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Zum grobe Ernst, Stüssihofstatt, Zurich

Ravioli

Lammfilet mit Rösti "ein wenig spanisch"

This is the story of an epic truce. After years of yapping at the heels of the Zueritipp I met one of the editors for dinner. We settled on the restaurant Zum grobe Ernst for our meeting. I stake out the restaurant a couple of minutes in advance and settle on a table where I can watch the door, looking anxiously at everyone entering the door, since I had no clue what a Zueritipp food writer looks like. Contrary to my expectation a classy and attractive woman in her mid-thirties makes it my way and introduces herself. We sit down and have a very pleasant conversation about food, restaurants and Zurich’s dining scene. After deliberating some time we break our discussion to put our order in. My first course was simply called “Ravioli”. I wasn’t too pleased with the dish for several reasons. Not only was the sauce rather heavy (even though someone whisked it up to make it frothy), it contained truffle (oil?) and the ravioli were more like individual wrapped candy shapes, than actual raviolis. I ranted about Kunstuben’s truffle brie and quite frankly the same arguments are valid here. My main course was a lamb filet and a side order rösti with a spanish twist. I was told that the spanish twist was paprika sprinkled on the potatoes. I believe if you play with classics, you first need to have those classics down perfect. I’m not sure what happened to the twist, it was a slightly burned, pretty average roeschti. I didn’t feel or taste the spanish influence and was left assuming that it was the fact that the potatoes were peeled while someone was watching Maja Brunner. While the lamb was of decent quality, the sauce had a high level of acidity and was too peppery for my taste. If you look at the prices of the dishes the restaurant didn’t meet the standard it projected. The food writing authority across the table skipped desserts and since my BMI is skyrocketing I followed suit and we had a riveting conversation about making your own sausages over another glass of wine. We ended our dinner on a friendly note and said our goodbyes. In the aftermath of our meet I went to my favourite bar to contemplate. There was one very interesting question the editor had asked me – “When will you stop writing the real picky gourmet blog” as in when have I accomplished my goal ? I contemplated for an hour, thinking if I’ve managed to get the leading food publication of Zurich to pay for my dinner, isn’t this the perfect time to call it quits ?

Casa Bonita, Allmend Brunau, Zurich

Quesadilla

Taco de Cordero

Do you want to know the truth why I chose this restaurant to head over for dinner ? It was the music on the website of Casa Bonita. Crank up the volume and listen, it reminds me of Monkey Island, but Shazam reports it’s “Under the Sea”. Anyway with a soundtrack like this – who can resist ? We took a seat outside and study the menu, which features a lot of swiss, indian and mexican dishes. I’m not quite sure what to make of it so I start with a Quesadilla. The cheese was bland and I was expecting more excitement, eg. maybe some scallion between the Tortillas. The menu mentioned lamb tacos and this is what I got interested in. Unfortunately it was more a crunchy bowl filled with meat, than real tacos. Also the garnishes / side dishes weren’t good. Some kudos however to the owner, when we complained that the rice was too salty he apologized and served us a coffee shot. We had two more after that. We weren’t convinced with the food or the concept, a “Bavarian” beer garden would seem like a better fit at this location, since it has a large garden. One thing I’d like to point out, my male co-diner suddenly got glazy eyes, stopped listening to me and when I turned around I saw two blonde angels disappearing into the night. Since they spoke a couple of words with the waiter, they must be regulars and my colleague has wanted to go back every night just to catch a glimpse… my personal interest is purely in the fancy music on the website.
Prices:

Rechnung

Asia de Cuba, Madison Avenue, New York

BEEF DUMPLINGS TWO WAYS CRISPY WITH PLUM SAUCE AND STEAMED WITH COCONUT RICE AND MANGO PONZU

ROCK SHRIMP ‘MU SHU’ CUMIN SCENTED PANCAKES, ENOKI MUSHROOMS, SWEET CORN, BANANA AND ORANGE CHILI MISO SAUCE, AVOCADO SALA

