It was freezing and we headed for Dinner at Morgenstern da Mario. This is a typical restaurant with a host with a larger than life personality. The stairs to the washroom is filled with pictures of (assumed) Mario and an incredible variety of celebrities (or at least very important people with their own facebook page). We start with a large selection of warm and cold antipasti including homemade burata and seafood. The quality was nice, the selection was well thought out, certainly not of the plain old open a can variety and it was a generous serving. I can understand why people come here, this was a nice way to ease into the dinner. My pasta dish were some Orechiette with a hearty ragu, nothing to complain, except that maybe I should have ordered a larger portion. I greatly enjoy Baccala (salted cod) and they had a dish on the menu. I like the flavour which develops from the rehydrated fish and this here was no exception. I’m also happy when slightly unusual courses are available. While Mario’s charm can be hard to bear, the food is great and the prices pretty decent:
I am posessed by a daemon, the daemon of being the first to publish about a new restaurant. This time it’s the Times restaurant on Gasometerstrasse, next to Maison Blunt in the Kreis 5. Normally I’d post a link, but it seems that the place does without internet. Quite some rumours have been flying around this former garage, one quoting the rent being as high as 20’000 CHF. I was rather curious to see what this establishment was going to be about. The garage looks pretty sleek, even though there’s a store or something at the front, I like the mix of wood and industrial chic which give it a good feel. I sit down and after some thinking decide on the tasting menu, which I order without cheese and dessert, simply the savoury dishes. The amuse bouche is a piece of salmon in a potato soup with freshly grated horseradish. While it wasn’t bad, it did show two recurring topics. The acid was too strong and the salmon overpowering, you couldn’t taste much of the horseradish. The brioche on the duck liver was superb, seldomly have I seen a better piece, no complaints on the liver but I would have left out the chinese (?) plum schnaps that was served as a chaser. Originally a “beef-tea” was on the menu, but I was advised (before I ordered) that it had been replaced. The chef comes out and serves a slipper lobster (Bärenkrebs) with a tomato essence. The amuse bouche repeats itself, the acidity of the tomato essence was simply overpowering and it stole the show from the otherwise nice piece of seafood. Moving on to the lasagne aperto (which I assume translates to open-faced) was on the timid side and what some of the other dishes had too much this one was lacking in oomph. You’d be expecting umami, lovely cheese which mixes with the sauce bechamel, strong beef and some distinct pasta flavour, here it was more a whisper in the wind. The lobster claws were served on a bean cassoulet, the beans weren’t cooked enough and the pairing with the sweetness of the lobster was weird. My main course was a beef filet on a parsley mash, black truffle sauce and celeriac sticks. Nothing to complain on the filet, it was wrapped in a slice of bacon which added to the dish, the celeriac sticks were slightly weird, since they were covered in a breading and fried, almost reminiscent of a fish stick. What did I make of the dinner here ? Not much. The staff was very friendly (they even offered me a glass of wine) and the service up to decent standards, but the food was clumsy. It reminded me of tales I had heard of bad strip clubs. Just because your name is Candy and you have a tattoo on your butt, doesn’t make you a seducing male entertainment professional. There were a lot of the right elements, but they failed to come together, failed to be properly balanced, mainly in flavour and acidity. Prices are on the upper end and I guess are testament to the gentrification of the area:[/caption
Sometimes I almost feel sorry that I visit restaurants in my capacity as a food critic, simply for the fact that they’re so bad. Finding points to rant about is like trout fishing with handgrenades (a day in my army career I’ll never forget). I’ve been to the restaurant Popcorn near the Goldbrunnenplatz once before and was disappointed. The place was re-decorated and a sign was posted which called out the fact that they were relaunching the restaurant. Not being resentful I was looking forward to great improvements. The place sports a distinct Americana theme and the small menu partially resembles that. The waitress tells me that they have a special of the day veal cutlets with marsala sauce and saffron risotto. I order a small Caesar salad as a starter. The salad made me chuckle, Romaine lettuce, large slices of parmesan, tomatoes and pre-fabricated, bottled french dressing. Really?! No croutons, no bacon, no sauce which at least resembles a typical Caesar salad dressing a little bit ? Things unexpectedly went downhill from there. The veal cutlets were tough and chewy, the marsala sauce indifferent and the risotto horrible. It literally tasted like one of those processed risottos from a box and reeked of white wine which wasn’t cooked off properly. The funniest thing of the evening was a german travelling salesmen sitting next to me who praised the chef about the high quality of the food. Either he was a notorious liar or the poor guy’s wife learned to cook in a paint factory. Even though the place was cheap, it wasn’t worth the money:
