Not every culinary adventure leads me to a top notch restaurant, sporting the latest molecular gastronomical invention. Visiting a relative I ended up at the dining room of the Alterszentrum Hottingen, a nursery home. I had a lot of reservations about this and was very interested in what type of food I’d get. Obviously I won’t be able to brag with my shiny iPhone here. People who are still able to walk, can walk up to the salad bar and get a small plate of salad. The other ones which are sitting down, will get a salad from one of the nurses. A prayer kicks off the meal. Religion seems to be all the rage with the old folks, my dining partner (catholic) knowingly looks at a group of three at a different table and whispers to me that the protestants here at this place are really sticking together. I decide to stay out of the local aftermath of the Swiss Reformation. The small selection of salads is nice, there are two sauces available and everybody around you is smiling at you instead of pushing and shoving to get a better spot on the line. A creamy vegetable soup with some fresh chives is served in a large bowl. Nice, creamy and tasty, just the way it should be. Another three serving dishes are put in front of us, for some fish with saffron sauce, broccoli and potatoes. Everything tasted the way it should, the only negative was the texture of the broccoli, it was on the soft side. Dessert is either your choice of fruit or pudding, I opted for the chocolate pudding, a nice finish to the meal. It certainly wasn’t the best meal I ever had, but at 18 CHF it certainly has one of the best price-value rations and in terms of staff friendliness it is one of the best places around.
Japanese places tend to pop up in classy and trendy neighborhoods to cater to people with full wallets. Samurai doesn’t quite follow this pattern. It’s located on Weststrasse, just next to a whorehouse. Depending on the company you’re entertaining this could give you a chance of satisfying all needs of your clientele within walking distance. The owner, the cooks and most of the waiters are Japanese so this seems to be a promising setup. Unlike the more snobby and tacky Sushi places around Paradeplatz and in the Seefeld, this one is rather functional and minimalistic. I order some Tako-Yaki, which is a small dough ball with a bit of octopus on the inside. But the fantastic parts are the bonito flakes which are sprinkled on top and still twitch with the heat of the dough balls. Sushi we had afterwards was a revelation. Fresh, top quality fish, excellent rice, appealing presentation and great prices. Don’t be startled by the sake dish, the wooden cup is called Masu and it’s a bit tedious to drink from it. Apparently this is a traditional way of drinking sake, I’m assuming that the wood affects the taste and find it hard to believe. Still making a small mess seems normal. After having eaten at Samurai there’s no reason to go for Sushi in any other place, especially since the prices are decent for Sushi in Zurich:
La Contrada is a strange little place near Langstrasse. I went in for a dinnner on Sunday night and It was pretty well packed, so I’m assuming it’s popular with the locals. Seldomly have I had such a difficult time in figuring out what I was going to eat, the menu is a bit of a mess. Italian, spanish, tunesian and swiss cuisine all come together. The inclined reader has come to notice that this is one of my personal warning signs, that it might get a bit dodgy on the plate. Still the wait staff was very friendly and I felt comfortable being there. I decided on some linguine with seafood as an appetizer since it was on the special. I wasn’t too convinced on the fresheness, I’m guessing that the mussels were frozen. Still the dish was okay but it didn’t thrill me either. My main was a venison entrecote with some vegetables, I didn’t like the way the venison was cut and wasn’t thrilled about it as well on a taste level. Summing it up a place which is very normal and not worth a second visit:
I don’t like to brag – but it took the Tagesanzeiger 10 days longer than yours truly to come up with
this. Who’s the number one in Zurich? 🙂
Why is therealpickygourmet.com the best dining blog ? Because we are better informed than everybody else. Two of my favorite places in Zurich have been the Zentraleck and Stefs. Now the Zentraleck has closed and the crew from Stefs have moved into the former Zentraleck. Meinrad Schlatter and Stefan Wieser are now running Stef’s Zentraleck. But what you didn’t know, and what you are going to read here for the first time ever is that the former crew of the Zentraleck is going to run the former Stef’s at the Hotel Rössli. So essentially the two restaurants are trading locations while keeping their crew intact. Where did you get that information first ? That’s right – on the one and only therealpickygourmet.com.
