Tag Archives: Geneva restaurants

Yo’Mo

An evening at Yo’Mo is full of non sequiturs and densely flavored Lebanese and Mediterranean dishes. Having a meal there makes you feel a bit like you should be having a birthday party: oversized chairs, large scale pop art on the walls, contrasting patterns and colors on the sofas, pillows and rugs. A little like a piñata threw up in an airport lounge – but in a good way? On one side, a gorgeous view of the Lac Leman and the Jardin Anglais. On the other, a print of Mona Lisa smoking a hookah. A built-in bookshelf lines the far wall and is dotted with tchotchkes and books. (Haute Dogs was perhaps a weird choice of a cookbook to throw into the mix of a Lebanese restaurant, but there it was).

On a Monday evening (and a public holiday no less), Yo’Mo was open and ready to serve, and seemed to attract a diverse clientele. Over the course of our meal, a few North American tourists, a crew of local teenagers, and a conservative muslim family all took their seats in turn.

tabouleh

 

After way too much time spent pouring over the menu, a friendly waitress quietly and patiently took our order with a bashful smile. Having ruled out the “oriental style pizzas” for the night, we opted for a spread of hot and cold mezze – mostly classics, with the occasional twist. Eggplant caviar came in smokey hues, and would risk falling flat if it weren’t for the pomegranate pops of acidity. Hummus comes two ways: served plain, it was unctuous and totally free of that overwhelming raw garlic pervasive in too many recipes. Adorned, the acidity of the beef and pine nuts were offset by a gentle aroma of sesame. Tabouleh, served as it should be, with just a sprinkling of bulgur,brightened up the hummus and meat dishes. The kebbeh (meatballs) were served with an onion jam that tasted a little more like strawberry jam than one would want. Less inspiring was the falafel, which came out just a bit dry. Rich, smooth labneh and the fresh-out-of-the-oven flatbread  was everything you needed to dress and deliver the tang to your taste-buds. 

YoMo

While the food may transport you, the music won’t let you mistake Geneva for Beirut. In keeping with the contemporary vibe, Yo’Mo rightly avoids the traditional tunes of the ‘Mediterranean’. But in its place, you get loungey electro no better than elevator music, reminding you clearly that it’s Geneve for the nouveau-riche after all. Until that random salsa song comes on, bringing non-sequitur and flavor back to the mix.

 

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After Work at Taco Toots

Taco Toots joins forces with Brasserie des Halles de l’Ile with Mexican fare that raises the bar on Swiss Mexican food that extra bit higher for one of the cheapest meals this side of the kebab – but ¡dale! guys, crank it up notch and let those flavours you’re nursing shine. 

You and your friends have argued on whatsapp for hours about where to go for your after work drink. Arnold et Julen? Your Eaux-Vives dwelling friends will veto. Bottle Brothers? No Paquis way. For years, nay, decades this left bank right bank divide has funneled us all into Brasserie des Halles de l’Ile, but, quite frankly, they are slow, badly organized, and I’ve witnessed one too many creeps lurking around. And I don’t like their brunch. Still, I go, because, you know, Mojito.

When I went down there yesterday evening, it had been some time since I had circled that drain (where the Lac Léman turns back into the Rhone), and I was surprised to see a new addition to the cluster of businesses on the place. Behold, under the shade of trees people were sipping on Spritz Apérols and scarfing down tacos.

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Yes, TACOS.

Says the owner, sarcastically, “You know how there’s all this great Mexican food in Geneva, right?”

Oh yes. I know all too well. Mañana’s serves the best of whatever produce Coop scraped off its racks and turns it into “salsa” and “guacamole” over stale chips. Mmmm gimme some of that. Le Chat Rouge is a big step up, but still, measly portions of guacamole make you feel like Calvin is managing the kitchen.

Things started to perk up last year though when Taco Rico opened up in Plainpalais – our very own Chipotle style joint that is actually quite generous on the guac and introduced caramelized and pickled onions to the Genevois palate. (Thanks Taco Rico!)

But I digress. Taco Toots, on Place de l’Ile has been open for a while now, and they are already attracting a crowd of tipsy after-workers who fell into the Brasserie des Halles de l’Ile pit with a serious case of the munchies. Jackpot.

Taco Toots is making a valiant effort at making Mexican food a little more authentic, but is going to need to spice it up to be truly chingon. The menu is simple (beef, pork pibil and veggie tacos, tostadas, and a quesadilla), the produce is good quality and fresh, the tortillas are sourced from the only authentic provider in town, and the service is super friendly. Win win win win, right?