I’m not sure you’ve ever been at the Cafe Marabu. Right next to the Werd Verwaltungszentrum this small cafe has been there for years. The most notable thing is that it closes at two in the afternoon every day. Two guys (Yves and Kaspar) decided to have a chat with Monsieur Ibrahim the man running the show and convinced him to let them use the place for a dinner event. I’m assuming this was one of the first pop-up restaurant events in Zurich. So an ecclectic mix of Zurich’s cool & handsome scene show up (yes that includes me) to a set menu dinner, all revolving around Zürcher Geschnetzltes. A regional winemaker (Rütihof, Stäfa) is present as well and I like the idea of going up to his table and tasting the wines before you order a bottle, a nice touch to the whole evening. The first course was a lamb’s lettuce salad with croutons and bacon. Now the croutons weren’t uniformly crunchy and the bacon wasn’t cooked a la minute, but at least the salad sauce was pretty good and I was willing to chalk down the lack of finesse on the salad garnishments to being prepared for the rush. The Geschnetzeltes was pretty good, I liked that you had the option of getting it with kidneys, which is the traditional mix. The kidneys were expertly prepared, just like the rest of the meat which was still tender and moist. The sauce tasted nicely of white wine, cream and shallots, but the binding wasn’t quite there, I would have enjoyed a more homogenous appearance of the sauce. The roeschti had a nice balance of potato taste, butter and salt, but was lacking a bit of crunch. The chef was devastated and apologized, so this was obviously an oversight and not something which had been planned. The event was fun, well thought out and if the food get’s a bit of tweaking, this could be very successfull moving forward. The dinner took me back to old times, since later int he night findoor smoking was allowed. And let’s face it a real swiss Beiz cooks a mean rösti and the men at the Stammtisch discuss politics over a Villiger Kiel or Parisienne Mild. The essence of swiss dining was captured in a single night and that says a lot to the care and dedication of the organizers. Hoping to see more pop-up events in Zurich’s dining scene.
I really like Peking Duck, so I was doing some research where in Zurich the best one is. Of course you can run off to Ly’s Asia and pay a whopping 225 CHF (for 2), but since my last visit showed a lack of substance and an overinflated pricelevel I decided to look elsewhere. My research led to the Dragon Inn in Wollishofen ending up on top of my list, simply for the fact that I’ve never been there. I call ahead to make reservations two days in advance to ensure that they’d have a duck ready once we got there. It was a Thursday night and we were the only ones at approximately 19:00 in the restaurant. The interior is a bit dated (not sure it’s adaquate to call it patina yet) but aligned with most somewhat older chinese places in Switzerland. We ordered some beers to go with the duck and shortly after we settle in the chef appears smiling and slices the skind off the duck tableside. The individual pieces are then draped on a plate with an elaborate ice swan sculpture. While this might not add to the taste it does look fancy. The duck was impeccable, but not outstanding, all the components from the pancakes to the cucumber slivers were there and gave no reason to bicker. Next up was a rather average duck soup, I could have done without. You get to order the meat in two ways and it comes with your choice of white or fried rice. I like that the wings and drumsticks were also served together with each of the preparations, which – shame on me – I’ve forgotten what they were. But that does testament one thing that they were neither horrible nor memorable. A sorbet closed out the dinner. Overall money for value is okay, the duck is good but it’s nothing which is going to rock your boat, hence my quest for the best Peking duck in Zurich will continue. Prices:
Probably the most stubborn of chefs has been standing behind his clear line a the Delmonico Fine Arts restaurant for a couple of years. The menu has been slightly revamped for this spring and I decided to give it another go. The restaurant – with a very distinct interior design – draws on two main pillars, a strong presence of the Chef’s sicillian heritage and his fondness of top notch quality food. The first dish was some salmon on barba di frate (monk’s beard) and potatoes paired with an asparagus salad drizzled with a tartare sauce. I loved the salad, maybe the sauce was a bit strong and somewhat overpowered the asparagus, otherwise the dish felt fresh and refreshing a great glimpse to spring. As expected the pasta course was next and I was blown away. I called them Ravioli, but they’re actually dubbed as Agnolotti which were filled with sicillian oranges, goat ricotta and herbs. A small serving of Tagliolini was also on the course. The Agnolotti where a dream, an explosion of flavours, with a lovely balance left me craving for more and I would have sold my dining partner into slavery for another plate. This would have been illegal, hence I relinquished the idea and turned to the Tagliolini. Now some restaurants use the utterly stupid name of angel hair pasta to describe thin strands of dough cooked in salty water, but more often than not what you get is more of demonly quality. Contrary the ones here were clearly of nirvanistic quality. Instead of an amuse bouche as a small surprise a strawberry sorbet was served in between courses and the lingering salty taste played nicely with the sweetness of the sorbet. The main course was all pork, serving a piece of cheek and a piece of belly. I enjoyed the sicillian ratatouille, which consisted of zucchini, aubergine, potatoes and pine nuts. The meats were expertly prepared with touches of different citrus fruit. I think it’s brave to serve pork belly in a menu, since most women will probably shy away from it, but if you’re looking for powerful flavours, this is good. Another highlight was the dessert a semifreddo of nougat, served on prickly pear soup and topped with a filled Cannolo. It was on the sweet side (as you’d expect from an italian dessert) but it wasn’t verging on being kitschy. My kind of dessert since it shows skill and is a testament to the chef’s heritage. After dessert a parmiggiano creme brulee followed, quite frankly I thought that would have been better before the actual dessert, since it once again has a tantalizing mix of savoury and sweet flavours. I’m assuming this was a concession to classic french menus. What can I say ? This guy’s pasta is arguably the best in town. People will tell you about Cappeletti at Da Angelo or Pasta at Ciro, in true Donnie Brasco manner I would say “forget about it”. The pasta here is more modern, more exacting in its preparation and on a Michelin level. I misplaced the bill, but the menu was 208.80 CHF including a different glass of wine for every course, coffee (lovely petit fours), a beer and coffee. The guy might be stubborn, but he’s good and probably your best bet in Zurich for upscale and more modern italian food.
I was in fear for my life. I attended a health checkup in a center specialised for such a thing. About 45 minutes of tests (incl. a blood sample) lead me to a room with a doctor to discuss my results. I should eat healthier (less meat & sausages, more greens), watch my weight (I’m over 25 in terms of BMI) and drink less (less than a drink a day). I could have just listened to my mother instead of commanding scarce resources of our health care system for those insights… However my cholesterol is through the roof. The lady doctor gives me a whole story of heart attacks, clogged arteries and that I should stick to my non-smoking plans, she interjects a dirty look every now and then. Doing some reading online I found out that the hypothesis of high cholesterol and heart disease seems to be disputed to say the least. Best sentence I found was “Cholesterol in the diet doesn’t matter at all unless you happen to be a chicken or a rabbit”. So I guess I asked myself, how good can a doctor be who sits in a check-up center, looks at a computer display with numbers and gives the same old spiel about 12 times a day ? The checkup center seems to be the career basement of medically trained personel. Knowing this I felt better about the dinner I was to attend and angry at a not so special someone I met in a medical facility. At Stefs Freieck restaurant in the Seefeld a group of friends had ordered a special meal and I joined in to try out the delicacies, all following the offal and innards line. I knew what was coming, but the individual dishes were not announced until after the meal. The first dish was an easy one, a calf head carpaccio with salad. Classic taste, a bit high on the salt, with typical salad tips for this restaurant were strewn on top. The next dish was an interpretation of the Zuercher Aristokratengericht. A piece of sweetbreads on spinach, covered with a mille-feuille pillow. Nothing to complain, but I prefer the version with a “pastetli” it feels more reminiscent of the past. The star of the whole menu came next, breaded calf brains on asparagus with sauce bearnaise. Virtually non of my co-diners would have eaten that, if they’d been told what was served. But everyone was raving about the dish and so was I. Slightly creamy, yet still a bit of firmness to the brains, combined with the crunchy breading was not only a discovery in taste but also a great textural idea. Now I’ll frown for asparagus in early March, but I’ll give it a pass, since it was rounded off by a lovely sauce bearnaise. Next up was heart served on a potato gratin. No one guessed that correctly since it was a fatless, muscle meat, but again it tasted really good, like a ragout but of a very high quality. We moved on to a kidney served in slices with potato foam on top of lentils. Here all the side dishes were great, but the actual kidney was too dry. The last dish was queue de boeuf parmentier, a old and classic french bistro item. Braised oxtail on top of mashed potatoes doused in a bit of truffle sauce. The dish would have profited from being finished in the oven and getting a bit of crisp/sear on the individual portions. I believe the traditional version has oxtail on the bottom and mashed potatoes on the top. It had a strong and distinct taste and was a good match for the wine, but there’s still some room for improvement. I’ll cut the guy some slack, since he was alone in the kitchen and was still doing the regular a la carte business in parallel. Just to manage expectations before you go here and expect an offal meat festival, you need to call ahead to make arrangements. This was a fantastic meal. I ate at least two dishes I’ve never had before and was mind-boggled at least once. Also I bow my head to the man in the kitchen, it takes skill and a deeper culinary understanding to pull off something like this. I’m seeing more potential here than the 13 points currently awarded by the Gault Millau. I’d love to see some dishes on the regular menu… Anyway no bill, since it was an invitation by one of the members of the group. We left the next morning, happy, high and exhausted.