The Swiss Chalet - US Highway 50 - 2544 Lake Tahoe Blvd - South Lake Tahoe - CA 96150 - 530 544 3304
[skip to the link at the bottom if you want to read the same review with photographs]
All of us agreed, we wanted a fondue. D, my exroomate, and I had been to the Swiss Chalet a couple of years earlier and were both of the opinion it deserved a second visit. I've eaten fondue many times in the Alps, so I have an idea of what it should taste like. I was pretty certain, that Fred, the discerning Frenchman, might find the Swiss Chalet version acceptable too.
The Swiss Chalet is an institution. It has been open for no less than 48 years. It actually looks like archetypal Alpine Chalet, which adds to the charm of the experience. The decor is certainly not stylish or modern(picture top/mid). When we arrived we started with Kir Royales at the bar(picture top/left). Well, at least the girls did. They didn't have cassis, but Chambourd worked just fine. The bar tender was friendly and we had fun chatting with him whilst we waited for our booth-table to be prepared.
All entrees are served with soup or salad. We chose the salad (picture top/right) with the house dressing. Very European, quite old-fashioned with a slice of smoked ham and old-style veggies like crinkle-cut beetroot and huge onion rings. Still, it was very good, the dressing was extremely tasty. This salad comes highly recommended by me. It's not the slightest bit, trendy, beautiful or Californian, but it tastes darned good.
D and I remembered we had loved the side order of Fresh Mushrooms sauteed in Butter ($5.95) on our previous visit so we decided to order a serving to share as another appetizer. Like the salad, these look dated compared to the kind of dishes you expect to see on menus in healthy California these days. But when it's snowing outside and you're eating the last meal of the year, a treat like this is deserved. The ample portion of juicy, buttery, succulent button mushrooms is delicious. Make sure to order some if you visit!
We over-ordered. A 3 person cheese fondue and 3 person meat one too. Between just five us. Errhmm. Maybe we were being a little bit optimistic about the stretching qualities of our bellies. We were hoping both fondues would come together so we could mix and match between the heavy cheese and the lighter meat. But the timing in the kitchen went wrong and they, in fact, arrived one after the other. The cheese came first.(pictures middle row) Yummy, gloopy, cheesey, delicious cheese fondue in a weathered pot. Served with bread. That's it, just bread, just like in Europe. No boring broccoli florets or health-conscious carrots to dip in this baby, just low-fibre carbs and a bucketful of fatty protein. Yum. It was really tasty and good.
When you order a meat fondue, you are given a plate of cubes of raw steak (picture bottom/left) which you cook to your personal taste (in my case, read "flash fry" or "hardly at all"), in a vat of bubbling oil. The idea, thereafter, is to dip your meat in one of the delicious sauces provided - aoli, horseradish, bearnaise, mustard, etc. (picture bottom/middle) The meat was good quality and tasty, indeed, so good that one of our group ended up eating hers raw.
The Swiss Chalet certainly isn't a hip or stylish place. The staff are not perfectly accomplished wait staff but they are wonderfully friendly and entertaining. The food isn't elegant, but it really isn't too far from authentic. Our delicious, end-of-the-year meal left us all full, happy and completely satisfied with a bill, per person, of $46 each, including wine and tip.