PAN SEARED AHI TUNA SERVED RARE WITH CRUNCHY WASABI MASHED POTATOES AND CILANTRO CHIMICHURRI SAUCE

Asia de Cuba is a rather swanky two storied place. The name raises expectations a mix of latin and asian flavors sounds about as exotic as fusion gets. The place is two stories with a communal big dining table in the middle and some smaller tables around it. I like the vibe it clearly is a place for the rich and beatiful and I’m convinced that if it weren’t lunch time on a rainy Friday, that there would be a lot of beautiful women around. The waiter informs me before ordering, that the menu is setup so that the dishes are made for sharing. Hence I shouldn’t go overboard since they have rather large servings. Not that I pay any attention to his warning, I’m here to enjoy. I could go on about every single dish, but I had the same feeling with every course I had (beef dumplings, rock shrimp, ahi tuna). It’s a cuisine which is more about optical and lyrical (sound of the course) WOW than about flavors. The dishes all sound exciting but lack to capture your attention for more than a couple of bites. This is a classic example of a place you go for people watching (or drinks) the food doesn’t warrant a visit. Nevertheless the dining room is pretty fabulous and if you’re looking for a vibrant night, this is the place. Prices:

Bill

Brasserie Federal, Hauptbahnhof, Zurich

Federal Salatteller

So I’ve complained about restaurants from the Candrian Catering AG in the past, but I’m always open to positive surprises and won’t cease to give them a new try every now and then. The Brasserie Federal is smack in the middle of the Zurich Hauptbahnhof and offers a huge selection of beers from all over the place. I was in need of a small snack and decided to try the Federal Salatteller. For CHF 16.80 I was expecting more. Obviously everything was precut, doused in industrial salad sauce and by judging from the radishes it’s been lying around for some time. The worst thing however were the eggs – look at the photo – industrial, neverending long eggs (Stangeneier). They look waxy and taste like a candle. Serving food like this shows lack of passion and no love for food.

Restaurant Kaukaska, Wolsztyn, Poland

Barszcz (polish Borscht)

Pierogi filled with potatoes

Pork kotelety with red onion confit

People who’ve signed up to my Twitter feed will have noticed some comments on polish food in the last couple of days. Reason was a trip to see trains in Znin and Wolsztyn. Overall polish cuisine is great, has strong flavours, a lot of fat and if you’re not working as someone shovelling coal in a steam locomotive, you’ll be gaining roughly a kilogram per week in body mass. Polish gastronomy still has some potential when it comes to customer service, but we wanted the original experience and we got it. We stopped at a place called Restaurant Kaukaska in Wolsztyn for lunch. First course was the polish variant of borscht, which is a clear broth made out of beet root. Tasty, nice acidity and strinking color. My favourite part was the pierogi which came next, essentially some dumpling filled with potatoes. There were other variants I sampled but this one was the best and surprisingly (aside form the pieces of bacon on top) no meat in the dumpling. The next course made me smile it was a piece of pork meat under some red onion confit. The confit was nicely cooked, I wasn’t too fond of the combination with the pork but you really couldn’t complain on the technique. The guy next to me was eating a Zigeunerschnitzel with frytki (french fries) and was very happy as well. I liked the food here and would recommend the place if you’re stopping over. Best thing at the end was the price – 335 Zloty (85 CHF) for 9 people including drinks:

Bil

Le Ponyhof, Römerhof, Zurich

Soupe a l'oignon et le Club Poulet

Steak et frites avec beurre Café de Paris et Pommes allumettes

I confess since I have sinned. I let the Zueritipp beat me by a day in releasing a story on the Le Ponyhof restaurant at the Roemerhof. This is the pop-up/stand-in/temporary replacement of Bohemia, while it’s undergoing renovation. I called ahead to reserve a table and even though it was nice weather – they didn’t offer us a choice, but seated us inside. Now I can’t complain since if I do, my critical readers will call me out for calling in favors, hence I remained quiet. To make things interesting I ordered an onion soup and a small chicken club sandwich. I really liked the steak sauce which they served in a small condiment basket which went nicely with the decent club sandwich. The onion soup was lacking oomph and also the toasted piece of bread could have used a more exciting fermented milk topping. The steak frites was a wonderful piece of beef, which was expertly cooked. The small disappointment were the french fries – while nicely prepared and made of real potatoes – they were advertised as more delicate pommes allumettes which they definitely weren’t. Le Ponyhof prepares pretty decent food at advantageous prices:

Rechnung

Krokodil, Hohlstrasse, Zurich

Sepia a la plancha (and someone grabbing a piece)

Bisteca de Ternera

Quick dinner with an old friend at the Krokodil. Since he’s a lawyer he likes to stay close to where most of his clientele comes from, Langstrasse. I had the sepia a la plancha which were too bland for my taste. That didn’t hinder my colleague from attacking my plate with his fork (see picture). To be fair the texture was good. Next course was a thin piece of veal with spinach and spanish potatoes. I love spanish potatoes but these here were again underseasoned and not crispy enough. The meat was okay, just like the spinach. While the meal wasn’t stellar, the prices are rather low for a spanish restaurant in Zurich:

Rechnung

Rico’s Kunststuben, Seestrasse, Küsnacht

MOSAIK DE FOIE GRAS EN GELÉE DE POMMES ET CIDRE ET FOIE GRAS SAUTÉ SUR VINAIGRETTE DE POIS MANGE-TOUT ET HARICOTS AU CONFIT D‘ÉCHALOTTES ET MOUTARDE

LE SAUMON LEGERMENT FUMÉ PAR NOUS AU POIVRE SUR POMMES DE TERRE SAUCE BADIANE

LA FLEUR DE COURGETTE FARCIE DE LANGOUSTINES SUR MARMELADE DE PETITS LÉGUMES DU SUD

LE PAVÉ DE BARBUE EN CROUTE DE POMMES DE TERRE AUX CALMARS NAGE AU LAIT DE COCO ET CITRONNELLE

LE BRIE DE MEAUX AUX TRUFFES NOIRE

LA PÊCHE POCHÉE AU SAUTERNES COUVERT D‘UNE ESPUMA AU CHAMPAGNE MILLE-FEUILLE AUX FRAMBOISES ET CHOCOLAT GLACE AU THYM

Finally I’ve made it to the legendary Kunststuben. I’ve never been here before and I was pretty excited to see what the place is like. The well known Horst Petermann officially retired and his longtime right-hand man Rico Zandonella has stepped up to the plate and is running the show. My dining partner was waiting for me and when I sat down the first thing I notice is that the table is wobbly. Not being shy I ask the waiter nicely to fix it. She’s actually very surprised when giving the table a shake to see that it actually is wobbling and promises to fix it right away. I did have to re-iterate my simple request twice (after waiting five minutes) until it finally got fixed. Another thing which put me off was the german waitresses gooey friendliness, but I was here for the food and decided to overlook this. The first course blew me off my feet. It was a delicious preparation of foie gras. The snap peas (Kefen) were actually upon closer inspection only half a snap pea, which was split down the middle. I do not envy whomever was working on this in the kitchen, but it was a great display of craftsmanship. Also a special mention was the foie gras ice cream refined with a sprinkle of Armagnac and Calvados – hmmmmmm. Slightly disappointing were the small breads which were served, I tried them all and one of the white ones I got was dry. Next was a very delicately smoked piece of salmon – there wasn’t much you could do better with this fish. It was served on slices of potatoes and a star anise sauce. While reading the menu I was excited for the courgette flower with langoustine course. The disappointment was that the farce and the langoustine didn’t develop enough flavour and I would have liked it better if there was a stronger textural contrast. Main course was a brill fish with potato scales on top of some calamari and coconut and lemongrass sauce. This dish once again showed the great, unrivaled strength of Kunststuben – sauces. All of the sauces were small masterpieces, you can taste and sample over and over again and still discover new flavours and nuances. I had to surpress a smile when the cheese course was served, a simple piece of truffled brie. Now I’m all for simple dishes – but this here was simply too lowkey. Truffled brie is like the Opel Manta of cheeses. It reminded me of opening a pack of Migros Sélection amouse bouche when friends are over and calling it fine dining. My only explanation is they ran out of whatever great cheeses they normally serve. Dessert made me happy again, peaches cooked in Sauternes with a delightful thyme ice cream and a mille-feuille. Another observation was when looking around the dining room, was that most of the diners seem to be regulars. This also echoed when I was asked by the Maitre d’ and the chef how the food was and politely mentioned that the Courgette flower / langoustine course wasn’t quite as convincing and that they reacted almost shocked. It seems that diners here do not offer constructive criticism and the staff isn’t accustomed to dealing with it. Cutting to the chase – the key question is, will the restaurant keep its rating of 19 points in the Gault Millau and remain the best restaurant in Zurich? Based on the performance, while the potential still looms, I doubt that the Kunststuben will remain at the top of Zurich’s restaurant food chain. If details decide who goes all the way to the top, this restaurant needs tweaking on bread, cheese and service. What is absolutley among the best I’ve experienced are the sauces and these alone are worth the visit. Even if this might have been a bad night. This is the restaurant people got to for a once-in-a-lifetime experience where you can expect stellar performance on every night. Prices are also in the once-in-a-lifetime range:

