Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Review: Hotel les Armures

My friend Erin, who some of you may recall from her guest post on Yale d-halls, came out to Geneva for a weekend visit. Her history skillz compelled her to photograph all the Genevan fountains (free water for all!) and other ancient fixtures and signs, but I still managed to convert her into make the weekend a pseudo-culinary tour. (Pseudo, only because because I had an obligation to bring her to regular touristy things.)

Hence, the next series of posts will be reviewing our chock-full-of-food weekend - from chains to fine dining to the Alimentarium (a museum specializing in food and culture, and which I've been plotting to see ever since I've gotten here).

To begin: after Erin got here Friday night, we scrambled to get a stash of food before everything closed at 7. After a quick tour of Old Town, we wandered Bourg de Four for dinner before settling on Hotel les Armures, whose claim to fame is that diplomats and "three Democratic U.S. presidents" have stayed there. (Translated: those darn Republicans.)

Hotel des Armures is well-known for its cheese fondue, but although it was rather cold on the patio, we wanted to get some red meat into our systems for the rather lengthy day trip tomorrow. Erin chose the traditional saucisson-rosti combination (CHF 19), which consisted of a Swiss-cut sausage coupled with rosti, a round cake of shredded potato that can be compared to soft, non-crispy hash browns. I went for a house specialty, the cold roast beef with tartar sauce coupled with fries and a spring mix (CHF 24). We split a wild mushroom soup as a starter (CHF 14).

(You get CHF 1.05 for every US$1 exchanged here, so we just think about it heuristically as one-to-one.)

The mushroom soup was my favorite part of the meal, though Erin relinquished the majority of the bowl to me. As a bisque, it was neither cream-of-mushroom nor chunky broth; although the color was a bit off-putting, it tasted like mushroom sans the bitterness (I silently compared it to the mushroom tart at Porter Square's Chez Henri).

My roast beef froid was pretty good; lots of the red at the center. I usually try to steer away from tartar sauce in the States, but homemade tartar is a different story...plus there were no capers in the tartar. The chunky raw chive added to the top of the tartar made it a little more crisp. The salad was lackluster, and although shredded potato was a good idea in theory, drowning it in a creamy mayonnaise dressing and tossing it on top of the salad was not the best idea.

Fries...hmph. I'm already slightly disgruntled with fries here in Switzerland; they're too potato-y (potatoe-y looks better, but I don't want to pull a Dan Quayle just in case) and yellow colored for my McD sensibilities. To make matters worse, I asked for ketchup and was never served it, and the already-brusque service went downhill from there. Yes, I know I'm hopeless - so please, the ketchup. I can't do it with cracked black pepper, alone. (I could have done with some aioli, too.)

On the other hand, Erin's sausage was amazing. Lots of dense flavor permeated it, and the casing wasn't obnoxious. I prefer Perkins pan-fried hash browns to rosti, but that's probably just because the chewier texture is acquired.

Throwdown: go for the lunch specials at CHF 19. You can get a main plate with risotto/rosti and veggies on the side. And don't ask for the ketchup.

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