Stef’s at Zentraleck has just opened beginning of January 2009 and we went for dinner in the first week. Only two tables were occupied, one with five women and the other with us. Now middleaged women tend not to be popular with restaurant owners, since they share a salad, sample an appetizer and drink tap water. Funny thing was, that the table actually ordered a bottle of mineral water at 21:30, since they didn’t feel like going home… The menu really hasn’t changed much from Stef’s. You get four appetizers, three mains and 4 desserts to choose from. We started with a slipper lobster (Bärenkrebs) on avocado mousse and some salad. The second appetizer was a truffled poultry liver parfait with quince (Quitten) compott and salad. I very much enjoyed the clarity and simpleness of the three components each appetizer had. The slipper lobster was nice – the avocado mousse so-so and the salad on both plates was perfect. The best dish was the parfait, because it was the most fun eating. Our main dish was a filled guinea fowl breast (Perlhuhnbrust) on top of spinach and a side of truffle risotto. Nice fowl, nice spinach nice risotto, a very solid dish. Only downside was that there were some clusters of salt on the spinach (probably fleur de seul), making it a tad aggressive.
Some cheese rounded off the meal. I really enjoyed the place, I’m very happy to see that the level of cooking is being kept high in the new location. I’ll be back to taste an entrecote dish, since this guy knows his way around meat. Don’t be fooled by the bill, since we had five bottles of wine…:
I attended a company function at the Imagine in Sihlcity. It is one of the places which is owned by Candrian Catering. I’m not a big fan of Candrian Catering, simply for the fact that they’re running every restaurant in the Zurich mainstation and charging 5 CHF for a drink at their sandwich store, the classic example of a monopoly being abused. The whole highway robbery scheme is being sanctioned by the 100% state owned federal railways (SBB), a prime example of my tax dollars at work. Still I was looking forward to seeing the food at this place. I liked the menu card which listed the dishes we were going to get, it looked like a sensible selection. We started with a corn salad (Nüsslisalat) with egg and bacon. The salad was okay, but someone had the idea to add a sweet (!!) sauce to it. This might have worked with a high level of acidity but the lactose and sweetness of the sauce were completely misguided. The bread served with the salad was a disgrace. The bread was a flat round shape, with eight pieces pre-cut so you could tear it out and eat it. It screamed tasty and cost-effective bread innovation catered to optimise kitchen processes. Relying on products like these reflect a type of gastronomy which puts the quick buck ahead of the primary reason of a restaurant, good food. We followed up with an avocado soup with some chicken meat. If I hadn’t read that it was avocado I wouldn’t have know the taste was indiscriminate and the chicken was toasted in a microwave until it was dry and tough. Their main course was a meat skewer with saffron risotto and some vegetables. I like meat rare, but cold and undercooked in the center is not a viable option in my book. The risotto was overcooked, but the weirdest thing was that they served three different sauces to dip your meat into. Now you can imagine what happens when the waiter puts a spoon of sauce on your table. It slides down the wall and mixes up with the risotto. Dessert didn’t save the meal. All in all a disappointment. This isn’t a restaurant but a convenience product warming station. You can get better food here.
Leo’s Bistro is located just next to the Stauffacher. It obviously isn’t a chic and sleek restaurant, where highly paid gastronomic consultants worked on a new and exciting concept. We get lucky and get the nice lady as our waiter. Now she’s not nice in terms of your hormones starting to dance around, she radiates a more motherly type of love. I always like when you’re shown the type of food that is going to be prepared for you and we had a good look at the different bits and pieces. The only strange thing was, that the meat was still wrapped in plastic, which doesn’t make a very good impression. The amuse bouche was a potato soup with some chives, nothing to complain there. I decided on the Schwartenmagen with a bit of salad. Again a tasty and crafty dish. It held what it promised and shows great skill of the cook. I do have to mention the dish my colleague had. It was a smoked piece of foie gras. I originally wanted to order that, but settled for a sample from my colleague. My mistake, because that certainly was the best appetizer of the evening. My main was a cote du boeuf with pieces of marrow on top of it and baked over with a bit of cheese. If you’re into meat, this is a killer dish. A nice piece of meat and the salty and moist pieces of marrow made this a lovely combination. I had a side dish of risotto and that was totally horrible. Oversalted and overcooked, just a mushy, disgusting mess. Still this is a restaurant you visit for the meat and the cote du boeuf was excellent. Dessert was a prune sorbet topped with some prune schnaps (vielle prune). Asides from the risotto debacle, this is a great place for men. The three of us had appetizers, main courses and desserts plus quite a lot to drink. Aperitifs, 2 bottles of red wine, water, grappa and espressi came to a whopping 500 CHF. I was kind of surprised at the steep financial hit, since it wasn’t quite adequate, even though the food was good:
I headed to dinner at the Hermanseck. A nice place near Bahnhof Wiedikon with a large gay community, so I start thinking that maybe I shouldn’t dine alone here with my manly good looks. Anyway I got excellent service, was well attended to and no phone numbers made it my way. The menu said something about Tapas and I asked what was available. They showed me a tasty display of cheese and meat, which I chose as an appetizer. The salami and the cheese was nice, but I don’t like thick chunks of chorizo, it either needs to be cut thin or cooked. I’ve had a lovely plate with five different tartares here during summer and decided to try the signature dish, the truffle tartare. A lovely rich and sensual smell hits your nose, spreading on a piece of bread it’s a powerful bite which you dig into. Unfortunately it’s not a very delicate dish and the portion is large, so I grew tired of it after about half of the tartare. Still for a neighborhood restaurant it gets a decent rating – Finances.
It says on the outside that Ethiopian and Eritrean cuisine was served at the Abyssinia Restaurant, so in my book this calls for a visit. The place is almost three quarters full on a monday night. The owner welcomes us very warmly and tells us about his restaurant. Apparently Ethiopia has a special cusine which differs from the rest of Africa due to its Christian heritage. At least you’ll find out where the pictures here come from. At the buffet you get all kinds of different Wots and then use some of the sour bread to mop it up. Real ethiopian diners do not use utensils. There are vegetables, curries, lamb, beef, chicken, tripe, lentils, cheese and other sauces. The only thing I don’t like unfortunatley is the most important one, the bread. It’s made from Teff and called Injera and is sour as hell and tastes strange. It would have been a great meal with rice, some Naan or some flat bread, but with Injera it just doesn’t taste as good. Prices for the buffet at 27 CHF is good:
It’s getting worse, again I forgot to take a picture of the main course. Certo is the successor of the Cooperativo, if you read closely that all they had to do is get rid of the oopaiv to turn one into the other. They have a decent lunch menu and we gave it a try. I ordered the Strozzapreti with leek, cream and prosciutto. A small salad was placed in front of me (could have chosen the soup if I’d liked to) which had a lot of variety (spinach, frisee, nüssli …). Unfortunately the sauce was lacking acid and the salad was barely covered enough. The pasta was nice and just what you’d expect from an italian place. Other people seem to think the same because it was packed for lunch. The best thing was, that Manu from the now closed Zentraleck was working here. Finances:
I felt really hungry on Sunday and decided to go for italian. Pizzeria Mario seemed like a nice place. The only downside is that it is located in a dodgy neighborhood. Walking down Brauerstrasse after dark, means dodging aggressive prostitutes and stepping around out-of-town heroine dealers. Mario is just as you’d expect it on the inside, neither flashy nor trashy, but well kept and tidy. The crowd is rather diverse from singing african women, to a deaf guy selling trinkets and a family of five enjoying a dinner. I decide to get going with some mixed bruschette, the one with the mushrooms was very nice, the sour pickles on the side were superflous and cheap. The spaghetti pesto I had were cooked al dente, the pesto was good but too oily. My main course was a filet of beef, wrapped in prosciutto served with porcini and pumpkin ravioli. Meat was great, prosciutto was great, but the ravioli were dreadful. The pumpkin filling was too sweet and was completely off next to the beef and the porcini, they should have just been left away. Decent italian restaurant in a fun and exciting neighborhood….