Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Go South for Swiss Food

This low-carb diet really got in the way of me doing the things I love to do. I cannot even remember the last time I stepped into an Italian restaurant! (Actually, I do- it was more than a month ago. Too long.)

One weekend, I just told myself: Screw it. A day of carbohydrate overload could not be that bad. After all, Matt and I have been good- oatmeal for breakfast, smaller portions, and no more midnight phone calls to McDonald’s and Yellow Cab Pizza. So off we went with our favorite foodie crew to Appenzeller- our favorite Swiss restaurant south of Makati.

I was contemplating on putting this entry under the “Brunch-ing Manila” series because my favorite Swiss dishes seem to comfortably fall under that category. I can imagine people having some of these dishes any time of the day- most especially after one of those alcohol-laced nights when you crave hearty, fried food. But then again, Appenzeller’s line-up for Swiss/Central European/Continental dishes are so diverse that it would be misleading to just zero in on the roestis and the schnitzels.

Matt and I heard about this cozy eatery from some friends living in Alabang who love the authentic cooking and laidback vibe which highly-encourage leisurely meals, probably followed by a few drinks. The bar is bedecked with popular spirits and some Central European liqeur, including one from the Swiss region after which the restaurant was named.

Arriving a little after one in the afternoon, our group was famished, and we began our meal with some German wheat beer and appetizers.

Oettinger Weissbier is a refreshing, mildly-fruity beer, a style that I enjoy. This is not my favorite Wiessbier, but since it is the only one Appenzeller carries, it will do. In fact, I had two, a feat that a beer lightweight like me rarely achieves. It was just so good with the food, I tell myself, feeling slightly guilty as I start counting carbs in my head. But just as soon as I began, I conveniently shoved those restrictive thoughts back to the back of my mind and allowed myself to enjoy.

The Buure Schublig- a cured Swiss sausage, reminiscent of Spanish fuet- was a great accompaniment to the beer. It was moderately salty, a bit chewy, and very flavorful.

Being a Swiss meal, we just had to have cheese. And what could be more over-the-top than Deep Fried Camembert? Camembert is an unpasteurized soft cheese from France which is beloved for its mild flavor and gooey texture. In Appenzeller, it is given the schnitzel treatment as it is rolled in breadcrumbs and deep-fried to golden perfection. I eat it spread over crackers and topped with a little bit of preserved beets. Delicious, although I believe they can find better crackers than Sky Flakes. Nothing wrong with Sky Flakes, in fact I eat it at home. But that’s exactly what I mean- if I wanted to eat cheese and Sky Flakes, than I would have been happy to do so in my pajamas.

The Veal Bratwurst with Potato Salad was also a must try, something very popular in that region. Sanj enjoyed the sausage very much, much more than the Buure Schublig. We asked the server if it was homemade and she confirmed my suspicion that it was sourced from Swiss-owned Santis Delicatessen. Two things I learned from their veal brat is that, 1) caramelized onions and white sausage is the bomb, and 2) a nice sear on a sausage from a scorching-hot pan or grill makes a world of difference.

After a short lull, the main courses arrived all together. Matt, Cutie and Mark V. ordered their own, while Sanj and I ordered several dishes to be shared with all.

A Steak Tartare lover recommended the Appenzeller version, so Sanj decided to order one for the table. Interestingly, the waitress asked us if we wanted it spicy. Funny how this is the first time I was asked this in a restaurant, since I think the spice level is a vital characteristic of this particular dish. True enough, the steak tartare was nicely-seasoned and piquant- exactly how I would have wanted it to taste if I made it myself. It could be less fine though, as I prefer steak tartare a bit chunky. Otherwise, it develops a strange, mousse-y character- something I don’t want associated with raw beef.

The Zuercher Geschnetzeltes- one of my favorite Swiss dishes to order (not only because it’s so good, but also because I like to brag how I can pronounce it with ease)- was, sadly, our least favorite dish. The flavor of butter was overwhelming, which is never a good thing, in any style of cooking. What a waste of good spaetzle (pasta dumplings).

The Berner Roesti, another favorite, is one of those dishes I can easily have for brunch as well. Roesti- crisp on the outside, moist and soft in the inside- is a popular Swiss potato dish, similar to hash browns. You can pretty much toss in whatever you want to make it more exciting. In this case, the Berger is a roesti potato topped with cheese, bacon and egg. I devoured my order of this the first time we ate here, but the second time I found it to be a tad lackluster. More my fault than the kitchen, though- since we ordered so much food, the cheese hardened as the dish got colder. Note to self: Give the Berner Roesti the attention it deserves- no double-booking.

Another repeat performance came from the Beef Stroganoff (served with a side of buttered pasta). Mark V. and I are particularly fond of this dish- the beef strips are sliced generously and cooked a perfect medium, covered in a robust, demi-glace-based sauce. It’s hearty and comforting, a dish you would love to curl up with on a cold or rainy day.

I love brunch-ing at this restaurant with friends, not only because of the food, but because of the easy vibe, something that is also synonymous with the area. And with the Skyway, it is no longer the “road trip” it used to be. After the three-hour meal, we did some shopping at South Supermarket, where I even found a stall selling Alamid coffee (that expensive stuff which is actually poo from some forest creature) and had my first taste. It was a good day with friends, one of those things that I live for.

Appenzeller Bar & Restaurant
Alabang-Zapote Road
Alabang, Muntinlupa

Directions, from Makati- Go south on the Skyway and exit at South Station (Alabang-Zapote Rd.). Just go straight until you hit the Acacia Avenue intersection. Right after you pass that, you will see a row of low buildings on your right. Make a right on the next break on the road and go back. Appenzeller is on that row, next to Tile Depot.


ChichaJo said...

I need to venture away from Makati! This looks like a great spread...haven't had fried Camembert since Schwarzwalder. And I love steak tartare!!

Chinkee said...

Hi Joey! Yeah, I love driving to Appenzeller on a weekend, especially for a steady, long lunch:-)