But there’s more. I had two tacos with sides and an agua de jamaica for all of 14chf. WHAT??

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But, as you can see, the portions per taco are on the conservative side. The clear favorite is the pork pibil, which was obviously cradled in warm, gentle spices for many many tender hours. The result is a juicy taco with a subtle seasoning. Almost too subtle. People who like a punchier taco will have to hit the spice bar to give it that extra umph. And hang on to that napkin – as long as they haven’t invented a “taco holder” you’re gonna need it!

The quesadilla came in a close second, with its unctuous cheese melt and some tangy veggies giving it some edge. In fact, it was favored by a vegetarian over the veggie taco option, which consisted of underseasoned roasted veggies.

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The beef taco also had a lot going for it, but needed a little acidity kick in the rump to balance out the beef and the fresh diced veggie garnish. I know the Swiss aren’t known for their adventurous side but I think they can take a little more seasoning in their food without being overwhelmed with flavour. I added some of the tomato salsa, which helped, but a longer marinade or a spicier rub may have done that beef good.

And if you really love Mexican food, you’ll know it’s all about the fixings. With our tacos we got a good side of guacamole, pico de gallo and really crisp taco chips – a highly addictive trifecta.

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So what is this agua de jamaica and agua de tamarindo thing, and why is it so exciting? When I lived in Southern Mexico (for a short, but oh so delicious time) I discovered that they make agua de whatever fruit you want, and serve it by the pitcher. Agua de limon is a bit like lemonade, and agua de jamaica is a bit like cold hibiscus tea, but tartier, sweeter and fresher. For me, heaven in a glass, and I bow to Taco Toots for bringing it home to me.

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Cheers Taco Toots for raising the bar on Swiss Mexican food that extra bit higher – but ¡dale! guys, crank it up notch and let those flavours you’re nursing shine.

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Play that Funky Brunch

Just when you thought brunch was a bust. The moment that simmering fear started crystalizing in your head that brunch is in fact a cruel ploy to get you to pay extortionist prices for an omelet in high heels and a tiara. In that very instant of reckoning that we are living in a post-brunch world, brunch – or something like it – came to Geneva.

Of course, you’ll tell me, Geneva has had its brunch spots, from the haughty to the healthy. In days of yore, you heard me squealing about the elusive and exclusive poached egg (which, last I checked, can still only be found at Au P’tit Bonheur), the unacceptability of buffets, and the obstinacy of Swiss brunch menus having to include copious amounts of bircher muesli and quiche, when what you really want are pancakes, bacon, eggs benedict and a bloody bloody mary.

So if you’ve followed my brunch posts, you’ll know my three rules of brunch: no buffets. poached eggs a must. and there must be booze. (That is what the b in brunch stands for, right?) Well, this week’s contestant is 1 for 3: food is served buffet-style, they do not have poached eggs, and they do serve booze. Arguably, the first two theoretical blunders cancel each other out, because who in their right mind wants a poached egg that’s been sitting on the buffet?

Funky Brunch

Funky Brunch, Geneva’s latest (successful) pop-up, appeared as a blip on the radar back in December 2013 at Fenomeno. A glance at the pictures that went up on fb at the time had me intrigued; but no, back then I had been burned by too many boozeless bircher brunches to risk another flop.

Now, at 1 and a half years old (what’s that, about 5 in restaurant years?) the Funky Brunch has gone from a blip to a bang, taking over a kitchen near you almost every Sunday. When I first arrived at Windows, the restaurant overlooking the lake at Hotel d’Angleterre, I was reticent. Of the two sittings available, I had reserved the early one at 10:45, and there were kids everywhere. I ain’t juding – just sayin. And there in the back was the usual classless buffet. In my skepticism, I grabbed a plate, put my head down and hit the buffet like a perfect little lemur: two scoops scrambled eggs, two slices bacon that’s been sitting around… excuse me while I face-plant in my plate.

eggs n bacon (and beef carpaccio)

eggs n bacon (and beef carpaccio)

But then. Oh, but then. When we regrouped at our table, my friends came back with entirely different food on their plates. Where had those colorful diverse salads come from? Green beans with orange peel? Fava beans and radishes? Bulgur with tomato and cilantro? Asparagus, haloumi and sun dried tomatoes?

red and yellow and pink and green, orange and purple and blue, I can sing a rainbow too

red and yellow and pink and green, orange and purple and blue, I can sing a rainbow too

While my eyes took in the confetti-looking food, a faint smell of fish and french fries tickled my nostrils, and out of the kitchen came marching a waiter with the first serving of fish & chips. A furtive glance to the left revealed a station with a roasted leg of lamb and gratin dauphinois with a light creamy mint sauce. Then someone else came back to the table like he’d seen the promised land: indeed, he’d just returned from the buffet of milk and honey – and cereals and pancakes, and – wait, are those cupcakes??

crispy and fatty and n'er too salty

crispy and fatty and n’er too salty

lamb, jus, mint sauce and some sneaky asparagus salad

lamb, jus, mint sauce and some sneaky asparagus salad

The offerings officially had me sold. Granted, not everything was perfect: the salads could have used some salt, and the lamb, while very tender, wasn’t so inspiring in flavor without its creamy mint sauce. But the OJ was fresh, the fish was crisp and the chips were thick, the salads were delightfully seasonal and refreshing, and the cheesecake was lip-smackingly sour.

DESSERTS: dark chocolate mousse to die for, sour cheesecake, rice pudding (?) and slightly oversweetened apple tarte

DESSERTS: dark chocolate mousse to die for, sour cheesecake, rice pudding (?) and slightly oversweetened apple tarte

So we plowed through, course after course, sipping our coffees, cucumber-celery juice, and Aperol Spritz as a DJ spun R&B classics that even the rug rats were dancing to. A clown appeared half way through my third helping of wakame-wrapped salmon to entertain the kids, and by the looks of it, they’d had some fairy visits too. Having come to the early sitting, we probably saw more kids of the short, pudgy, single-digit kind, who, I am guessing would be replaced by the tall double-digit stinky kind come second sitting.

And indeed, Funky Brunch has figured out how to reconcile the needs of all Geneva brunchers: from the parents wanting a break from the kitchen, to the Saturday night pack rats in for their carbicide Sunday boozer. A true place where little Joey can get his face painted while mama clutches her well-deserved Bellini (and yes I will have that refill, thanks).

Bon app!

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The Old World, Renewed, at La Bottega Trattoria

La Bottega Trattoria

La Bottega Trattoria

Going out to a restaurant can be as dull as it can be enlightening. And let’s be honest, it’s be a loooooooong time since it was worth talking about a new restaurant in Geneva. In the last couple of years, we’ve seen the resto scene spruced up by a hamburger wave and a caravan of food trucks. Arnold et Julen and Living Room kicked some light and pizazz into our winter nights. These flecks of big city life have enlivened Geneva, no doubt.

Still, the core of Geneva’s restaurant scene has continued to degrade its customers with the same old menus and uninspired preparations. Even glossy hot spots like Da Matteo or countless others, gleaming as they may first seem, are equally dull under the surface. Because let’s be honest: the glitterati to whom they seem to cater most often barely have any interest in eating in the first place, lest it plump them out of their sequined mini dresses and Armani jeans.

Yet, with a few outstanding exceptions, this seems to be the audience Geneva’s up and coming restaurant industry has consistently targeted. There can’t seem to be too many overpriced bistros dressed up as hipster joints (the Quartier des Bains is crawling with them), cheap pizzerias, or kebab shops. But there hasn’t been a single nook in this town for an eatery that exists to impress people with the actual art of cooking, introducing us to creative, mind altering flavor combos. For that, well, we have London.

But friends, Geneva has taken a step closer to being a cosmopolitain city when, a few weeks ago, La Bottega Trattoria opened its doors on La Grand Rue. An Italian restaurant it says, and the menu structure, wine list and pasta dishes do seem to prove it is so. But this is not your traditional Da Paolo’s , your spritzed up Luigia, or your insultingly bland and simplistic Kytaly. This is the Italy of meaty ragouts and fine use of herbs. The Italy that looks outwards, to the green flavours of Scandinavia and beyond. The Italy that says Italy isn’t about the pizza or the tomatoes or even the pasta; it’s about a celebration of the ingredients, and the desire to elevate them through loving preparation and creative combinations. Move over nonna: your nephews Paolo and Fra just got back from their world tour and have taken over the kitchen.

Best of the old world, reincarnated

Best of the old world, reincarnated

Good restaurants can stop there, with a core of delectable, if not irreproachable, dishes. A great restaurant will take that core and put it into a stimulating shell. Here too, La Bottega delivers: its decor is distinctly contemporary, while echoing back respectfully to the old world, with a white tiled interior, industrial lamps, and a large old map of Europe hanging solo.

All told, dinner at La Bottega is like driving a 1950s Alfa Romeo Cabriolet with a fresh coat of paint and an immaculately maintained engine. It may not quite take us to London’s cutting edge, but it will give us a fresh and stylish taste of Italy.

But enough with words, place aux photos:

aperiteasers

aperiteasers of roasted cherry tomatoes, slightly undercooked cauliflower and carrot, and tangy Italian broccoli

Aperiteasers followed by aperitivi

Green is gold

Green is gold: cabbage leaves wrapped around a lightly mayonnaised crab salad, balanced off with lightly pickled cucumbers

root juice

Oeuf mollet with thin sheets of parsnip, white asparagus, and bathed in celery root juice

Primi: Pasta

eggplant sauce and balsamic over caramelized onion raviolis

Eggplant sauce and balsamic over caramelized onion raviolis. Sweet, wanting in acidity

perhaps the highlight…

it may not look like much but this veal tail ragu was as viscerally positive an experience as it gets

Who knew veal tail could be so unctuous. This dish may not look like much but it was as viscerally positive a food experience as it gets

On Secondi thought…

guinea fowl, sweet potato purée and company

The guinea fowl was prepared to perfection, juicy tender and lean on the inside, with a crisp layer of skin. Hanging out with sweet potato purée, parsnip and a couple of cherries.

Porc versus guinea fowl

Filet mignon of porc, prepared just like the guinea fowl. Guinea fowl won, by a hair.

 

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A Food Truck named Funky

As if the sunny warm weather weren’t delightful enough, I just got wind that there’s a NEW FOOD TRUCK IN TOWN!

And does it serve burgers? NO!

Does it serve American style BBQ? HELL YEAH!

Funky BBQ is brought to you by a trio of expats who swear up and down that their undying love for BBQ is what will make their food truck run.

So if you’re in the mood for pulled pork, join me in testing out the newbies when they rev up their engines on 11 November, 11:30 to 14:00, at Plainpalais!

And of course, watch this space for the review…

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Speaking Truthfully about Spikisi

It was the third and last stop on our Jeune Genevois cocktail-bar-hopping night. Walking down the cobble stone street to Spikisi, with a few cocktails already down the hatch, the mood was giddy: we had left Geneva and were projecting ourselves onto the late-night streets of Milano (without the mess of limbs and the clattering of voices). It seemed like Geneva might finally have the critical mass of cool bars it needs to foster a night life fit for those of us who are neither students nor bankers!

First let’s debunk the expectation that the Spikisi is a speakeasy- sadly, it is just a fun misnomer. The bar/restaurant sits on a small street behind Plainpalais and not in anyway concealed. But, when I stumbled across this place on a website advertising it as a bar, it seemed promising. From there, I perused their Facebook page, where visions of cocktails and burgers danced in my head. What a cash cow, I thought to myself: nightcap AND preventive hangover remedy in one go? Why hadn’t anyone else thought of that yet?

The bar has that neighborhood café feel

The bar has that neighborhood café feel

The setting is perfectly attuned to my taste: small, warm, café style seating with a romantic twinge, but very much still feeling like a bar scene. Reggae/ska/ragga over the loudspeaker gave the place a cool and comfy vibe. My anticipation grew, despite myself: had we reached the promised-land?

I started fearing I built it up too much in my own head. I mean look at the competition: Geneva is now graced with some internationally competitive burgers thanks to Inglewood and The Hamburger Foundation, and Apothicaire still boasts my all-time favorite cocktail (and no, it’s not on the menu).  Spikisi had some tough acts to follow.

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The restaurant spreads out to the basement, for more whimsical seating

The restaurant spreads out to the basement, for more whimsical seating

Let’s get the tough part out of the way: the cocktails were downright undrinkable. The Italian owner, mustachioed and as hipster as they come, was super friendly and asked me what kind of alcohol and flavors I was into. I told him my standard: gimme something tart and tangy, not too sweet, not “tropical”, not bitter. That usually results in a gin with some kind of citrus, a cucumber and/or mint, and some signature flavor to make it stand out. In this case, he arrived with a dark orange sample for me to taste what turned out to be a Negroni, a classic Italian cocktail that to me is squarely in the “bitter” category. I declined. Second sample: the liquid was bright yellow this time. It tasted like liquified lemon cough drops; I diplomatically told him it was just too sweet. Third try: a fluorescent blue-green liquid, which I tasted and accepted because it was the least offensive so far. If memory serves, it must have been a kamikaze. Whatever it was, it did NOT match the pictures of the cocktails I saw on their FB page.

Funky menu from which decade, i don't really know

Funky menu from which decade, i don’t really know

The burger combos they proposed sounded great and spoke to the 20s-30s theme: “Frank Me!” “Al Capone” and the “Borsalino” to name a few. I chose the Metropolis, which came with mozzarella, caramelized onions, and barbecue sauce. THF and co. can rest easy, there was no competition there. The burgers were all bun, no patty. Undersalted/uderseasoned. The meat was on the dry side. My caramelized onions were tasteless (an accomplishment indeed). And the fries were simply forgettable.

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Sadly, I loved the place, but wouldn’t be able to justify going back for either the food or the drinks. It’s got a great space, cute decor, laid back vibe, and very warm and whimsical staff. Now, if they would only invest in a decent cocktail shaker behind the bar and a burger flipper in the kitchen…

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Head’s up! There’s a New Pizza Truck on the Block

Let me start with an admission: I have lived in Geneva for the better part of 30 years, including most of my teens and late 20s, and yet, I had never been to the Paleo Festival in Nyon… until last week.

Shame, scandal, horror! Or maybe not such a big deal. In any case, now in my early 30s, less inclined to get muddied up, but still up for new experiences, I rolled up my work pants, switched into my hiking boots, and danced in the mud with 230,000 other spectators. And it was a blast.

Naturally, I needed to fuel up before getting started. Lucky for me, I knew I would finally be able to try Nero’s Roman sliced Pizza, Geneva’s second new school food truck that opened back in May.  Why did it take so long you ask? Simply because I work nowhere near any of their weekday lunch locations. Povero me! So I was naturally thrilled to find out they’d be stationed at Paleo Festival all week.

And indeed, Nero is off to a great start on its mission to serve up artisanal Roman style slices to the masses, and are just a few tweaks short of a faultless slice of pizza. Nero’s prides itself first and foremost on its dough, and with good reason. Two years they claim to have studied and tested to get the pitch perfect consistency of a Roman style pizza: crunchy on the outside, moist and doughy on the inside. Well boys, the studying paid off, the dough truly is all its cracked up to be. The tomato sauce – another fundamental to a good slice of pizza – is also very nicely tangy, and not too sweet.

Pizza sitting pretty: left, the highly recommended salami picante with onion confit

Pizza sitting pretty: left, the highly recommended salami picante with onion confit

The cherry on top (ahem), is that they get creative with their toppings, which really teases the eye and the appetite. We got to try most slices on their regular menu, a marinara (tomato sauce, garlic, oregano and parsley), parmigiana di melanzane (eggplant, tomato, mozza, parm and fresh basil), bufala (mozza di bufala, tomato and fresh basil), salame piccante (salami, tomatoes, parsley and caramelized onions), and one of their specials with sausage and zucchini.  The ingredients are unmistakably top notch (that salami picante was so tender you’d almost rather eat it straight), and they go green by showcasing seasonal ingredients. While some ingredients were prepped to shine, others could still use some spicing up.

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My favorite: hands down the salami piccante with the caramelized onions, and I’ll tell you why. The onions bring a beautiful acidity and depth to the flavor profile, which I find key when dealing with so much cheesy goodness. The eggplant and zucchini slices could have used a bit of that umph, but this is nitpicking really.

Finally, we tried the tiramisu, which, I mean, how can you go wrong? It’s nothing but layered tastiness. It was almost all you would expect from a tiramisu, sweet and creamy with just that subtle touch of chocolate powder. I would personally change the ratio of biscuit to cream (ie, a bit less biscuit), but again, a matter of personal taste.

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A tip for the newbies: if you’ve never been to a NY or Roman style pizza parlor before, get in the know! The slices are on display, they are then slipped into the oven to get nice and toasty warm for you, and after a few minutes, you’re off with your slice of pizza. So be cool and don’t freak if you can’t just walk away with what’s on display.

In sum, Nero’s is joining Luigia’s to introduce Geneva’s palate to another kind of pizza altogether. Their aim: serving up artisanal roman pizza by the slice to the masses. A valiant objective, to which they are well on their way. No doubt they will have the technique perfected after dealing with Paleo, and next… the Fete de Geneve!  Check out their FB page for updates.

 

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UPDATE! The Hamburger Foundation Restaurant, Paquis

A few weeks back I wrote a review of the new THF restaurant in the Paquis. In short? I said it was incredible and awesome, but that their “brunch” menu didn’t have what it took to get me out of the house on a sunday, and I also wasn’t sold on the iceberg salad with the slightly too sweet dressing.

Happy to update that on a return visit I discovered a huge improvement in the salad, which now included dark greens, and a tangy dressing that hits just the right balance of acidity before you attack that cheese and bacon burger. Yum.

Moreover, they’ve made the wise decision of putting brunch on hold. You can still get your basic breakfast though, which, I maintain, is still a welcomed arrival to Geneva’s food scene.

So in case you ever hesitated, head on over and enjoy the food and tunes!

 

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The Hamburger Foundation has kicked off its training wheels

It was a big weekend for this little foodie. For the first time in months, I had a whole weekend in town, so I was finally able to dig into a few activities I couldn’t have enjoyed otherwise. I planted my special tomato seeds, I lazed around in the sun, I went to FestiChoc in Versoix (stay tuned for more on that), AND I made my first hollandaise (and the sauce didn’t even break!).

To kick things off, Friday evening I finally dropped in on The Hamburger Foundation‘s new digs. I was nervous at first: what if they make a mean burger, but underneath it all are no different than the putz’ who run most Geneva restaurants? Another uninspired decor with the same menu at exorbitant prices? No thank you, I’m full.

To my delight, THF came through. Stepping into the restaurant sends you through some kind of warp zone: you’ve left Geneva and have landed in London, NYC, Madrid, or Oslo. The difference between this and other restaurants is simple: no pretense, design with flair, and a relaxed ambiance. Oh, and of course the standard, 100% reliably fantastic, simple burger.

It seems clear that the THF team is still testing waters. They have a cocktail bar going, which is super exciting for those of us who really need a fix after work. Since they didn’t have cranberry juice in stock for my usual “test” drink (the cosmo) I tried another old favorite, the whiskey sour, which I ditched years ago because the first thing bartenders do is reach for the sour mix… The THF bar seems to have avoided this basic mistake, BUT, still a little over-the-top sweet, and as much as I love sweet, at the end of the day, I’m more of a sourpuss than a sugar mama. The highlight: an artisanal blonde beer by Haute Savoie producer Mont Saleve: flowery, herby, with honey tones bringing the depth, it had enough complexity to stand up to a nice red wine.

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not a real sugar cane in there, but still a little too sweet for a sour

The burgers? Just as awesome as when you get them from the trucks. The fries however seemed a little less fresh than when they’re served at the truck, and their usually distinctive rosemary aroma wasn’t as present. Maybe just got a little unlucky and got fries from the end of a batch. One addition to the menu is an iceberg salad with a maple syrup dressing, which we wouldn’t have missed had it not been served. And at long last, I tested their cheesecake – PHENOMENAL, relatively light with a a beautiful creamy acidity, and the graham cracker base coming in with just the right amount of cinnamon, ginger and sugar to balance it all out. The apple crumble on the other hand, less exciting: it seems like they went a little heavy on the corn starch and sugar, giving it a syrupy consistency that reminded me a little of the McDonald’s apple pie desserts…  truthfully, its not bad, but I would go for the cheesecake every time.

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desserts

Come Sunday, I was trying to mobilize to test they’re brand new brunch menu. Sadly, it features more of a breakfast than a brunch: the morning burger sounds like your typical egg cheese and bacon sandwich (on a burger bun), eggs and bacon or sausages are a classic for Brits, Americans and beyond, and for the Swiss among the clientele, they have cereal, soft boiled egg, half a grapefruit….

Now, there are things I can really appreciate about this menu. First off, it’s great there’s a new ‘brunch’ place in town. And THF built its success on mastering simple things that appeal to a wide audience – but are they falling victim to that formula?  When push came to shove on Sunday  morning, it just wasn’t the menu that would get me out of bed and into the diner booth. Why drag myself across town when I can make all of the above plus eggs benedict right here at home?

No doubt I’ll be going back to this latest and greatest anytime I want a burger and a cocktail. And here’s hoping they keep the existing brunch menu, but tack on an item or two that will get me on my feet.

 

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Le M.

Le M. What to say, what to say about Le M. This has been a tough post to write, given the popularity of the restaurant and the burger.  I can see why, to some extent: it is centrally located, the decor is trendy-yet-cozy, and it’s buzzing energy level is a perfect pick-me-up to the weekend.

Still, I expect readers of this blog to be good quality food appreciators, and not (just) scenesters. So, here it is, the raw story:

Our party arrived at the restaurant on time for our reservation, Thursday night, 21h30, after a nice long apéro at l’Apothicaire (incidentally, their cocktails are truly the best medicine).  Right off the bat, the host/bar tender/ waiter see us, avoid eye contact, bustle along busily, and try to pretend we’re not there. Eventually, someone acknowledges us, and tries to put on a friendly, humorous face as he explains that our table won’t be ready for awhile still.

GREAT! That’s just my favorite thing, arriving tipsy and starving at a restaurant just to be left to languish in the corridor, drooling over the food on the surrounding tables.

We finally take our seats, after being pushed around for 20 minutes in the narrow passage way between the bar and the tables. Our next challenge? Getting menus (because yes, menus are usually helpful, even in a burger joint).  When THAT finally took place, we had a nice long long long while to decide what we wanted. Meanwhile at least three waiters were flailing their arms about giving air kisses to their ritzy friends seated left and right of us. We tried to order wine, and when it finally came, we were halfway through with our meal and it was warm. Bref, I think you are getting the picture here: the service is TERRIBLE.

Eventually, our waitress accidentally came to see if we were ready to order, at which point she announced that they were OUT OF FRENCH FRIES. Which is just. I just. I mean. No words. Instant disqualification. Is it even worth staying at that point? Needless to say, we did stick it out, so here is the low down on the rest:

The starters:  At the outset, I was very happy with the starters menu, and thankfully on this we were not disappointed. You cannot go wrong with a lump of goat cheese in a crisp phyllo pastry shell with a drizzle of honey on top, and a poelee of chanterelles fried in butter, garlic and tossed with parsley.  The tuna tartare was also fresh and well prepared.

goat cheese pocket with honey

goat cheese pocket with honey

chanterelles, elevated to their best selves with butter, garlic and parsley

chanterelles, elevated to their best selves with butter, garlic and parsley

Tuna tartare

Tuna tartare

The burger: The greatest appeal of this place is the burger menu, which offers you the most extensive choice of toppings that I have seen in any European burger restaurant. From caramelized onions to foie gras, with a little creativity you can create a veritable chef d’oeuvre.

Except, any cook will tell you that if the basic ingredients are not in perfect condition, it hardly matters what bells and whistles you put on them. In this case, the bun was dry, and fell apart like castles made of sand the moment you tried to lift the burger.  And the patty itself, while nice in shape and size, was cooked to death and dry. Turns out, the foie gras will cancel out that problem, if you order it. But I ordered a simple cheese and bacon burger, and that level of fat was not enough to counter the dryness of the bun/patty combo.

Would you like fries for that? YES THAT WOULD HAVE BEEN NICE!

Would you like fries for that? YES THAT WOULD HAVE BEEN NICE!

The fries: oh wait, there WERE NONE. They claimed they have truffle fries as well, but I will believe it when I see it.

The dessert: we ordered a tiramisu and a fondant au chocolat, both of which were definitely good enough to eat, but not so spectacular that they were memorable.

Fondant au chocolat

Fondant au chocolat

Tiramisu

Tiramisu

The green factor: needless to say, the waitstaff was so absent/busy kissing their fabulous friends that it was impossible to ask them about anything on the menu. Between you and me, I kind of get the impression they wouldn’t much care about the green factor anyway.

Price/Quality: Maybe it was the wine, but I feel like we ended up paying a MUCH heftier price for this burger that is nowhere near the top three in town. Then again, you do get toppings like foie gras and sides like truffle fries. You be the judge.

In sum: a good starters menu and a make-your-own burger menu with pretty impressive ingredients are good reasons for the popularity of this restaurant. Maybe try asking for them not to cook the burger so long?  And keep in mind, the restaurant is highly stylized: lots of energy of the fur-vest, air kisses, catch-you-in-Megeve-on-Sunday kind. If that’s your style, you will love this place, and you too will probably end up getting a kiss from the staff.

Stay fabulous now! Mwah, mwah mwah!

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