Tag Archives: reviews

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.

 

Advertisements
Tagged , , ,

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.

IMG_2634

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??

IMG_2641

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.

IMG_2640

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.

IMG_2639

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.

IMG_2638

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.

Tagged , ,

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.

 

Tagged ,

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.

wpid-20140911_231134.jpg

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.

wpid-20140911_233221.jpg wpid-wp-1411098196054.jpeg wpid-wp-1411098359288.jpeg

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…

Tagged , , ,

Buena Vista Cocktail Club: Good Things Come in Threes

We had just finished imbibing a couple of cocktails at Kytaly. Impressed as we were by the drinks, the second lily pad on our barhopping tour had us all hyped, and so off we hopped!

No doubt, Alirio scored himself a turkey with his latest addition to the Atelier Cocktail family. Located in the heart of UNIGE’s main watering hole strip, the Buena Vista Cocktail Club offers everything you know and love at Apothicaire and Atelier du Cocktail – plus more food offerings an extra something for the VIP.

wpid-20140911_230032.jpg

Ok, it was dark, and these photos are terrible.

You’ll recognize the decor/ambiance as most closely related to the Apothicaire, and the drinks menu has all your tried and true favorites. Two new things about this place: first, they built up their food choices, adding fajitas (the beef fajita is kind of like bolognese sauce wrapped in large soft flour tortilla- tasty, though not reeeaaally a fajita) tacos and an avocado salad to their usual guacamole, cheese and meat platters.  This is a definite plus in my view, because 3 cocktails and no food = harsh morning after.

The other cool thing is the “speakeasy” style lounge tucked into their basement, which, although not reaaally being a speakeasy, is a nice addition.

Again - so dark. Very terrible photos.

Again – so dark. Very terrible photos.

The room certainly has a speakeasy feel to it (if by “speakeasy” you expect dark, cozy, and located awkwardly close to the bathrooms). But, without trying to nit pick, speakeasies were created, as we all know, during prohibition, when the sale of alcohol was illegal. So there could be no bars. So the bars hid behind delis, laundromats, tea rooms, etc. Secret passwords were exchanged for entrance through bathroom doors, bookshelves and telephone booths to drink the illicit liquors, embellished with tonics, sodas and juices to mask the harsh flavors of the alcohols of the day.  So you’ll understand that hiding a bar within a bar is, well, not really a speak easy. Let’s call it a slightly smelly, dark, VIP lounge, shall we?

But a rose by any other name still smells as sweet, and this VIP lounge, as un-concealed and un-exclusive as it may be, is still a very cool and quiet place to lounge with an ever-so-delicious cocktail mixed by one of Alirio’s own.

After Kytaly and Buena Vista, it was hard to imagine how another cocktail bar might top them off.. but off we went to the third and last cocktail bar of the night: the Spikisi.

Tagged ,

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!

 

Tagged , , , ,

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.

20140404_201045

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.

20140404_202247

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.

 

Tagged , , , ,

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!

Tagged , ,

TFGI THF = Yay Burger Truck!

You’ve probably heard the purr of its engine as it lands in one of its favorite spots at Plainpalais’ Sunday market. The truck stops, the stove goes on, and as the sweet smell of fried beef patties and french friends fills the air, you know: The Hamburger Foundation (THF) has landed.

I’ll cut to the chase, I am a BIG fan of these bunch, if for no other reason than for their success in pushing Geneva past its comfort zone. Not only have they launched Geneva’s first official food truck though, they have also created what could just be the city’s best burger. In the words of a fellow foodie, THF serves up an American staple accompanied by Geneva’s classic fries. The result is cosmopolitan bliss.

The burger: Simple, classic, perfectly executed. Good quality, freshly ground beef, patty about 2cm thick, always fried perfectly medium rare, with a sesame seed bun that lends a beautiful hint of sweetness. If you order the cheeseburger, you get a nice, subtle gruyere, and if you’re hungry for the bacon cheeseburger, the bacon you get is crisp and tender. There is no special sauce of note – just ketchup, mayo and mustard apparently, but it is remarkable nonetheless, and the lettuce, tomato, onions and pickle are wonderfully fresh and crunchy. It’s like the best, non-barbecued, homemade burger your parents never made.

Deceptively delicious - I know the picture doesn't sell amazingness, but trust me, it's waaaay better than my camera phone was able to portray.

Deceptively delicious – I know the picture doesn’t sell amazingness, but trust me, it’s waaaay better than my camera phone was able to portray.

The fries: Then there are the fries. Also brilliant. Light, crisp, and I would put money on the fact that they infuse their oil with rosemary – or maybe mix it in with the salt they sprinkle over the fries. In any case, it makes you feel like you’re eating provence style roasted potatoes in french fry form. Unbeatable my friends.

Bacon cheeseburger and fries in the now iconic bare cardboard box

Bacon cheeseburger and fries in the now iconic bare cardboard box

The dessert: I have to admit, I have not yet tried their cheesecake. But I hear it’s classic and wonderful, and given the rest of the menu, I wouldn’t doubt it. So try it, and you tell me.

The menu: Again, THF wins it through simplicity. Hamburger, cheeseburger, bacon cheeseburger. Fries, coleslaw, cheesecake. Beer, sodas, water. It’s as simple as the Beatles once said: all you need is love.

The green factor: True to their generation, THF stands for local, organic, wherever possible. Their packaging – the quintessential, blank cardboard burger box – is even fully recyclable.  In their own words:

“We love burgers and we love the ingredients we use to make them. Our beef is 100% Swiss all natural. No hormones and no antibiotics ever. Our very own blend is ground fresh everyday. Our sweet buns are made freshly and locally. All the vegetables we use are fresh and as often as possible from local farmers.”

The setting: Surprise! It’s a food truck, so they move around, most likely according to whatever kind soul will let them squat their parking lot / side walk / courtyard. Their website will keep you posted on their whereabouts, but you can count on Sundays at the Plaine de Plainpalais (Unimail corner), more recently Saturdays in Eaux-Vives on rue des Photographes, and at lunch time in places only UBS would know of (ie, Acacias). Sign up to their newsletter and get a regular reminder that you must have burger NOW! You’ll also get some tips on their light-hearted playlist, running from reggae, to Beach Boys to hipper tunes I know almost nothing about – nice touch guys. Nice touch.

The Hamburger Foundation - coming to a street corner near you

The Hamburger Foundation – coming to a street corner near you

Price/Quality: 14chf max for the burger, 4chf for the fries, 5chf for a cheesecake, 3.50 for a drink = cheap enough not to care too much.

In sum: pledge to the Foundation immediately.

Tagged , , ,

Le Petit Lac: where even stunning views can’t distract you from the bland food

It was a glorious Sunday afternoon, sun blazing above us in a dark blue sky, a soft warm breeze in the air….  what an incredible relief after all the rain we’ve had dumped on us this year! Euphoria! And after a week of eating at home to save some cash, the inevitable finally happened: we deserved a reward!  And we wanted filets de perches du lac! What a feel good way to end a feel good day, right?

With such short notice, we got concerned about getting a reservation. On a Sunday evening. On a sunny terrace. In June. In Geneva. To have good perches du lac. Surely it would be a challenge. We acted fast, scanning through the handful of restaurants that are known to have all of the above qualities, and snagged a table overlooking the lake at Le Petit Lac in Corsier-Port. We breathed a sigh of relief knowing our cravings would soon be satisfied.

But they weren’t. The restaurant may be in a beautiful (really, stunning!) location, with a fantastic (really, breathtaking!) view… but they know that’s the main attraction. With a view like that, why bother making an effort on the food? The proof is in the plate: what comes out of their kitchen is slow, bland, and overpriced.  150chf+ for two starters, two mains, a dessert, and 3 glasses of wine. Granted, for Geneva, maybe not so shocking, but for that poor quality?  I’d rather pic-nic by the Jet d’Eau (But the location is gorgeous!)

See? Just goooorgeous!

First, a little background.

For those of you who have not been around Geneva very long, “filets de perches du lac” may mean nothing to you. In fact, it wasn’t so long ago that I was told by a foreign friend of mine that where they come from, perch is a fish only served to cats! See if HE ever gets invited to dinner again!  Because here in Geneva, the perches du Lac is the canton’s darling dish.

Let’s remove the veil of ignorance though, shall we? In reality, filets de perche du lac is of the simplest dishes you can find: small perch, lightly battered, pan fried, and – traditionally at least – served under a sauce meuniere (that’s butter, lemon and parsley to you francophobes). Oh, and lest we forget, the dish comes accompanied by a plate of ABSOLUTELY DELICIOUS GENEVA FRENCH FRIES!

They say the simplest of pleasures are the best, but any really good chef knows that it is the simplest of dishes that is also the easiest to screw up. If one thing goes wrong, there is no place to hide. And if you thought all filets de perches were made equal, well, think again my friends. To a discerning diner like myself, there is much to take into consideration.

1. The perches

The most important matter of debate, for any well-versed Genevan, is the origin of the perche.  Heaven forbid they come from any other lake but our very own Lac Léman. In fact, locals are so fussy about it, that restaurants have gone so far as to lie about where the fish is from. Hate to break it to you folks, but if you see a sign for filets de perche “du lac”, it probably is from a lake – just not this particular lake. Most likely, they are from Estonia. And let’s be honest: that is probably not the end of the world. (The difference? Foreign fishy is smaller, local fishy is bigger.)

Still, when I got my swiss passport, I vowed always to ask before ordering, and so I did. In fact, the waiter was so kind as to fess up immediately: the protected season for perche from our lake was extended this year because of the weather, and so they are only serving the perches from Estonia. Fine. Good man for being upfront. But were they frozen? No, he assured us, all products are fresh. Ok. Bring it!

....

….

2. The sauce

It may seem like just butter, but it’s not. A good filet de perche comes in a lightly fragrant sauce that lifts up the delicate flavor of the fish. Butter, yes, lemon, yes, parsley, yes, but all combined in perfect harmony, with the right consistency… I’m not sure what the secrets are, but it is somehow pretty easy for cooks to screw it up.  So in addition to the traditional sauce meunière, restaurants also usually offer their own twists on the sauce, adding a touch of cream, maybe a squeeze of orange, a white wine base, or other ingredients.

3. The FRENCH FRIES!

Yes yes, the fish, the sauce, fine, but what we really came for, and what we will really judge a restaurant for, is the quality of their french fries!  THAT is the main criteria from differentiating between one restaurant and the other.

See? They even LOOK stale, bland and boring

See? They even LOOK stale, bland and boring

Putting it all together

I ultimately ordered the filets de perche du lac (d’Estonie). Le Petit Lac offered a variety of sauces, as expected, but I went for the classic, always intent on judging a restaurant by its core, not by its bells and whistles. The dish that came out was a disappointment on sight. The perches were very small, and battered in a mix that was obviously to heavy on the flour, leaving the texture of the fish cardboard dry. The sauce meunière was tasteless, as though it had been watered down, or if they somehow skipped the butter.  And the fries had that exaggerated yellow, square look. Come to think of it, they might even have been machine cut and frozen, they were so tasteless. But I was hungry, so I added a bunch of salt to everything and down the hatch it all went.

Last chance dessert

Struggling to overcome my disappointment, I gathered my forces and asked about another Geneva classic that warms my heart: a Coupe Danemark. They had it on their menu, but the key to a good coupe Danemark is in the chocolate sauce. It must be bittersweet chocolate, melted on the spot, served very warm, and have just the right amount of fats in it so that it doesn’t congeal upon contact with the ice cream. (I know: i’m a discerning b*tch). I asked, as always, if the sauce was made fresh, or if it was out of a squeezy bottle. The waiter looked at me a little offended: But of COURSE it’s freshly melted. Fine, I’ll have one of those then.

Note, the sauce was served in the cup already. A telling sign that it wasn't made fresh. (It's usually served on the side)

Note, the sauce was served in the cup already. A telling sign that it wasn’t made fresh. (It’s usually served on the side)

It was unsurprisingly far from what I expect from a good Coupe. The chocolate sauce was cold and way too runny – like the butter sauce, as though it has been watered down. To be perfectly honest, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was. Bon.

Yes, it makes a difference.

Especially when dishes have such a simple design, the quality of products and balance of ingredients makes a huge difference. So if you want good perches, try to stick to the Geneva lake ones, if for no other reason then because they will be fresher. Added bonus that they would not have been shipped, reducing your carbon footprint for the meal. As for restaurants, go to Rolle, to the Café du Port. They are on the same lake as us believe it or not, it’s a lovely trip there, and you will eat perches and fries like you’ve never done before.

Tagged , , , , ,
%d bloggers like this: