Hotel de Ville, Philippe Rochat, Le Crisser

Text by Jeff Kingston, pictures by Peter Chong

What is the perfect day for a food loving WIS?????  How about a day at the
Basel fair followed by dinner with 3 other great WIS friends at one of the
indisputeably best restaurants in the world.    Well that is exactly what
transpired among Peter Chong, Michael Hickcox, Hans Zbinden and me this
fair season.

Hans and I have been to Rochat together before and been amazed by the
creativity of Philippe Rochat.  Yet in all honesty we could identify a
couple of things that might have been done a bit better for that meal.
These are not major criticisms, mind you.  Nothing that would in any way,
were we Michelin guide inspectors, jeaprodize the three stars.  I would
call them quibbles in what was an altogether delightful meal.  On this
occasion, the gathering of good watch friends, however, there could be no
quibble whatsoever.  Perfection was achieved.

The evening started off with amuse bouche--I love that expression "mouth
amusers".  Presented was a trio of sea urchin preparations.  These were
lovely and our mouths were suitably amused by them in combination with our
glasses of house champagne.

Then off to parade of dishes.  The first was a consome de volaille en chaud
froid fine pointe d'asperges verte aux truffes noire.  This was a just warm
dense rich consume to frame the truffles and asparagus.  Any dish featuring
abundant truffles is bound to be great and this one was all of that.  But
can I say that this merely great, excellent, sophisticated dish was the
worst of the night?  It only got better from here.

Next dish was my personal favorite.  Dos de saumon sauvage servi juste
tiede a la fleur de sel emulsion de fenouil a l'huile de Maussanne.
Imagine warmed wild salmon whose texture was simply etherial surrounded by
the deep green olive oil of Maussanne backed with hints of fennel.
Maussanne is located near Les Baux and produces some of the fruitiest olive
oils in the world.  It married perfectly with this wonderous salmon that
was so delicately cooked.  The sophistication of this dish was remarkable.

The rest of the gang voted the next dish, the winner of the night.  It was
Queue de langoustine d'ecosse frites aux epice de thaies.  Fusion cuisine!
Here was a perfect cold water langostine with a crisp wrapper surrounded by
a mildly thai curry accented sauce.  Truly exceptional.


Ok, I lied when I said that the salmon was the best dish of the night.
Actually it was the duck.  Peter and I shared a canard au vin de brouilly.
The duck arrives as sculpture--laquered and glistening it seems a crime to
carve it.  But carve it they did producing beautifully rare breast slices,
a rich red wine sauce and assorted accompanyment. 


Michael and Hans shared a pigeon which they must describe (since I did not taste that one). 


They however did share in our second duck course, which was the thigh and leg with a veluptuous potato puree.

Then off to the cheeses.  One thing to always do at Rochat is eat a
selection of gruyeres.  Here in the US one finds gruyere as if it were a
monolithic cheese--one kind.  There one has a selection of different ages
and saltiness.  In all cases the nutty character of the cheese is far more
profound than anything store bought.  Also not to be missed is Friboug
cheese.  This is the neighboring village of Gruyere.  It is a somewhat
sweeter milder version of the genre.

All of this is just a warm up for the dessert parade.

This was followed by a sorbet course (strawberry, orange and bannana) then an ice cream course (vanilla, caramel praline, and lime yogurt). A word about the vanilla ice cream. Great versions of this have flecks of the vanilla bean showing. This one was almost dark with it. Wow!

Sorbet of fruit in three flavours.


Then came the dessert trolly. Here one may have as much as one wants of a selection of twenty or so of the most beautiful tarts, poached fruit and cakes imaginable. I chose a tarte vaudoise (a highly reduced cream cinanmon tart--a wonderful tart never to be missed here), a dense chocolate tart set on a very thin layer of raspberry puree--decadence itself, and a rhubarb tarte--which was in a word, perfectly tart. This was all surrounded by the usual perfect petit fours and chocolates.

When Philippe Rochat came out to say goodnight I found my French not up to the task of describing just how good everything was. I tried to explain how multiple times that night I was left stupified by the complexity yet purity of dish after dish.

One thing is for sure: Rochat's place on my private list of best in the world is secure.


L-R: Michael Hickcox, Peter Chong, Hans Zbinden, Jeff Kingston



Copyright Jeff Kingston, Peter Chong 2003