Stefs Freieck, Wildbachstrasse, Zurich
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.