A Very Special Dinner in Zurich

Kristen Frederickson

Kristen Frederickson › What part of liv­ing bliss­fully in New York and own­ing an art gallery ...

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Editor’s Note: The Zurich restaurant, Stef’s is proof that real food is everywhere.

HPN contributor, Kristen Frederickson (based in London) traveled to Zurich and saw that first hand. This is her report.

It’s very important that you get to Zurich in your lifetime, if only to replicate our recent dinner, at Stefs, a restaurant John had chosen because all the most glowing reviews online were . . . written in German.

A present from John’s mom for his birthday, this was a much-awaited event because as you know, we never go out for dinner.

I go to lunch with friends, we occasionally go to lunch together, but dinner? Out? Just the two of us? Never. It was an epic meal.

It’s a tiny little restaurant, tucked away on a side street accessible by the charming Number 4 tram, not easy to find and by no means a tourist destination, which made it all the more fascinating. It was a real find.

It was an epic meal.

Our maitre d’ explained the menu to us, pointing out in perfect, beautifully accented English that all the produce, most especially the meat, comes from their farm in the Swiss countryside.

“We call the meat, how do you say, ‘lucky meat.’ This is why it tastes so very good. It has been a lucky life, for these meats.”

We began with a very modern (and lucky) steak tartare, served with the requisite hard-boiled, grated quail’s yolk, but then most fusion-y with a harissa cream and tiny leaves of baby chicory (I had to ask), and a spoonful of rich, caramelised onion relish.  Perfectly textured steak in a portion that left us wanting more, shades of our Prague adventure last year.

Then onto what was described to us as a curry soup, but was OH so much more than that. A gentle, delicate, subtly flavored creamy broth (more coconut milk, twice in one day!) with, floating demurely, tiny slivers of exotic mushrooms, carrots and celeriac. How I wish I could make such a thing.

Again, we clamored for more.

And then a main course of pork fillet, with a smooth, tender texture we’d never quite experienced before, with quenelles of creamy mashed potato and two perfectly cooked stalks of asparagus, all with a morel mushroom sauce (our only complaint was that we wanted more sauce, but we could be simply greedy).

Dessert was a more elegant version of something I might make: a mango yogurt with a surprise of chocolate ice cream buried inside, topped with a crumble. Simple and much homelier than the three savoury courses, leading me to suspect that the chef has about as much interest in posh desserts as I have: very little. A lovely end to a quite perfect meal.

But it wasn’t the end! Because I had asked so damn many questions during the meal, the lovely maitre d’, Meinrad Schlatter, fetched the chef! And I was able to shake the hand of the man who had provided us with such a magical parade of flavors. (That’s him in the photo above.)

Chef Stefan Wieser, a genius plain and simple.

What a cook. What a kitchen!

“I see you cook with gas,” I said, with a sly glance toward my husband who aspires to more technological methods of applying heat to food. “Oh, yes, always with the gas,” Stef assured me. Thank you for underscoring my choices.

We talked about the meal all the way home–the ambience of the small restaurant (seating just 20 or so people, and we the only non-Swiss as far as we could tell), the simplicity of the menu.

Perhaps I could have a small restaurant if I could limit the choices to just a few. We had the tasting menu, but there were only three more dishes on offer on the entire menu, plus Meinrad’s special cheese board (I was tempted, but even I have my limits).

Stefs: a destination–as Zurich is–without a doubt.

Photo credit: John Curran