Switzerland- Le Cheval Blanc- ✪✪✪

 Peter Knogl

Peter Knogl

On a drizzly, early-Spring midday I arrived at the exterior of the Hotel Les Trois Rois, a luxurious but somewhat sad-looking building on the river in the center of Basel, Switzerland. If you’ve seen the film Grand Budapest Hotel, you’re getting the picture. This is a new entrant to the three-star category; they just got their third star as of the 2016 book, and, seeming to feel the need to prove their mettle, they did not disappoint. Peter Knogl leads an exceptionally professional staff for one of the most satisfying and least expensive meals of my entire adventure. This place is a must-visit. 

 Le Cheval Blanc Exterior (Hotel Les Trois Rois)

Le Cheval Blanc Exterior (Hotel Les Trois Rois)

BASEL, SWITZERLAND

SERVICE: 7.5/10

FOOD: 8.5/10

PRICE PAID: $112 PP (LIST PRICE- PRE-CHALLENGE)

VALUE/MONEY: 9.5/10

FINAL SCORE: 8.5/10

 Le Cheval Blanc Interior

Le Cheval Blanc Interior

 Cuckoo Clock

Cuckoo Clock

I’m walked into a large, European-Royalty-Drawing-Room style space quite similar to L’Astrance or Le Meurice. Gorgeous oil paintings with a Renaissance look are hung on the walls, and an ancient golden cuckoo clock incorrectly keeps time above. 

I’m seated at a corner table with a beautiful view of the river. Incongruously lime-green buses crisscross the low, grey European skyline every minute or two, and four freshly-made candles adorn a silver candlestick at my table. The space could not be more quirkily elegant.

 Le Cheval Blanc Interior Wall

Le Cheval Blanc Interior Wall

On weekdays, the restaurant offers a “business lunch” menu for around $100 that is an absolutely killer deal. It came out to about $10 a plate, and I left absolutely stuffed. Their regular menu is well over $200, and there was some visible disappointment from the wait staff when I didn’t order either that menu or wine, but them’s the brakes. 

 Bread + Butter, 7/10

Bread + Butter, 7/10

Bread and butter service are just okay- the bread is crunchy, and the server charmingly admonishes me to only take one piece at a time so I can enjoy the smell of each loaf more before they get cold. An oddly European piece of advice. 7/10.

 Course 1: Red Prawn + Jalapeno Mousse, 10/10

Course 1: Red Prawn + Jalapeno Mousse, 10/10

Next, some Carabineros (a red prawn from the Mediterranean) with jalapeño mousse. One must dig down and get a whole vertical slice for all the correct flavors to be present. Small chunks of shellfish are throughout, almost indistinguishable from the surrounding mousse they're so soft. Rich, and slightly sweet- almost an avocado mousse flavor. Everything is super fresh and goes together perfectly, a stupendous start. 10/10.

 Course 2: Tapioca Chip + Beef, 7/10

Course 2: Tapioca Chip + Beef, 7/10

Next, a tapioca chip with a tiny wrap of beef, served on a napkin. The rich sauces are a little overwhelming, and taste almost exactly like Arby's horsey sauce. 7/10.

 Course 3A: Razor Clam, 10/10

Course 3A: Razor Clam, 10/10

 Course 3B: Mushroom Chip, 10/10

Course 3B: Mushroom Chip, 10/10

This is easily one of my favorite dishes of all time. A dill-forward collection of clams presented in the shell of a razor clam (on the left) alongside mushroom slices and a mushroom sauce on a chip that tastes like Wheaties cereal (on the right). The flavors all (somehow) work together perfectly- 10/10. 

 Course 4: Kingfish + Miso + Avocado, 7/10

Course 4: Kingfish + Miso + Avocado, 7/10

Kingfish, miso, and avocados. The fish is very bright and fresh, but I suppose that Knogl and crew can't help themselves but to install dabs of extraordinarily rich sauce that taste much like mayonnaise. Nothing wrong with that, but it ends up being a lot of goddamn mayo. 7/10.

 Course 5: Angelfish + Black Truffles, 8/10

Course 5: Angelfish + Black Truffles, 8/10

Check out this beautifully constructed dish of angelfish and Perigord black truffles. The truffles are excellent and the fish is fresh. Once again, the sauce is unspeakably and unnecessarily rich. 8/10.

 Course 6A: Granny Apple Granite + Coconut + Ginger, 8/10

Course 6A: Granny Apple Granite + Coconut + Ginger, 8/10

 Course 6B: Granny Apple Shot

Course 6B: Granny Apple Shot

Next, a completely awesome Granny Smith apple granita with coconut and ginger. The sugary softness of the yogurt is balanced perfectly by the spicy ginger. And on the side, a Granny Smith shot! Sweet and fresh. 8/10

 Course 7: Passion Fruit + Cheese, 9/10

Course 7: Passion Fruit + Cheese, 9/10

As we wrap up, a tiny, perfectly-balanced spoonful of tropical fruit and cheese. 9/10.

 Course 8: Mignardises, 9/10

Course 8: Mignardises, 9/10

Some absolutely awesome mignardises; including a hazelnut triple stack, Lemon, and carrot. 9/10.

 Last Sip: Coffee, 8/10

Last Sip: Coffee, 8/10

 Course 9: Swiss Chocolate, 9/10

Course 9: Swiss Chocolate, 9/10

What would a visit to Switzerland 3-star be without some Swiss chocolate? This enormous tray of hand-made confectionary is brought to my table with a great flourish. I'm told to select as many as I want, and of course the temptation is to scoop them all up and put them in my backpack, but that strikes me as a potentially gauche gesture. 

 Course 9: Swiss Chocolate, 9/10

Course 9: Swiss Chocolate, 9/10

From 12'o'clock, and moving clockwise- salty caramel, pure dark chocolate, piña colada, Mint, yuzu, and Szechuan spice. Piña colada is liquid centered and tastes like an alcohol-coconut drink blended with white chocolate, so they nailed it. Mint is spearmint and very strong. 9/10.

Though I won't often get explicit about the financial piece on this website, Le Cheval Blanc made it easy for me to hit my $100 target by setting their fixed menu lunch at an unbelievably reasonably price for one of the top ~100 restaurants in the world. As I said, this place has it all.