Dogs have no place in a dining room and I never understand why restaurants allow people to bring their pets to the establishment. The amuse-bouche at this place is always an Aubergine, excessivley sour and void of any salt. I never got through to understanding this part of the meal, but they’ve been insisting on it for years, so I put it behind me as quickly as I could. As an appetizer I chose some porcini (Steinpilze), lightly caramelized, a bit of oil and ample serving, all in all a very nice plate. The fun at la Cote is always the Charbonnade. You get a hot small barbeque with hot coals put on the table in front of you. Meat, fries and sauces are served as much as you like. The sauces are homemade, the fries are decent and the meat is good. The only down side is, that it is so much fun grilling your own meat, that at the end of the meal your stomach is so full you really feel like rolling over into your bed and going to sleep. Since my bed is not next to table at La Cote I had to settle for a spirit to kick my mentabolism into high gear. The Charbonnade sets you back 52 CHF (plus drinks)
A meatless diet is wrong. To counterbalance the religious zeal with which Vegans advertise their lifestyle I’d like to reiterate some proven facts about meat eaters:
So I treat myself to meat (preferrably organic) on a daily basis. The Relais de l’Entrecote seemed a great place since the only question I was asked was saignant, à point or bien cuit ? I ordered a medium rare (à point) entrecote. The dining room is extremly busy and the waitresses wearing very classic black and white uniforms are busting their balls to keep up. A small salad with a very classic french salad sauce was placed in front of me and I tucked in. After that the entrecote was served in two helpings. To me it was a disappointment, mainly it was a tad chewy and boring. It was lacking the high quality I’d have expected from a place which is famous for entrecote. The sauce was advertised as special and it was, the amount of tarragon (Estragon) was overwhelming. The fries were so so, again not quite what I’d expected. The best part of the meal was the profiterol, they were filled with vanilla ice cream together with the chocolate sauce it was a great dessert. If you want to get a glimpse of dining like it was in 1935, this is the place to goto. If you’re looking for a decent entrecote, go somewhere else. Prices:
On the same day I enjoyed a light lunch I had a dinner reservation at the Le Buffet de la Gare des Eaux-Vives in Geneva. Now “buffet de la gare” reminds me of train journeys with grandparents as a kid and basically quick meals in between changing trains. Spiez and Olten are two towns in Switzerland which only seem to exist because they had a Bahnhof Buffet. So I was kind of doubtful as to what place this was going to be. Boy – was I in for a surprise. Arriving at 7:30 the place was empty and we were the first people to arrive. A nice cart was wheeled to our table (which was the second nicest in the back corner of the restaurant) and we we’re asked if we cared for an aperitif. Being the thoughtful people we are, we cared and decided on a Blanc de Blanc (only later did I notice that a glass was charged at a whopping 24 CHF). A small ball of rice with some trufle infusion was the appetizer. A nice twist of simple and luxurious. Also the application of the truffle infusion had a playful twist, since there was a plastic squeezable container you could use. Amuse-bouche was a bit mixed, not a great fan of the foie-gras bit but the soup was lovely. Pumpkin soup and layered on top truffle foam, a nice combination. Next course was a Pithivier (a type of pastry) with mushrooms – the french description was lengthtier and sounded better. It was a terrific pastry, beautifully arranged and all the accompaning components worked with it in a harmonic way. My main course was slow roasted pork in three different pieces with some crunchy onions, some sort of potato, a bit of sorbet and smudges of roast juice, pesto and caramelized cider. Too give it a nice appearence, brussel sprout leaves were strewn over the plate. I like plates where you can take little bits of everything and combine them into different compostions to taste and this was a lovely combination. For dessert I tried a pear and olive combination. After a let down at Greulich with Olives for dessert I wanted to see if it would be better here. The olive and pear worked nicely giving an interesting flavor combination. The only thing off was the Hüppen (cigar shaped pastry), it was chewy and tough. What really excited me about the whole meal is the beautiful presentation of all the dishes. The plating was exquisite, delicate and vibrant. The only downside is, that if just four hours earlier you already had a gourmet menu with cheese and dessert, you feel a bit stuffed after a second one on the same day. Still this has become one of my places of choice in Geneva. The financial hit is steep:
Since I’ve started my food critic blog, I’m always surprised to see the amount of restaurants which are obviously not doing tremendously well. Royal Hua Hin poses itself as a bit of an upscale Thai restaurant. The only other table which was occupied on this Sunday night, didn’t send a signal of this being a successful restaurant. We wanted a quick bite and I decided to go for the Pad Thai with chicken. I’m really a fan of noodles and generally this is a great dish. A small appetizer was served, some form of Papadam which were crunchy and tasty. The Pad Thai wasn’t good. It was lacking seasoning, there were no limes or ample peanuts to give it crunch and depth of flavours. Even in a run-of-the-mill Thai place I’d get a better Pad Thai. Financial details:
