Translation: Marc Checkley
#1 Hostellerie du Pas-de-L'Ours, Restaurant L'Ours (18 Points), Crans-Montana
Sauve chef Franck Reynaud is as known in these parts as the very mountain peaks surrounding this luxurious chalet – replete with two lauded dining options. He offers inventive twists on classic European favorites and an experience of pure decadence.
We were instantly hooked by the crispy arctic char cromesquis balls. The Hérens beef pastrami is worth a moment, its flavors wrapped in golden puff pastry. And what about his crayfish quenelle atop biscuit, anchored in a powerful bisque: anise, absinthe and crunch. Refuse at your peril.
The rainbow trout comes from Aargau. It is firm, topped with juniper in a fragrant bergamot sauce of citrus and vegetal. The most fun was had with the duck foie gras. We spread it on coffee smoked milk bread. The palate is aghast; the plates are beautiful. We’re presented with a circle of raw celery in which is trapped a perfect poached egg, garnished with grated black truffle. Shades of ebony continue with black ravioli on top of cuttlefish and a bouillabaisse of orange and harissa. Hark the call of the Mediterranean and the East.
The meat arrives in a pretty crust of pink pepper. The tenderloin (we are told is «Scandinavian, semi-wild» reindeer) is cooked to perfection, accompanied by red carrots in variation and a powerful jus. Sommelier, Nicolas Lacoste, recommends the Gantenbein Grison Riesling (only 1000 bottles produced each year), a pure white chameleon capable of adapting to all dishes. In a blink, we’re whisked away to an exotic isle for the sweet finale: a crossroads of flavors – acid (mango), sweet (roasted pineapple bavarois), creamy (avocado ice cream) and spicy (bird’s eye chili powder).
We quietly make our retreat, passing under the beautiful stone archway at the entrance with just two regrets: the lack of an evening menu and a wine list where bottles for less than 100 francs are rare.
#2 Lecrans Hotel & Spa, Restaurant Le Mont Blanc (17 Points), Crans-Montana
Yannick Crepaux has succeeded Pierre Crepaud in the kitchen of this panoramic palace, but there is no doubt Mont Blanc remains a benchmark for gastronomic dining. Michele Paganini, a hotel manager with exemplary skill, continues to spin between tables with warmth and fluid efficiency. And on the plates, stellar surprises flow in succession. Such as an intriguing chip topped with a dome of salmon, carrot and wasabi jelly. The fig and Jerusalem artichoke leaf arrives whipped up by the delicate acidity of Japanese pickled mushrooms. In a test tube, the squash soup with amaretto prepared the palate for the sweetbreads in a smooth emulsion of wild thyme, topped with strips of summer truffle: a delight.
Next, an homage to potatoes and radishes with chanterelle mushrooms. It is certainly refreshing, but served too cold. Then comes the diced beef heart and smoked tomato ice cream. Alongside, an exquisite and original praline: a nice and unexpected marriage. The langoustine is perfect, scented with peach and verbena, and the char (cooked sous vide) is topped with yellow beetroot and sérac cheese ravioli, a nice combination. Mouths agape, the glazed pig arrives, surrounded by fennel and exceedingly good burnt carrot purée: complex, seductive, sublime.
A special mention for the brie wrapped in truffle flakes, before a nice and unexpected duo of raspberries and olive oil. The house is equipped with the best open wine storage system, providing a fantastic playground for sommelier Antoine Lejeune, who presents wines with passion. For parents without the aid of a babysitter, don’t despair, there’s a gastronomic menu designed for kids!
#3 Chalet d'Adrien, La table d'Adrien (15 Points), Verbier
Two restaurants are housed in this luxurious and panoramic chalet near the Le Creux lift station. D’Adrien offers a classic, rustic menu, just enough to appeal to Verbier’s chic clientele. While La Table, aims higher, with Italian chef, Sebastiano Lombardi, leading a large team to produce complex dishes, chiseled and finessed with skill. We decided to dine at the latter.
After a volley of amuse-bouches, including an exquisite vegetable tart and a pretty foie gras macaron, the seafood carpaccio disappears a little under a lobster sauce. As the evening sun washes the restaurant in light, the tide brings whole lobster alongside a plate of Indian vegetables. We then happily devour the pan-fried foie gras - a model of its kind - surrounded by endive and tangerine soaked in apple juice with ginger. Sommelier, Steve Bettschen, recommends the Metaphusis, an exquisite Swiss wine pairing.
