We are very lucky in the San Francisco to have so many different types of cuisines available, many of them run by ex-pats, bringing with them the dining authenticity of their homeland. The Matterhorn Swiss Restaurant brings an authentic Alpine eating experience centered around fondues in a chalet-like oasis, located in a nondescript office building on busy Van Ness Street.
Matterhorn is a constant fixture in the Chronicle’s Top 100 restaurants in the City, and we have been wanting to eat here. But as it is authentically Swiss, so are their hours. We once showed up on a Sunday evening at 8:00 pm without reservations (our bad we know) and inquired about a table, when the gentleman asked us, “At this hour?” It’s been a couple of years since then, but we made reservations this time since we had a hankering for some cheese fondue, and were gladly seated by the amicable hostess at our appointed hour of 8 pm (on a Saturday).
Once you walk through the office building doors, you are transported to a wooden mountain chalet and greeted by a full bar decorated with Swiss flags and Carnivale masks:
We came explicitly for the cheese fondue, so we knew that it would be good to start with a digestive cocktail. Our pleasant server was also the bartender, so we asked for a couple of Negronis which she instinctively made without hesitation:
Bread and whipped herb butter were delivered to the table, and we tried to stay away from eating it knowing that soon we would be consuming more bread with the cheese. However, the butter was so good that it was impossible not to eat the freshly sliced bread:
Their menu includes cheese or meat fondues that are ordered per person, with a 2 order minimum for most items. Each dish comes with a salad that was simple, but the vegetables were so fresh that the greens were very tasty:
We ordered a dry Gruner Veltiner to pair with our fondue which turned out to be a good choice:
There are nine different types of cheese fondues to select from, with blend variations comprised of Gruyère, Raclette, Vacherin, Camembert, Emmenthal and the not-so traditional Cheddar cheese. We laughed at the fondue labeled the “Lazy One” which is actually the other type of fondue – Raclette cheese grilled to melt and placed on potatoes, rather than dipped. We came for and ordered the authentic Half-Half (Moitié-Moitié) which is a great blend of Fribourg Vacherin and Gruyère cheeses. They must have a lot of experience with the amount of bread to serve because it was exactly the right amount to dip and wipe that bowl of cheese dry:
Our server very helpfully suggested that we order the side of the Alpine meat platter which contained various hams, sausages and pickled cornichons and juniper berries. We were politely instructed that these were not to be used for dipping, but we did add some bits of the ham on a top of a post-dipped bread to form a perfect ham and cheese bite (click on different parts of the picture to check out the Lytro living picture refocusing capability):
A prominent painting of the Matterhorn mountain is displayed near the entrance of the restaurant. Looking at it, one cannot help but remember childhood thoughts of riding the mild Matterhorn roller coaster in Disneyland, complete with an Abominable Snowman which is not at all authentic since Yeti “sightings” are from the Himalayas and other parts of Asia. The same cannot be said of The Swiss Matterhorn Restaurant – they are authentic in every respect (well ok, with the exception of cheddar cheese). The Moitié-Moitié fondue is very similar to one that we have had in the Swiss canton of Fribourg on a past visit to Switzerland. We’ll definitely be filling our melted cheese cravings here — we’ll just make sure to make a reservation.