Friday, 18 October 2013

DINING OUT: Swiss Comfort Food to Warm Delhi’s Heart

This review first appeared in Mail Today on 18 October 2013.

It is difficult to produce a simple dish — you understand why when you savour the delicately balanced flavours and textures of Heinz Rufibach's roesti served with emince Zurichoise

Swiss Gastronomy Experience
WHERE: Café, Hyatt Regency, Bhikaji Cama Place
WHEN: Till October 20. Dinner Buffet: 7 to 11 p.m.; Sunday Brunch: Noon to 3 p.m.
DIAL: 011-26791234
PRICE PER PERSON: Rs 1,550++ for dinner buffet; Rs 2,100++ for Sunday Brunch with unlimited soft drinks or champagne

By Sourish Bhattacharyya

HEINZ RUFIBACH is the master of what he describes as the “Alpine-Mediterranean style of cooking”, which got him 15 GaultMillau points (the equivalent of a Michelin star), and he has designed the menu for the first and business classes of SWISS International Airlines, but at the Café of the Hyatt Regency, Bhikaji Cama Place, he has opened a window to the home-style comfort food that has travelled from his country to across the world.
Heinz Rufibach has turned Swiss comfort food into
a gastronomic experience at the Cafe, Hyatt
Regency New Delhi, Bhikaji Cama Place
For a country famous for being the receptacle of world’s ill-gotten wealth, Switzerland has a simple yet wholesome home cuisine. Potatoes, cheese, sauerkraut and sausages are the four legs of its daily table, the decorative elements being chocolate and the array of desserts, of which the Swiss roll is only the ornamental tip. As the Hyatt Regency’s Swiss executive chef, Marin Leuthard, expressed it, “We are a simple people with traditional tastes.” And Rufibach is Switzerland’s celebrity ambassador of everyday cooking.
The genial visiting chef, who has fallen in love at first sight with the Taj Mahal, lives and works at Zermatt, the Alpine ski resort town with over 35,000 rooms in 132 starred hotels across a radius of 3.5km (that is more, by the way, than the inventory of the entire Delhi-NCR!). Tourists (Indians included) outnumber the residents of this village many times over as they come to admire the majestic beauty of the Matterhorn, standing in dignified isolation with its crown of ‘banner clouds’ a little distance away. It is in this busy picture-postcard village that Rufibach presides over the kitchens of Alpenhof Hotel, which is famous for its Le Gourmet restaurant.
At the Hyatt Regency’s Swiss Gastronomy Experience, start with the wintertime staple, raclette, which Rufibach scrapes off lovingly as the cheese melts slowly and temptingly, serving it with two pearl potatoes, pickled gherkins and silver onions. Move on to the Munder saffron soup, which is named after Mund, Switzerland’s famous ‘saffron village’ in the Rhone Valley to the southwest, whose annual production every October is a mere 1.3 kilos. Of this princely amount, a gram of which is priced at 42 Swiss Francs (Rs 2,840 at the present exchange rate), the allocation for Rufibach is 3gm — he’s among the fortunate few, for the village is very picky about whom it gives its saffron to.
You can’t go for a Swiss meal and not have roesti, which is simply pan-roasted boiled and grated potatoes, a poor man’s dish that can be elevated with limitless variations. You could have roesti wrapped in an omelette, or roesti with bratwurst (“Switzerland’s street food”), or roesti with the heart-warming emince Zurichoise, or sliced veal (chicken at the Hyatt Regency) and button mushrooms in silky white sauce. It is difficult to produce a simple dish — you know why when you savour the delicately balanced flavours and textures of the emince. And of course, no Swiss experience is complete without fondue — a “family dish”, explains Leuthard, it is made with grated gruyere and emmental boiled in white wine on a pan brushed with a garlic clove, and finished with a generous helping of kirsch, the dry, colourless brandy extracted from dark morello cherries.
Also on the buffet are smoked pork loin; gravlax, or spiced preserved salmon (remember the excitement around the world in 2008 when Switzerland saw its first salmon in 100 years at the Basel stretch of the Rhine?); spaetzle, a gnocchi-type pasta, but made with egg, flour and water; and beer-battered fried fish served with a remoulade sauce made with preserved cucumber, gherkins, silver onion, mayonnaise, parsley and dill.
And yes, you can’t miss the desserts — Swiss rolls; carrot cake from Aargau, the carrot canton up north; rye bread mouse with blueberry sauce; and the nut cake from Engadine valley, which is famous for its playfield of the rich and famous, St Moritz. The Swiss have turned simplicity into a gourmet experience.