Bon Vivant, Zwingerstrasse, Basel
You might remember the infamous Soup Nazi figure from the Seinfeld tv show. Drawing on a similar concept, by being vey strict about what you can order, the Bon Vivant in Basel only has a single menu and there are no varying or switching items. The table next to me asked for the second appetizer as a main dish, friendly but firmly their request was declined. The restaurant is in an old silk band factory about 5 minutes away from the train station, excellent if you’re taking the train from out of town. The meal started fantastic with a cold ratatouille soup with some buffalo mozarella. You could clearly taste the vegetables, the mozzarella was excellent and it was a simple, non fussy dish. In the same stride the tuna tartare with some coriander and a perfectly ripe avocado on top. I was in a great mood and was already thinking how to expand this concept to London or New York. The scallop was a tad underdone and the risotto was lacking acidity. Main course was beef from basel on cellery, chanterelles and white polenta, nice but not thrilling. Dessert was back on track, the slightly sour apricots on the bottom were beautifully contrasted by the sweetness of the creme and the sorbet. While I liked the menu, the idea and the execution, the main course showed the weakness of this concept. With just one dish as the main course, there will always be a bit of compromise. Meat, polenta and vegetable is not the most surprising combination. I would have preferred if the menu would have continued in the same simple and clear matter as the first two dishes. Still kudos for the relative radical approach, by letting the kitchen make the selection for the diners. Prices are high (normal for this level) and I’d still recommend the place just for the experience and the overall high level of cooking skill.