A pretty trio of tortelli meets our eyes, stuffed with smooth goat cheese, suffused with truffle and a seductive sauce: a pure wonder. The turbot, in a tonka bean and chestnut sauce, is similarly gorgeous on the plate, but has a rustic air making it less appealing to the taste.
Good things come in threes it seems: a trio of lamb - loin, rack and tenderloin - is accompanied by a quenelle of chickpeas and cima di rapa (green turnip), crowned with a tuile: clean lines, frank flavors. But, where the tenderloin is impeccable, the rack had a lot of fat. We end with an exquisite «trompe-l'oeil» (three-dimensional illusion) of carrot cake: yes, it looks like a carrot! A dessert that shows that this table does everything to make your meal an event.
#4 La Cordée des alpes, Restaurant la cordée (15 Points), Verbier
A welcoming and beautiful facade, a modern yet elegant restaurant. Few would dispute this is one of the finest destinations in Verbier. Inside, a chic, cosmopolitan audience, all in Sherpa-lined trapper jackets and boots encrusted with Swarovski crystals. The view: a bustling open kitchen crafting immaculate cuisine and serving wines (at surprisingly reasonable prices) to a very discerning crowd.
We’re presented with an espresso-size cup, within which is a delicate, almost ethereal, broccoli mousse. We then descend to sea-level with ravioli of Breton langoustine and cabbage topped with a refined espuma: a masterful opening. There follows a trio of pigs «cooked from head to trotter», but more precisely, the mignon, the cheek and confit with oriental spices. The mignon, however, was overcooked, which diluted the taste. An extra sauce would have also been welcome. For dessert, we loved the hand-crafted «Mac citron». The heart of pear with vanilla and tonka bean, draped in salted butter caramel, was pleasant, but in the middle of winter, the palate is anesthetized by the ice cream, numbing the intricate flavors.
The exhaustive wine menu will definitely distract you from the designer haute couture at neighboring tables.
#5 W Verbier, W Kitchen (15 Points), Verbier
«London on the rocks» seems a very fitting way to describe this ultra-chic restaurant at Switzerland’s one-and-only «W» hotel. The soundtrack is a mix of chilled vibes and after-hours house music. The action is young, affluent and energized (many Anglophones) decked out in this season’s alpine fashion. In short, liberated style and sustenance, with a view.
Even if the menu promises to be «modern local cuisine», it begins with oysters, continues with Canadian scallops and Icelandic char, then Spanish beef. Switzerland finally arrives with Swiss Hérens beef, and snails from Mont d'Or with bacon from Valais. For the regulars here, local means «think big». We continue with charred cabbage, passed with a blowtorch to unwrap its smoky notes, which adorns a generous vegetarian entrée of marinated eggplant with stracciatella ice cream, crunchy pomegranate seeds and cherry vinaigrette: astonishing harmony.
Even if it comes from France, the guinea fowl from «Swiss farms» is presented in an elegantly tied ballottine, with the surprising addition of grilled corn, squash purée and a voluptuous sauce. The Arctic char is topped with an espuma (tasteless, but pretty and pink), Jerusalem artichoke puree, chard and an intense black truffle jus.
As the gourmet coffee makes for little fanfare, we enjoy the deconstructed Vacherin dessert where the double cream plays the main role. Alongside, fine Swiss meringues, a refreshing grapefruit sorbet and a tangy mango juice. Excellent, indeed!
#6 Mont-Rouge (15 Points), Haute-Nendaz
We admit it was high season and under pressure, the entire Mont-Rouge team seemed overwhelmed at this particular service. On the plate, there were also repercussions. First, a very bland fish soup as the appetizer. The local rack of lamb, frankly, was overcooked. But the parmentier (potato-topped pie), made with lamb shoulder, was impeccable.
The Irish beef tenderloin has character and flavor, just seared, a little hard on the cheek, topped with a tumbling white truffle butter. However, plating leaves much to be desired. This improves with duck foie gras, seared in raspberry vinegar and served warm, generously, in a millefeuille with hot apples, Nendaz honey and a sprig of thyme.
Chef, Loris Lathion has a reputation for specializing in game. In the middle of winter, we taste ibex with foie gras: a successful combination. The quince and warm brioche bring a little sweetness in contrast.
Our pre-dessert, arrives in a small metal bucket. Inside, a panna cotta without much character accompanied by a curious (and subdued) rosé from Savièse in Valais. The real sweetness is the deconstructed lemon pie that brings citron, creaminess and crunchiness together in harmony. Yellow like the card sent to Mont-Rouge this year.
