At a time when small plates rule the table, fondue stands proudly as the ultimate large-format sharing dish, the European alternative to a steaming hot pot in Asia. Fondue’s long, cheesy strands reach back to Homer’s The Iliad, when the fromage of choice was made from goat milk. The dish, at its most basic just cheese and wine, gained international prominence in Switzerland in the 1930s when the Swiss Cheese Union promoted it from obscurity to push a glut of Gruyère and Emmenthal. The country continues to take fondue seriously, with more than one word to describe its various components. The delectable, crispy crust at the bottom of the pot is la religieuse (or “the nun”) for reasons that aren’t entirely clear.
Following is a tour of the finest fondues around the globe.
La Bonne Soupe, New York: Tucked away in midtown Manhattan, with the feel of a Parisian bistro, the restaurant has been specialising in melted cheese since the 1970s. Fondue au fromage, which comes with the option of garnishes such as spicy merguez sausage or a shot of kirsch, a requirement if you’re from Switzerland.
Stable DC, Washington: Stable pays homage to the cuisine of Switzerland with such dishes as crispy potato rösti and landjäger air-cured, smoked sausage. The restaurant’s fondues are based on an unconventional blend that includes old and young Schlossberger, a buttery, raw cow’s milk cheese, accompanied by house-baked bread.
Geja’s Cafe, Chicago: Two words are associated with Geja’s: “romantic” and “fondue”. The candle-lit dining room features a bubbling wine-spiked Gruyère version in classic enamelled pots, with platters of bread cubes, grapes, apples.
Palace Kitchen, Seattle: Palace’s goat cheese lavender fondue has been a bestseller since chef Tom Douglas opened his seminal Pac Northwest restaurant in 1996. He took advantage of one of the era’s hot ingredients, tangy goat cheese, and lightly scents it with the floral herb. Alongside are sweet and juicy D’Anjou pears and, for a slightly smoky bite, wood-grilled bread.
Le Chalet Savoyard, Paris: This restaurant specialises in the cuisine of Savoy on the border with Switzerland. It offers a variety of fondues, including farmer-style, made with four cheeses and smoked bacon. The house speciality is fondue’s show-stopping cousin, a slow-melting raclette scraped from a wheel of Morbier, a semi-soft cow’s milk cheese with a distinctive dark line running through it.
St Moritz, London: This Soho establishment is London’s oldest Swiss restaurant, dating to 1974, which is pretty ancient in terms of the city’s fast-moving dining scene. Even Swiss customers are impressed by its authenticity and the choice of Swiss wines. The owner and chef, Armin Loelscher, says his bestseller is Fondue Motie-Motie, featuring imported Gruyère and Vacherin cheese and served with new potatoes and bread.
Swiss Chuchi, Zurich: Naturally, Switzerland is full of restaurants serving fine fondues, with Swiss Chuchi, at the Hotel Adler, as one of the most popular. With seating indoors and outdoors, you can choose from a wide range of local dishes, some of them rather unusual. The Lady Fondue features prosecco, pears, cherry liquor, and garlic.
Le Dézaley, Zurich: This traditional restaurant in the Old Town specialises in the cuisine of the Vaud region. It’s cosy, with simple wooden furniture and friendly service. The signature fondue is manufactured from ripe cheeses of the region and has been a draw for diners for a century.
Warashibe Gyoza, Tokyo: Under the category of unconventional fondues is Warashibe, an izakaya where diners use dumplings as the dipping agent. Tabletop teppanyaki griddles are loaded down with shredded mozzarella and cheddar, then heated until it’s all an oozy puddle. The cheese is surrounded by an army of gyoza for dunking; varieties include unconventional, cheese-filled ones as well as classic pork.
Wine Universe, Singapore: Red cloths decorate the tables at this sleek spot, which features an international wine list and a menu that leans on the cuisine of Switzerland. Cheeses are carefully sourced from master fromager Marc-Henri Horner. Among the five kinds of fondue is La Singaporienne, spiked with chopped fresh chilli to add a blast of heat to the pot.
@ 2020 The New York Times