Rechnung

Belvoirpark Restaurant, Belvoirpark, Zurich

Süssmais, Lachs, Holunderblüten, Nostrano-Gurke

Kalbfleisch, Rahmsauce mit Champignons, Rösti

Dessert

Finding a nicer terrace than the Belvoirpark Restauran is going to be difficult in Zurich. The restaurant is part of the associated hospitality management school. All of the staff (or at least I presume all of the staff) are part of the school and are learning and prepping themselves for management careers in hotels, restaurants and affiliated industry. The course started off with an imaginative course which combined sweet corn, elderberry, salmon and cucumber to a light summery dish with a soup and a bit of fish on the side. Someone in the kitchen was showing creativity and also restraint by not going overboard. Main course was a very traditional Zürcher Geschnetzeltes including kidneys (upon request) with Rösti. To my dismay the Rösti was somewhat caked up, the strips of potatoes lost their individual texture. I would have enjoyed a creamier version of the minced veal, it would have added more velvetyness to the dish. A highlight was the dessert wagon. A beautifully crafted two dozen dishes (eg. swan pastries) are assorted on the wagon (which is lifted by four unfortunate members of staff down the stairs and back up depending on where the next order is placed). You’d want everything and only through great self-control is it able to make a selection of a few small tibits. Overall this seems like a great place for stopping by for some after-shopping sweets after an afternoon of shopping. Prices:

Rechnung

Pflug, Brauerstrasse, Zurich

Sardische Ravioli

Lambkoteletts provencale mit Polenta und Erbensouffle

It was getting late but a quick phone call to Pflug confirmed that they had an al fresco table for two. We rush down there and sit down at the sidewalk table just to get up again a second later, since the menu is only on the wall on the inside of the restaurant. My appetizer was a fantastic sardinian (?) ravioli. Nice cheesy filling and a strong, bold sauce – what else do you want ? The main course was disappointing. It was lamb chops provencale, unfortunately it wasn’t a blend of flavours more like a heap of herbs on top of the lamb. To be fair the tenderness of the meat was unbelievable. What really sort of pushed me over the edge on this dish was that it was advertised as having a pea soufflé and it really was a flan. I’m okay if people get creative in their menu writing, but creating the image of a soufflé and serving a flan – isn’t. It’s not the mistake per se, but the fact that I was looking forward to a very light and airy, high rising component on the menu and got a much heavier side dish instead. I was inconsolable. Prices:

Rechnung