Tsim Sha Tsui
Date of review: July 19, 2016 | Reviewed by: Charmaine Mok
There is absolutely no pretence here at the Grand Dame’s cherished Swiss restaurant, which has been serving its unique combination of rustic charm and European indulgence since 1965. Designed to mimic an Alpine lodge, the low-ceilinged dining room is dominated by handsome woods and plush, slightly retro red carpeting and sturdy tables and chairs. Low candlelight calls to mind the romantic flicker of a fireplace, successfully offering diners the cosseting environs of a snowy town chalet.
Our recommendation is to arrive hungry, and in a pack—the portions here are healthy, and the offerings rich. Most diners will opt for the restaurant’s signature Raclette du Valais to start—a hot plate of melted cow’s cheese (with glorious browned bubbles on top) served with pert new potatoes, gherkins and pickled onions to offset the intense flavours of the raclette. Chesa’s signature fondues are also a must order, even after our cheesy appetiser, and the Fondue moité-moité consisting of Gruyère and Vacherin Fribourgeoise has the intense umami of quality aged dairy. The baguette cubes are a little pedestrian, but serve merely as vehicles for the delicious molten cheese. Wait for the final thin layer to caramelise and crisp up over the flame for an extra treat. Of course, there are other merits on the menu too; slow-cooked citrus salmon with sliced carrots and lemon butter sauce is a welcome light course that offers plenty of tender sweet peas and stalks of juicy asparagus, and roasted US veal chop with mushroom ragout and mustard cream sauce that is immensely satisfying, the meat blushing pink in the way that it should when expertly cooked. Most people will find it hard to push through to dessert, but they must. The freshly baked apple tart with blueberry compote and yoghurt ice cream is the perfect denouement, with its thin, crisp slices of apple atop an exquisite buttery puff pastry base that shatters agreeably under the light pressure of a fork. The tart ice cream is a welcome accompaniment, leaving the palate refreshed with each bite.
The Peninsula’s master wine list is carefully curated, and a page of wines by the glass will offer a combination of reliable and intriguing bottles. A recommended Bianco del Borgo 2014 viognier from Tuscany, with its minerality, was an elegant yet powerful match for the rich cheese courses and the creaminess of the veal dish.
The service at Chesa matches expectations, with water refilled regularly and wine recommendations in particular done with a seasoned approach. Only at one point did the service trip up, which was when a request for the coffee sauce in the salted caramel mille-feuille be served on the side was not relayed to the kitchen.
A filling meal for two with wine and service will come to around HK$2,000, marking this restaurant as a place for the occasional splurge—however, the quality of the cooking is on par with the pricing and we would happily make a return visit.