09 February 2016

Swiss specials

Swiss specials
Tempting dessert: Freshly baked apple tart with thin pastry topped with pistachio ice cream and wafer-thin slices of fruit. Wallace Lin / For China Daily
Fondue and raclette are just two of the cheesy delights to be found at The Swiss Chalet, Rebecca Lo finds out in Hong Kong.

A few months ago, I reconnected with my former colleague Vandana. She suggested that we catch up over dinner at The Swiss Chalet, a favorite family restaurant. I didn't know that another Swiss restaurant existed in Hong Kong besides Chesa in The Peninsula Hong Kong and I was keen to give it a try. I wandered onto Hart Avenue at the agreed upon hour and became thoroughly disoriented. While I was asking a number of people, Vandana texted back with the exact directions. When I eventually found the ground-floor establishment, I felt very silly: No one could possibly miss the log cabin exterior of The Swiss Chalet, especially in the middle of neon lit Tsim Sha Tsui.

The proprietor, who is also the chef, greeted me. Max Liechti is a Swiss national who has been feeding home style Alpine cuisine to an entire generation of Hong Kong locals for years.

It is a testament to the restaurant's consistently high quality that he is still in business when many of his neighbors have long vanished.

After being shown to a quiet corner table, I was immediately charmed by the white placemat bearing the name of the restaurant and its flowery logo. A block of rosemary-decorated butter, softened to room temperature, is stamped with "The Chalet". It is these little touches that made the experience memorable even before the menus arrive.

Looking around the open dining room with its quaint rustic log cabin aesthetic, it was apparent that fondue was the most popular choice. After ordering the alcoholic version of the unfiltered dry apple cider, I was further pleased to see that it was served with its own ceramic mug.

Swiss specials
Vandana and I settled on a starter size of raclette to share. It came on a plate with boiled new potatoes and tiny pickles, and it was difficult to resist peeling off the remaining melted cheese from the plate to ensure we got every last bit.

We also decided to share a crayfish soup with cognac cream and crayfish roe. Creamy and robust with a richly fishy broth, it was beautifully balanced in texture by the bright orange roe.

I was a little greedy and wanted to try the spaetzle - but fretted that it didn't come with the veal tenderloin in morel cream sauce I was eyeing. Vandana assured me I could substitute my side with spaetzle, and I was very glad that I did since the two complemented each other perfectly. The firm and chewy dough helped to soak up some of the savory mushroom sauce, and the tender veal mopped up the rest of it.

We shared a dessert of freshly baked thin apple tart topped with pistachio ice cream that featured wafer-thin slices of fruit. I was practically yodeling with contentment on my way home. Dinner for two with one drink each and sharing one starter, one soup and one dessert costs HK$750 ($97).