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Cheval Blanc - a gastronomy restaurant of Peter Knogl

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Basel, a city with plenty of museums, is known as a rich city. My friend who’s familiar with banking world called this place was filled with lots of “old money”. However, what drew me to this city was the latest 3-star Michelin at Switzerland bestowed in 2016 to the flagship restaurant of the only grand hotel in town – Les trois rois. The restaurant was called Cheval Blanc, named after the respectable wine producer in St. Emilion. Cheval Blanc reached many foodies’ radar ever since the arrival of Peter Knogl, originally from Bavaria, in 2007. He was trained under the reputable chef Heinz Winkler in both Tantris and Aschau’s Residenz.  Within 2 years in charge of the restaurant, Chef Knogl already attained 2-star. Gault Millau’s chef of the year was other prestigious awards he received … twice.

 

Although my wife and I came here during lunch time, we ordered the full tasting menu. The sign that the food at Cheval Blanc would be wonderful could be seen from the beginning.  The amuse-bouches … 4 of them were dazzling. Then, we had the smooth and delicious foie gras as our first real appetizer with sweet fig confit and kinda acidic cassis. From this, I was convinced that I needed to order some extra items from the a la carte. The fish & seafood were really strong here while the meat parts were also very good. Some of my favorites were:

- The lightly cooked scallop was of outstanding quality: plump, tender and naturally sweet. It was accompanied by fresh carrot and seasoned with vadouvan (fermented spices) having interesting + complex taste & aroma. A very good classical dish with modern touch.

- Japanese kingfish was moist, clean & buttery. It was beautifully enhanced by the crisp radish, nutty avocado & savory miso. The combination of the sides produced plenty of vibrant flavors with pleasant texture contrasts - really refreshing! A simple cold appetizer that turned out to be awesome

- Juicy and rather firm red Mullet nicely absorbed the saffron sauce and tomato vinaigrette. It was cooked with its crispy scales

- Our meat course was solid – an earthy and wild Styrian venison; relatively tender, tasty and a bit gamey. The Rouennaise sauce was rich but balanced by the celery mousseline.   

 

There were a few more dishes and I will let find them by reading the more comprehensive review below. The food was definitely stunning, arguably the best one I’ve eaten in the country (pretty much toe-to-toe with l’Hotel de ville). The dining room was not that big; it could only cover about 30 people. Yet, it’s spacious and designed with classical style interiors: crystal chandeliers, dark parquet floor & partly covered with carpets, some fine paintings on the wall, big & heavy purple drapes, large table with crisp white linens on top etc. The only issue was possibly the service. It was not bad per se but did not deliver at the height of its food. Again, you could find more details from the link’s below. Peter Knogl, the amiable and gentle chef, visited the dining room near the end and took time to talk to each table. My meal here (purely on food) scored 96 pts in my notes … about 2 ¾* by Michelin standards. Thus, the red guide book highest honor to Cheval Blanc was very well-deserved. I look forward to making a return here should I be near the Basel area in the future.

 

More detailed review: http://zhangyuqisfoodjourneys.blogspot.com/2018/06/cheval-blanc-peter-knogl.html

Pictures of the meal: https://www.flickr.com/photos/7124357@N03/albums/72157667799106717/with/41680086125/

 

 

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Basel’s Cheval Blanc is a rather underrated 3-star restaurant in Switzerland. It’s housed inside the city’s most opulent hotel, but like many other dining places whose chefs were confident with their skills ... they “believe” that excessive marketing / promotion is unnecessary. After all, the capacity of the restaurant is limited. In January this year, I happened to be in Zurich. When doing the plan, I immediately thought to make a return to arguably my favorite among Swiss’ fine dining. As the day approaching, initially I had a little doubt whether it’s worth the effort – a total of 2+ hours of a round-trip in the evening / night in the middle of cold Winter. Then, there are the Restaurant and Ecco (both of them holding 2-star Michelin) that I’ve never visited yet. At the end, I decided to stick with my original plan.  

 

Since I had to return to Zurich before midnight, I gotta be punctual. In short, including the ordering of the dishes and payment of the bill ... I had less than 3 hours for my meal – not too ideal when one wants to indulge himself. I learned a simple lesson here: stay overnight in Basel if I want to have a dinner at Cheval Blanc. That being said, the restaurant was aware of my time constraint and did its utmost best to accommodate me; the restaurant manager & the head chef kindly allowed me to “arrange” my own Le menu de rois so that I could try several new dishes. Beyond that, I had another stellar meal. I consumed fewer courses when compared to my maiden visit here, but quality-wise both meals were about equally wonderful. For this dinner, some courses I loved were:

 

-Thinly sliced of fresh and sweet Scallops carpaccio (presented lukewarm) were perfectly paired with fragrant lemon sauce and nutty + buttery caviar. It looked simple yet sophisticated & delicious; the warm feeling and (natural) sweetness derived here was really comforting - wonderful!

-Creamy but not overly rich foie gras was in harmony with heavenly artichoke espuma and plenty of pungent & earthy Winter black truffles. To fully enjoy the dish, scoop from the bottom to top to experience different layers of flavors and textures – exceptional. A perfectly executed ‘classic’ dish

I selected these 2 items from the a la carte options

 

-Chef Knogl’s signature dish of Bresse pigeon with Moroccan flavor was up to its reputation. The stunning pigeon was tender and delicious (the breast was succulent while the drumstick was tastier & more complex). The sauce was special having Moroccan flavors with curry + cumin aroma ... essentially, it was veal jus with wine and some other spices. The creamy carrot puree and a little lime juice balanced any rich flavor.

Lobster with bergamot; Sole (petit bateau) with black truffle; both of them were really good as well. The only ‘average’ dish was possibly the smoked eel appetizer – not bad but rather pale in comparison to the others

 

It was not even full 2 years since my first visit ... so Giuseppe Giliberti, the maitre d’hotel who spoke 3 major languages used in Switzerland fluently, still remembered me. Thus, I felt I received better service during this visit – more attentive and amiable. The kitchen managed to pace my meal accordingly. And lastly, I finished my meal the earliest that evening where most diners were still either in their fish or meat courses (It was a full house evening) ... yet that did not prevent Peter Knogl from coming out of the kitchen to meet me and bid farewell near the hotel’s entrance. Moreover, he expressed his appreciation that I re-visited his restaurant; quite a rare feat from the head chef of multiple star dining places located in major cities.   

 

While I might ‘like’ my first meal here because of the company (I had lunch with my wife without any time constraint), objectively, this Winter dinner overall experience was a little bit more superior because of the hospitality – the food was equally great. Given the food’s quality, ease of booking, and accessible location ... Cheval Blanc Basel is one of my favorite restaurants in the world that I would love to go again in the future.

 

Pictures of the meal: https://www.flickr.com/photos/7124357@N03/albums/72157678272006667/with/32896429957/

 

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