Love, Lust & Passion

By Sindy Chan Source:Global Times Published: 2016/11/25 5:03:41

Fine dining at the Hotel Krone-Sihlbrugg, Switzerland

Sihlbrugg, Switzerland  Photo: Sindy Chan

Sihlbrugg, Switzerland  Photo: Sindy Chan

The Hotel Krone-Sihlbrugg  Photo: Sindy Chan

The Hotel Krone-Sihlbrugg Photo: Sindy Chan

A room in the Hotel Krone-Sihlbrugg  Photo: Sindy Chan

A room in the Hotel Krone-Sihlbrugg Photo: Sindy Chan

The Tredecim restaurant  Photo: Sindy Chan

The Tredecim restaurant Photo: Sindy Chan

European fine-dining is largely perceived as involving expensive yet unappetizing meals. However, I myself had a graceful fine-dining experience at the 220-year-old Hotel Krone-Sihlbrugg in Switzerland.

It was a Friday evening when I went to the restaurant Tredecim, a traditional, wood-paneled restaurant with a tiled stove and an inventive menu.

When I called for a table reservation, I had to tell maître d' Monika Jans whether I planned on having the classic menu or the executive chef's inventive menu.

I chose the executive chef's menu, which basically meant there would be no menu.

Thomas Huber is the mastermind behind Hotel Krone-Sihlbrugg and Tredecim. His family has a long history at the hotel as the Huber family opened a tavern there in 1796.

Tredecim is the Latin for 13. This makes sense as a name since Thomas Huber is the 13th generation owner and the restaurant offers a 13-course menu - seven courses for fish-meat dishes and six courses for vegetarian dishes.

A meal fit for a king 

The "Krone" kitchen is proud of cleverly arranged menus, flooded with French and Italian fragrances and complemented with Asian elements.

The "Aperitif popsicles" were playful and mind-blowing way to start the meal.

Edamame, wasabi and Asian influenced gazpacho were the main ingredients of my first course "Marinated edamame with mushrooms and air of grounded cubeb, Asian influenced gazpacho and pearl of beetroot with wasabi."

It was Huber's rhyme and verse for welcoming guest from the Orient. Jans recommended a glass of Chardonnay 2012 to bring out the best of the first course's Oriental flavors.

Presentable and appetizing, the second course "Smoke!" was tender smoked salmon, mousse with blini and sour cream, homemade piri piri and bacon - a true star.

Blini are pancakes made from buckwheat flour and piri piri is Portuguese sauce made from hot chilies.

From the burning flavor of "Smoke!," Huber made a sharp turn to a milky-white dish called "Cepe/corn/white tomato."

Cepe is a type of large, fleshy boletus mushroom. This mild-tasting dish of stone-grinded polenta with fresh corn, popcorn, sautéed cepes, marinated raw cepes and white tomato mousse frosted in liquid nitrogen and foam was a true test of the chef's skill. 

The light rose wine Cuvée Blanche 2013 was my favorite glass of wine that night.

It amazed me that although centuries had passed, Krone-Sihlbrugg's original motto of "Love, Lust, Passion" still remained intact.

The 13th generation's definition of "Lust" is "a colorful mixed kitchen, light, low in carbohydrates, with exciting and unusual creations."

I finally got to appreciate "Lust" for myself as it was the theme for my main course that night.

"Trout/apple/cucumber" was an elegant dish of fresh whole trout cooked in a bag with chamomile, cucumbers, apples and the juices and fins of the trout, all complemented by a glass of Viognier de Geneve 2013.

If you are still hungry at this point, "Geschnetzeltes Kalbsfilet nach Zürcher Art mit Rösti," or Zurich-style sliced veal fillet and Rösti (pan-fried potatoes) from the restaurant's classic menu is sure to fill you up.

Before dessert, Jans presented the famous Krone-Sihlbrugg cheese cart with a sumptuous display of more than 70 cheese selections that represented the continual collection of special, rare and expensive cheeses produced by Jans and Huber.

Dessert was "Blackberry/macadamia nut/basil." Basil sorbet was a bold choice for a dessert, but I really liked it.

Generations of hospitality

The Krone house was built in 1267 and later converted into a customs house during the 14th century. The Huber family took ownership of the house in 1773.

As I strolled around the house and grounds, walking from door to door to look at the beautiful old slate floors, the Tiled stove room on the first floor, the 50-year-old post office with a generous field parquet in walnut and oak and the ancient chestnut trees in the garden terrace, I found myself lost in time looking at the history of the Huber family.

The hotel has always been part of Huber's life, at a very young age he was already his parent's "right-hand boy."

Huber told me each generation of his family was always implementing new ideas - a tavern, a kitchen, a post hotel... the list goes on. It's always the house, not the businesses in it, that the Huber family treasured the most.

I ended up staying a night at the hotel. All the hotel rooms are decorated with Latin sayings and in Latin décor. Even the color schemes reflect Latin elements as well.

The hotel's very generous complimentary amenities such as a self-service refrigerator with soft drinks, beer, fruit and chocolate, and a Nespresso coffee machine won my heart.

The Krone guestbook has been around since World War I. It proudly records the names of prestigious guests such as Prince Henry of the Netherlands, the Duke of Mecklenburg, Prince Philip of Great Britain, General Henry Guisan and Swiss playwright and novelist Max Rudolf Frisch, all of whom stayed at the hotel at one time or another.

The first Chinese family to stay at the hotel arrived in 1960.

At breakfast the next morning, Huber politely asked when I wanted to check out.

"I will be in and out of the hotel all morning and I want to make sure I say goodbye to you personally when you check out," Huber explained.

Is this kind of earnest service also a result of the hotel's love, lust and passion?

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