I took a week off and decided to spend it wisely. After having been at the Gault Millau rising star of the year in the geman speaking part of Switzerland, I saw that the the equivalent in the french speaking part is in Chardonne. David Tarnowski is running a place called Le Montagne. It’s a lovely place, you can reach it by taking the train to Vevey and from Vevey there’s a funiculaire which takes you up through the vineyards. From Chardonne-Jogny it’s a five minute walk to the le Montagne which is just opposite a small grocery shop. This all has a romantic sound to it, but once you enter the restaurant you notice this is an establishment serious about dining. The fun begins, my french is okay but all the “infusion de quelque chose” and the “melange d’autre choses” make it a bit difficult. I didn’t understand all the components of all of the dishes. So I went the easy route and opted for the menu foret d’automne. The amuse bouche was a small glass of carrot soup. It followed with a very heavy, thick and intense soup unfortunatley I didn’t understand what it was made of. The absoulte highlight was the bacon which was in the soup. It was salty and dominated all flavours, taking a bit away from the poultry and chestnut which was also in the soup. The next course was the one I cared least about, the pigeon was okay but the cellery puree which was mixed with a herb infusion was off. The flavours just were all over the place and not a very concentrated effort. I’ve come to enjoy wild boar and the next one looked like it was boar. The professional waiter told me it was “sanglier”. I wasn’t sure what that was and asked him “C’est l’animaux qui est manger par Obelix ?” (Obelix is a french cartoon character who eats wild boar). Seldomly have I seen a waiter in such a fine dining establishment grin with such pleasure, but he confirmed my suspicion. Again I wasn’t especially thrilled about the meat, but the accompanying vegetables where a delicacy. The mix of the different items accented the sauce in a complimentary fashion. To finish the meal, a nice tarte with an excellent ice cream was served. It turned out to be citronelle (lemon grass). Feeling good about going out to lunch in this place I decided to get kinky on the cheese and actually tried Stilton. Now I like neither Gorgonzola nor Roquefort, but was surprised that the English actually make a great blue cheese. My two and a half hour lunch finished on a high note with the espresso and some friandise (a not over the top platter). The chef even appeared personally at my table to make some chitchat. I though that was nice, but I’m probably not the world’s foremost expert in making french smalltalk, so I wasn’t too sure what he talked to me about.
At the end I was presented with a bill, which shows that such a lunch is a special occasion:
I called ahead to the Oscar and asked for a table at 12:30 for a Wednesday lunch. The guy on the phone acted quiet surprised at my question and said it was okay. I showed up and to my surprise was the only person in the restaurant, apparently the staff is not used to getting reservations, hence the reaction on the phone. The waitress smiled and told me to sit wherever I’d like. I chose a table in the corner and had the time to admire the interior, red seems to be the chef’s color of choice. A small menu with 5 dishes was given to me. I opted for the Gambas with tagliatelle, which I asked to have as an appetizer and followed up with the loup de mer with tomatoes. In the meantime another two tables filled up, so the restaurant was about a seventh full. The Gambas were served and nothing to complain about them. Noodles al dente, gambas spot on and some nice smooth parsley which went very well together. The loup de mer was a bit different than anticipated, it was billed as being served with spicy tomato cubes. It was accompanied by quartered tomatoes and potatoes. The tomatoes had a seductive sweetness and where a nice match to the fish. The loup de mer too was cooked very nicely and went well with my glass of Gruener Veltliner. Still the tomatoes weren’t cubed and not spicy. Especially if you’re serving off a handwritten and photocopied menu your food should match your description, who knows maybe I have a deadly potato allergy…. Pricewise the place is a bit expensive (even though my Gambas were served at only 10.50 because I wanted it as an appetizer) for lunch, maybe this keeps it from filling up during the midday:
There’s a real strange looking place just next to the Goldbrunnenplatz called Restaurant Popcorn. It piked my curiosity since it has half a car sticking out wall and I felt liked giving it a try. I’m one of 3 people in the restaurant on a Tuesday lunch at 13:00. There are three menus costing 14, 16 and 18 CHF respectively, including a soup. If you compare this to eating at a McDonalds, where a Big Mac Menu (which won’t keep you going for the day) is going to come to 12 CHF, this sounds like a great deal to me. I was kind of wondering by looking at the menu since it looked very german, even though the place sells itself as a swiss specialities place. I opted for the Schnitzel Hamburg style with vegetables and fries. I was asked wether I want soup as well, which was a creamy fish soup from Hamburg, sounded strange but I gave it a go. A telltale bling comes from the microwave in the kitchen and a very watery clam chowder with a couple of fishbones arrives. No need for further comment. The Schnitzel was two breaded pieces of meat with two eggs sunny side up, accompanied by deep freeze vegetables and fries. The portion was large, the fries were seasoned nicely and the vegetables bland and boring. For 16 CHF exactly what you could expect. I just didnt’ quite get the idea of putting an sunny side up egg on a Schnitzel, that reminded me of a culinary sin. Finances:
Walking out I noticed a sign, which explains all the stange things on the menu:
The Greulich named itself after the street it’s located on, quite a decent idea if you have an uncommon address such as Herman-Greulich-Strasse 56. The reception of the hotel also doubles as the host which welcomes you to your table, pretty neat, because it guarantees that there is always someone there to greet you. The Greulich boast 16 Gault Millau points and depicts itself as a place with spanish, catalan and oriental influences. I was getting excited to eat here. The maitre d’ was quick to attend to us and spoke fluent swiss german, I was a bit disappointed with the regular waitresses, their german skills were not up to par. In a dining establishmend of this class, perfect german is a must. We shifted our attention to the oliveoil on the table, it tasted of fresh olives and it had a clear and transparant complexion. I asked the maitre d’ what oliveoil it was, he told me knowingly that it was a Greek one. Five minutes later he reappears smiling saying he was mistaken and that it was from Spain and is being imported on a private basis to Switzerland through Meier & Rüegg. I ordered the 6 course menu, which is the same as the 7 course menu, save the dessert. In terms of food the Greulich lived up to it’s reputation, most of the dishes I had of the menu were good, with some minor detractions. It started with a Ravioli (no dough, radish circles) and mushrooms. Nice balance of sweetness and acidity, the salad and the carrot chip in the middle were forgettable, the raviolis nice. Followed by a perfect scallop on swiss chard and a confusing pearl onion, skip the onion and enjoy the scallop. The next dish consisted of boring beans and a lovely seared tuna on leeks served on a cocodolli (?), which is a crunchy bread. A great exercise in texture – from soft and feeble (tuna) to fibered (leek) and ending with a crunch (bread). A sweet and luscious tomato was served on top of a charr (Saibling) and lentils with green beans. I am a fan of tomatoes and together with the charr and the lentils that was a very harmonious triad. The green beans added a nice texture change, to the softer lentils. I like the english word of offal in cooking which refers to products which are typically not used that often, such as sweetbreads, lungs or oxtail. The last dish was a piece of duck liver served on top of oxtail meat. I liked it very much since it was intense, rich and very creamy as well as a perfect example to show that a heavy red wine still works best with red meat. I finished with some cheese and was a bit disappointed, that the waitress had to read every cheese from a piece of paper. She was also too generous in the amounts per serving. Luckily I didn’t order any dessert, since a friandise platter was served with another half dozen of sweets. Greulich is an expensive gourmet restaurant which fulfills on its promise of high-quality, imaginative food of spanish/catalan decent (I wasn’t to sure of the oriental influence). On the downside, if only 8 diners are left in the main dining room and are lingering over coffee, smoking should be allowed. We moved to the bar, as did most of the other guests. Prices:
First the bad news – the Zentraleck is closing end of November and it is unclear if the current crew is doing something new or not. The guys from Stef’s are moving to the current location of the Zentraleck. So now is the time to check this place out…. Knowing of the looming closedown I’ve scheduled a couple of lunches here. The Zentraleck during lunch has roughly 3-4 dishes which you can read off the menu on the wall and a special which the waiter will tell you. One of the waiters is a top sommelier and knows his way around wines. So a good idea is to take his advice on the recommended wines for a meal. Keeping that in mind if you do not have a meeting in the afternoon, a digestiv from the large selection is a nice way to go back to the office with a small buzz. I had a tomato mozzarella salad with a porcini mousse. Now I’ve never ordered a tomato mozzarella salad in a restaurant before, simply because I’m not too fond of uncooked tomatoes. But remembering a good experience I’ve had with tomatoes here before – I gave it a go. The salad was perfect, rich and intense tomatoes (in October….) and a nice, creamy and dense buffalo mozzarella. Topped with a porcini mousse which was light and airy yet still had a distince porcini flavor this appetizer made me happy. The main course was a nice wild doe with some sauce and grapes accompanied by vegetables and spaetzle. It was nice but not sensational – the light crisp on the spaetzle was a lovely touch. All in all, most of the time you get sensational food at prices which are a bit more ambitious, but match the quality: