Neue Taverne – Michelin star vegetarian

For this blog, we do a deep dive into the Neue Taverne experience and menu, deeper than the previous overview blog. Brendan Heck, my lovely husband, is our guest blogger, and does excellent work integration both of our thoughts. Bon appétit!

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As we headed from our hotel into the cold Zürich night to walk to dinner, our anticipation for the meal continued to build. We had been looking forward to this meal since we discovered that there even existed a vegetarian based Michelin star restaurant in Zürich, and now having navigated all of the Covid entry challenges, we were finally going to be able to experience it. They advertise themselves as being “enthusiastic about cabbage and turnips, pumpkin and celery, cauliflower and salsify” to which we enthusiastically said “Yes Please!” to all of it.

As we walked up to the restaurant there was already a line out the door for the 6pm dinner sitting. Thankfully the line moved fast.

The restaurant had multiple greeters at the door welcoming people and checking their Swiss Covid certification. All of it was efficiently done, and we were quickly seated in the corner of the restaurant. Our server promptly came over and greeted us, but his manner did start off a bit brusk. We weren’t sure if that was because we spoke English, were American, or simply if it was Swiss efficiency at work, but it was not the warm welcome we had expected, and drastically differed from the experience we had at Hisa Franko a few years previous. However, as the meal progressed so did his service, and oh what a meal it was!

CJ chose a wine to pair with the dinner and I stuck to sparkling water. We also both chose to go with the 7 course surprise menu. At these types of restaurants we usually prefer to go along for the ride and see what the chef cooks up, both figuratively and literally.

One thing we noted throughout the whole night was the precision in timing when all of the dishes were brought out, and the perfect temperature that they all came out at. You could always immediately dig into the food and were ready for that next dish when it came out. Outside of the food and flavor itself, that seems to be something that we thought might distinguish Michelin star restaurants, the timing, temperature, ingredient explanation, and of course the presentation of their food.

Our entry dish into the Neue Taverne experience were six endive leaves in a petal formation painted with two different spreads. One had a chili base and the other a cream base, both with black sesame seeds on top. The leaves had a great crunch to them, and each spread added a wonderful depth of flavor that made a great appetizer, and was a great way to kick-off the culinary journey.

Next up was brown bread with thinly shaved winter truffle and parmesan. Why all bread everywhere doesn’t come topped with winter truffle and parmesan I don’t know, but it is a travesty, and I’d like to speak to the manager. Needless to say it was yummy umami perfection.

Third course at Neue Taverne was a two for one drop of sourdough bread with honey butter and “egg” salad that was actually made with chickpeas. The sourdough was standard fare sourdough, but the butter accentuated it, and we love us some sourdough, so it was quickly devoured. If you weren’t told that the egg salad didn’t have egg, you probably wouldn’t have ever known, but for us, while we do love egg, we’d be perfectly happy if all egg salad in our futures was chickpea based. These types of dishes are a great way to introduce people to plant based sustainable eating and are great gateway foods towards more adventurous vegetarian or even vegan eating.

Spoiler alert! The fourth course was our hands down favorite, and again consisted of two dishes. The first dish was a tightly packed lettuce block with an amazing sauce on top. I’m not doing it justice, and we have unfortunately forgotten a lot of the ingredients to the passage of time, but much like the initial appetizer, it had a wonderful lettuce crunch along with a topping of heaven in addition to dill and other accouterments. The second dish was a beet tartare, which we definitely didn’t have beef with! It was perfectly cool and creamy with a healthy drizzle of cream on top. I give us credit, while we are both known to hoover up food in many cases (see any of our experiences with bread, our pasta dish, or any dessert… or where dessert used to be 😉 ), but we actually did take our time with both items, savored them, and spent the appropriate time living in the moment and in the flavor of the dishes. From that point forward we were fully onboard and Neue Taverne could do no wrong, and while the meal didn’t again reach these lofty highs, it continued forward flawlessly.

Fifth course at Neue Taverne was roasted carrots with a healthy dollop of cream sauce and sprinkling of nuts on top. The ratios were perfect, with each bite having an ideal mix of carrots, cream, and nuts. It was a perfect step in the experience prior to the main course.

The main course came, and it was tacos! Our Neue Taverne server astutely judged that while some of the local patrons needed some basic instructions on the proper construction of a taco, that we were well versed in the subject, so he quickly cut to the chase. There were two sauces, one a mole type spread, and the other more of a horseradish cream spread. It came with fresh made corn tortillas where you could taste the masa and a flavor that thoroughly differentiated it from anything store bought, and which compared to some of the best tortillas I have had at Mexican restaurants. The filling was Planted pulled “pork” that was cooked in Mexican spices, and was accompanied by shredded roasted vegetables. We learned that Planted was a local Swiss company that made plant based meat substitutes, and after tasting it I’d say it easily competes with Impossible and Beyond’s plant based offerings. It all combined to make some great plant based tacos, and not necessarily what we would have expected to be eating in Zürich, Switzerland, but was a nice surprise.

We were thoroughly sated at that point, but still had room for dessert. Dessert turned out to be a mousse with roasted corn topping and caramel ice cream. It was very tasty and integrated well into the overall meal and the approach of Neue Taverne. If we are connoisseurs of anything though, it is dessert, and while we’d never kick a dessert out of bed, this dessert stood above that metric. It was pretty good, but can’t compare to some of the pies, cakes, and bread puddings that we have had in recent years. 

Unfortunately the journey was now coming to an end. We had scaled the heights of beet tartare bliss; there and back again. They ended with one more treat of a La Flor dark chocolate bar, but then we were left to pay and be on our way.

For our first Michelin star restaurant experience, the Neue Taverne meal was better than we could have ever asked for, and for it to be plant based made it an even more perfect fit for us. We left with only one thought dancing in our heads, which was how do we bring this type of elevated plant based eating back with us to Denver? The meal was pricey, but reasonably so for what we received and for the accolades that Neue Taverne has earned. With plant based food continuing to grow in popularity and the planet’s need for us to continue to shift in the direction, it is encouraging to know these experiences are out there already, and will hopefully only continue to grow in the years ahead.

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