Posts tagged ‘Basel’
My instincs told me to go to Bon Vivant, my journalistic soul told me to go Teufelhof in Basel, since I’ve never been there. I enter the restaurant on the first floor named Bel Etage and have a seat at a table near the entrance. I was instantly reminded of a sentence which was coined by a colleague of mine I had lunch with. He doesn’t like the Gault Millau, because if he follows it, he always ends up in places with a lot of grey heads. Menu looked reasonably small and I had some difficulty in making a call on what I was going to have for dinner. I started with a Taboule and shrimp accompanied by some tuna. Tuna was a bit on the dryer side but the Taboule was expertly made, not sure however what the shrimp added to the dish. Next up was an oversizedspring roll, which was actually some black salsify (Schwarzwurzel) in a filo dough on top of leeks and a sauce of truffles. A clumsy and weird dish, the dough and the creamy filling took away from the black salsify, the sauce was boring and the nice leeks didn’t save the dish either. I was hoping to see some more culinary expertise on the table, this was more like an attempt at fine dining I’d come up with myself. Little did I know that there was a disaster still waiting to happen. My main dish sounded very interesting, scallops with endives and a passionfruit/ginger sauce. Salty, sweetness, bitterness, maybe some roast aromas, this sounds like a perfect slam dunk for a very balanced dish. Unfortunatley it was completely out of tune, not only where there much too many scallops on the plate, the sweetness wasn’t a nice touch, it simply overpowered the dish completely. Something happened, which always never does – I didn’t finish the plate and I skipped dessert. Obviously I was very disappointed not only with the restaurant, but also with the Gault Millau giving this joint 16 points. The restaurant is stuffy, doesn’t live up to the culinary standard it’s trying to set and too expensive:
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.
The restaurant Stucki is located in a very nice and peaceful neighborhood in Basel. Looking at the other diners, it also seems to be one of the places where Basel people go out if they’re looking for a real nice treat. To get my mouth watering a rather tasty crustacean soup was presented and I was getting excited. The next dish wasn’t as big as a success, it had a too many components and I thought that the Pakora didn’t connect with the rest. Also the acid from the ceviche was overpowering the other flavors. The poultry kushi served with an asparagus-wasabi-soup was back on track. These are dishes which excite me, since they’re surprising, but not too complicated. Moving on, I was disappointed by the lobster / cocoa / sumac / red curry combination. The lobster was rubbery and again too much acidity made this a course which I should have skipped. The savoury courses ended on a high note, the lamb with pimento was tasty, had a nice spice and was an good way on how to combine different components. I’ll spare the details on the rest of the meal, save for two things. The Etivaz/Gruyere cheese was superb (albeit the wait staff couldn’t agree where exactely it was from), and the macaron served with the coffee was horrible. It was tangy, heavy and lacking any hint of elegance. Overall I would have expected a bit more consistency at this level of cooking. I was tempted to say, that just like in football, Basel seems inferior compared to Zurich, but then again I didn’t want to rub it in. Finances for one:
Being near Basel for the late afternoon, a suitable place for dinner was needed. A couple of places looked interesting but the Muehle Allschwil came out on top. Now if think getting of the bus at Gartenstrasse and quickly walking over to the restaurant, that assumption can be misleading and after wandering 15 minutes around a suburban neighbourhood can cause mild irritation with yourself. The Muehle Allschwil is a nice old mill house, with different rustic but nice rooms. The local rotary club has its convention here and I’m pretty sure that going here for a dinner is normally a celebrative event. First dish was a lovely Quiche made with Munster cheese served on a salad. Interesting was the second course a spelt cream soup with some nice morels added to it. Creative, homemade, not something you get everyday and served in a bowl so you could help yourself to seconds. The main course was something called Kluser Prägel, which essentially is a Zürcher Geschnetzeltes (minced veal with a cream sauce) but with larger pieces of veal and no mushrooms. The butter noodles (homemade, served in a small copper pan to) and vegetables were exactly how you would expect it in such a place, solid, decent taste without any chichi. However the Kluser Prägel wasn’t cooked perfectly, part of the larger veal cubes weren’t cooked enough, which took away from the experience. Filling a bit full, but aiming for a dessert a nice Leckerlimousse came my way. The presentation could have been a bit better (powdered sugar it’s so 1950ties), but otherwise it was great. The combination of a local speciality (Basler Leckerli) and creative cooking technique (turning a rock solid cookie into a mousse) executed flawlessly shows what I like about restaurants who cook with their hearts and mind. Also the outstanding service needs to be mentioned not just friendly, but really knowledgable about all the items and not shy to correct their own mistake (the apprentice gave a wrong explanation for what a Kluser Prägel is). This is the way a Landgasthof should work and what makes it worth to travel the extra distance. Obviously, quality comes at a price:
By the way – instead of taking the tram back to Basel SBB, take a walk and enjoy one of these: