The first time in my life I was ever hit on by a woman was in front of the Restaurant Blockhus near the Hechtplatz. I was about 17 and an attractive woman approached me, said she’d reserved a table at the Blockhus but was stood up by her date and asked me if I’d like to join her for dinner. A good friend of mine is still buying me drinks today for me turning down the lady and meeting him at the bar we had agreed upon. So finally more than a decade later I get the chance to eat dinner at this emotionally milestone. The place is packed and we’re told that we’d have to be out by 20:00. It’s quaint, has a lot of wood and makes an interesting appearance. The waiter comes around with some fresh white truffles and asks us to smell them. We were quickly seduced and decided to have some pasta with truffles as an appetizer. The pasta is made fresh on premises. No idea what the name of the noodles were, they were a bit too soft for my taste and again, the truffle taste is stronger in the nose than the mouth. We followed up with a tartare which was slightly cooked. I’d have preferred it a bit spicier but the lightly cooked on the outside, raw on the inside touch to the tartare was a nice twist. Even though the interior is a bit on the tacky side, I’ll be back. Finances:
Jambo is a restaurant in Uetikon which specialises on African food. The menu carries all kind of exotic meats and dishes. We headed to the place with a group of four, to ensure we’d be able to taste as much as possible. We were well received by the owner and he clearly demonstrated that he likes to talk. We sat down and we got a lengthy description of the menu and the way it works. Essentially you tick off dishes you’d like on a sheet and hand it over. What really needs to be mentioned is the wine service. He showed up with 3 bottles of white and 4 bottles of red wine, were given 7 glasses to try them all out! We settled on a white and a red which we liked. I must say, being able to taste the different wines before ordering is excellent customer service. We chose different appetizers, and settled for meat from Springbock, Impala, Kudu and Zebra. Not that I would have recognized the tastes but they each have a distinct flavor. My favorite was the Zebra, followed by the Springbock. I wasn’t too fond of the maniok which was served with the meat, it was dubbed “african french fries” but was lacking taste and crispiness. The couscous however was excellent and I’d order it again. The place isn’t cheap, a plate of exotic meat will set you back 45 CHF. Still if you’re looking for exotic meat and tastes, this is the place to be. The only thing missing is an elefant and rhino BBQ special.
The night before the Bundesratswahl, I was at an interesting dinner party at the Metzgerstübli, a two story restaurant on the Münstergasse in Bern. The menu appears rather seasonal and we are warned that there will be a wait since everything is fresh. I opted for a cod on top of beetroot dressed with herb foam and chorizo. I really like chorizo if it’s cooked and the combination with beets and cod was good. The only thing which should have been left out was the herb foam, the yellow eggish color and taste didn’t help the dish. The contrast of the beet root’s with the cod’s texture was nice. A filet of beef followed. One of the biggest debate is how meat should be cooked. I strongly prefer bien cuit or medium over anything else. The filet was cooked to order and accompanied with a nice roast sauce. Potatoes and vegetables were up to par. The only thing which detracted was the greenish pesto sauce on top of the meat. It was cold and didn’t add anything to the dish. The meat would have been better off by just leaving out the pesto. No price information as I was invited.
Paneolio is a small, non-smoking restaurant with about 20 seats. Small restaurant, small tables, small menu. I chose a salad with some smoked cheese and followed up with some pasta mattriciana. The paneolio follows a more modern style of italian cooking which doesn’t have as dominant flavours. I guess something which in our glutamate infested times is a step in the right direction, still not all palates will enjoy this. The salad was nicely balanced with some apples and cheese to make it a playful dish. No gripes on the pasta, except that the bacon could have been a bit more salty. Nice small place, nice italian cooking. Prices:
Chez Brigitte on the Gertrudstrasse (between Idaplatz and Lochergut) reminds me of a classic french restaurant. A friendly lady (I presume Brigitte) is sitting at the round table doing some office work and interrupting to welcome every guest. We sit down and inspect the menu. It’s small and the dishes fascinate me. You find real nice classics on the menu, it really reminds me of dining 40 years ago and it feels like a time travel. I chose a Schwartenmagen carpaccio. Schwartenmagen is essentially bits of meat in gelee and served cold. So I got pieces of Schwartenmagen, thinly sliced with a vinaigrette. Nice, very classic and not something you’d find in another restaurant. Main course was lentils with morels and sweetbreads. Nicely cooked lentils in an interesting combination with the morels and sweetbreads, definitely a winner. The pannacotta at the end was okay, again a rather classic dish with no major deficiencies. I liked the place, I liked the “feel at dinner with your grandmother” atmosphere and I liked the dishes. Prices:
Sometimes I find places by wandering around. I wanted to eat at a place at the Manesseplatz, drove past it to park and found the Delmonico Fine Arts Restaurant. I changed my plans and entered. Dimmed lights, white table cloths and no one there except a waiter and myself. He told me that they specialize in menus and that they’re actually doing good and that it would be difficult getting a table on a Friday or Saturday night as a Walk-in. I sat down, was handed a big menu and got an explanation. Every menu page has a theme (eg. “Meat delights”) and there’s a first and a second combination which both reflect this theme. A combination then again contains 2 to 4 different small dishes, the first combination is more of an appetizer and the second one is more of an entree. But you can also order all the individual components a la carte, if you wish to do so. Certainly a first for me. I mixed the first combo from the game with the second combo from the pasta themed menus. I was warned by the waiter, he said that the pasta part would be weighing roughly 300 grams, but I decided not to change my order.The waiter was extremly attentive, since I was the only person present, it just felt strange having the guy look at me all the time to see if there’s anything he could do. I concentrated on my newspaper. The amuse bouche was a vegetable soup in a shot glass which I found bland and not very creative. My first combo arrived, a plate with three dishes a Carpaccio of young pork ham with autumn salads and cheese, a game liver mousse with pistacchio and hazelnuts and a game bratwurst on a endive-mushroom ragout and onions. The bratwurst was excellent and was nicely matched with the ragout. I wasn’t happy with the other two dishes, the mousse had bitter notes which didn’t belong there. The ham, salad and cheese dish was off, the flavours didn’t connect and it just felt like a bunch of components lying on a plate. The plate which followed was quite something, it contained four pasta dishes. Pumpkin gnocchi with butter, parmigiano and black truffles, Cocoa-Tagliolini with game meat ragout, “Harp” spaghetti with sepia-carbonara and tortellini filled with cheese in a fonduta. Again it was a disappointment, the sepia-carbonara spaghetti were nice, especially the cubed bits of sepia were a surprising idea. All the other pasta dishes were bad, none of the dishes made me happy, the tortellini even reminded me of a tv dinner. I feel it’s sad that a chef of this caliber is wasting his talent. He obviously is able to cook, but he’s not focused. I had seven dishes on two plates and only two were okay. Throw out the complicated menu and refocus.
Sunday night, looking for a nice meal we ended up at Ristorante Italia. A rather busy place, we saw a whole slew of tables being turned after we arrived at 8 pm. We sat down at a nice round table and looked around. It’s called being waited on not waiting for, but I’m not sure if our waiter understood those nuances. He looked like Hansi Hinterseer with curly hair and made the impression that his day job is rubbing sun tan lotion on ladies in Rimini. Finally we got some menus and after chasing him he brought us our beers. The place has an impressive selection of meat and cheese, so we decided on some lardo and some ham from a young pork. The lardo had a powerful smell while the porchetta was smoother and more complex. Interesting both of us preferred the lardo initially to the porchetta, but changed our minds since the lardo lost its appeal much quicker than the porchetta. Goldilocks came back and brought us our appetizers. I opted for the sepia pasta with tomatoes and shrimp. It turned out to be a superb dish. The sepia pasta were coated with a bit of cream, sweet chunks of tomato contrasted the crunchiness of the shrimps and the dish was nicely seasoned. I followed up with pork served on some beans. The pork was very salty, the beans were okay but it didn’t hit any major buttons with me. What I saw then really got me angry – this place has a wine tasting machine. 20 odd bottles hooked up to individual pipes, you can grab a glass, enter a chip card and fill it with half a deciliter to taste. Why wasn’t this explained to us, when we sat down by Goldilocks ?! What an unbelievable idiot. Still even he couldn’t ruin the food. I’ll be back to try the wine tasting machine and just hope that I’ll get a different waiter. Prices:
I’ve tried for some time to get a table at Restaurant Rigiblick. The lesson here is call three weeks in advance for a Saturday night. We had a reservation for 20:15 and the Seilbahn Rigiblick conveniently brought us to the restaurant. Felix Eppisser used to cook at the Bären in Nürensdorf, a place where roughly 10 years ago I actually had my first encounter with fine dining. A colleague of mine and I decided to go out for a “real” meal and we since we knew this guy working as a cook at this place, we went to Nuerensdorf. I’ll never forget how corteous we were treated even though we were a bit out of league in an establishement which didn’t have many 20-year old diners. Naturally I wasn’t recognized by either Mrs. or Mr. Episser when walking into “Spice”, the gourmet restaurant on the first floor of the Hotel Rigiblick, must be the graying hair… At places like these, I always like to look at their wine specials to see how much many I’m saving by going with a regular priced bottle instead of some Mouton Latour de Quelquechose and I found a couple of good examples on the “Tresorkarte”. Essentially the meal paid for itself by picking a decent priced bottle. I’m not going to go into all the details on the food. There are two menus Aurum and Spice, one more asian, the other more french influenced. You can mix and match any way you desire. The best dish I had was a trio of salmon, intricate, delicate flavours and a perfect balance. I did commit a cardinal sin, I was enjoying the food so much I forgot to write down what I ate in detail……. The only thing I disliked was again the dessert. Together with the plate of friandises – there was too much sweetness after the cheese. I’d prefer another warm, savoury dish instead of the endless dessert orgy overpowering my palate. Two dessert courses plus a plate of friandise puts the complete meal off balance. The place is great but expensive:
Have you ever missed the times, where you’ve stumbled across a place and it was yours? Never full enough to warrant a reservation, but still sufficently packed to give you the impression it was busy. Zum guten Glueck used to be such a place located on Weststrasse. The influx of immigrants from a bigger country in the north with a government and tax system which encourages drinking beer on your subsidied couch are making these places fewer and fewer. Zum Guten Glück specialises on Crepes, obviously filled with different ingredients. The restaurant is split up into two sections – smoking and non. You place your order at the bar and they’ll serve you your food at your table. I was pleasantly surprised about the prices. I had a nice crepe with proscuitto and horseradish cream, salty and spicy, it went well with the Ovomaltine. I’m not sure what type of milk they used, but it wasn’t the regular UHT low fat, skimmed milk. It was a real nice and creamy milk making it a lovely Ovomaltine. I followed with a breakfast plate, nothing special, except that it was cheap. You get a nice decent breakfast here at low prices. We paid 42 CHF for 2 Crepe, 1 breakfast plate, 1 Ovomaltine, 1 Espresso and a coffee.
If there is one lesson I’ve learned the hard way, then it is to never trust the “Gasto Charts” of the Zueritpp. A housewarming party near Letzigrund led me to give the Relais des Arts a try. The hotel used to be called Interconti and is now a Crowne Plaza, not exactly something which shouts fine dining. A cold sensation ran down my back as we entered through the “international-themed” hotel bar into the restaurant. We are the first table arriving (only one other table filled up a bit later), a lovely deep carpet greets us, the blue of the wellness area glares at us through the window and the shooosh of the automatic door between kitchen and dining room adds to the atmosphere. The maitre d’ is an unfriendly guy who can barley contain his excitement. The amouse bouche is a hare farce with a shrimp on an orange. Simply horrible, obviously preprepared and stacked in the fridge for hours, it’s a tasteless tidbit on a sloppily cut orange slice and served with cocktail sauce. This is so 1965 and in a bad way. The game essence came with vegetables pearls (bland and silly) and a crostini. The deer roulade was a bit better and at least creative. Meat was cooked nicely. The rest was rubbish, cauliflower undercooked, sauce thin and boring, the noodles covered with bread crumbs (on purpose). This place is ridiculous, it only holds a decent rating in the “Gastro Charts” because culinary-challenged tourists actually submit them. Another reason for me to dislike the food journalists at the Tages Anzeiger is because they actually write a favourable review about a dump like this. Either the journalists are susceptible to bribes or the editor in chief is selling the restaurant reviews to the highest bidder. That’s why you should read therealpickygourmet.com, because it’s quality journalism, which doesn’t hand out freebies, based on anonymous, undercover research. Back to the Relais des Arts, the only reason to take someone to dinner here is if your current love affair is kind of fat, kind of ugly and kind of stupid, but has a good heart and you try to send her obvious signals instead of breaking up the old fashioned way by sending a SMS. Finances: