Evolving from Memories to Critiques of Michelin Restaurants
I went to Geneva for a day for a meeting and wanted to have a nice lunch. I stumbled upon the Michelin one-star Le Chat Botté in the lovely Hotel Beau Rivage.
First, though, I would like to discuss a bit of context regarding my restaurant and food reviews.
1. I won’t even spend time contemplating or writing about restaurants I do not like.
2. To date, most of my reviews have been shallow, in the sense that they are more a recollection of favorite meals than a critical analysis of them. This has been intentional. I enjoy eating too much to take notes, pictures and impressions of every dish. I would much rather enjoy and appreciate the moment than try to be a critic. (That is also one of the reasons I generally do not take a lot of pictures while traveling.) Equally important, I generally don’t know if I will like a restaurant until after I the meal is completed. To me, each meal is a culinary journey, sometimes quick, other times longer and drawn out. In any case, I try to appreciate my meals, and every single time I have the opportunity to eat. Some meals are better than others; the best I want to record forever.
3. I am going to slowly venture into critiques only to keep myself interested. Copy and paste-ing menus is not only boring as a reader, but has gotten boring to me as well.
4. I am beginning to feel more confident in my palate such that I can fairly critique dishes. Forcing myself to think critically about my meals, what can be improved, what flavors exist and do not, help me enjoy and refine my enjoyment even more. Hopefully I can look back 3, 10 or 40 years from now and reflect on how things have changed.
And with that, we dig in to Le Chat Botté.
The dining room reflected old-world French-inspired elegance, though as a consequence was a bit boring. The pastel and muted colors on the walls and the overly generic cheap-hotel-esque carpeting detracted from the ambiance. The waitresses’ uniforms, light brown blazers with black dresses, made them look more like stewardesses than wait staff.
Immediately after sitting, but before we had received our menus, a waiter asked what we would like to drink. This question is always vexing to me, for two reasons. First, it is not like I am dying of thirst. The only thing they should be asking within 10 seconds of me sitting down is what type of water I would like to accompany my meal. Second, with the exception of a steakhouse or sushi restaurant, I have no idea what I will be eating, and I want my drink to compliment my meal. That may be champagne, a dry white, a full-bodied red, beer, a whisky…I don’t know. It just depends on the food. I would much prefer if the waiters brought food and drink menus, gave me some time to think, and allowed me to at least consider my options before coming asking if I had made a decision.
My dining companion and I had a particular dilemma this meal: he wanted a 3-course business lunch while I preferred a 4-course, more expensive tasting menu. I know this can be a problem for many kitchens, but fortunately the restaurant was able to accommodate us both.
There were two amuse bouches that were nice. The meal, and tasting notes to the best of my memory, were as follows:
Winter vegetable cannelloni flavored with truffle spinach & hazelnut oil from « Severy mill »
The cannelloni was nice, but not perfectly executed. For such a delicate dish, it was very hard to eat. I had a fork, knife and spoon, and could never find an optimal eating strategy without being very messy. Furthermore, the flavor was good, but needed a few more drops of salt. I had one, and only one bite where I could clearly taste the salt crystal in conjunction with the rest of the dish. It was exquisite. The rest was under-salted, and while the flavor was very good, it lacked a bit of that “wow” factor. Simply from under-salting.
Brittany skate wings golden and crispy, coconut milk with red curry, Pack Choi cabbage and lemongrass
The skate wing was overcooked. Such a shame, given a nice piece of fish. Simply grilled with little seasoning, which was mostly certainly the way to serve it. The lemongrass flavor was very nice, as it added just a subtle bit of lemon to the dish.
Bavarian suckling pig chop roasted with spices, sweet potato, mushroom and confit breast
The pig chop was the reason I chose this particular menu. Pork chops are a tricky dish to pull off, as just a minute or two of overcooking can make the meat very tough. At the same time, undercooked pork is just gross. The pork itself was cooked close to perfectly, perhaps just a bit too long. More importantly, the waitstaff should have provided a steak knife instead of a standard one. It was much too difficult to elegantly cut using the provided cutlery.
The sweet potatoes, on the other hand, were bursting with overwhelming delicious flavor. Perhaps some of the best I have ever tasted. Simply delicious.
The confit breast was an interesting use of the remaining pork. It was a breast “meatball.” Very good, though the outside of the “ball” was a bit hard to cut. Overall just the right portion.
There was a quick pre-dessert; I believe a light coconut gelato with cream.
Poached Victoria bananas and crispy meringue “fleur de sel” caramel ice cream
As I was already stuffed, this was a nice, light way to end the meal. Imagine a poached egg, except made of pineapple. A very cleaver, and visually appealing dessert on its black plate accentuated with a tiny purple flower.
The check came, along with some Genevois chocolate. Un plaisir.