A Saturday-night drive around Lake Geneva to Montreux was an unexpected surprise. Located in the Fairmount hotel is Jaan, a previously Michelin-starred restaurant (didn’t see it on the 2008 list) in an elegant Belle Epoque-styled hotel overlooking Lake Geneva. Up front, I will state emphatically that the food served was easily some of the most artistically-plated and exceptionally tasting that I can recall. I will also advise that the service was so painfully slow as to have made me consider walking out. Perhaps that is what caused the loss of their Michelin star, but if one is patient, than one can be rewarded with some exceptional cuisine.
The timeline was such that we arrived at the hotel shortly after 8:00 – I remember specifically as we had a driver who indicated he was going to go down the street for dinner and would be back in one hour; I looked at my watch = 8:07 p.m. We walked upstairs, sat down, and were promptly offered a glass of Veuve Cliquot Rosé. This probably put us at about 8:30. A snack tray was offered; paper-thin chips of some sort of spice, a creamy spread I mostly ignored, and spiced nuts which were painfully hot for me. It was 8:45 before our order was taken.
The official amuse arrived; a trio which included a bite of langostine topped with a bright herby cream, a scoop of salt cod with a salt cod chip, and a square platter with a slice of tongue encased in a classic velouté of tuna topped with a few capers. The quality of the langostine was a good indication of the overall quality of the ingredients. Our order was finally taken but it was well past 9:30 before the first courses arrived, almost an hour-and-a-half since we sat down!
My starter was Green and White Asparagus with Frog Legs with Garlic Herb Red Wine Mustard. What a beautiful presentation! Small columns of white asparagus were topped with a single pink peppercorn and an edible flower petal. The rest of the asparagus was wrapped like a bouquet and nestled with “drumsticks” of frogs legs. The asparagus was perfectly prepared with the right amount of bright crispness and the richness of the frogs legs provided an earthy base giving a well-rounded presentation.
My partner had the Duck Foie Gras from Alsace, breaded with Cajun Nuts and accompanied with an artistic strip of Granny Smith Jelly and Fruits Chutney with Tonka Beans. Again, another stunning offering. The idea of Cajun-spiced nuts was a concern which were quickly diminished. The cold foie on the interior was creamy and provided an excellent complement to the crunchy nuts. The painterly strip of fruits on their own might have been too sweet, but the juxtaposition of flavors and textures was one of the most innovative I’ve ever had.
Not being a tremendous fish fan, my partner did not bother with a fish course but instead we shared my course, a Brittany Lobster “Spring Roll” with lobster mousse and fresh coriander. For these first three courses, we shared an ill-chosen Johannesburg Riesling (my fault – a bit too thick when something like a Sancerre would have been better). Regardless, this lobster dish was monumentally perfect. From here on out, I can’t imagine tasting any lobster dish without hearkening back to this one. The tail meat was wrapped in blanched leeks and cut into three sections to give the appearance of a spring roll with the leg meat strategically placed to emulate the lobster himself. The entire being sat on top of a mélange of shoestring-shredded vegetables which included fresh ginger, carrots, leeks, and bell peppers. The sauce had a slight curry hint to it as the Asian flavors and creamy sauce were a fabulous balance to the rich lobster meat. Now, several days later, I can still taste it and I still want more.
Two mains were shared; Pigeon from France – roasted breasts, confit legs in duck fat with first vegetables and paper vaudois style with foie gras jus and Fillet of Swiss Veal with Open Ravioli, pan-fried foie gras, Sichuan pepper sauce. This was where the integrity of the ingredients really demonstrated themselves. Less than 24 hours before, I had eaten an offering of pigeon at Lion d’Or and in comparison, the Lion d’Or’s pigeon was shoe leather next to the tenderness of Jaan’s offering. As rare and red as a quality steak, there was sweetness and richness in the meat with a foie-based sauce not too rich and a selection of vegetables providing a bright, clean complement.
Of the veal, I peeled back the handkerchief of herb-imbedded pasta to see the stacked veal and foie gras. Also hidden under the pasta was a brunoise of fruit. Once again, a stunning piece of meat, perfectly seared foie, and an ever-so-slightly spicy sauce balanced with a bit of fruit provided an inspirational offering. These were paired with a 1989 Latour Pauillac Grand Cru
Moving on in the evening, it was coming on to 11:30 and there was still cheese and dessert service. Choosing to forego the formal service of the cheese cart, we asked to be moved into an anteroom, near the bar and fireplace where my partner could smoke a cigar. The staff accommodatingly brought me a requested assorted cheese plate and I was served a glass of Jurancon. They seemed concerned I was not going to order dessert and I explained I was much happier with the cheese and a finishing with mignardise which really was a perfect ending to an otherwise really long evening.
I don’t necessarily mind four- and five-hour dinners (and have had them at French Laundry and Manresa), but in those cases, I am being served a dozen-plus courses – literally one course every twenty minutes or so – but a three course meal taking four hours? A terrible shame, considering the quality and imaginativeness of the food.
Pics on the blog.