#7 La Grange (13 Points), Verbier
La Grange is an institution. Owners, Thierry and Theresa Corthay are continuing on the path to well-deserved culinary success replete with impeccable service. It feels like all Verbier meet here for the generous daily specials as well as the elegant à la carte menu, which pays homage to tradition set against a mountain backdrop. After a lustrous and firm tuna tataki, enhanced with wasabi, the terrine of foie gras, with sweet candied onions, is perfection. Venturing upstream we are served glorious Scottish salmon, a salad with quail and breaded prawns. We appreciate the tenderness of the pigeon carefully deboned and topped with a rich brown sauce.
In no way would we miss the desserts: the pastry chef is an artist! Thus, our table buzzes at the arrival of a «beehive» surrounded by sugared flowers and candied bees. Then comes the honey and roasted pineapple, a true model of balance that ends this gourmet tale. The other desserts do not disappoint. The wine list contains glorious treasures to savor. Yes, this institution is worth a visit.
#8 Le Bistrot des ours (13 Points), Crans-Montana
Same chic and plush chalet, same intimate and refined atmosphere, identical brigade and service, the Bistrot des Ours undeniably benefits from the assets and aura of its bigger sister le Hostellerie (18 Points). During the low season, in other words summer, the two restaurants share a common room so that guests can enjoy the beautiful terrace overlooking the mountains. The main difference? It is of course on the plate. Less elaborate, more traditional and less abrasive on the wallet. Nonetheless, Franck Reynaud's second table is worth a detour.
Such as the thinly-sliced smoked trout with pine needles and juniper, served with an herb yogurt. More autumnal, the supreme roast chicken is presented with chanterelle mushrooms, vitelottes (purple potatoes) and a quizzical peanut crumble – for the crunchiness. Equally convincing, a pike biscuit with absinthe, swims in tapioca with saffron from nearby Venthône. However, we were skeptical of the apricots as a side dish. Apricots (‘tis the season) are also available in pies, the dough however, was quite hard. But if alcoholic desserts are your thing, the iced apricot and rosemary cocktail will pleasantly punctuate the meal.
Whichever way you swing, you’ll be in for a superb dining experience at either of Reynauld’s restaurants. You’ll just have a little more pocket money left over from the Bistro.
#9 HÔTEL ART DE VIVRE, RESTAURANT TOUT UN ART (13 Points), CRANS-MONTANA
Manager and owner, Joseph Bovin, takes pleasure in chatting with his varied guests in this small hotel a stone’s throw away from Lake Grenon. In the kitchen, Marco Ferraris makes his mark with cuisine that appeals to locals and tourists alike. The rich marinated salmon is accompanied by a rainbow of raw vegetables, marinated in different Asian flavors: a harmony of tastes and happy contrasts. In the same vein, the steak (cooked bone-in), tender and tasty, cut astutely into thin slices sprinkled with Guérande salt, goes admirably with a potato millefeuille. Atop, a delicate garlic sauce, enhancing the palate and aromas. Finally, a biscuit, crowned by a light pineapple cream, arrives with coconut ice cream. Individually, fine, however the whole is a little soft and lacks character.
The staff are attentive and warm and the wine list offers a very nice range of wines by the glass at more than reasonable prices. When the weather permits, the south-facing terrace offers a beautiful view of the mountains to raise your glass to.
#10 RESTAURANT XIX (12 Points), CRANS-MONTANA
Watch out for stray bullets! Adjacent to hole N° 1 of the Crans-sur-Sierre golf course, the 19th century terrace enjoys a privileged view of the Alps. The dining room is disconcerting: neither old-fashioned nor modern, it mixes genres without much grace.
On the other hand, the dishes prepared by Stéphane Colliet, originally from Lyon, all have tradition and generosity in common. A style that the chef developed with his boss, Michel Roux, a great name in gastronomy who died in early 2020. As a starter, we appreciate the pistachio sausage embedded in hot brioche, served with an excellent port sauce. Coming out of the fridge and lacking in seasoning, the rabbit pie in an Armagnac and hazelnut crust disappoints. As a main course, the duck a la orange is pink to perfection, but the accompanying vegetables are salty. A Lyon specialty, the pike quenelle with Nantua sauce (made with crayfish) is well executed but its flavor far exceeds its presentation. We end with a unique twist: Vietnamese chocolate fondant containing a fruit coulis and coffee tiramisu of good quality, despite the almost nonexistent frozen chestnuts.
An international wine list which complements the selections from Valais. We fell in love with the Lux Vina red blend from Vins des Chevaliers in Salquenen. We leave this Haut-Plateau sated, but not totally convinced.
Fotos: Martin Gardelliano, Marcus Gyger, Sedrik Nemeth, Yves Garneau